Is coffee acidic?
Despite humble beginnings, coffee is now a universally appreciated beverage. If you’re a coffee lover but also have health concerns regarding the acidity in coffee, though, this article will address them.
Read on to learn more about the acidic properties of coffee and its variations, the health effects of coffee’s acidity, and how to lower the acidity in coffee.
You can measure the acidity of any solution using a pH scale. This scale runs from 0 to 14, with 0 to 7 representing liquids with acidic properties and 7 to 14 representing liquids with basic properties.
According to this scale, most types of coffee have pH values ranging from 4.85 to 5.10. This indicates that coffee is acidic in nature.
In fact, coffee contains more than 30 different acids. When you brew coffee, nine main acids are released, which give your coffee drink its unique flavor.
In the order of lowest to highest concentration in coffee, these nine acids include palmitic acid, linoleic acid, phosphoric acid, malic acid, lactic acid, acetic acid, citric acid, quinic acid, and chlorogenic acid.
Chlorogenic acid is an antioxidant, so coffee has antioxidant properties. Quinic acid gives coffee its signature smell and taste, including the sour aftertaste of coffee.
What causes variations in the acidity of coffee?
The processing and preparation methods of coffee can result in variations in the acidity levels of coffee. These variations are affected by:
Degree of the coffee grind
The fineness of the coffee grind particles can influence the acidic properties of coffee. Finely ground coffee will contain more particles than coarsely ground coffee of the same amount. So, when you brew finely ground coffee, more acid will be extracted compared to other grinds. Thus, if you use a fine grind, you’ll end up with a highly acidic cup of coffee.
Grade of roasting
The duration of roasting and the temperature coffee beans are roasted at can both affect the acidic nature of coffee. Research shows that the amount of chlorogenic acid released from coffee brews decreases as the duration and temperature of the coffee bean roasting increases. This means that coffee brewed using darker roasts (i.e., coffee beans that have been roasted for longer periods and at higher temperatures) will be less acidic than those brewed with lighter roasts.
Method of brewing
Brewing technique and duration can also impact the acidic properties of coffee. Coffee brewed for longer periods is less acidic than coffee brewed for a brief duration. Also, a study reported that cold brew coffee is less acidic than hot coffee. This is because the hot brew method releases more acids compared to the cold brew method.
Usually, this isn’t a problem. However, some health issues can be aggravated by coffee.
What are the health effects of coffee’s acidity?
Coffee has been known to have mild laxative effects. Combined with these effects, the acidic properties of coffee can worsen the following gastrointestinal conditions:
While coffee is not considered a cause of these conditions, most health guidelines recommend that you avoid or at least minimize your coffee intake if you’re at risk of developing these conditions.
If you love your coffee, though, and are struggling to cut down on your consumption, you can also consider switching to less acidic coffee varieties.
How to make low-acid coffee
Here are some ways to reduce the acidity of your coffee:
1. Brew your coffee for longer.
Acids are some of the first compounds to be released while coffee is brewed. If the brew time is short, that is called under-extraction. Your under-extracted coffee is likely to taste sour due to the high concentration of acidity.
2. Opt for darker roasts.
Lighter roasts release more acids compared with darker roasts. Lighter roasts are also less soluble than dark roasts.
3. Give cold brew coffee a shot.
Cold brew coffees generally have long brew times at low temperatures. This slows down the extraction rate, resulting in less acidic coffee.
4. Add eggshells to your coffee grind.
Egg shells have alkaline properties. They’re also a great source of calcium. Adding eggshells to your coffee grind can neutralize the acid released during the brewing process. Be careful not to consume the eggshells, though. Strain them out with the coffee grounds.
5. Don’t store hot coffee for long periods.
Storing coffee at high temperatures will increase the release of acid over time, resulting in a highly acidic cup of coffee.
6. Use a coffee filter.
Unlike metal filters, paper filters or mesh bags used for making drip or pour-over coffee can block the fats that make your coffee acidic by releasing acids. This method can thus lower the acidity of your coffee and also reduce the risk of heart disease.
7. Choose coarser coffee grinds.
Coarser coffee grinds contain large coffee particles. This slows down the extraction rate due to the decreased surface area compared with finer grinds. So, you may want to use coarser grinds in a French Press to brew your low-acid cup of coffee.
8. Add milk to your coffee.
Plant-based milks like almond or soy milk are alkaline in nature. These can balance out the pH of your coffee, giving you a much less acidic cup of coffee.
9. Don’t overheat your coffee.
When you brew your coffee at very high temperatures, more acids are released within a short time. So, avoid over-brewing to minimize the acidity of your coffee.
10. Use hard water to brew coffee.
Hard or alkaline water has higher mineral content. Brewing coffee with this water can neutralize the acidity of your coffee.
11. Use low-acid coffee beans.
Certain low-acid coffee beans like espresso beans or chicory blends are widely available. If you brew your coffee using these beans, it’s more likely to be less acidic than the average cup of coffee.
12. Add acid reducers to coffee.
You may want to consider including commercially available acid reducers or additives like baking soda in your coffee brew. These can counteract some of the acidity in your coffee.
Coffee can be quite acidic, but this is generally not an issue, as coffee is well tolerated by most people. However, if you’re struggling with acid reflux, irritable bowel syndrome, or other digestive issues, the acidity of coffee can make your condition worse.
Don’t worry, though: You probably don’t need to give up coffee. Just make certain adjustments like opting for darker roasts, coarser grinds, acid reducers, longer brew times, and colder brews to enjoy your coffee without having to deal with its acidity.
BMC Gastroenterology: "Dietary guideline adherence for gastroesophageal reflux disease."
Cleveland Clinic: "Why Does Coffee Bother My Stomach?."
Construction and Building Materials: "Strength behavior of alkaline activated eggshell powder and flyash geopolymer cured at ambient temperature."
Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition: "Acids in coffee: A review of sensory measurements and meta-analysis of chemical composition."
European Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology: "Is coffee a colonic stimulant?."
European Journal of Preventive Cardiology: "Filtered, not unfiltered, coffee in cardiovascular disease."
Gut: "Effect of coffee on distal colon function."
Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry: "Role of roasting conditions in the level of chlorogenic acid content in coffee beans: correlation with coffee acidity."
Journal of Chromatography. B, Analytical Technologies in the Biomedical and Life Sciences: "Determination of chlorogenic acids and caffeine in homemade brewed coffee prepared under various conditions."
Journal of Food Science and Technology: "Plant-based milk alternatives an emerging segment of functional beverages: a review."
National Center for Biotechnology Information: "PubChem Compound Summary for CID 516892, Sodium bicarbonate."
PloS One: "No association of coffee consumption with gastric ulcer, duodenal ulcer, reflux esophagitis, and non-erosive reflux disease: a cross-sectional study of 8,013 healthy subjects in Japan."
Pure and Applied Chemistry: "Definition of pH scales, standard reference values, measurement of pH and related terminology."
Scientific Reports: "Acidity and Antioxidant Activity of Cold Brew Coffee," "Effect of grinding, extraction time and type of coffee on the physicochemical and flavour characteristics of cold brew coffee."
Utah State University: "Alkalinity and Hardness."
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