Is coffee acidic?

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Here’s the scoop on coffee. It’s one of the most popular drinks in the world, and for good reason. Coffee tastes great, can wake you up, keep you alert, and boost your energy levels.

But there are some other things to know about our favourite beverage—not all of them good.

Coffee does have a reputation for causing stomach irritation, which people tend to think is due to it being acidic.

In this article, we look into whether or not coffee is acidic, its health effects, and how you can reduce the acid in your coffee.

What is acidity?

Acidity, in the context of food or drink, simply refers to the level of acid within the substance.

Acids taste sour when consumed and in chemistry, acid is defined as a compound that will turn blue litmus paper red. They react with some metals to produce hydrogen gas and react with base materials to form salts.

Is coffee acidic?

It sure is. The brewing process releases a range of naturally occurring acids including chlorogenic acid, quinic acid, citric acid, acetic acid, and lactic acid.

The brewing process releases acids from coffee beans, giving this beverage a pH of 4.85 to 5.10, which is considered acidic.

Healthline

We do need to be careful when talking about acidity and coffee and differentiate between the presence of acids found in the coffee, in terms of chemical compounds, and the acidity that is often used to describe the taste of coffee, particularly lighter-roast single origins (more on this later).

The PH level of coffee

The pH scale runs from 0 to 14, with 7 being neutral. Values below 7 are acidic, and values above 7 are alkaline.

Coffee has a pH of about 5, light roasted coffee slightly higher, and dark roasted coffee slightly lower.

To put this in perspective, orange juice is around 3 and tomato juice is around 4, both being slightly acidic.

What can influence acidity

Roasting process

When it comes to coffee, the darker the roast, the more bitter the brew. The lighter the roast, the more acidic it will be. Acid levels will be lower when beans are roasted for longer at higher temperatures.

Grind size

You can also affect the acidity of your brew by the grind size. Smaller grounds have a greater surface area per gram than larger grind sizes do, so the former will extract more of the acid naturally occurring in coffee beans.

Brewing method

Different brewing methods extract different levels of acidity from coffee, depending on how much time the water spends in contact with the ground coffee, how finely the coffee is ground, and how hot the water is.

For the lowest level of acid, cold brew coffee is your best bet.

Health effects

Coffee can vary in acidity based on where it is grown, the roast type and the brewing method. But does this mean that coffee is bad for you?

If you have certain medical conditions—like acid reflux, gastric ulcers, or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)—you may notice that drinking coffee aggravates your symptoms.

Many coffee drinkers also experience a laxative effect from their coffee.

How to reduce the acidity of your coffee

If you want to reduce the acidity in your coffee, here are a few suggestions:

  • Drink cold brew coffee
  • Try a dark roast
  • Try a coarser grind
  • Look for low acidity coffee brands
  • Look for coffee beans grown at low elevations
  • Stick to arabica beans
  • Increase your brew time
  • Adding some crushed egg shells to your brew
  • Avoid coffee altogether for a while

Acidity and taste

While all coffee has some acidity due to its organic nature, coffees can vary in how acidic they seem to be. This can be affected by different factors such as origin and roasting.

Acidity in terms of taste is what gives a cup of coffee its brightness and sparkle. It’s not the same thing as PH, although the two are related. The taste of acidity is what’s perceived on the tip of your tongue, while PH level refers to how acidic something is on a scientific scale.

A coffee that’s more acidic affects the flavour and the aroma, taking on the characteristics of stone fruit, citrus, wine, or apple. It makes for a cup of coffee that’s much brighter and more complex, especially single-origin lighter roasts.