Is Coffee Acidic?

I bet you’re here because you’ve been feeling a little bit of gastric distress lately, and you’re trying to figure out the cause. There’s a burning question on your mind (or, in this case, in your stomach): is coffee acidic? There are indeed acids in coffee, but not precisely in the way you’d think. 

I bet you’re here because you’ve been feeling a little bit of gastric distress lately, and you’re trying to figure out the cause. There’s a burning question on your mind (or, in this case, in your stomach): is coffee acidic? There are indeed acids in coffee, but not precisely in the way you’d think. 

Whether you’re adjusting to a new diet change and are looking to avoid acids or just curious about what’s in your coffee cup, it’s good to know what’s swirling around in there. I know the word acid conjures up scary images, but I assure you, your morning fix wouldn’t be the same without it.

Is Coffee Acidic?

The short answer is yes, coffee is acidic. But what is acidity? The standard pH scale runs from zero to fourteen, with zero being pure acid and fourteen being pure alkaline. A food or beverage measured at seven is neutral.

With that said, acidity in coffee means something a little more specific. According to our list of coffee terms, it refers to the pleasant tartness and brightness that’s present in high-quality coffee.

Depending on the roast, coffee tends to fall on the pH scale right around the 5.2 mark. 

Why is that, you say? I’m glad you asked.

Why Is Coffee Acidic?

Coffee is made up of over 800 different naturally occurring chemicals, compounds and acids. Not the melt your hand off kind of acid, but the kind that creates flavor nuances, whether good or bad.

Even though the same acids are present in nearly all coffee beans, the levels of these acids are different depending on the variety, grow location, roasting method, and even the brewing method and grind size.

Coffee Beans

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First, let’s talk beans. A significant factor of coffee acidity is where the beans are grown. For example, beans grown in volcanic soil in Hawaii will have more bite than, say, beans grown where no volcanoes are present.

Also, coffee beans grown in high, cold mountainous regions will have higher acid content than beans from lower, warmer areas.

Five Common Acids

Five common acids you’ll find in your cuppa joe are:

  1. acetic acid
  2. malic acid
  3. citric acid
  4. phosphoric acid
  5. tartaric acid

Acetic acids have bitter flavors, but taste pretty good in coffee. Citric acids, usually associated with citrus fruits, will give your cuppa joe a tart flavor. On the other hand, malic acid is found in apples and other fruit and will lend a sweetness to your brew. 

Tartaric acids are acids that are commonly found in grapes or bananas. They have a more dry acidity, whereas phosphoric acids have a sweet, bright quality. Phosphoric acid is what gives Kenyan coffees their signature flavor. 

Of course, there are other acids in coffee in addition to these, and some of them you can adjust by controlling roasting, brewing or even grinding methods. 

Coffee Roast

Coffee roast affects acidity.

The key to making great coffees is getting all these acids together in the right balance. One of the primary acids in coffee is chlorogenic acid, and it’s the top culprit in a coffee’s perceived acidity. It’s not all bad, though. Recently, chlorogenic acids have been linked to weight loss.

Roasting makes a big difference because it breaks down the chlorogenic acid into caffeic acids and quinic acids. Initially, that creates a bitter flavor and is why light roast coffees are more acidic with a bright, punchy flavor.

The longer a bean roasts, the more chlorogenic acids break down, developing more sugars and the result is a low acid dark roast. And if that isn’t complicated enough, how you brew affects the end result as well

Brewing Methods

Brewing methods affect coffee acidity.

First off, hot brewed coffee has more acidity than cold brew coffee. I’m not talking about brewing hot coffee over ice. I mean a cold brew made by letting grounds sit in cold water overnight in the fridge. Cold brew has about sixty percent less acid than a hot brewed coffee.

Of course, many coffee drinkers prefer the hot version. If you use a drip brewer or drip coffee pot, don’t let your brew sit too long on the hot plate or other heat sources. Do you remember the quinic acid that I mentioned before? Well, that will take center stage as the water evaporates and the coffee degrades. Yet another reason to avoid using hot plates!

What you’ll end up with is bitter, old gas station coffee. 

Coffee Grind Size

Coffee grind size can make coffee acidic..

Coffee acidity in your cup is also affected by your grind size. A bean that’s ground too coarse will make for a bitter cup of joe. Similarly, a fine grind brewed too quickly will produce the same result. 

It’s worth the time to experiment with grind size and brew time to make sure your next pot, pour-over or French press is a top-notch extraction.

Water

Water affects the acid levels in coffee.

The water you use also affects the acidity of your cup. Water can be acidic or alkaline, depending on the source. The water, in turn, will affect your coffee’s acidity. The alkalinity of water is more important to balance flavors, especially for coffee professionals.

If you know the pH level of the water and coffee you’re using, you can easily make adjustments to produce a coffee with low acidity. But let’s face it, not many people know those exact measurements, and who has time to test it all? There are easier ways to adjust your drink. 

Milks

Milks affect the pH of coffee drinks.

Milk is one way to cut the acidity in your coffee. It’s more alkaline than coffee and does work to lessen the bite in your drink. Bear in mind, though, that milk has lactic acid, so it may also cause discomfort for some people who are sensitive to dairy. 

Nut milk and oat milk are other options, but you need to be careful when adding them. They can cut coffee’s acidity, but some tend to curdle once they hit the hot drink. 

Toppings

Whipped cream on top of coffee lowers acid levels.

Some toppings, such as whipped cream, can also neutralize the acids in coffee. Just remember that using whipped cream introduces lactic acid, just like adding milk from cows.

Is the Acidity of Coffee Bad for Your Health?

Is the acid from coffee hurting me?

Having a coffee or two is generally not a problem for most people. However, you should take care when drinking it if you have medical issues affecting your digestive system. The acidity in some coffees can aggravate things like stomach ulcers, acid reflux, or irritable bowel syndrome.

That said, it’s important to explore perceived issues in context. Check out my article “Why Does Coffee Upset Your Stomach?” for information about how caffeine stimulates the body to produce more stomach acid, which may actually be the source of your problems.

How Can You Reduce the Amount of Acid in Coffee?

How can I reduce the amount of acid in coffee?

So how do you go about reducing the acid in coffees that wreak havoc on your digestive system? There are a few ways:

  • Add a sprinkle of baking soda to your grounds before brewing
  • A splash of your favorite dairy can help reduce acidity
  • Choose higher grade arabica beans over robusta beans
  • Opt for a dark roast instead of a medium or light roast
  • Brew your coffee a little bit longer to bring out more sugars
  • Try an overnight cold brew
  • Add some super clean eggshells to your grounds to neutralize acidity

You can’t get all the acid out of coffee, nor would you want to. But using some of the tips above, you can aim to make a coffee with low acidity that still has all the flavors you love.

Verdict: Is Coffee Acidic?

Verdict on acid on coffee.

The bottom line is, yes, coffee is acidic but not in the caustic, horror movie kind of way. The majority of acids drifting around in that delicious coffee are crucial to the flavor. Without them, your coffee is going to taste like a cup full of broken promises.

However, if you’re finding that you love to drink coffee, but the coffee isn’t loving you back, add a splash of milk to your cup to slightly lower acid levels. If all else fails, you can always cut back your coffee consumption, find a slower brewing method or try a darker roast. Happy brewing!

FAQ: Is Coffee Acidic?

The pH of coffee is usually around 4.85 to 5.13, depending on the roast level. Lighter roasts are sometimes more acidic than dark roasts.

Yes, the acidity in coffee can affect your tooth enamel after a long time. The key is good oral hygiene to keep effects at bay.

Yes. In general, coffee is more acidic than tea. Black coffee is around 5.2 on the pH scale, whereas tea is closer to 6.0. Green tea, however, is alkaline at 8.8.

You’ll find the least acidic coffee is a dark roast. That’s because a lot of the acid is destroyed during the roasting process. 

Light roast coffees are the most acidic. 

Yes, decaf coffee is acidic, although it’s not the same level as regular coffee. Some of the phenolic acids present in the coffee beans are removed during the decaffeination process. 

Not completely. Coffee with milk still has acid, but the milk will lower the pH of the coffee by a small amount. It doesn’t neutralize all the acidity because milk also contains naturally occurring acids.

For most people, coffee’s acidity is not a problem. Coffee does cause more production of stomach acid, though, so if you have a medical condition that’s affected by that, your best bet is to drink low acid coffee.

No, coffee acids can’t give you brain fog. On the contrary, if you’re experiencing brain fog, the caffeine in coffee can actually help clear the feeling.

No. OJ has a pH of about 3.5 because of the citric acid, whereas coffee is around 5.2. Oddly enough, coffee has the same pH level as a watermelon!

Chemically speaking, salt does not create a low acid coffee. Instead, it will neutralize any bitter or sour flavor notes, making your coffee taste less acidic.

For people who are sensitive to acidic foods or have acid reflux, drinking coffee can cause trouble since it encourages the production of stomach acid. Many factors, such as additives like dairy and sweeteners or other chemicals in coffee, may cause stomach issues, too.

No, the acidity of coffee doesn’t cause headaches. If you’re getting headaches, it’s more likely to be indirectly related to the diuretic effect of coffee causing dehydration or caffeine levels. Many people suffer from caffeine withdrawal symptoms, for example.

I hope this post helped answer your questions about acid in coffee. If you have any more, please send me a message in the comments!

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