How Can I Make My Coffee Less Acidic?
Coffee can be very acidic, and that can cause problems for some people.
If your coffee doesn’t love you back and is giving you heartburn, or if you simply dislike the taste of acidic coffee, don’t worry!
Keep reading to learn how to make coffee less acidic, and start making more mellow cups in no time!
Acidity In Coffee - Friend Or Foe?
Coffee beans contain at least 850 different compounds which give them their unique taste and aroma. Many of these compounds are acids; they are an essential part of the flavor profile of coffee.
When you think of acidity in coffee, you shouldn’t necessarily be thinking of a sour or acrid taste. Sour taste can often be a sign of imperfect extraction, as many coffee acids don’t produce an “acidic” taste at all.
For example, phosphoric acid and malic acid can actually make coffee taste sweeter. Many acids, such as citric acid and acetic acid, produce nice citrus flavors in low concentrations, but can also produce sour-tasting coffee if their content is high.
Note: Learn more about what the different acids in coffee taste like here.
So you shouldn’t flat-out avoid acidity in coffee, because not all acidity is the same. Instead, you should look at the type of acidity present in the beans you’re buying.
If you’re interested, you can watch a video introducing the chemistry of coffee in more detail:
Coffee Acids and Health
Taste isn’t the only reason to be concerned about overly acidic coffee. Some people experience unpleasant symptoms like heartburn or stomach ache after drinking coffee, and this is often attributed to the acidity of the drink.
However, the relationship between coffee acids and health symptoms isn’t that simple. To begin with, coffee that registers as “acidic” on the tongue might not be all that acidic on the pH scale.
What’s more likely to cause problems is actually the caffeine present in your coffee. People who are sensitive to caffeine may experience heartburn, because caffeine can relax the muscles of the esophagus, leading to acid reflux.
If you’re prone to heartburn, avoid drinking too much coffee or switch to decaf, which has been found to reduce acid reflux symptoms.
If coffee upsets your stomach, darker roasts might be easier to digest. A study has found dark-roasted coffee contains a compound that inhibits production of stomach acid.
How Can I Avoid Coffee That Tastes Too Acidic?
Coffee that is very acidic may taste sour, and is definitely an acquired taste. If you want coffee that won’t overwhelm you with acidity, there are a few things to look out for.
Use Arabica beans
Let’s start with an easy one. Arabica beans generally contain considerably less acid than their lower-grade, caffeine-infused Robusta bean cousins.
Using a quality grown Arabica bean for your brew can be a great starting point for a lower acidity level.
The altitude and soil factors
As a rule of thumb, coffee that is grown at high altitudes tends to be more acidic. Similarly, volcanic soil also often contributes to higher acidity.
While this may seem like an unlikely thing to be able to just “look up”, it’s honestly not that difficult to find out if you’re buying your beans from a quality establishment.
Any good coffee provider worth their salt is going to know all about the altitude that certain beans were grown at or what kind of soil they were grown in.
If you can’t find out from the bag, just ask. They’ll likely be more than happy to spout their coffee knowledge at you, we promise!
Different coffee growing regions
While each coffee farm – heck, each individual bag of beans – is going to have its own unique qualities and flavor profile, there are still general characteristics that each coffee region can tend to produce.
Kenya, for example, often grows fruitier and more acidic coffee beans.
Coffees from Brazil and Sumatra, on the other hand, tend to be less overtly acidic.
You can find out all about acidity and a host of other coffee factors from various regions in our article, Are You Murdering Your Coffee Beans? There’s a Good Chance You Are..
Roasting is another important factor to watch out for.
Lighter roasts emphasize acidity – coffees that are described as “bright” or “fruity” usually get these characteristics from acids such as malic acid. Light roasts have risen in popularity with the third wave of coffee, possibly because they are well suited for brewing single origin beans with pour over methods.
If you’re not a fan of this type of coffee, though, opt for darker roasts instead. Dark roasts have traditionally been popular in Europe, and so-called Espresso and French roasts are almost always dark.
Note: Learn more about the difference between roast levels here
Check our recommended beans for dark roasts:
The importance of extraction
When you’ve found the perfect beans, you just need to get the brew right. Overwhelming acidity is a characteristic of under-extracted coffee. Under-extraction happens when your grind size is too coarse or your brew time is too short.
The perfect grind size and brewing time depend largely on the method you’re using. Just find the right recipe for you and stick to it. Precision will be rewarded when it comes to coffee.
Another method to reduce the acidity of your coffee, and one that fits right into the barista world, is to simply add milk or cream. The milk helps to balance out the pH level.
Because of their acidity, light roasts tend to take milk less well. This is especially true for soy milk which will curdle in acidic coffee – something to take note of if you prefer plant-based milks in your coffee.
So along with getting that dark roast, feel free to add a splash of cream to help tone down that acidity level!
Use eggshells to tame the beast
If you like your coffee without the frills, but you’re still looking for something to take the edge off of a black cuppa, consider brewing with eggshells.
Eggshells are alkaline, which means they are yet another tool to help neutralize that natural acidity level present in coffee, balancing things out and even removing any bitter, over-extracted flavors in the process.
Yes, you read that correctly. According to the popular cookbook author Alton Brown, another option to consider is simply adding a dash of salt to your grounds before you brew them.
This works regardless of the way you brew your coffee, and can make a big difference in helping to reduce the acidity and even to bring out the sweetness.
Brew it up cold
Finally, consider switching over to cold brew for at least some of your brewing adventures.
Why? Because cold brew coffee has been shown to have up to 60% less acidity than its hot brewed counterpart.
If you don’t mind your java cooled, cold brew can be the way to go.
The Beans and the Brew Are Key in How to Make Coffee Less Acidic
While you can’t avoid acids in coffee, you can choose coffees that aren’t overwhelmingly acidic to taste.
When buying beans, opt for darker roasted Arabica beans grown at lower altitudes and from regions known for lower acidity, and make sure you are not under-extracting when you brew.
In addition, keep in mind the list of ways that you can reduce the acidity of your coffee. Try adding things like milk, salt, or eggshells to see if you can knock that acidity down a peg!
If you experience health symptoms after drinking coffee, this might have more to do with caffeine than the acidity. You could go decaf or just restrict your coffee intake.
Do you prefer coffee low in acidity? Let me know in the comments!