Sensitive Stomach? Learn How to Make Coffee Less Acidic

My bond with coffee encompasses everything from the comforting scent wafting through the kitchen in the morning to the energizing kick it provides.

However, the occasional heartburn associated with a rich, acidic blend often leaves me grabbing a bottle of antacids. 

I’ve found myself, and I’m sure many of you can relate, in a love-hate relationship with my favorite bag of roasted coffee. The piquant flavor of a high-acid coffee is delightful, but sometimes my stomachs beg to differ.

The question is, can we enjoy the aroma and flavor of coffee without the potential gastric distress?

The answer is yes, and I’ll share my discoveries on how to make coffee less acidic.

Key Takeaways

  • Acidity in Coffee: While acidity in coffee contributes to its unique flavor profile, it can sometimes cause stomach discomfort. Understanding factors like bean type, origin, roasting process, and brewing temperature is key to managing acidity levels.
  • Reducing Acidity: Adjusting brewing methods, such as longer brewing times, choosing darker roasts, trying cold brew, adding eggshells, using coffee filters, and opting for coarser grinds, can help lower the acidity in coffee.
  • Coffee Bean Choices: Arabica beans are generally more acidic than Robusta, and the origin of the beans can also influence acidity levels. Brazilian and Sumatran coffees are often less acidic.
  • Personal Preferences and Experimentation: Experimenting with different beans, roasting levels, and brewing techniques is crucial to finding a balance that suits your taste while minimizing acidity-related discomfort.

How to Make Coffee Less Acidic

Understanding Acidity in Coffee

So, what’s the deal with acidity? Well, it’s not just about the pH level. In the coffee world, high acidity is a desirable quality.

It refers to the bright, tangy, fruity, or wine-like flavors that give coffee its unique character.

A coffee without enough acidity might taste flat or dull. But too much can be tough on sensitive stomachs.

Several factors contribute to the acidity in your cup:

  • Type of Coffee Beans: Not all beans are created equal. Arabica beans, the divas of the coffee world, are generally more acidic than their hardy cousins, Robusta. Why? They grow at higher altitudes and mature slower, allowing for improved flavor development and higher acidity. So, if you’re looking for less acidic coffee, Robusta might be your new best friend.
  • Coffee Bean Origin: Ever wonder why coffee from Ethiopia tastes different from coffee from Brazil? It’s all about the terroir. Factors like soil composition, altitude, and climate play a significant role in a bean’s acidity.
  • Roasting Process: Roasting is where the magic happens. The longer and hotter you roast the beans, the less acidic they become. This is because the heat breaks down the chlorogenic acids in the beans that contribute to acidity. That’s why dark roasts are often smoother and less acidic than light roasts.
  • Brewing Temperature: Just like Goldilocks, your coffee doesn’t like it too hot or too cold. Brewing at high temperatures can extract more acids, making your coffee taste sharper. Conversely, a lower brewing temperature produces a smoother, less acidic brew.
  • Age of the Coffee: Old coffee isn’t just stale—it’s also more acidic. As coffee ages, it loses some of its natural oils and flavors, leaving behind a bitter, acidic taste. So, always check the roast date and try to use your coffee within a couple of weeks.
  • Acids Present in Coffee: Coffee is a complex brew with several types of acids, including chlorogenic, quinic, citric, acetic, lactic, and malic acids. Each of these contributes to your coffee’s overall acidity and flavor profile.

Types of acid in coffee

Types of Acid in Coffee

Coffee is more than just a delightful, aromatic beverage. It’s a concoction brimming with various acids that give it unique flavors and characteristics.

  • Chlorogenic Acid: The tangy, vibrant flavors that burst in your coffee are all thanks to chlorogenic acid. Unfortunately, it’s also why some people experience stomach discomfort after their caffeine fix.
  • Citric Acid: Ever wondered why high-altitude Arabica beans have a citrusy undertone? Citric acid is the same acid found in your favorite fruits. It’s like having a hint of cherry in your cup.
  • Malic Acid: If you’ve ever bitten into a green apple, you’d be familiar with its tartness. That’s malic acid. In coffee, it contributes to a juicy smoothness.
  • Acetic Acid: This is where things get a bit vinegary, literally. Acetic acid forms during the roasting process when organic acids like citric and malic break down. Too much of it, and your coffee might start tasting like vinegar.
  • Quinic Acid: Have you had coffee that tasted harsh or sour? You probably had a run-in with quinic acid. It’s formed when chlorogenic acid breaks down during roasting and becomes more prevalent in darker roasts and over-extracted coffee.
  • Phosphoric Acid: Associated with high-quality Arabica beans, phosphoric acid contributes to the sweet, bright acidity we all love in a good cup of coffee.

There are over thirty different organic acids identified in coffee. Each plays a role in shaping the coffee’s overall flavor profile, including its acidity level.

What is Light Roast Coffee

How to Choose Low Acidic Coffee Beans

Let’s talk about the star of the show – coffee beans. Choosing the right beans can be as complex as selecting the right wine.

First, let’s clear up a common misconception:

  • Dark roast coffee doesn’t mean stronger, more flavorful coffee.
  • Light roast coffee doesn’t mean weak, flavorless coffee.

The darker the roast, the less acidic the coffee. Lighter roasts are higher in acidity, leading to a sweeter flavor profile.

People often attribute the bold, smoky flavor of a dark roast, meaning it’s a stronger flavor. However, naturally processed light roast with high acidity and intense, fruity flavors have their own strong flavor profile.

But, if you want to reduce acidity, find a medium or dark roast.

Now, onto the type of beans. Remember our friends Arabica and Robusta?

In general, Robusta beans are less acidic than Arabica. This means they have a stronger, more bitter flavor. If you’re not a fan of bitterness, you might want to stick with low-acid Arabica coffee bean varieties.

Personally, I’ve found that Brazilian and Sumatran coffees tend to have lower acidity, while Kenyan and Ethiopian coffees are higher in acidity (but are oh, so delicious).

But taste is subjective, so what works for me might not work for you.

Here are a few key takeaways:

  • Know Your Roast: Understanding the roast level of your coffee is crucial. Light roasts retain more acidity, while dark roasts will be smoother and less acidic. Medium roasts strike a delightful balance between the two.
  • Bean Type Matters: Arabica beans are generally more acidic but smoother, while Robusta beans are less acidic with a stronger, bitter taste.
  • Origin of Beans: The geographical origin of the beans can significantly influence acidity. Brazilian and Sumatran coffees are often less acidic, while Kenyan and Ethiopian coffees typically have a higher acidity level.
  • Freshness of Coffee: Always check the roast date on the package. Coffee tends to become more acidic as it ages due to the loss of natural oils and flavors.
  • Taste Test: Since taste is subjective, it’s important to give different beans a try and find out what suits you best. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different varieties until you find your favorite.

As famed coffee expert James Hoffman once said, “The joy of coffee is the joy of discovery.” So, don’t be afraid to experiment with different beans until you find the one that hits the spot (but not too harshly).

Pour Over Flow Rate

Perfecting the Brewing Technique

Let’s start with a little science lesson. You see, brewing coffee is all about extraction.

During brewing, water extracts the flavors, oils, and acids from fresh coffee grounds.

The brewing temperature plays a crucial role in this extraction process.

Brew at a high temperature, and you’ll extract more acids, making your coffee taste sharper. On the other hand, brew at a lower temperature, and you’ll get a smoother, less acidic cup.

So, if you’re looking for less acidity, you might want to turn the heat down a few degrees.

Now, let’s walk through the steps for brewing less acidic coffee:

  1. Choose the Right Beans: Go for medium or dark roast beans that are known for their low acidity, like Brazilian or Sumatran varieties.
  2. Grind Your Beans Fresh: A medium grind is generally the best for reducing acidity. Too fine, and you might over-extract the acids; too coarse, and you might under-extract them.
  3. Measure Your Coffee: Use about 1 to 2 tablespoons of coffee per 6 ounces of water. This ratio can vary based on personal preference, but it’s a good starting point.
  4. Set Your Brewing Temperature: Aim for a brewing temperature between 195 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit. If your coffee maker doesn’t have a temperature setting, you’ll have to stick with adjusting your grind size to modify extraction.
  5. Brew Your Coffee: Brew your coffee as usual. If you’re using a French press or pour-over, make sure to pour the water evenly over the grounds.
  6. Enjoy Your Coffee: Sip your coffee and enjoy the smooth, low-acid flavor.

I’ve tried these techniques, and each helps in its own way. I was able to have a smoother, less acidic cup that was just as flavorful. Plus, my stomach was much happier.

Best Coffee Grounds for Cold Brew

Strategies to on Reduce Coffee’s Acidity

You don’t have to head out on your coffee brewing adventures empty-handed. These strategies will help you reduce coffee’s acidity and create the perfect cup of low-acid java:

  • Brew your coffee for longer: It sounds counterintuitive, but brewing your coffee for a bit longer can decrease its acidity. My experiments have shown that an extra minute or more can make quite a difference.
  • Opt for darker roasts: As we’ve discussed before, the roasting process breaks down the acids in coffee beans. So, the darker the roast, the less acidic the coffee.
  • Try cold brew coffee: Besides being delicious, cold brew a great way to reduce the acidity in your coffee.
  • Add eggshells to your coffee grind: Sounds weird, right? I tried it, and it works! The calcium in eggshells neutralizes the acids in coffee and leaves a uniquely smooth mouthfeel.
  • Don’t store hot coffee for long periods: The longer coffee sits, the more acidic it becomes. So, drink up!
  • Use a coffee filter: Coffee filters can help trap some of the oils and acids in coffee. I recommend paper filters for the best results.
  • Choose coarser coffee grinds: Finer grinds can lead to over-extraction, which can increase acidity.
  • Add milk to your coffee: The proteins in milk can help neutralize coffee’s acidity. Plus, it adds a creamy delectability to your cup.
  • Don’t overheat your coffee: Overheating can cause coffee to become more acidic.
  • Use hard water to brew coffee: Hard water contains minerals that can help reduce acidity.
  • Use low-acid coffee beans: Several varieties of low-acid coffee beans are available on the market.
  • Add acid reducers to coffee: Some companies sell acid reducers that you can add to your coffee to lower acidity. I’ve tried a few, and they do work, but always check the ingredients first.

Final Thoughts

From choosing the right beans to perfecting the brewing technique, we’ve covered all the bases to create a smoother, less acidic cup of joe.

Happy caffeinating!

Frequently Asked Questions

What causes acidity in coffee?

Several factors contribute to acidity in coffee, including the type of beans, origin, roasting process, brewing temperature, age of the coffee, and the types of acids present in the coffee.

What types of acids are present in coffee?

Coffee contains several types of acids, including chlorogenic, quinic, citric, acetic, lactic, and malic acids.

Is high acidity in coffee a good thing?

In the coffee world, high acidity is considered a desirable quality, as it refers to the bright, tangy, fruity, or wine-like flavors that give coffee its unique character. However, too much acidity can be tough on sensitive stomachs.

How can you make coffee less acidic?

There are several ways to make coffee less acidic, including choosing the right type of coffee beans, selecting a lower-acid coffee bean origin, opting for a darker roast, brewing at a lower temperature, using fresher coffee, and choosing a coffee with lower levels of specific acids, such as chlorogenic acid. 

About the Author Kris Silvey

About the Author Kris Silvey

As a semi-professional at-home barista and full-time software engineer, my love for coffee borders on obsession. By combining my passion for coffee with an engineering mindset, I strive to perfect my brewing process and share that knowledge with each of you.

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