Updated: September 20, 2021 by Owen Richardson
The magic of coffee — especially when homebrewing your cup of Joe — is that you get to control several factors of your drink. Since coffee is known to be acidic, if this element bothers you, you can easily learn how to make coffee less acidic.
Whether you would like to improve your brewing process or find out what to add to coffee to make it less acidic, you have the power to do this. Implementing a few changes when brewing your coffee or choosing a few ingredients to add will help you get rid of the acid for a smoother cup.
I have a few expert tips to help you learn how to reduce acid in coffee to minimize the unpleasant effects the acid may have on your stomach. These tips will help take the pressure off your stomach and allow you to get back to enjoying your favorite brew without any discomfort afterward.
Why Is Coffee Acidic?
There are many reasons why your coffee may taste acidic and cause adverse reactions in your digestive system. Coffee naturally contains acid, and certain brew techniques or post-brew habits may increase the acidity in your cup.
Firstly, acidity and alkalinity are measured on the pH scale with a pH of seven being classed as neutral. Anything above this is seen as alkaline, while the figures below are known as acidic. Coffee beans measure somewhere around a pH value of five. This means that coffee can easily upset you if you are sensitive to acid.
Luckily, you don’t have to give up on the delicious brew just yet. There are several ways to reduce the acid levels in your cup, such as choosing a better bean, changing your brewing method, and being mindful of some post-brewing habits.
The acid in coffee is released at different rates through different brewing methods, and if your coffee is unusually acidic, it could be a result of under-extracted coffee. This is presented as a sour cup of coffee as the acid is what gives coffee that distinct sharp taste.
While usually the acid is welcomed in a cup of coffee, it should be balanced correctly to ensure it offers the sweeter tasting acids while reducing the sour acids. This brings us to the idea that the acidic taste in coffee does not come from one type of acid.
The Different Types of Acid in Coffee
There are a few types of acid present in a coffee bean. While some offer healthy antioxidant benefits, others offer a sweeter taste, and some are classed as unhealthy.
The acid found in coffee that is healthy for your body is the chlorogenic acid which helps with weight loss and gives your body beneficial antioxidants. However, it could still upset sensitive stomachs, so roasting to a darker roast will help ease the effects as the acid will be broken down.
Phosphoric, Malic, Acetic, and Citric Acids
A few other acids that are not terrible in your cup are the ones that offer sweeter and tarter-tasting coffee. In small amounts, phosphoric acid, malic acid, acetic acid, and citric acid will offer these pleasant tastes. However, too much of these will create a sour-tasting cup of coffee.
The worst acid found in these delicious beans is Quinic acid which is released as the coffee deteriorates. The result is a bitter and burned-tasting coffee that is unpleasant enough to prevent you from drinking it. However, if you do have a few sips, you will likely feel stomach discomfort soon after.
This type of acid is usually released when coffee is left for a while (especially on a hot plate, such as the ones found on a drip coffee maker). While these natural acids found in the coffee beans can upset your digestive system to some degree, they are not the only reason for the burn you feel after drinking coffee.
The caffeine found in coffee beans causes your stomach to react by producing acid to break down the substance. This increase in your natural stomach acids may also cause an upset. This means that a decrease in caffeine is another solution.
But before you throw out your favorite coffee beans and unplug your machine, try a few of these tips to take some acid out of coffee so you can enjoy a more neutral brew.
How to Make Coffee Less Acidic
To lower the acidity of your coffee, there are a few techniques you can try, such as switching up your bean choice, roast level, or brew method. You might also make a few additions to your cup of coffee that will reduce the burn and create a more pleasant brew.
Here are five ways to make coffee less acidic:
1. Try a Cold Brew
If you are simply looking for the top brew method to reduce the acidity in your coffee, then a cold brew could be the solution. This simple method of brewing coffee offers strong flavors and is highly effective in reducing the acid content of your beans. While I will explain this method in more detail, you can also check out the best cold brew makers.
Switching to cold brew is one of the most effective ways to reduce the amount of acid in your coffee. If you use this method, not only will you have coffee that lasts up to two weeks, you will also reduce the amount of acid in your cup by 60%.
To produce a cold brew, you need to steep coarsely ground coffee beans in room temperature water for at least 12 hours and up to 48 hours to fully extract the coffee flavors. Since high temperatures are needed to extract the oil and acid found in coffee beans, this method prevents this extraction.
While a cold brew will be a lot more gentle on your stomach, you will also miss the healthy acids. These are responsible for improving weight loss and providing you with antioxidants. If you want those benefits out of your brew, then a cold one may not be the right solution.
2. Try Decaffeinated Beans
Another method you can try is switching to decaf coffee beans as they contain up to 99.9% less caffeine than regular coffee beans. This reduction in caffeine will prevent your stomach from producing its own acid and, in turn, reduce the unpleasant effects.
You may notice that decaffeinated beans are often promoted as a solution for coffee lovers with sensitive stomachs. While switching to decaf used to have coffee enthusiasts upset over the lack of options and the flat flavors, there are several more decaf options these days.
Several coffee roasters will produce a decaf version of their popular beans to give decaf drinkers the option to enjoy their favorite flavors. A good tip when choosing decaf beans is to look for ones that have been through the Swiss Water Process during decaffeination as this is the most natural and effective method.
3. Choose a Darker Roast
Lighter roasts naturally contain more acids in the beans as the roasting process is fairly quick. As a general rule, the darker the roast of the bean, the less acid it contains. This is due to two main factors.
Firstly, the longer the beans are roasted, the more they are processed and the chemical compounds are affected. Simply put, the acids burn away during a longer roast cycle.
Another factor that makes these beans less likely to upset your system is the reduction of caffeine in these beans. Darker roast beans generally contain less caffeine than light and medium roasts. This results in less acid being produced by your stomach and less chance of you feeling unwell after consuming coffee.
4. Choose Beans from a Different Region
The methods of growing coffee plants may affect the acid content of the beans. This is due to the elevation at which the beans are grown as well as other characteristics of coffee from certain regions.
Coffee plants grown at lower altitudes tend to create beans with lower acidity levels than those grown at higher altitudes. If you look into how the beans you use were grown, you can choose better beans for your acid tolerance.
Certain regions tend to produce varying levels of acid in the beans. Try choosing coffee beans from Sumatra and Brazil for a lower level of acidity in your cup.
5. Add a Neutralizer
Adding ingredients to coffee can help neutralize that unwanted acid. While it may seem like an odd addition to your brew of coffee, baking soda is a great solution for neutralizing acidic elements. You can simply add a little sprinkle into your brewed coffee.
If the baking soda does not sound too appealing, you can try pouring in some almond milk. This plant-based alternative to cow’s milk is a lot more alkaline than your coffee beans. This will help balance your brew to give you a more neutral cup.
Sometimes adding milk is suggested, but it is close to coffee on the pH scale, so it may not change the pH that much. It will help more in dark roast cups rather than light or medium roasts.
FAQs on Coffee Acidity
Can coffee cause acid reflux?
Coffee could be a reason for acid reflux due to the amount of acid found in coffee beans. Coffee is also known to relax your lower esophageal sphincter which increases the risk of acid reflux and heartburn.
The relaxing of the esophagus will create an opening that allows stomach acid to move up and creates the unpleasant feeling of acid in your throat and chest.
Will a paper filter reduce the acidity in coffee?
Using a paper coffee filter will help reduce the amount of acidity in your cup as the paper filters out a large amount of the oils released from the beans. These oils usually contain a lot of the acids found in the beans, so simply removing them will reduce the acid levels.
Will a thermal cup increase acid content in coffee?
Thermal cups will increase the amount of acid in your coffee, but it is not the cup itself that causes this. When storing coffee in a thermos, it is usually kept to be enjoyed later. While it sits in the cup, the coffee remains hot, and this heat causes the coffee to continuously release oils.
This is also true for coffee that is left on a hot plate for too long as it keeps the coffee hot the entire time.
Do eggshells reduce the acid levels in coffee?
As unpleasant as it sounds, eggshells in your coffee will help neutralize the brew as the shells are alkaline. However, you don’t need to place an egg in your cup of coffee. Take used eggshells, wash them thoroughly, and crush them before adding them to your ground coffee.
When you brew your coffee, the shells will filter out along with the coffee grinds, saving you from an unnecessary crunch in your cup.
Time to Neutralize Your Cup
While coffee naturally contains high levels of acid, you can easily neutralize your cup with the methods above. As long as you aren’t adding any strong flavors to your coffee, you shouldn’t alter the taste of your brew.
Do some experimentation and find the brewing tweak that works for you.