How to Reduce Acidity in Coffee

21 April 2021

Like most things in life, a good tasting cup of coffee all comes down to balance. Not too sweet, not too bitter – it often comes down to personal preference.

Another important factor to consider is its level of acidity. Most coffee varieties are acidic. That burst of tang that you taste in your first sip, that’s the acid doing its job. The acidity of coffee also contributes to the aroma, flavour, and taste of the coffee.

For some people, an imbalanced or excessive amount of acid may have adverse effects on acid-triggering medical conditions. These conditions include acid reflux, gastric ulcers, gastrointestinal issues, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

If you’re affected, it’s important to consider your coffee options wisely to avoid aggravating your health condition with that must-have morning cup of java. 

Acids in Coffee

Acids in coffee are often formed and released during the brewing or roasting process. There are many different types of acids present in coffee, including aliphatic, organic and chlorogenic acids. 

During the coffee roasting process, aliphatic acids are formed. They include acids such as formic, acetic, glycolic and lactic. This family of acids tends to be released in higher amounts when coming in contact with different types of sugar such as sucrose, fructose or glucose.  

During the brewing process, “good” organic acids such as malic, citric, succinic, tartaric and acetic acids are released. These acids tend to be brighter, refreshing, and sharper in taste — almost tangy.

On the other hand, chlorogenic acids have a tendency to release bitter and sour flavours. The latter acids aren’t the kind of acids you’d want to taste in your coffee, they’re pretty unpleasant.

Many other factors have an influence on coffee’s acidity, including grind sizes, place of origin, brewing time, temperature, and extraction method, just to name a few. 

Reducing the Acidity of Coffee

Whether you get your caffeine fix from a coffee shop, or brew it at home with your favourite coffee machine, here are some tips to help regulate or reduce the acidity.

Shorten the Brewing Time

espresso being extracted into a cup
Brewing your coffee for too long can make your coffee highly acidic and sour. Photo from Tim St. Martin.

How long you brew your coffee beans can affect the acidity of your coffee. A longer brew time gives you a more acidic coffee.

It makes sense — the longer your coffee beans stay in the water, the more acid is being extracted and released. So avoid brewing your coffee too long to avoid high acidity levels.

Know the Ideal Brewing Temperatures 

For lovers of hot brewed coffee, coffee experts describe the optimal brewing temperature to be near 93°C .

For cold brews, it is said that coffee prepared at temperatures below 25°C  would release lesser acidic and sweeter flavours. Take your pick! 

Have Your Coffee Decaffeinated

Decaffeinated coffee has been a popular choice among coffee lovers. It has lower acidity compared to its caffeinated counterpart and this reduces the probability of contracting gastrointestinal issues.

Furthermore, studies suggest pregnant women should avoid excessive intake of caffeine, so decaf is a better option for them.

Grind Your Coffee Beans Finer

Finer grinds as opposed to coarser grinds release less acid. This is because coarser grind sizes slow down the rate of extraction due to the lesser surface or contact area.

But of course, if you like your coffee acidic, grind your beans coarser. The best-tasting coffee will require you to manage the right amount of extraction because finer grinds can lead to over-extraction of flavours, and the taste can be unpleasant.

Opt for Darker Roasts

coffee beans being roasted in a machine
Acid levels tend to be more pronounced in lighter roasts as compared to darker roasts. Photo from Gregory Hayes.

Darker roasts are known to release lesser acids. A study has shown darker roasts reduce their chlorogenic acid levels and prevent excessive hydrochloric acid from building up in the stomach.

There’s no fixed way to have your coffee, so it really depends on what works best for you.

Coffee trends come and go, but knowing how to make the perfect brew for yourself is guaranteed to deliver long-term pleasure.

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