Can Coffee Cause Heartburn? The Best Way to Drink Coffee with Reflux.
Do you enjoy drinking coffee, but suffer from acid reflux, GERD, or heartburn? You may have heard conflicting reports about whether it's a good idea to continue drinking coffee. With so much information out there on this topic, it can be hard to know what steps to take when deciding if coffee is right for you.
So here is the question: Can coffee cause Acid Reflux, Heartburn or GERD?
In this blog post, I will walk you through a coffee industry insider's perspective of 20 years and explain to you the best and easiest approach to finding and enjoying coffee again; even if you suffer from severe reflux, GERD, Silent Reflux, or Barret's Esophagus.
Unlike certain foods or other acidic beverages, if coffee drinking is causing digestive symptoms, or acid reflux issues, you do not have to quit drinking coffee, there are good solutions available.
In my opinion, the goal is not to reduce acid reflux symptoms, rather if you have the right low acid coffee, the goal is to drink coffee as you use to without any symptoms.
What is Acid Reflux and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)?
For those not familiar with the differences, acid reflux is a medical condition in which stomach acid flows back into the esophagus, causing discomfort. This can range from a mild burning sensation in the chest to severe and long-lasting pain and inflammation.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is a chronic and more severe form of acid reflux and can even lead to tissue damage. See my article on Low Acid Coffee and Barret's Esophagus. Heartburn is a symptom of both acid reflux and GERD. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, nearly 20% of the U.S. population is thought to suffer from GERD.
You Should be Concerned About Acidity in Coffee
Whether you have an existing medical condition or not, you should be very concerned about the acids in coffee. As we age, our physiology changes and we can become sensitive and can even develop conditions that are affected by high-acid foods and beverages.
If you drink regular coffee today, it is a near certainty that it will make your acid reflux worse. The same with heartburn symptoms. High-acid coffee can affect your digestive system and cause acid indigestion.
There are great options for people that struggle with acid, the best is to stop drinking coffee that is high in acid and limit your coffee consumption to low acid coffees. Warning, some low acid coffees are better than others.
Nearly All Coffees are High Acid Coffees
Acidity in coffee is a big deal. By weight, the various acidic compounds in the coffee bean constitute over 8.5% of its dry weight. Chlorogenic Acids (CGA) and a subset of CGA, Caffeloquinc acids, make up about 4% of the dry weight of coffee and are problematic to people sensitive to acid.
Volatile Acids can Affect Coffee Drinkers
These acids are called nonvolatile acids, meaning that they are very stable and hard to remove from the coffee bean. Unfortunately, nonvolatile acidic compounds in coffee can be immediately detrimental to coffee drinkers and can trigger GERD symptoms and Acid Reflux symptoms.
These acids are only degraded when exposed to high temperatures for a long duration. Slow roasting achieves the necessary roast temperatures and roast duration to dramatically reduce CGA and in the case of some problematic Caffeloquinc acids bring them to near trace levels.
However, conventional roasting methods today, do not achieve the roast temperatures or durations to begin to mitigate nonvolatile acids. On the contrary, the vast majority of roast profiles present a light, fruity, and bright-tasting coffee by seeking to maintain the coffee's inherent acidity. Now let's look at removing the acids from coffee.
Removing The Acids From Coffee
Slow roasted low acid coffees are not specially processed. They are just roasted longer. It is a completely natural and organic process. No treatments or processing agents are involved.
Reduce The Bitterness
Since slow roasting coffee is so effective at removing acid from coffee beans, the bright, bitter, and sometimes sour flavors are not present, because the acidic flavor precursors such as Chlorogenic and Caffeloquinc acids are dissipated. As a result, slow roasting not only leaves a coffee very low in acid coffee but a cup that is very rich and smooth without bitterness.
Now, Let's look at caffeine, which can something else that must be considered by consumers.
You must be Aware of Caffeine.
For most people, the dramatic reduction in acidity levels from a very low acid coffee is enough to allow them the freedom to enjoy coffee as they use to. However, reducing the acidity level of coffee is not enough for those that also struggle with the effects of caffeine. Too much caffeine can be a problem for coffee lovers. While some people can simply reduce their caffeine intake, caffeinated coffee should be avoided altogether for others. Let's look at caffeine its effects and nest methods of decaffeination.
The Health Benefits and affects of Caffeine on You Body.
Caffeine is a central nervous stimulant. By weight caffeine constituents are 1% of the dry weight of the coffee bean. Caffeine's stimulant effect can improve alertness and reduce fatigue and has been shown to improve mental performance such as cognitive function memory, and reaction time. Regular coffee consumption, including caffeine, has been linked to a reduced risk of certain chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, Parkinson's disease, and liver disease. Coffee can also affect metabolism, and increase fat-burning, and weight loss. (Not sure about this one, it has not helped me much in that area).
Also Coffee does have a lot of antioxidants, which can help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. I wrote more about What is Healthy Coffee you may wish to consult once you finish this article.
However, caffeine intake can also negatively affect your body, which also must be understood.
Does caffeine cause stomach acid?
Consumption of caffeine can stimulate the production of stomach acid, which can exacerbate heartburn symptoms. If you struggle with caffeine, you will need to find a low acid coffee that is also decaffeinated
Selecting a Decaf Low Acid Coffee
When selecting a decaffeinated coffee, there are a few choices that consumers must know about. Decaf coffees can be divided into two categories, chemically processed and water processed decaffeinated.
Water Processed Decafs:
Chemical Processed Decaffeinated
The most common process for decaffeinating coffee in the United States involves the use of a chemical, Methyl Chloride (CH3Cl) also known as chloromethane. Methyl Chloride (MC) is a gas that is colorless, flammable and is toxic. Don't take my word for it, look it up. Here is the article for more about (MC) here.
Methyl Chloride Decaf
The MC decaffeination process involves soaking the green coffee beans in hot water to extract the caffeine, which also removes the water-soluble components (the flavor). The beans are then removed from the water and the MC is added to bond with the caffeine. The MC and the caffeine are skimmed off and the green coffee beans are returned to the water to reabsorb the water-soluble components that were previously extracted. This process is about 94% effective.
By the inherent nature of the processing, MC decafs will never be organic. Plus, it has a residual processed flavor, which means the great taste of high-quality coffee would not be used in a method that would taint the coffee beans' brilliance. That is why traditionally decaf coffee was always so bad. It has poor-quality coffee beans with a lingering processed taste. The base green coffees usually score low in the 70s (that's bad). Now, enter stage right the water-based decafs.
Water Processed Decaffeinated
Unlike Methyl Chloride decafs, water-based decaffeination processes do not use any chemical solvents. These methods are 100% chemical-free, more natural, and completely water-based. Since the Swiss Water Process and Mountain Water decaf process are solvent-free processes, both conventional and organic green coffee beans can be used.
Since these water decaffeination process methods do not have a residual taste from chemical solvents, a high-quality coffee bean can be used, which scores in the 80s (that's good) and above.
Moreover, water-processed decafs are more effective than chemicals process. MC and other methods that use solvents and chemicals still leave between 4 to 6% caffeine content in the coffee bean. Whereas the Mountain water decaf coffee has residual caffeine of .04%. The fact is if you drink decaf coffee it will have less way less caffeine, 99.9% less.
Organic and Non-GMO Coffees
Organic coffee avoids conventional processing agents, whether in the field, in processing, or before roasting. If the coffee is organic, it is traceable to its origin and you know that you are drinking certified coffee. Plus, as conventional cultivation and growing methods change, it's nice to know that the coffee you are drinking is certified organic and as a result is also Non-GMO.
Know the pH
You should know the pH of your coffee. I have listed a chart below in order to give a quick reference in visual form to coffee and its acidity. A great rule of thumb is to not drink any coffee with a pH score lower than 5.5 pH.
If you remember from High School, the higher the pH number the less acidic. As you move up the scale, acidity declines. In fact, due to the scale's logarithmic nature, every .1 increase in pH is a corresponding 10% reduction in acidity. For example, a coffee with pH 5.5 will have 70% less acid than most national coffee chains that produce coffee with a 4.8 pH
Recommendations: That is why I recommend coffee that has a minimum pH of 5.5 and the closer to 6 the better.
Make Sure it is 3rd Party Verified
Trust but verify. Do not just take people's word for it that the coffee is low acid. Make sure to get the pH score. Avoid the thumbs on the scale, the scoring should be from an independent 3rd party laboratory. If they post the analytical report, that is even better,
We have talked about acidity levels, caffeine levels, and measuring pH. These are all major items to consider.
What about shade grown coffee, or natural process coffee, or cold brew coffee, doesn't that make the coffee low acid? From my perspective, those things are "all hat and no cattle".
Processing Methods to Make Coffee Low In Acid
Here are your basic points where the high levels of acidity can be impacted as the coffee bean goes from the farm to your cup. Coffee beans are the seeds of a coffee cherry. The coffee beans are to brought to it's raw unroasted form through several steps of processing and are ready for export. At this point, with varying allowances by processing method, the coffee is exported and retains its highly acidic characteristics.
Methods of Cultivation. At origin, growing the coffee, soil content, elevation, weather, cultivation practices, coffee varieties (genetics of the bean). - Minor effect on acidity.
Methods of Processing. At origin, how the coffee bean is removed from the fruit, level of fermentation, washing of the coffee, and drying of the bean. - Minor effect on acidity.
Methods of Roasting. The time, temperature, and degree of roast. Slow roasted coffee can be a light medium or dark roast and very low in acid. - Major effect on acidity.
Methods of Brewing. The brewing method used for extraction as the coffee is brewed such as French Press, Pour over, cold brew, etc. - Minor effect on acidity.
The roast is the single most effective means to reduce the acidity in coffee. Slow roasting is an all-natural process.
Want to Try a Low Acid Coffee? My Recommendations.
I have covered a lot of material in the article so I wanted to sum it up concisely. If you are looking for a low acid coffee, these are my recommendations of what to consider:
Make sure to know the pH score. Minimum score pH 5.5
Make sure the coffee is certified Organic and Non-GMO.
Make sure the coffee is slow roasted to maximize acid reduction and eliminate bitterness.
Make sure if you need to decaf to avoid the chemicals and select a water-processed decaf.
I hope you found this information helpful. Now, if you are tired of searching for the right coffee, might I suggest that you try Mavericks Coffee. It is slow roasted, organic, low acid, and has among the best pH scores in the industry. Send me your email in the box below and I will send you a high-value coupon to use right away.
Can Coffee Cause Heartburn?
Yes, coffee can cause chest pain, chronic heartburn, and upset stomach because of its inherent acidity and its concentration of a central nervous stimulant called caffeine. Caffeine can increase the production of stomach acids.
Can I Avoid Coffee Heartburn By Only Drinking Low Acid Coffee?
Yes, many people can avoid heartburn by drinking a low acid coffee, because many of the acidic compounds in coffee such as Chlorogenic and Caffeloquinc acids and dissipated or are removed. Not all low acid coffees are created equal, know the pH score of any coffee you drink.
Does Cold Brew Coffee Reduce acid?
While cold brewing has been shown to have a slight impact on acid content, the single most effective way to remove the acidity is by slow roasting.