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Low Acid Coffee: Caffeine, pH and Health.

Low Acid Coffee: Caffeine, pH and Health.

Mar 03, 2023


Ryan Beckley

Do you suffer from GERD or chronic reflux conditions and are concerned with the caffeine or the acid in coffee? Welcome to slow roasted low acid coffee, which is still antioxidant-rich but has much higher pH levels (less acid) than regular coffee and it can help you eliminate your issues with the acidity and caffeine in coffee.

In this article, I will discuss everything you need to know about low acid coffee. If you are health-conscious this is a good article for you to read. With almost 20 years in the coffee industry, I will share with you what you need to know about low acid coffee, caffeine, pH, and health. I will also give you a simple, easy, and effective tool to quickly find the right low acid coffee for you.

Does Regular Coffee Have Acid In It?

All coffee has acid. It is an inherent characteristic of the coffee bean. While bean acidity can have a very detrimental effect on people's health, the acidity of coffee is one of ten cupping attributes to judge the quality of a coffee according to the Specialty Coffee Association of America. This is because bean acidity is a flavor precursor.

That means flavors from coffee are derived from various compounds in the bean including acidic compounds. The beauty of low acid coffee and, in particular slow roasted low acid coffee, is its ability to diminish and dissipate certain acids, while still maintaining flavor.

This is important because certain acids, many of which are problems to people's health, also are precursors to some of the coffee's negative flavors such as bitterness. This is how it works.

Chlorogenic Acid in Coffee Beans

By weight about 8.5% of green (unroasted) coffee are acids. Chlorogenic acids (CGA) make up about half that amount. Caffeloquinc acids are a subset CGA and are a very problematic acid for people that struggle with gastroesophageal and gastrointestinal issues. Here is list of many of the conditions for people that I roast coffee for:

GERD, Silent Reflux, Interstitial Cystitis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Barrett's Esophagus, and a host of related conditions with varying degrees of severity from upset stomach and heartburn to chronic reflux conditions.

Chlorogenic Acid

Acid can and does affect people with those conditions. If you do not struggle with any of these yet, remember your body changes as you age. Now is a great time to start removing the high concentrations of acid in coffee from your diet.

Coffee Acids and and Taste

As mentioned above, coffee acids are flavor precursors; meaning coffee derives some it's flavor from the presence of these acid compounds in the coffee bean. CGA and caffeloquinc acids are known for adding a bitter flavor to coffee.

As a coffee roaster, all the specialty grade arabica coffees that I buy score a minimum of 82 out of 100. Acidity is one of the ten flavor attributes. Each attribute is scored individually on a scale from 1 to 10, with the results of each attribute added together to achieve the final score.

With the acidity category, my typical selection is in the range from 7.5 to 8.5 out of 10, which is nearly 10% of the overall cupping score according to SCA guidelines. [insert score picture]. Other factors include Body, Sweetness, Fragrance,, etc.

Meaning not only does the coffee have an acidic profile, I make sure to locate a coffee with a good amount of acidity, so I know a good amount of flavor precursors are in the bean. Then I target certain acids and diminish the ones I do not want; the acids that affect people's health and generate a bitter taste.

Removing the Acids and the Bitterness From Coffee

Now, I have mentioned certain acids, such as Chlorogenic acids (CGA) and Caffeloquinc acids, their role as flavor precursors, and the necessity of selecting a green coffee (unroasted) with a good amount of acidity to make sure, that the coffee will still have a great finished taste without the acid.

If you find a low acid coffee that is slow roasted and this will be true of any light roast, medium roast, or dark roast coffee. A light or medium roast, and a darker roast will all be low in acidity but still have lots of flavors regardless degree of roast.

Bean Type Affect on Coffee Acidity

As you can begin to see, I want to start with a coffee that has a nice acidity and then remove it during the roast. Despite what you may have been told, the mark of truly low acid coffee is not the growing, the cultivating, the type of bean, the processing, the grinding, and the brewing. It's in the roast.

Now let me pause to qualify and say, I am discussing Arabica beans and not Robusta beans. Robusta, while still part of the coffee family, is outside of the focus of this article.

Downsides of Regular Acidic Coffee

Since coffee is very high in acid. Stomach irritation, upset stomach

Drinking lighter roast coffees is very problematic as conventional light roasted coffees are very high in acid. Due to conventional coffee roast profiles today that are designed to roast the coffee for shorter durations and at lower departures, lighter roasts can be a major problem.

Unless they are slow roasted, I would be hesitant to drink it. However, just because the coffee is a dark roast coffee is not a guarantee that it is a low acid coffee. Let's consider IBS for a minute.

Relieves Symptoms of Acid Reflux

Removing acid from a diet can be helpful. A good place to start looking at is your coffee consumption. The good news is that you do not have to stop drinking coffee. A slow roasted low acid coffee can dramatically reduce acidity, while still helping you to enjoy the inherent benefits of coffee.

4 Benefits of Low Acid Coffee

With lower acidity levels, you can still enjoy the health benefits of coffee without having to give it up because of the acid. Here are a few to think about.

  • Improve Memory

  • Enhance your Immune system

  • Contains anti-oxidants

  • Taste, no need for additives

Does Low Acid Coffee Have Less Caffeine?

Low acid coffee does not affect caffeine levels in any substantive way. Yes, low acid coffee can have slightly less caffeine, if roasted long enough and at higher temperatures. However, the loss of the coffee beans density during the roast with the evaporation of moisture, carbohydrates, lipids, acids, and other constituent parts of the coffee bean that are degraded, dissipated, or destroyed during the roast, makes the extraction of caffeine when brewed more effective than extracting it from a conventional roast that is denser and making extraction of caffeine relatively more difficult.


Low Acid Coffee and Decaffeination

For some coffee drinkers reducing the acid is not enough. Coffee not only contains high amounts of acid, but also caffeine. By weight, caffeine makes up about 1% of the coffee beans' dry weight.

That is a lot of caffeine and that caffeine in coffee can trigger symptoms.

  • If you have interstitial Cystitis (IC) or Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), caffeine's diuretic effect can increase urine production, and frequency, and may even affect urinary tract infections. Truly decaf coffee may help to alleviate symptoms that are exasperated by caffeine. [Read my article on Coffee and IBS for more information drink coffee.]

  • If you have heartburn or occasional reflux, or more chronic conditions like Silent Reflux, Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or Barret's Esophagus caffeine can simulate the production of stomach acid and trigger symptoms.

Warning noy not all decaf low acid coffee will do. Be careful when selecting decaffeinated coffees. Most coffees today are still decaffeinated with chemical processing agents.

Chemical Processed Decaffeinated

A widely used decaffeinating method utilizes Chloromethane also known as Methyl Chloride (CH3Cl). Methyl Chloride is a gas that is colorless, flammable and is toxic. Don't take my word for it you can head more about Methyl Chloride (MC) here. You should avoid coffees that use MC.

The great news is that their are water based processed decafs on the market, that do not use chemicals and the processing methods of these water based decafs are also organic compliant.

Mountain Water Decaf

Water Processed Decaffeinated

Water based decafs are chemical free and the best solution available for any decaf low acid coffee. Water processed decafs have 4 primary benefits.

  • Chemical Free

  • 99% effective

  • Can Use Organic Coffee Beans

  • More Natural Taste

I have worked with both Swiss Water and Mountain Water Decafs. Both methods are water based and chemical free and very effective. I have had the best results with Mountain Water Decafs. Nothing against Swiss Water they are great too.

Mountain water decafs have residual caffeine of .004%., so it is highly effective. I have written more extensively on this subject of water processed decaffeination and the choice available for consumers today in my article water processed decafs swiss water or mountain water. 

What is Coffee's pH Level?

From the corner market, to the big box store, to the national coffees brands, nearly all coffees score between a 4.6 to 4.9 pH, which is very acidic. As you move up the scale the coffee becomes less acidic. The logarithmic nature of the score means small changes in pH 0.1 is actually 10%. Comparing a coffee with 4.8 against a coffee with 5.5 score, is a reduction in acid of 70%.

Coffee and the pH scale.

The pH scale is not difficult to understand. In fact, you really only need to look for the score, understanding how the scale works is just nice to know. If you want more information about pH scale read my article Measuring Low Acid Coffees.

Think of pH as a tape measure, it is a simple and objective way to score a coffee. In short, you are looking for a coffee with a minimum pH score of 5.5 or greater. A pH closer to 6 is even better and above 6 pH is fantastic. The higher the number the better.

Avoid any questions or doubts, and make sure the pH score is 3rd party lab certified before you buy.

Cold Brew Process Yields Low Acid Coffee

Much has been said on the internet about brewing coffee to make it low in acid. At best, the brewing method can only have a mild effect. Grinding the coffee whether, Cone, French press, or Espresso, the method of extraction; cold brew, espresso, pour-over, a special grind or means of extraction can not solve the problem. The problem is not how you grind or don't grind or the brewing process, it's the acidic nature of coffee.

The best way to achieve a low acid coffee is not by grinding, brewing, or even processing the coffee in a special way, the most effective way to reduce acid is by roasting. You must remove the nonvolatile acids before they get to you to grind and brew. Plus, hot or cold, however, you prefer to brew your coffee or whatever method of grinding it is already low in acid.

Slow Roasting Low Acid Coffees

The fact is that coffee contains volatile and non-volatile acids. The volatile acids can be more easily removed from the coffee, while non-volatile acids are very difficult to remove. The problem is that the most troublesome acids for people's health are the nonvolatile acids like Chlorogenic acids (CGA) Caffeloquinc acids that I mentioned earlier.

Modern roasting techniques, methods, and profiles are not designed to remove the nonvolatile acids in the coffee. In fact, the roasting trends today of the "Nordic" style roasters and "3rd Waver" roasters, roast coffee at much lower temperatures and for a much shorter duration to retain the coffees acidity and delivery a bright and fruity cup, which is devastating for many people sensitive to acidic coffee.

Slow roasting uses much high temperatures and much longer durations to dissipate and destroy the nonvolatile acids in coffee, which yields a very low acid coffee and one free of the bitter flavor precursors derived from CGA.

Choosing the Right Low Acid Coffee Brands?

While there are many low acid coffee beans and low acid coffee brands, I caution coffee lovers and drinkers to choose carefully. In fact, their are some low acid coffee options out that are "all hat and no cattle" and are only slightly less acidic that the big box store coffee beans.

Best Low Acid Coffees

Even though they say they are a low acid coffee brands make sure before you buy. Some will work and most will not. In fact, some are not truly what I would consider low acid. Many low acid coffee still has a lot of acid in them. The same is true of "Acid Free" coffees.

Here are my criteria

  1. Make sure it is pH Verified. Is the coffee independently lab verified and does it have a pH higher than 5.5?

  2. Make sure it is Certified Organic. If the coffee is organic, you know that it have been processed using organic standards with organic-compliant processing methods. That also means it is Non-GMO

  3. Make sure it is Slow Roasted. Since roasting is the most effective means to reduce acidity, slow roasting works the best but avoids any "special processing" that might not be organic-compliant. If not roasted to be low acid, is the coffee treated? What type of extra processing has occurred?

  4. Make sure it is Water Processed Decaffeinated. If you need a decaf coffee do not settle for anything less than a water processed decaf, such as Swiss or Mountain Water

Trust but verify. This is your health. If the roaster you are looking at does not post the information, certifications, and laboratory analysis be careful. Stick to this criteria and whether it's cold brew coffee or hot brewed coffee or any other way you brew it, you will be making low acid coffee.

Laboratory analytical Report - Coffee Acidity

Now, if you are tired of looking try a Mavericks coffee. They are all certified organic, Non-GMO, and because they are slow roasted they taste great and are among the best scoring lowest acids coffee today. Give me your email in the box below and I will send you a high-value coupon to use instantly.



What Is The Best Coffee For Acid Reflux?

The best coffees for acid reflux are coffees with high pH scores. If a person is also sensitive to caffeine, then chemical decaffeination should be used. The best coffee would be a slow roasted water based decaf coffee, as the coffee will have the least amount of acid, is produced with organic processing methods, and have a very low level of acidity and residual caffeine levels of .004%.

Is Low Acid Coffee Better for You.

Low acid coffee can be better for you because it does not contain high levels of acidic compounds such as Chlorogenic acids (CGA) and Caffeloquinc acids, which can act as triggers to people with GERD, Silent Reflux, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Other medical problems like Barrett's Esophagus, Interstitial Cystis, are also affected by acidity.

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