How to Make Low Acid Coffee
In addition to being the nectar of the gods, coffee is also a bit acidic, clocking in at a 5 on the pH scale. While it's not as acidic as, say, a lemon, it can aggravate acid reflux or GERD (gastro-esophageal reflux disease) symptoms in some people, such as yours truly. Hello!
We receive calls all the time from people looking for lower-acid coffees. The immediate thought is making the switch to decaf, a change many admittedly don't want to make, because caffeine produces stomach acid. However, it's not quite so simple, but we'll get into that soon enough.
Thankfully, my reaction to the bean juice isn't as severe as others', not unless I'm slamming straight African coffee because it's very, very acidic. In which case, oh, boy, I'm in for a world of hurt. It's like a WWE smackdown in my chest, but there are ways to mitigate that barrage of esophageal RKOs. For starters, go with a lower-acid coffee.
Which Region's Coffee Has The Lowest Acid?
Indo-Pacific coffees are notoriously low in acid, due largely to the fact that most beans from this region are wet hulled. “Wet grinding” in Indonesian, giling basah is a centuries-old processing technique that, while rough on the beans, creates the iconic earthy flavor Indo-Pacific coffee is known for. The moisture content of non-wet-hulled beans is usually around 11%, but wet-hulled coffee can get sold to exporters at nearly 50% moisture content. Acidity thrives where there is no moisture to counterbalance it, so wet-hulled coffee ends up being less acidic than coffees from other origins.
That's not to say, though, that you have to drink Indo-Pacific coffees exclusively. This handy guide will help you pick the region that's right for you!
Does Roast Level Affect Acidity?
Yes! Coffee naturally contains caffeine—no coffee on the planet is 100% caffeine-free, not even decaf. Caffeine creates stomach acid, so even if you go with a low-acid origin, how it's roasted may still pose an issue for sensitive tummies. As a coffee is being roasted, however, its caffeine content gradually decreases as the roast progresses, which is why dark roast coffee contains the least amount of caffeine. Every roast is an experiment in balancing (or unbalancing) origin vs. roaster—how much we let either play into the cup. The roasting process caramelizes the coffee's natural sugars, which changes the characteristics the longer heat is applied to the beans.
At a light roast, the sugars aren't too altered, allowing more of those origin notes to shine and maintaining a lot of the caffeine. In the medium roast range, caramelization takes on a more central role, which both tamps down the caffeine and brings a balance of origin and roaster to the cup—origin fruit and flower with roaster chocolate and caramel. At a dark roast, the sugars are walking a tightrope between toasted and charred, at which point the caffeine content drops further and bittersweet flavors like baker's chocolate and tart fruit take the helm.
If you want to explore different origins, selecting coffees at a medium-dark or dark-roast may be the way to go, but even then, there's another way to drink the coffee you want. Coffee purists may not like it, but it's a solid (and sometimes sweet) solution.
Add Milk Or Cream To Your Coffee
The way you make your coffee is the right way to make coffee. One of the many beauties of making coffee is that it's an entirely subjective act, even if you make it with cream. In fact, studies indicate that adding cream to your coffee may double your immune cells' natural anti-inflammatory response. Also, because alt-milk is a step more alkaline (basic) than coffee—a step even further alkaline than cow's milk, adding it to your brew will act as something of a barrier against the brunt of coffee's acids, thus potentially reducing acid reflux symptoms. Again, everyone's acid reflux triggers are different, so it's important to start slowly reintegrating coffee into your life. Consult your physician if you have any concerns or questions.
What's The Best Brew Method For Reducing Acid?
Hands down, it's cold brew. In addition to being a year-round treat (fight me), its use of cold water extracts far less acid than brewing with hot water. Since the temperature inside your brewer never gets above room temp (unless, of course, you're cold brewing in a sauna), the coffee isn't able to release its acid-rich oils. For the lowest possible acidity, we suggest cold brewing Dark Sumatra Mandheling, diluting it just right, and adding some cream. With this, you will have checked off everything on the Low Acid Coffee Checklist: