Coffees with a pH of 5 or above are considered low acid coffees (with water being neutral at a pH of 7). There are many different reasons why and how some coffees are less acidic than others.
The biggest contributing factors include the altitude the coffee was grown at, with the lower the better, the origin and oftentimes varietal or cultivar of the coffee, the processing method the coffee goes through to strip the coffee seed from the cherry, and of course the roasting process.
Usually, when coffee is being described as acidic it’s more a comment on its flavor notes rather than the actual acids within the coffee.
No matter what, there will always be around 30 different acids in your standard cup of coffee. How those acids interact with one another, and then how they interact with your stomach, typically determines whether they are considered low acid or not. The question is where to begin, how to determine which coffee is right for you and your health concerns, and how to best enjoy your favorite morning routine without upsetting your stomach.
Which origin countries tend to have lower acid coffees?
Indonesian and Brazilian coffees tend to be the most popular countries of origin, though coffees from Guatemala, Peru, and even Mexico can also be good choices for low acid. Each country and region have natural conditions, such as their soil and lower altitudes that they tend to coffee in, that make them ideal for sourcing naturally lower acid coffees.
How does the roasting process affect acid?
The basics of roasting coffee is fairly simple: apply heat to a green coffee bean and inevitably you get a roasted bean. But what goes on in the roaster and the chemical changes occurring within the coffee bean tend to be vastly more complex to contribute to the wide array of flavors and compounds in the finished cup. While darker roasts tend to be better for low acid due to chlorogenic acid being roasted out of the bean, they can also have more quinic acid, which can contribute to the coffee having sour, bitter notes.
How do you determine which low acid coffee is right for you?
Listen to your body, especially how your stomach is reacting to the coffee. It’s best to stick with more city+ and even full city or darker coffees with origins from Sumatra and Brazil since those have been the tried and true champions of low acid coffee.
What sort of flavor profile should you look for?
Coffee has many unique flavors, and low acid coffees can vary wildly in flavor profile just as much as more acidic coffees. But some common flavor characteristics that lower acids tend to share are having cocoa and nutty notes, some a little more syrupy like molasses or maple, with a thicker, heavier body. It’s sometimes best to search for coffees that have more of a stone fruit tone with a mild aftertaste of licorice or maple syrup.