Coffee is acidic. But what makes acidity a confusing topic is that there are two different types of acidity that coffee drinkers should know about. One is actual chemical acidity—as measured by the pH scale. The other type of acidity is a tasting descriptor that is also very important.
A particular kind of coffee may taste acidic, but it may not have any more acidity than other coffees. We’ll explore more in this article.
#1 Coffee Acidity Measured by pH
The pH scale is a way of measuring how acidic or basic a substance is. This goes beyond just coffee but is helpful for our understanding.
The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14. A pH level of 7 is neutral, meaning it has no acidity or alkalinity. A pH level below 7 is acidic and a pH level above 7 is basic.
Similarly, you can measure the pH of coffee on the same scale from 0 to 14.
Coffee typically falls in the 4.8-5.1 range. This makes coffee relatively acidic because it sits just under level 7. Just because it is slightly acidic doesn’t mean it is bad. Coffee is actually about as acidic as a banana. If you drink too much coffee though, you could start to feel it. Some people are more sensitive to acidity and thus might be sensitive to coffee because of it. If coffee almost immediately upsets your stomach when you drink it, it may be because of its acidity.
#2 Factors that Affect Acidity
The acidity of coffee is determined mostly by the type of coffee tree the bean is from and where it is grown. Soil conditions, elevation, and amount of sunlight all play into the end result. These things are rather hard to track with pinpoint accuracy and don’t makeup enough of a difference to really track.
Another factor in acidity can be the roast level. Dark roasts tend to be slightly less acidic. Light roasts are slightly more acidic a lot of the time. This has to do with the amount from the coffee bean that is roasted off. Cold brew coffee also tends to be less acidic because of its courser grounds and colder brew temperatures.
If you have a sour stomach with coffee but still want to find a way to drink it try these things:
- Don’t drink coffee on an empty stomach
- Try cold brew coffee instead of normally brewed coffee
- If you can manage it, get darker roasted coffees to see if that helps
#3 Coffee Acidic Taste
Coffee acidity is a taste that some people either love or hate. It is often described as a bright or sharp taste associated with some coffees. The taste is experienced most on the tip of your tongue where those types of taste buds sit. The acidity in coffee comes from the tasting notes that are present in some coffee beans. Coffee origins that often have very bright tasting notes are African coffees like Ethiopia, Kenya, and Madagascar.
The tasting profile of coffee described as acidic isn’t the same thing as pH acidity. But it is a common way to describe coffee. So, to describe coffee you may use acidity along with body and the bouquet (or aroma) of the coffee.
In conclusion, acidity means two different things for coffee drinkers. For people with sensitive stomachs, pretty much all coffee is going to be baseline acidic. But cold brew and dark roast coffees may have a little less and may be easier on you.
African coffees (among others) may have within their tasting profile acidic qualities. These coffees may have fruity or floral tasting notes that can be described as much brighter and zingy than those with nutty or buttery flavors.
Coffee is acidic but it’s important to know which acidity you are talking about.
This article was written by Jordan O’Hara, Founder of Windansea Coffee.