Ask the Coffee Lab: Coffee Acidity

By Winston

Is there a type/brand of coffee that is easy on the digestion? I miss my cup of coffee!

– From @Bluesky107

I always feel like this is a complicated question to answer because there are so many variables to how any one person’s system works – and then there’s always some subjectivity involved, too.

Let’s start with the basics: The pH scale measures the acidic or basic properties a substance. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14. A pH of 7 is neutral. A pH less than 7 is acidic. A pH greater than 7 is basic.

On the pH scale, most coffee is just below neural at 5. Remarkably, orange juice and beer are considered more acidic than coffee.

So, coffee is acidic, but not that acidic. Acidity can get mixed up in people’s heads with other factors  – between the sweetness and brightness of fine, high-grown coffee properly roasted and brewed and acid/alkaline balance and how their stomachs feel about and react to coffee, it can be hard to determine what exact is the culprit for that digestion issue.

For people who want that lower acid coffee – and there really is no such thing naturally (save for those gimmicky, chemically-altered coffees targeting a certain niche market), we usually recommend Indonesian coffees, like Fair Trade Organic Sumatran Reserve, and darker roasted coffees.  The former tends to be gentler on the stomach due to the drying process, according to fans like you, and the latter are less acidic due to the longer roasting process.

Here are some of my own personal observations about acidity:

  • Cheaper, lower-quality coffee will be more acidic and bitter


  • Dry process coffees, or “naturals”, tend to be less acidic (like some African and Indonesian coffees)



  • High grown, washed Arabica beans from Central and South America tend to be brighter and more acidic (in a tangy way, not in the pH sense)



  • The lighter the roast, the more acidic it will appear to be (though on the pH scale its not significant)



  • Darker roasts are naturally less acidic (but not by much). This runs counter to what people think about dark roasts.



  • The longer the coffee sits after brewing, the more acidic it gets (literally). This is a good reason to use a Keurig® brewer or brew with a French Press.

Everyone’s sensitivities and preferences are different. Our other recommendation would be to try decaffeinated coffee. Some customers report that they were sensitive to the caffeine content, not the acidity as they had originally suspected. Of course, as always, your doctor knows best.

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