How Acidic Is Coffee: Everything You Need To Know

Having a sensitive pallet or stomach can make eating and drinking more complicated. Not knowing the acidic levels of everyday food and drink can make it difficult to know what to choose, and it can leave you questioning your daily routines, like drinking coffee in the morning.  

In this guide, we'll help explain how acidic coffee is and what the impact is so you can understand what the best choice is for you.  

There's always been a debate over coffee. Some people love how it tastes and makes us feel, while others preach about the negative side effects. When we talk about the acidity of coffee, we have to recognize there are two different aspects to consider. The first is the actual level of acidity of the coffee, measured in pH. The second is the presence of acids in the coffee, which impact the flavor. 

Acidity is measured using the pH scale, ranging from 0 to 14. Anything from 0-6 is considered acidic, and the closer to 0 you get, the more acidic something is. Coffee tends to be around 5pH, so it is mildly acidic. To put that in perspective, orange juice has a pH of 3, and tomato juice has a pH of 4, so coffee isn’t exactly going to give you acid burns.   

The actual pH doesn't really change depending on the type of coffee, either. If you have a Starbucks coffee, it will tend to be between 4.5 and 5 depending on the beans, and a standard black coffee (instant or from a coffee shop) has a pH of 5, so there's no real difference. Coffee with milk or cream tends to be less acidic because they are both neutral. This raises the pH to around 6, but it is still considered slightly acidic. Even iced coffees have a pH of 5 even though they tend to taste less acidic than hot coffee.   

So why does some coffee taste more acidic than others if the pH remains the same? The answer is simple; it's the acids within the different types of coffee. There are three main types of acid, and it's the combination of these that impacts the taste, aroma, and richness of your coffee: 

  • Chlorogenic Acids 
    These are antioxidants and proven to be good for the immune system, but they break down during the roasting process. This means that dark roasted beans have less of an acidic taste because there is less chlorogenic acid in the coffee.  
  • Quinic Acids  
    Quinic acids are produced after chlorogenic acids are broken down. This type of acid can irritate your stomach and leave you with that sour, acidic sensation in your gut. Quinic acid is common in dark roasted coffees, which are roasted for longer.  
  • Phosphoric Acids 
    This type of acid is common in certain coffee beans and can actually give a sweet flavor to the coffee. It’s found in milk, cheese, bottled drinks, and processed meat, which can be an irritant for some people.  

Coffee is technically acidic because it has a pH of 5, but the taste can vary massively depending on which acids are present within it. Different coffee beans do vary greatly, but of the main two types, Arabica and Robusta, Arabica beans generally taste much more acidic.  

black coffee

Factors Affecting The Coffee Acidity 

The beans, the brewing method, and what you add to a coffee will all impact the acidity.  

Coffee is acidic by nature, but you can alter the actual pH by adding certain ingredients. Milk and cream will help neutralize some of the acidic nature of coffee and change the taste.

Some people even recommend adding salt to your coffee to change the pH and impact the taste, making it milder on the pallet. This has been proven to work, but it isn’t to everyone’s taste. Generally, if you want to change the pH of the coffee, you will have to introduce a neutral or alkaline element to move it up the pH scale. 

The acidic taste of coffee is heavily impacted by the beans themselves. Arabica beans grow more slowly and take longer to mature, which leads to the production of higher levels of acid and makes coffee made from them more acidic. Robusta beans, on the other hand, grow more quickly and have a slightly sweeter, less acidic taste.

You can usually taste the difference between coffee beans from different regions too. African beans have a higher acidity than South American beans, and this is due to the climate and soil in the region. Understanding the acidity and flavor of the coffee beans from different geographical regions can help you determine which suits your tastes best.  

How you brew coffee can also have an impact on the acidity. Generally, the longer you roast and brew coffee, the more the acids will break down. If your coffee tastes particularly acidic, it could mean that your grinds are too coarse, so the water isn't penetrating them as well, or it could mean that you haven't brewed the coffee for long enough.

Learning how the brewing process impacts the acidity will give you greater control over the taste of your coffee.   

photo of black coffee

Does Coffee Cause Acid Reflux? 

Acid reflux (GERD) is a condition where stomach acid travels up your throat, giving you a burning sensation. It's really unpleasant and can be triggered by a variety of different food and drinks.  

Coffee is a trigger for acid reflux as it stimulates the stomach to produce acid. However, it's usually the caffeine in coffee that's the leading cause. If your body is sensitive to caffeine, it can cause your esophagus muscles to relax, allowing acid to travel up your throat.  

If you find you are regularly getting acid reflux, you may need to limit the amount of caffeine you consume. Switching to decaf can be an effective alternative, or having more cold brew coffees that are naturally lower in caffeine. Remember that the acidity level in coffee generally won't impact your acid reflux. It's all about switching to low caffeine alternatives.  


What Type Of Coffee Drinks Are The Least Acidic? 

For some people, coffee is too acidic, and it can impact their bodies in the wrong way. It can be tempting to move away from coffee altogether, but there are some lower acidity options to choose from: 

Dark Roasts  

Dark roasted coffee has been roasted for longer than other roasts. This process breaks down the compounds within the beans meaning that there are fewer acids. This gives you a lower acidity coffee which is less likely to irritate your stomach or cause acid reflux.  

Cold Brews  

The method in creating cold brews means that the acidic compounds within the beans are broken down. This gives it a smoother taste and removes some of the acidity, impacting the taste and aroma of the coffee.  

Milk-Based Coffees 

Milk has a neutral pH, so when you add it to acidic coffee, it will raise the overall pH of the drink. As a result, lattes, cappuccinos, and other milk-based coffees will taste a lot less acidic because they have such a high amount of neutral liquid to balance out the acidic coffee.  

Brazilian Beans 

It’s been shown that beans grown in South America, particularly Brazil and Nicaragua, are less acidic. If you prefer a less acidic taste to your coffee, then it's worth looking for beans from these areas or exploring other geographical regions with less acidic varieties.  

Low-Acidic Coffee 

There are a variety of specialty blends on the market these days, including some low acidity options. These are grown specifically in certain regions and taste a lot less acidic than standard beans.  

Remember, acidity isn’t necessarily a bad thing when it comes to coffee because it helps to contribute to the flavor, aroma, and body of the drink. Low acidic options are useful, especially if you react badly to them, but you may find they are a little dull on the pallet compared to acidic coffees. If the coffee has a noticeably weaker flavor, it's likely to have lower acidity.  

black coffee and coffee beans

Frequently Asked Coffee Acidity Questions 

Is tea less acidic than coffee? 

Yes, tea is generally less acidic than coffee and has a higher pH ranging from 5.5 to 7. The exception is lemon tea which is more acidic and has a pH of 3.  

Is coffee more acidic than alcohol? 

Popular alcoholic drinks like wine and beer have a lower pH than coffee and are more acidic. They do often taste less acidic, though, because they have fewer acidic compounds within them.  

Does coconut oil make coffee less acidic? 

No, coconut oil has a pH of 5, so it doesn't make coffee less acidic. In fact, in some cases, it can even make coffee more acidic.  

What can I add to coffee to reduce the acidity? 

Milk, cream, salt, or baking powder can all be added to coffee to help lower the acidity.  


Conclusion

Coffee is acidic and has a pH of 5 no matter where you get it from. The pH itself doesn't really impact the taste; it's the acidic compounds within the beans that will change the flavor and taste of the coffee. It’s also these acidic compounds that will dictate how your body responds to the coffee.  

The acidity can be influenced by the beans, brewing method, and the coffee choice. Hopefully this article has helped explain how acidic coffee is and provided some helpful information so you can choose the best coffee option to suit your needs.