Espressos are popular around the world, but if you're sensitive to acidity, then you might be reluctant to order such a strong coffee. You may be concerned that it will trigger your acid reflux or leave your stomach feeling strange because of the acidity. This guide will explain how acidic espresso actually is compared to regular coffee and what that actually means in practice.
Is Espresso Less Acidic Than Coffee?
An espresso is a specific type of coffee that has a different taste and effect compared to regular coffee. Essentially, it’s a more concentrated form of coffee which is usually only 1oz compared to the average 8oz coffee. Espresso is often used as the base for coffee-based drinks in coffee shops like Starbucks.
Espresso has more caffeine ounce for ounce compared to regular coffee. It has around 63mg in 1oz compared to 12-15mg in 1oz of regular coffee. In this way, it's like a smaller, more condensed version of a regular coffee. Espresso also has a bolder and more intense taste than regular coffee. It's got a noticeable kick, and it tends to be preferred by coffee enthusiasts who love that unique flavor.
Given that an espresso is like an intense coffee, you might expect it to be more acidic, but that’s not the case. The average pH of regular coffee is 4.5-5, whereas the average pH of espresso is 5.5-6, so even though they are both acidic, an espresso is less acidic and closer to being neutral.
The reason an espresso is less acidic than regular coffee all comes down to the beans. The longer you roast coffee beans, the more the acids break down and the less acidic it will taste. Espresso beans are all dark roasts which means they have been roasted for a longer time than medium or light roasts. This is ultimately what gives espresso a higher pH.
Is Espresso Less Acidic Than Cold Brew Coffee?
Cold brew coffees are less acidic than regular coffees because of the brewing method. Cold brews use cold water, which means the coffee beans don't break down as much, and fewer acids are released. Cold brews are also brewed for longer, meaning that acids present in the beans themselves will actually deteriorate and won’t be present in the finished coffee.
Both espresso and cold brew are low acid coffee options, but an espresso is less acidic on average. This is primarily due to the longer roasting time of the beans, but if you are using low acid beans in your cold brew, then it will be less acidic than a regular espresso.
Is Espresso Less Acidic Than Drip Coffee?
Drip coffee is coffee made through a slow brewing method where water is gradually poured through the grounds, allowing it to absorb the flavor.
In this method, there is less absorption of the acids from the grounds, so it tends to be slightly less acidic than regular coffee. However, drip coffee is usually made with a light or medium roast, which are more acidic than espresso beans. This makes drip coffee more acidic than an espresso.
Is Nespresso Less Acidic Than Regular Coffee?
Nespresso's have an average pH of 5, which is slightly acidic and fairly standard for regular coffee. While there are a range of different flavored Nespresso’s with different caffeine content, there isn’t any real fluctuation in terms of acidity.
This means that Nespresso’s are roughly the same acidity as a regular coffee, but less acidic than an espresso.
Does Espresso Cause Acid Reflux?
Acid reflux is the informal term for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). It’s a condition that causes your stomach acid to travel up your throat, giving you a burning sensation. It's very unpleasant and can cause long-term damage if it happens regularly. Some people are more prone to GERD than others, and most people find that their acid reflux is triggered by certain types of food or drink.
Coffee is a common trigger for those who suffer from acid reflux. Coffee itself can make some people's stomachs create excess acid, but generally, the leading cause is caffeine. Caffeine can irritate your body and cause your esophagus to open, allowing stomach acid to travel up your throat. Not everyone will respond this way to caffeine, but if you do, then you need to be careful how much you consume.
Despite acid reflux being caused by stomach acid, it’s actually not really linked to the acidity of the coffee. Espressos have more caffeine, so even though they are less acidic, they are more likely to cause acid reflux than regular coffee. Espressos do contain a specific enzyme that actually settles the stomach and can counteract the effect, but they are still considered a trigger for acid reflux in caffeine-sensitive people.
Switching to decaf coffee is a good way to avoid acid reflux because there's no caffeine to irritate your stomach. If you know that you're prone to acid reflux, you're best avoiding espressos and switching to a decaf blend.
Coffee Acidity Chart
All coffees are generally between 4.5 and 6 on the pH scale. To put this in context, orange juice is 3pH, and tomato juice is 4pH, so coffee is only mildly acidic.
The nuances between coffees are generally caused by the beans and how long they are roasted for. The longer they roast, the less the acidity, but the more bitter the taste. The chart below gives a guide:
How Do I Reduce The Acidity In My Espresso?
An espresso is a low acidity option, but if you want to reduce the acidity even further, there are a few ways to impact it:
Select The Right Beans
The soil and environment a coffee bean is grown in will impact how acidic your coffee is. There are two main coffee beans to choose from, Arabica or Robusta. Arabica has more citric and phosphoric acid than Robusta, and it's more acidic. If you want a less acidic espresso, you should consider selecting Robusta beans.
Similarly, certain regions naturally produce lower acidity beans. Coffee beans from Sumatra are considered one of the least acidic, so by using these in your espresso, you can lower the acidity.
Use Course Grinds
Espressos are made using a quick brewing method that relies on intense pressure rather than a slow process. Unfortunately, this means you can't really customize the brewing time to remove more acidity, but you can customize how fine your coffee grounds are. Using finer grounds will help to extract more acid from the coffee, so if you want to reduce the acidity, you should use as fine a grind as possible.
Avoid Hard Water
Coffee is about 97% water, so the type you use will impact the taste and flavor. Hard water has high levels of calcium and magnesium, which can make the coffee more acidic, and high sodium soft water can also have the same effect. If you live in an area with impure water, you can use bottled or filtered water to lower the acidity of your espresso.
Control Water Temperature
The hotter the water you use in the brewing process, the more acidic the espresso will be. Generally, espressos are brewed at 94-96 degrees Celsius (201-204 Fahrenheit) but lowering this to 90-94 degrees Celsius (194-201 Fahrenheit) can make the coffee less acidic.
Milk and cream have a neutral pH of around 7, so when they're mixed with espresso, they will neutralize some of the acidity. Adding milk and sugar can help to lower the acidity, but beware because some sweeteners can make your espresso more acidic.
Common Espresso Vs. Coffee Acidity Questions
Is instant espresso less acidic?
No, instant espresso is generally just as acidic as a regular one unless it’s being made with lower temperature water.
Is espresso hard on the stomach?
Despite being higher in caffeine and a bolder flavor, espresso is actually less harsh on your stomach. This is primarily due to the beans, and it's been shown that they release a substance that helps limit stomach acid production.
What is a better drink for your stomach instead of espresso or coffee?
Many people find that switching to decaf coffee or espresso is better for their stomach, and some people switch to tea completely. If you do want to stick with coffee, then cold brew may be the best option.
Despite being higher in caffeine and having a bolder taste, espressos are actually less acidic than regular coffee. This is because espresso coffee beans are roasted for longer, which breaks down the acids inside.
Remember, the acids within coffee contribute to the flavor and aroma, so higher acidity isn’t always a bad thing. Hopefully, this guide has helped explain espresso acidity, and you now have a better understanding of what impacts the acidity of coffees generally.