cold brew coffee with milk on white wooden table, why is cold brew coffee less acidic

Why is Cold Brew Coffee Less Acidic? Here Are the Facts

Many adults today rely on their morning cup of coffee to wake them up and keep them moving throughout the day. However, due to its acidity, those with acid reflux or digestive issues may have trouble drinking this traditional coffee regularly. In these cases, cold brew is usually the better caffeine alternative because it is less acidic—but why is cold brew coffee less acidic? 

All coffee beans have a fatty acid in their oils; when the beans are being brewed at very high temperatures, the acids are released into the coffee. However, when the coffee is brewed at low temperatures, the oils are never released, keeping it nearly 70% less acidic than the alternative. 

Thankfully, due to this process, people who struggle with digestion issues can still get their fair share of caffeine. So how is this done, you may ask? Let’s look at the facts.

Why Is Cold Brew Coffee Less Acidic

There are three main reasons traditional coffee is usually more acidic than cold brew: the ground size, the roasting process, and the brewing process.

Ground Size

When brewing your cup of coffee, the ground size will be a factor in the level of acidity each brew has. Because the acidity comes from the oils being released from the bean, the more coarse grounds will produce much more acidity levels. If you want less acid, grind your beans to a much finer consistency.

Roasting Process

If you are a fan of an excellent dark roast and you suffer from acid reflux or IBS, you are in luck. Studies have shown that the hotter and longer coffee beans are roasted, the less acidity they tend to have.

roasting process chart showing 6 coffee beans from drying to dark roast beans, why is cold brew coffee less acidic

Brewing Process

Once your coffee is ready to brew, the water temperature will be the final effect on the acidity levels your coffee will have. 

If your coffee is brewing in a large pot of hot water, it will likely be more acidic; this is due to the acid levels in the coffee bean’s fatty oils. The hot water can break up these oils much quicker, depositing much more acid into the coffee.

Therefore, brewing your coffee as a cold brew will reduce the amount of acid seeping from the bean. This can reduce the acidic levels up to 70% compared to that of hot coffee. 

Acidity Levels and Coffee

Now you know what to do if you want less acid in your coffee, but do you know why these tricks work and why these levels really even matter? Below is a rundown of acids in coffee and how they could be affecting your body.

What Acids Are in Coffee?

You can find six different acids in a hot or cold coffee blend. Each one gives your coffee its distinct flavors:

  • Chlorogenic Acid: Chlorogenic acid contributes to the sweet flavors commonly found with lighter roasts. It can dissolve during the roasting phase, so it is not prevalent in the darker roasts.
  • Citric Acid: Citric acid is the most common acid found in single blend roasts. It is the acid the gives these coffees the naturally fruity and citrusy flavors tasted in these cups.
  • Malic Acid: Malic acid is usually only used in specialty blends; this gives the coffee an apple or plum flavoring.
  • Phosphoric Acid: Phosphoric acid is used to reduce the tanginess of the coffee bean. If this acid is in your roast, you will notice a grapefruit-like tang in every sip.
  • Acetic Acid: If you have a vinegar taste intertwined in your coffee’s bold flavors, that probably means it was not roasted properly, producing acetic acid. You shouldn’t drink the coffee if you notice this type of taste.
  • Quinic Acid: Quinic acid is known for causing digestive issues, including acid reflux. It isn’t used in coffee blends much these days; however, you may still find them in some dark roasts.

Acidity in coffee can be measured on a PH scale; the lower the levels, the more acidic the coffee is. Anything under 7 is acidic. Most of the coffees we drink are between 4.85 to 5.10 acidity. This is the same amount of acidity found in a banana and comparable to the amount in a cup of tomato juice. 

If you are ordering a cold brew coffee because you want a lower acidity level, it may be more beneficial to avoid a mixed blend that would contain multiple acids.

Is the Acid in Coffee Safe? 

If you notice any of these signs or symptoms after a trip to your local coffee house, you may want to consider switching to a cold brew:

  • Heartburn
  • Acid Indigestion
  • Reflux
  • Stomach aches
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea

If you have these conditions, you should also avoid hot brews, as the acidity levels could exacerbate these issues:

  • Gerd
  • Reflux Disease
  • IBS
  • Ulcers

How to Reduce Coffee’s Acidity Level 

If your cold brew is still bothering your stomach, there are ways to make sure it’s even less acidic:

  • Brew a dark roast coffee like a Seattle Blend. The darker the bean, the longer it was roasted, therefore the less acidity in the bean.
  • Brew finer ground coffee beans. The finer the grounds, the less acidity to pull from the bean.
  • Add a pinch of salt. This could neutralize the acid in the coffee.
  • Add some eggshells to your coffee basket. It’s theorized that the alkaline levels in eggshells may help balance out the acid levels in coffee.
  • Buy coffee beans grown in low elevation areas. Coffee beans grown in higher elevations like mountains contain a higher level of acidity.
  • Add a tablespoon or two of milk: Simply adding some milk to your coffee can reduce the amount of acid consumed because of the calcium it has.
  • Purchase Arabica beans. Arabica beans are grown with a considerably less amount of caffeine.

Are There Low-Acidic Coffees?

Unfortunately, you will more than likely not be able to order a low acid coffee blend when visiting your local drive-thru. However, some companies make low acidic coffee blends by growing them in a less acidic way or mixing in additives that reduce the amount of acid. My favorite organic coffee has got to be from Lifeboost Coffee (detailed review can be found here). Here is a list of six well-made low acidic coffee brands you should consider trying out:

  • Lifeboost Coffee: The coffee is USDA organic certified, shade-grown, and sun-dried; with each coffee cherry handpicked
  • Clean Coffee Co: This company brews its coffee at a slow pace, naturally reducing the acid content without additives.
  • NuBali Bali Blue Moon Coffee: These coffee beans are grown in high altitudes with rich volcanic soil, giving this blend a low acidic value.
  • Puroast Low Acid Ground Coffee: This coffee has 70% less acid than regular blends, thus, making it easier on your digestive symptoms.
  • HealthWise: This 100% Columbian coffee uses a techno-roasting process to reduce stomach inflammation caused by acid.
  • Lucy Joe Coffee Roastery: This company only uses 100% Aerobic beans from Indonesia and Brazil. They are then processed naturally to reduce the acidity levels in every batch.

Final Thoughts

With the active and busy world we live in today, that morning or mid-afternoon caffeine boost can benefit your daily activity and how productive you can be. However, if you are suffering from stomach pains or acid reflux, that cup of coffee can be more of a hindrance than a help. The best way to get a great cup of joe without the acid’s side effects to give it its great flavor is to get it cold!