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It is not a secret, a little of everything in moderation, it’s usually not that terrible. But when coffee is your drink of choice, your body will let you know when that last cup was a little too much. Caffeine is not the only ingredient that might make you react or act differently. Acid reflux is one of the “side effects” of drinking too much coffee. The National Institutes of Health estimate that 40% of people in the US suffer from GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). Many people blame caffeine as the primary ingredient that increases symptoms for sufferers of this ailment. Is there an acid free coffee variety, or at least, a reduced acid coffee brand?
Before reviewing 10 best low acid coffee brands, let’s understand acid in coffee. Like the ancient philosopher Socrates once said: “let’s define the terms.”
Is lower acidity coffee that great or desirable?
Acidity in coffee is naturally occurring. In fact, very expensive arabica beans are very acidic, although it has less than its counterpart variety, robusta. Acid content is a desirable taste. That is what coffee connoisseurs refer to when they talk about citric, plummy, or watermelon like flavors. Coffee does not taste like any of these fruits, but they compare sourness or sweetness to them. There is a chart, The Coffee Tasters Flavor Wheel, that aids in making these comparisons.
A coffee bean is very complex. Only 20% of the solubles in a coffee bean taste good, 10% are not even worth talking about, and the remaining 70%, impossible to extract. (At least, not by brewing.) Among the 20% good solubles are the acids and fruity flavors you enjoy in your cup.
Let’s talk about 2 types of acids that we can find in coffee. Chlorogenic acid and quinic acid. Chlorogenic acids are the good antioxidants that make coffee “a healthy food”. These are components inside the coffee bean. More or less of these components are present depending on the variety of coffee you choose. When coffee goes through the roasting process, depending on what the roaster wants to achieve, this acid component cooks away. “Usually” a darker roast would have less of the chlorogenic acids. Those distinct flavors disappear in this process.
To make things simple, I would refer to these flavors as salty. The saltier, the more acidic the coffee. I’m sure you’ll find this to make sense once you compare coffee from now on.
Coffee, grown at high altitude, contains more chlorogenic acids as a general rule. Thus, the term “acidity” refers to the concentration of these acids. Acidity in coffee is actually a wonderful thing. I’ll explain that in a minute. Let’s not blame the wrong acid.
Now, let’s go back to the roasting process. Once the high concentrations of chlorogenic acid die down, cook away, it will transform into quinic acid. That’s the acid we all dread, that makes us sick in the stomach. You’ll also experience quinic acid when coffee is old and left burning on the hot plate too long. Compare your first cup of fresh-brewed coffee to your second cup from the same pot. You’ll notice a sour, sickening aftertaste.
Now, chlorogenic acid can also make very sensitive people sick. In short, both acids need to be balanced somehow. One is salty the other sour.
Quinic acid is not naturally occurring in coffee. A by-product, or the waste result, of the chlorogenic acid (the one with all the antioxidants) through a process called hydrolysis. I read somewhere that quinic acid is “naturally derived” from chlorogenic acid. No. One results from the other. Perhaps, that is an alternative way of looking at it. The official definition is a by-product.
As an example, imagine a green coffee bean as a wholewheat slice of bread. You can toast it light, medium, or, my favorite, charcoal dark. Is the charcoal in my toast naturally occurring, or a result of high heat? You be the judge. The same happens with coffee.
All that said, the key to enjoying coffee is moderation, moderation, moderation. Both acids could trigger acid reflux in sufferers of the condition. Many other foods can trigger symptoms too. It is not yet a proven fact that coffee is to blame.
Also, something to consider is the alkalinity of the water and how it reacts with the coffee. We measure alkalinity in a PH (Potential of Hydrogen) scale from 0 to 14. This measures how much hydrogen is in a solution and gives us its acidity. Ideal water would be a 7, neutral. Higher or lower than that would affect the flavors, but in the opposite way. Lower quality water gives us a more sour, acidic taste. (Note that coffee by itself ranges between 4.5 to 5 in the scale. It is alkaline no matter which variety.) What! Coffee making can really get scientific.
Something to consider is our own alkalinity, that’s normally balanced, if we were perfect. An imbalance in our system can make some people experience the symptoms.
A medium roast would balance out these main acids. There are other acids, but the ones we want to balance out are the ones already mentioned. You can also buy beans that do not contain so much acid in their natural form. Some single-origin varieties are Sumatra, Ethiopia, Brazil, Guatemala. Columbian, roasted medium to dark, would be fine.
Let’s not forget also, the way we make coffee, the method of extraction, will increase the amount of acidity we get in our cup. A French press method will extract everything we want, and everything we shouldn’t have. That’s why many people use it sparingly, only on special occasions, as it raises the body’s levels of cholesterol and acidity.
A popular amongst those in quest of low acid coffee beans, Life Boost Organic Coffee, uses beans from Nicaragua. At an 11% humidity, these beans have almost no chance of growing any molds or toxic microbes. They roast 3 different profiles: light, medium, and dark. Which one tastes best? Yep, the lighter roast. It’s fruitier, bright in flavor. The darker is the least acidic coffee of their products, but the medium would be “the best of two worlds”. It comes down to personal taste.
One thing that I like about this coffee is the fact that it comes from a 6-acre family farm. It’s single-origin, unique, and limited. It is not surprising to find a “Sold Out” message when checking out from their store.
You can buy it ground, beans, and/or low acid decaf coffee.
This next coffee claims to be 70% less acidic and has some data to back it up. In their beginnings as a company, people asked why their coffee was so easy on the stomach. The official answer: “who knows”. Well, they now claim to know. They roast like the growers do, with no rush and with much attention to detail.
When you look at these low acid coffee beans, you’ll notice an overall medium roast, with some darker beans, blended in. Maybe this is the way they balance acidity and sourness (chlorogenic and quinic acids).
It makes a fair cup of coffee with a growing following. You can get French Roast, and definitely it won’t have much chlorogenic acid. French Roast is as dark as it gets before burning it. I venture to say, the secret to their reduced acid coffee has to do with the source of their beans. Venezuelan coffee is low in acidity like the coffees from the Caribbean islands. Their soft profile is world-famous among coffee connoisseurs. In truth, Venezuela has an old coffee tradition. Venezuela produces less than 1% of the world’s coffee crop. So, you are getting something unique.
Undoubtedly this is one of my favorites from the 10, a blend of Columbian, Guatemala and Sumatra. If you are one to enjoy mild coffee, this is the one. We know these 3 varieties of coffee for their smoothness. Don’t let their dark color fool you into thinking it will be too bold. It’s smooth, but, because of that, a great number of people won’t like it. Boldest in coffee is another point of debate. As far as acidity goes, it is low.
Java Planet boasts a lot of involvement in the organic movement. They make sure their coffee beans are of the best quality as they promote healthy living. Among their blends, you can enjoy a variety of mild, low acid coffee beans and low acid decaf coffee. You can’t go wrong with their 3 top single origin products: Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Columbia. You can also buy Green beans, in case you dare to roast your own. Although patronizing them would help the causes they support, you’ll enjoy a catalog of sweet-tasting coffees.
This coffee is unique. Tieman’s Fusion Coffee, fuses Matcha green tea, Rooibos red tea, and Goji powder. I might sound like a concoction that is missing only water from the fountain of youth. But in reality, these other components do not hurt the coffee taste, at least for most people. (I’m sure someone out there disagrees.) Fusing these herbs to the arabica beans happens at a molecular level, right after roasting. The benefits of the other added superfoods is debatable. The innate low acidity from the Central and South American arabica beans and these healthy ingredients, makes this product a favorite with health-focused people. This is a healthy alternative to starting “a bright day.”
Now we get to the “creme of the crop.” EXPENSIVE is the word, but it has no equal. Geisha coffee is a rare Ethiopian origin variety. It’s very aromatic and somewhat low in acidity. It is very smooth. Grown in Costa Rica, Panama, and Colombia, where the altitude is moderate, it has become one of the world’s most expensive coffees. We don’t want to get into the name debate (Geisha or Gesha), yet we should clarify that we are talking about the plant harvested in Central America, not Africa. The Costa Rican Geisha crop is the mildest grown in the Americas. It has a reduced value of 30% less acidity. Although expensive, the Costa Rican variety is not as pricey as its counterpart from Panama.
Its founder conceived the concept behind this lower acidity coffee while expecting. She missed the full flavor of coffee and couldn’t bear to drink any more nasty decaf. As a low acid decaf coffee, it comes in ¼, ½, and full caffeine strength. They use a water process to decaffeinate the beans. You can see a short video on the already popular, expensive method, the Swiss water process. Their full caffeine product is a medium roast, made from organic beans. It might taste light in flavor to some. For those suffering from the many acid-related ailments, this can be the best alternative. Remember, it’s almost impossible to find acid free coffee. This is a give and take, a minor sacrifice for your well-being, or your baby’s. Marketed towards moms, all can enjoy it.
Now we get to a brand that claims their coffee is 6.18 on the PH scale. That’s almost close to perfect. It’s certified Columbian Supremo roasted a little on the darker side. They encourage people to alter the coffee to water proportions and use a little less coffee, as the flavor might be too intense.
One thing many people looking for a reduced acid coffee complain about is the lack of body and flavor. This is debatable. Some will find this coffee weak in the taste category. Maybe they followed the instructions to the letter and put less coffee.
It all comes down to personal taste. Don’t forget, as they reiterate in their website, there is no acid free coffee.
Lucy Jo’s offers a variety of blends and roast levels. Their beans are mostly from Brazil. However, they have a Sumatra blend that will blow you away. It’s roasted dark to enhance chocolate and almond tones. The Sumatra is one least acidic coffee by nature, grown at low elevation. Most of Lucy Jo’s products are low acid coffee blends and they sell an impressive assortment of single origins. There’s a roast profile to please everyone. A low acid coffee variety box is available from their website.
With this last coffee, we see a pattern, another medium-black roast coffee. It comes from Honduras, grown at high altitude. This means a naturally high content acidic bean. The trick, or let’s call it, the method: roasting dark to balance the acids. Organically grown and also roasted in small batches to exceed paying attention to detail. If you tasted this coffee lightly roasted, you’ll think it is a distinct coffee. There’s a perceived subtle, earthly aroma, not uncommon with the organic kind. As you taste it, you’ll notice a bit of a bitter, pungent bite, and yet there’s a sweetness to it. They label it as Subtle Earth Organic Coffee, in case you thought there was a broken link. It’s from the Don Pablo coffee farm.
They also produce a variety of decaf to choose from, using the Swiss water process.
Just a word of caution. That they sell a coffee as organic does not mean that it will have less acidity. Coffee variety, altitude, and to a degree, processing and drying, will affect its acidity. Non-organic coffees of similar origins, roasted just like these brands, would have the same or less acidity.
I have to be honest and confess that I’m a fan of the coffees from Brazil. They are complete and balanced for acidity. Roasting them up and down on the scale will yield wonderful profiles. Often they serve as filler in many commercial blends. Let’s call it the all-around coffee.
Lucy Jo’s Indonesian and Brazilian blend, roasted just right, balances flavor, color, and acidity levels. Something I like, is that it’s not crazy expensive, a great plus nowadays (maybe always?) I could have picked another one, like the Koffee Kult, that comes second in this round. Their Columbian and Guatemala is a balanced blend too. Brazil did it for me, though.
All these brands attempt to resolve a legitimate problem. Although moderation will always make everyone better. If you drink too much-reduced acidity coffee, say 10 times a day, it might do you as much harm as the “normal” acidity kind.
Acidity could be a tricky subject. It can be an outstanding trait of a distinct coffee, and yet the bitterness we associate with coffee might result from cooking essential nutrients away. For those of us looking for more balance in our lives, the best balance of two worlds, in this case, acids, will do the trick.