Acidity is a tricky element of coffee. Most people vehemently dislike it. This is often just a matter taste, but it can also be due to a sensitive stomach.
However, if you ask true coffee snobs, they are usually very fond of acidity.
Personally, I think a sparkling acidity adds character to the cup, but if that’s not your style I don’t hold any grudges.
In this article, I’ll explain exactly what you should be looking for if you want to find the best low acid coffee beans.
Is coffee acidic?
Coffee, in general, is an acidic beverage with a pH level of around 5.
However, actually it’s not that acidic when you compare to stuff that people consume on a regular basis. For instance, take a look at these beverages:
- Beer has a pH around 4
- Orange juice has a level of 3.5
- Coca cola and similar soft drinks has a pH around 2.5 😲
Green coffee beans contain acids from nature’s side. The most desirable ones are citric and malic acids. These compounds make coffee taste like lime and apples as well as a whole range of stone fruits and berries.
But coffee beans also contain something known as chlorogenic acid, which isn’t known to be tasty. It has a flavor and mouthfeel, which can be described as ‘unripe banana’. As you can imagine, that’s not very pleasant.
When coffee is roasted, the acids gradually disappear.
A good rule of thumb is that darker roasted coffee beans are less acidic. Vice versa, lighter roasts are often extremely acidic. But it’s important to remember that this is just about perceived acidity. When we’re talking hard natural science coffee is actually not that acidic and the difference between light and dark roast isn’t that big.
Countries with low acid coffee beans?
All this being said, you might still have a preference for coffee that appears less acidic when you drink it. That’s fair enough.
There are certain traits you should go for in that case.
How the bean has been grown also plays a significant role. Usually, beans that are grown at high altitudes have more fruit flavor — and they will also have more acidity, since this is part of the fruitiness.
Many specialty coffee roasters will specifically buy high-altitude coffee and roast it rather light to preserve these flavors. So contrary to what you might think, it can be a good idea to avoid expensive, small-batch roasters if you dislike sourness and acidity.
On the other hand, some countries grow a lot of low altitude coffee that will have milder flavors such as hazelnut/chocolate. Or more earthy and woody flavors.
- Brazil is an excellent place to look for a coffee that has body and roundness. Again, Brazilian coffee beans usually aren’t favorites among hardcore coffee snobs, but if you’re looking for something clean, sweet and acid free, it’s a good bet.
- Indonesia is another country that is often recommended for coffee drinkers who want a different experience. Coffee from Sumatra is one of the least acidic ones – usually it’s earthy and has more body than and mouthfeel compared to African or Central American coffees. Remember, that you also want to make sure that the roast is medium to dark if you’re going to ensure a non-acidic experience.
Pro-tip: Avoid coffee from Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Guatemala as it’s almost always light roasted and very fruity.
Go Deeper: Sourness, bitterness and Acidity
As mentioned before, low acid doesn’t always mean tasty. In the world of specialty coffee, acidity is also used to describe the brighter flavors that can be found in expensive, high-altitude coffees.
Real coffee lovers actually distinguish between:
The two first ones are negative traits, while the last one is an essential part of a quality coffee. Most regular coffee drinkers are unable to discern between these three attributes.
A perfect cup, according to true coffee snobs, is one that combines sweetness and acidity.
Think of it as a hamburger; you don’t only want the sweet or umami flavors from the bun and the beef patty – you also crave the acidic and fresh flavors from pickles, tomato, and raw onion. It’s a more complete experience that way.
This is exactly how coffee geeks approach the cup.
It’s worth remembering that your idea of what constitutes acidity is not the same as a pro coffee cupper’s view on the matter.
The reason that acidity might be undesirable in your cup of morning joe is that the coffee isn’t sweet in the first place, or because it’s actually sourness.
Read More: The Best Instant Coffee According to the People