If you love your cup of joe each morning, but you’re dealing with symptoms of stomach acid reflux, you might be considering low acid coffee.
As always, reach out to your doctor if you’re experiencing reflux or irregular digestion. They can also answer any questions you may have about low acid coffee and its potential benefits.
Here’s a look at the connection between coffee, acid reflux, and heartburn
What Is Stomach Acid Reflux?
Stomach acid reflux is a problem for millions of people around the world. Some people experience only medium symptoms, but for others they can be severe. If you experience an acidic taste in your mouth or throat when you lie down, reflux could be the culprit.
Stomach acid is powerful. When it goes where it shouldn’t, it can lead to serious problems.
Acid reflux occurs when a part of the esophagus known as the lower esophageal sphincter becomes weakened. This is a muscle that separates the esophagus from the stomach.
When you lie down, the sphincter can open. This allows stomach acid to flow into the esophagus and throat.1
Can Drinking Coffee Lead To Heartburn?
Some people believe that if you drink coffee, you may increase your chances of dealing with stomach problems due to acid reflux. Experts may recommend that people with reflux problems refrain from drinking coffee and other high acid caffeinated beverages.
However, scientific evidence is lacking as to why there seems to be a connection between coffee and increased acidity in the stomach.2
Is Regular Coffee More Acidic Than Other Liquids?
Acidity is measured on the pH scale. A pH scale reading of 7 is considered neutral. The lower the number, the higher the acidity. For example, lemon juice has a pH level of 2. Low-fat milk and whole milk have a pH level of 6.5.3
The pH level of different coffee brands can vary. However, regular coffee generally has a pH level of about 5.1. This is in the medium acidity range.4
Factors That Determine The Acidity Of Coffee
Now, the coffee bean itself plays a huge part in how acidic different brands of coffee will ultimately be.
The environment in which that bean grows will also play a major role. For example, shade-grown coffee beans tend to be higher in organic acids and caffeine.
Certain plant species are naturally higher in organic acids than others. The Robusta plant, for instance, has twice the amount of acid than Arabica beans. But there can be variances among plants in the same species. Some Arabica beans have more organic acid than others.
The Processing Method
The processing method used to make coffee will also have an impact on acidity. Washed beans are beans that have been turned into pulp and then soaked. This removes sucrose and fructose, which increases the acidity of the bean.
The Brewing Process
Another major factor determining acidity is the coffee brewing process. Roasting coffee breaks down acids that occur naturally in the bean. It causes new types of acid to form, such as quinic acid. This can have a major effect on the taste of the resulting drink and on its acidity.5
How Low Acid Coffee Is Made
Several organic brands of low acid coffee are available. They’re usually made from organic, green coffee beans that are naturally low in acid. These aren’t traditional Colombian coffee beans. Green coffee beans usually come from Brazil, Peru, Mexico, and other countries.
The beans which become low acid coffee come from shade-grown coffee plants. Coffee bean plants grown in the sun (and at higher elevations) are often more acidic.6
Can Dark-Roasted Coffee Help Stomach Acid Issues?
Evidence suggests low acid coffee might actually help to reduce reflux in people with sensitive stomachs. It appears that certain dark blend coffees, such as French roast and espresso, contain ingredients that tell the stomach to cut down on its production of acid.
Several brands of low acid coffee are marketed as being easier on the stomach. They’re typically made through a process that includes using solvents or steam designed to reduce the acids in coffee that naturally occur.
But this method of making low acid coffee can sometimes affect its flavor profile as well as its aroma. It might not hit the same flavor notes as the traditional Colombian or Robusta blend.
Research indicates that a component in darker coffee blends known as N-methylpyridinium (NMP) inhibits the production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach. This component isn’t found in organic coffee beans. It’s only produced during the roasting process. Since darker coffees are roasted longer, they tend to contain more NMP.7
Is Low Acid Coffee Right For You?
If you love to drink Colombian coffee but you’re concerned about experiencing reflux symptoms, low acid coffee may be an alternative. There are organic brands with a medium or higher pH level (which reduces acidity) that offer a great taste.
Many of these organic brands are also Rainforest Alliance Certified. This means they come mostly from smaller farms instead of from huge corporate growing operations.9
But if you simply don’t want to take a chance on having to deal with reflux, you could avoid organic and regular coffee altogether.
Ultimately, you’ll want to talk to your doctor about your symptoms. Ask whether or not low acid coffee will be of any benefit to you. They will be able to give recommendations and come up with a plan to target your unique needs.