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Coffee — it’s a blessing and a curse, at least for those who can’t drink a cup of coffee without suffering from sour stomach and heartburn. For years, doctors have advised people with “sensitive stomachs” to avoid coffee in order to prevent acid reflux, indigestion and heartburn. Coffee lovers gamely switched to Postum and other grain coffee substitutes, but for most, that wasn’t a satisfactory answer to the craving for a real, full-bodied, rich cup of coffee.
In the past few years, the market shelves have suddenly exploded with a whole slew of coffees that bill themselves as low acid or stomach friendly. Many of them have the scientific evidence to back up their low acid claims, even if it’s not quite clear whether less acid in coffee actually results in lower acid in your stomach.
Why Coffee Has Acid In It
According to coffeeresearch.org, the amount of acid in coffee relates to a number of different factors. Coffees grown in high mountain regions or in volcanic soil generally have higher levels of acid. Coffee that has been washed tends to be more acidic than coffee that is dry-processed. The acidity in coffee is also related to the way it is roasted, how dark it is roasted and how it is brewed.
The site also lists over 50 different acids that are found in varying amounts and degrees in coffee, as well as how several of the acids with the highest concentration react at different brewing temperatures, roasting temperatures and brewing times. Even the size of the grind makes a difference in how much of a particular acid is in a finished cup of coffee. With all that going on, it’s no wonder that scientists and doctors have yet to figure out exactly why coffee causes heartburn in some people, but not in others.
Methods of Making Reduced Acid Coffee
Several low acid coffee brands, Hevla among them, use a high pressured steam wash to melt the waxy coating on green coffee beans before roasting. The dewaxing process reduces the amount of acid in the roasted coffee significantly.
Puroast Coffee uses a proprietary roasting method for its low acid coffee. According to the company’s website, they do not add anything to the coffee beans or subject them to any special processing. They simply roast the coffee for a longer time at lower temperatures, which results in a lower acid content when the coffee is brewed.
Some coffee manufacturers use additives to reduce the acid present in their coffee.
Some coffees are naturally lower in acidic compounds. Monsooned coffees from Indonesia are one example. Dry processed coffees also seem to have lower levels of acid than wet-processed coffees. Some coffee brands are lower in acid because they start with beans that are naturally lower in acid.