Best Low Acid Coffee Brands – How Can You Choose Stomach-Friendly Coffee?

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best low acid coffee

Do you love coffee, but it doesn’t love you? Sensitivity to certain acids in coffee can lead to acid reflux, but it need not spoil your enjoyment of your morning brew.

Fortunately, many companies are now recognizing how common of a problem this is and are producing more gastrically sensitive beans for your enjoyment. We’ve taken a look at some of the best low acid coffee brands and found our favorites. In particular, this low acidity coffee from Volcanica is well worth your attention.

Why Might Acidity Be An Issue?

Studies show that it isn’t the acids in coffee that irritate our stomachs. [1] Instead, it is how they interact with our natural stomach acid. Coffee isn’t even that acidic. It typically has a pH of around 5, about the same as a banana or a carrot. This is considerably less acidic than orange juice or soda, which have a pH of around 3.

So, if coffee isn’t actually all that acidic, what is the problem? We’re glad you asked. One of the acids contained in coffee is called chlorogenic acid. While it has many health benefits [2], it also stimulates the release of hydrochloric acid (or gastric acid) in the stomach. This sudden spike in gastric acid levels can cause acid reflux.

Interestingly, coffee also contains another compound called N-methylpyridinium (or NMP) in fairly high levels. It can counter the effects of chlorogenic acid by suppressing these spikes in gastric acid. [3]

But what does this mean for those of you sensitive to acid reflux from coffee? Well, all is not lost! It still leaves you with two routes for enjoying your favorite coffees. You can go for a coffee that is lower in acid all around, therefore having a lower chlorogenic acid content. Alternatively, you can pick one that has been roasted and brewed so that the NMP content is amplified and the chlorogenic acids are limited.

What Acids Are There in Coffee?

There are actually over 30 types of acids present in coffee beans. Some are definitely good things in the cup, and others are more of a mixed bag. The main one we have addressed so far is chlorogenic acid, which can contribute to stomach irritation. 

However, it is also the acids responsible for a lot of the flavor and health benefits of coffee. Caffeic acid, for example, is a well-established anti-carcinogen and has been linked to the prevention of neurodegenerative illnesses like Parkinson’s disease. [4]

The main flavor acids in coffee are malic acid (also present in green apples), tartaric acid (think grapes and bananas), and citric acid (commonly found in citrus fruits!). At the other end of the extraction spectrum, quinic acids are responsible for the bitter and astringent flavors. Those are released when chlorogenic acid is broken down during roasting.

What Is the Difference Between Perceived Acidity and Actual Acids in the Cup?

The acid we detect in the cup may not always relate to a higher acid content in real terms. 

Counter-intuitively, a coffee that tastes bright and acidic is usually less extracted and therefore has fewer acids present in it than a more bitter cup. Because the fruitier acids extract first, we can taste them in coffee that has had a shorter extraction. They are still present in coffees with a longer extraction, just hidden behind bitters. These bitters are acids themselves, so the longer the extraction the more acid in the cup.

It can sometimes be the case that the more acidic a coffee tastes, the less acid it contains!

A Closer Look At the Best Low Acid Coffee Brands and Stomach-Friendly Coffees

Now we know a bit more about the acids in coffee and their impact on the finished cup and the digestive system. But what should we look for in a coffee when trying to avoid acid reflux flare-ups? What is on offer in the market for low acid coffee?

Volcanica Coffee – Low Acid – Best Specifically Low Acid

At A Glance

Roast Profile: Medium Roast

Origin: Brazil / Sumatra

Flavor Profile: Chocolate, Nuts, and Tangerine

This coffee has everything we’d look for in low acid beans. The process starts by selecting beans that are naturally low in acids, in this case from coffee plants grown at low altitudes in Brazil and Sumatra. 

They are then roasted at a lower temperature for a longer time. In this case, not so long past second crack to become overwhelmingly bitter and lose the fruity tangerine notes.

The chocolate and nuts in this one have an almost peanutty quality. If you’re a fan of Reese’s products, you will be at home here. You can find all the best aspects of a good single-origin Brazilian here, paired with the famously full body of a Sumatran coffee.


Lifeboost Coffee – Light Roast – Best Light Roast

At A Glance

Roast Profile: Light Roast

Origin: Nicaragua

Flavor Profile: Candied Lemon, Chocolate, and Caramel

It is quite rare to find good light roasted, single-origin coffee, which is also low in acid. This bean is a rare treat if you can’t always tolerate acidic coffee but crave that citrus tang dancing over the roast tones. It has everything you’d expect from an excellent Central American bean, with not as much of the citric acid as you might find in a Colombian, for example.

Lifeboost coffee is a company that produces exclusively low acid coffee. They were founded by a doctor rather than a native of the coffee industry, but that doesn’t reflect in the quality here. These beans stand up alongside many of their more mainstream competitors without having to lean on their low acid niche.

A must-try if you suffer from acid reflux but miss your light roasts. Try brewing this one in a V60 with your water temperature set a little lower to bring out the candied lemon and caramel sweetness. 


Bones Coffee – Sumatra – Best Single Origin

At A Glance

Roast Profile: Dark Roast

Origin: Sumatra

Flavor Profile: Rich Earthy Notes and Complex Sweetness

Although not specifically marketed as a low acid coffee, this Sumatran has the same intrinsic qualities as many that are. It is grown at a lower altitude in Sumatra, an island known to produce lower acidity levels in its coffees. The dark roast gives it a high NMP content which will help to mitigate the presence of any chlorogenic acid.

The earthy tones present in this coffee are very typical of a good Sumatra. Full-bodied and almost mossy, you’ll feel like you’ve been for a walk in the woods with this one. These beans make for a great French press where the long immersion time allows the sweetness to develop. They are dark and almost molasses-like. Think of black treacle and truffles as a guide here.


Counter Culture – Big Trouble

At A Glance

Roast Profile: Medium Dark Roast

Origin: Peru / Colombia / Papua New Guinea

Flavor Profile: Caramel, Nutty, Round

Counter Culture is one of our favorite roasters. A long-established cornerstone of the California specialty coffee scene, they are big believers in education in the coffee industry and good environmental sustainability practices. If you see their brand on something, you can guarantee it will be good, and this blend is no exception. 

Their medium to dark South and Central American blend has a great profile for high NMP, low chlorogenic acid qualities. On top of this, it makes a simply beautiful cold brew.

Let the sweetness shine in this coffee as a cold brew, and keep your infusion time to 12 hours at a maximum. This will prevent too many bitters from extracting and keep it at an incredibly low acid level for you.


Volcanica Coffee – Mexican Coffee

At A Glance

Roast Profile: Medium Roast

Origin: Mexico

Flavor Profile: Sweet Hazelnut and Earthy Cocoa

This Mexican coffee from Volcanica is not only intrinsically low in acid but is also treated in such a way that it is guaranteed to avoid heartburn and acid reflux. As with Volcanica’s low acid coffee, the beans are roasted for a long duration at lower temperatures than usual.

Something that we believe is another solid reason to choose coffee from Volcanica is what they give back to the communities they work with. Owned and operated by a Costa Rican family with roots in the production side of the coffee industry, this is a company that truly believes in paying fairly at all levels of the supply chain. They extend this ethical statement to contributions to water aid charities in the regions where they operate.

You can’t go wrong with a French press to capitalize on the hazelnut and cocoa flavors in this coffee. Try to keep your brewing temperature at the cooler end, perhaps around 195 °F (90 °C).


Puroast – Colombian Supremo

At A Glance

Roast Profile: Medium Roast

Origin: Colombia

Flavor Profile: Rich, Nutty, and Smooth

From Colombia, this is a good example that you don’t necessarily need to start with low acid beans to produce coffee that won’t upset sensitive digestive systems. Many of the best low acid coffee brands aim for high NMP contents rather than low acid profiles. This is achieved by roasting nearer to the dark end of the spectrum with a specific control on the temperature in the drum at all stages.

These beans from Puroast do not disappoint on flavor. Their smooth, full body makes a great espresso, with its nutty tones carrying well through milk for longer drinks. Try dialing your grinder just a little finer than usual. It will help you maximize the sweetness and body to help the shot stand out in longer drinks like lattes and cappuccinos.


Mavericks – Dark French

At A Glance

Roast Profile: Dark Roast

Origin: Various

Flavor Profile: Rich and Smoky

Another coffee from a roaster that specifically targets the low acid market, everything in the Mavericks range will sit well with you. This Dark French, named for the classic French roast profile, is a coffee for the traditionalist. You won’t find any fruit in this one, but you will get a dark and smoky brew fit for the cowboy on the packet.

This coffee has a very outdoorsy feeling and lends itself well to something like a Clever dripper, an immersion technique where not too many of the oils get through. It gives you a slightly cleaner cup where you might otherwise run the risk of being overpowered. You want to feel like sitting around a campfire, not lodged in an industrial chimney.


Lucy Jo’s Coffee – Sumatra Low Acid

At A Glance

Roast Profile: Dark Roast

Origin: Sumatra

Flavor Profile: Cherry, Dark Chocolate, Smoky Earthiness

Our second Sumatran single-origin, Lucy Jo’s take on the low acid coffee Mecca beans, is full of cherry and chocolate notes. We’d recommend hot-blooming and then cold-brewing this coffee to capitalize on this. Its origin and roast profile leave enough acid in that you should be able to draw out the fruit without too much risk.

Lucy Jo’s is another roaster that exclusively produces low acid coffee. You may wish to try some of their other single-origins or blends. For us, this one stood out ahead of its cousins for its fruity intensity. For something with a bit more of a chocolatey whack, you might like their coffee from the neighboring island of Sulawesi. It was a close run for us.


Intelligentsia – Black Cat Espresso

At A Glance

Roast Profile: Medium Roast

Origin: Brazil / Costa Rica

Flavor Profile: Stone Fruit, Dark Chocolate, Molasses

Another one of our favorite roasters here, Intelligentsia, offers a great selection of single origins and blends. The Black Cat blend is a fantastic go-to coffee.

These beans, which we also consider one of the best coffee for espresso, are an excellent choice for so many reasons. In fact, they are marketed for use as an espresso, but honestly are suitable for any brew method. A pour-over will give you more of the plum skin aspect of the stone fruits. Meanwhile, a cold brew brings out the smoothness of the chocolatey molasses, with hints at plum jam in the distance.

When brewing this one as a cold brew, you will get the best results from a room temperature immersion rather than in the fridge. Since the roast isn’t too dark, you can leave it a little longer without worrying about bitters masking your more delicate notes.


Coffee Bros. – Dark Roast

At A Glance

Roast Profile: Dark Roast

Origin: Brazil / Sumatra / Peru

Flavor Profile: Maple, Caramel, and Chocolate

Sourced from regions that are becoming a list of “usual suspects” by now, this coffee has a delicate sweetness that you wouldn’t necessarily expect from a dark roast. 

Again this performs really well as a cold brew. As we’ll discuss below, this is a great choice of brew method for low acidity anyway. Also, it allows the sweetness to come to the fore here. 

The maple syrup notes present in the cup give this coffee a beautifully earthy sweetness. Whichever brew method you choose, take care not to lose this behind too many bitters.


How To Choose Low Acid Coffee

So how to find your stomach’s new favorite coffee? You can certainly opt for one of the best low acid coffee brands catering specifically to those suffering from the potential effects of acid reflux. Alternatively, follow our tips here to give yourself a wider range to choose from without running the risks of gastric discomfort. 

Treated vs. Inadvertent

Coffee can be low in acid thanks to its inherent, natural qualities or the processing it has undergone. In low acid coffee marketing, these are referred to as inadvertent and treated low acid coffees, respectively. 

Origin

Origin can be one of the biggest factors when determining the types and levels of acids present in your coffee. Generally speaking, coffees grown at cooler temperatures tend to ripen slower, which allows for fuller development of complex fruity acids in the coffee cherries. 

While this is usually a prized quality in coffee, it’s bad news for sensitive stomachs. If you are looking for a low acid coffee, you should try something from an area less likely to produce acidic beans. High altitude and shade-grown coffees, will not be your friend here.

South American countries are known for producing coffee that is naturally low in acidity due to a combination of soil characteristics and low altitude. Good examples are Brazil and Peru. Further north, Guatemala and Mexico produce good low acid coffee. Sumatra in Indonesia could be another good choice.

Conversely, African coffees should usually be avoided unless treated specifically for low acid. The same goes for Colombians, which are notoriously high in citric acid.

Roast Profile

As coffee roasts, the acids are broken down, converted, and destroyed. This means that controlling the variables in the roasting process can have a huge impact on overall acidity. It is exactly how the best low acid coffee brands treat their products. 

Light roasted coffees where the roaster wants to accentuate the fruity acidity are often roasted for a short time at a high temperature to bring out the most acid. Single-origin Ethiopians are a great example. It stands to reason then that the inverse of this process would give a coffee with far less acid.

As a rule of thumb, then, dark roasted beans are a safer option. However, your best bet at a low acid coffee remains coffee roasted explicitly for low acidity at low heat for a longer duration.

Natural or Washed?

The processing method can most definitely affect how acidic our coffee tastes. Typically, natural and honey processed coffees tend to emphasize the sweeter notes in the bean by allowing more sugars from the fruit to penetrate during drying. 

On the other hand, washed coffees highlight the acids present in a coffee by stripping back this sweetness and offering a cleaner canvas. They do not, however, actually contribute to higher acid content.

If you’re looking for that acidic fruitiness but trying to avoid the discomfort you may have come to associate it with, you could try going for a washed coffee.

Brewing Methods

How Do Different Brewing Methods Compare in Terms of Acidity?

For low acid coffee, there is no contest. Cold brew is king. With up to 70% fewer acids extracted than by hot extraction methods, cold brewing is a sure-fire way to limit the acidity of your coffee. [5

But what to do if you want a hot cup of coffee? You can always simply heat up your cold brew or tailor your preferred brew method to a less acidic result.

There is a common misconception about acidity and coffee that espresso is less acidic than filter coffee. It comes from the idea that espresso should be made with darker roasted beans, which can be (but is not always) the case. This perceived difference has to do exclusively with the roast profile.

Get Control of Your Water Temperature

The water temperature is the best way to address and alter the actual presence of acids in your cup of joe. Coffee brewed at a higher extraction temperature brings out a lot more acid. On the other hand, though, in the case of pour-over coffees, hot water can lead to a quicker “drawdown” (the rate at which coffee passes through the grounds into the cup). This will give you a less extracted, and therefore less acidic, coffee.

So if you brew at lower temperatures, you may need to coarsen your grind in some situations to keep brew time consistent. You will always, however, extract less acid with cooler water. A good proof of this is the flavor profile of cold brew!

Which Water Should You Use?

Generally, we would always recommend using filtered water as a minimum. However, there is no need to worry about specific mineral contents affecting acidity levels.

Water type certainly can impact perceived acidity in the cup, though. Some minerals act as “acid buffers” and mask the presence of acids, but just because you can’t taste it, it doesn’t mean it’s not there!

How Do You Take Your Coffee?

If you struggle with black coffee, you may be tempted to drink it with milk to lessen the impact. It can be a good option but be wary of what milk you choose. 

Soy and Almond milk are both alkaline and alkaline-forming, meaning they have an alkaline-producing effect on your body. It will help make your coffee have a less acidic effect on your gut environment. [6]

On the other hand, while less acidic than coffee, dairy milk is considered to be an acid-forming food. [7] This means that it will stimulate more gastric acid production and worsen the effects of your coffee.

Soy milk also contains amino acids in its proteins which bind to chlorogenic acid and decrease absorption in the upper digestive tract, preventing surges in stomach acid.

Our Verdict

What should we be looking for when shopping for the best low acid coffee with all that in mind? The main factors to consider are origin, roast profile, and brew method. Also, remember the difference between perceived acidity and the presence of acids, and don’t forget not all acid is born equal!

Cold-brewed, slow and dark roasted, and grown at low altitudes makes the best coffee in this case. We’d recommend something like this low acidity coffee from Volcanica. Its flavor profile is ideally suited to these methods, and it has been specifically selected and roasted for low acid.

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Author
Aidan is a former barista and coffee industry professional, turned writer and passionate home brewer. He never travels anywhere without his emergency coffee kit (hand grinder, scales, and v60).

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