If coffee is a non-negotiable necessity of life for you, chances are that there have been times you’ve had to ignore certain… unpleasant side effects. Yes, there’s the unpleasant jitteriness that comes from a little too much caffeine, but that’s pretty easy to deal with – you just hold off on that last half-cup in the afternoon next time.
But, there can be other problems with the world’s most wonderful beverage. Some studies report up to 40% of Americans experience gastroesophageal reflux disease, also called GERD, and many more people have heartburn pretty regularly.
We all have experienced the results of heartburn after eating certain foods, and coffee tends to make the list of ingestible triggers. But what if there was a way to enjoy your beloved brew and avoid digestive distress?
Enter: low acid coffee.
Acid free coffee is catering to the millions of people who love coffee but don’t like the heartburn that often accompanies it. We’ve explored every low acid coffee brand we could find and delivered our roundup of the best low acid coffee brands out there.
Is Coffee Acidic?
As with most things coffee-related, we can get into some complex chemistry really quickly. Although “everyone knows” that coffee is acidic, it’s actually a lot more nuanced than that.
The pH of coffee is usually somewhere between 4.5 and 5. Remember, on the pH scale a 7 is neutral, with lower numbers indicating higher acidity (we didn’t make the system up!). So plain old water would be a 7 on the scale – pretty neutral – while a citrus fruit like an orange would be around a 3 or 4. That’s actually more acidic than coffee. So, yes, coffee is more on the acidic side, but it’s not like you’re drinking battery acid or something.
The issue is more likely to be the amount of coffee we are drinking. The average recommended amount of caffeine for a healthy, non-pregnant adult is usually capped at about 400 milligrams. More than that can easily lead to problems, including nausea.
The bottom line is: coffee is an acidic drink, but there are some ways to work around that.
Acid vs Acidity
There is some confusion of terms when it comes to coffee acid. When you’re browsing coffee beans in your favorite coffee shop or online store, you might see prize beans labeled as having “bright, acidic notes,” or something similar. If you have a sensitive stomach or suffer from acid reflux, you might pass that coffee by. But you don’t necessarily have to.
Chlorogenic acid is a naturally-occurring compound inside of coffee beans, and it is responsible for some of the delicious flavors we love in our coffee. When it degrades, however, it becomes quinic acid, which is responsible for the burnt, sour taste we know in coffee that has been left to sit in the coffee maker for too long.
Signs Your Coffee is Too Acidic For You
Some people drink several cups of coffee every day and never notice a problem. Is coffee acidic enough to bother you, or you in the lucky club of people who can down espresso shots and never notice the difference?
If the acid in coffee is bothering you, you might notice symptoms like heartburn, upset stomach, or bloating. A good way to tell that this is a problem with the acid in the coffee and not with the caffeine is to check it against other foods and beverages. Do you also feel this way when you drink orange juice? Like we discussed above, citrus fruit is more acidic than coffee, so if you’re feeling an upset stomach or heartburn when you drink fruit juice too, that’s a good sign that it’s the acid bothering you and not the caffeine.
How to Neutralize Acid in Coffee
There are a few tricks of the trade used to reduce the amount of acid in brewed coffee. It’s definitely not a one-size-fits all process, and what works like a charm for one person might not touch another person’s gastrointestinal distress. This is partially because there is a huge range in the level of acidity in a person’s stomach. It can be as low as 3 or as high as 5.
It might seem like a no-brainer, but probably the simplest way to balance out the acidity of coffee (which is about a 4 on the pH scale, remember) is to mix it with milk, which is pretty close to a 7, or neutral, on the pH scale.
So this method works because you are essentially diluting your coffee. But, that’s the reason why many coffee drinkers won’t like it, because they have gone to a lot of trouble selecting, grinding, and brewing coffee beans and want the pure taste experience of black coffee.
So if you already mix your coffee with milk, try a little extra to cut down on acidity. If you can’t bear the thought, you might want to try another method of brewing acid free coffee or check out one of the low acid coffee brands we reviewed below.
Try a Coarser Grind
As a general rule of thumb, the finer the grind of coffee, the more soluble compounds will be extracted. A coarser grind will tend to leave more of those compounds inside the bean.
So, if you try a coarser grind for your coffee, you will extract fewer of all the compounds, including those causing an increase in your stomach acid. It might alter the taste, though.
Is Cold Brew Less Acidic Than Regular Coffee?
Cold brew coffee is all the rage lately, and one of the main reasons is that it is marketed as gentler on the stomach than traditional brewing methods. To make cold brew coffee, you basically place ground coffee in a jar with cold or room-temperature water for about 12 hours, and then use the resulting cold brew concentrate to make your favorite coffee mixed drinks.
But is it true?
Generally, yes! Since cold brew coffee is made via an infusion process rather than a hot-brew process, different compounds are extracted from the grounds. You end up with more of the sweeter notes and less of the acidic compounds. While it doesn’t totally eliminate acid, many people swear by the cold brew method for lower acid coffee.
Also – warming up the finished product (the cold brew concentrate) won’t make it more acidic, since the grounds are no longer involved.
Is Light, Medium, or Dark Roast Coffee The Most Acidic?
A common misconception with coffee is that lighter coffee is weaker and gentler on the stomach, whereas a dark roast is tougher or harsher.
In reality, the roast has more to do with the flavor of the coffee and less to do with the levels of acid. It is possible to over-roast beans and that can lead to some undesirable acids and flavors, so mind that if you roast your own coffee.
But when it comes to choosing low acid coffee brands, it’s much more important to look at the altitude at which the coffee was grown and the type of soil. Higher altitudes tend to produce higher-acid soil and therefore coffee beans, and so does volcanic soil.
While none of these changes will result in a completely acid free coffee, they will reduce the amount of acid somewhat.
What To Look For When Buying Low Acid Coffee
Generally speaking, coffee grown at a higher altitude will tend to be more acidic. This is because coffee is, of course, from a plant, and the type of soil a plant is grown in affects the final product.
Coffee grown in low-altitude regions will tend to be lower in acidic compounds – time to bust out your middle school geography skills.
Related to altitude, different soils have different pH levels. If you live in Ohio, for example, you’re going to have vastly different soil in your backyard tomato patch than if you live in South Carolina.
It’s the same concept with coffee farms. Though you generally need subtropical temperatures to grow coffee (otherwise Seattle residents would have it in window boxes), the soil varies widely among coffee-growing regions.
Regions with a relatively low soil pH level will consequently have lower acid coffee beans.
Like we said, the roasting profile isn’t usually the culprit in high-acid coffee. It’s more likely to result from the type of coffee and where it’s grown.
Arabica beans tend to be the lowest in acid, whereas Robusta beans tend to have the highest acid content. This is usually labelled clearly in both blends and single-origin beans, so it’s not too hard to buy the right kind.
You don’t have to buy single-origin coffee beans to get low acid coffee. It’s just a little bit easier to sort through the complexities of region, type of bean, altitude, and soil pH level if you’re ordering beans just from one place. If you want a blend, then you have to figure out all these factors for each type of coffee inside your blend.
Sounds like a little more homework than you’re willing to do just to buy some coffee? Don’t worry – we’ve rounded up the best low acid coffee brands we could find, to help you enjoy your morning pick-me-up without a stomach ache during your morning meeting.
12 Best Low Acid Coffee Brands
Whether you like dark roast or light, single origin or blend, decaf or regular: we’ve found a low acid coffee brand for you.
So strap in for the Top Twelve Best Low Acid Coffee Brands we selected, just for you.
1. Our Favorite Low Acid Coffee Brand: Subtle Earth Organic Coffee
If you’ve been searching for an organic coffee that is also low-acid, this one fits the bill. It has smooth, subtle milk chocolate flavor with notes of honey, caramel, and cocoa providing a bit of a dessert-like taste.
Grown in Honduras with exclusively arabica beans, careful attention is paid to these beans to ensure they are low-acid. We also loved the organic process whereby the growers use pepper plants instead of pesticides to repel insects.
This coffee is our favorite because there are so many options available. You can get regular or decaf, light, medium, or dark roast, or you can order whole beans or pre-ground coffee. Also, it adapts so well to different brew methods. French press, drip, Chemex… whatever brewing gear you have at home will produce a really great cup of coffee with these beans.
This full-body, whole bean coffee is available in a medium-dark roast, which is a pretty great profile for the majority of coffee drinkers. While the brand has several different options available, this is their main low-acidity line.
This is a single origin coffee from Guatemala that’s roasted in small batches. Like many low acid coffees, this coffee has bright, fruity tones. Java Planet is Rainforest Alliance Certified, pesticide free, and 100% organic.
If you prefer the traditional taste of coffee without over-roasted flavors, this might be a good low-acid pick for you. Keep in mind that this is a whole bean coffee, so you’ll need to grind the beans yourself.
When you venture into the world of low-acid coffee, a lot of people think that you’re stuck to a single flavor profile. Thankfully, that’s not the case. If you prefer a darker, earthier roast, then Lucy Jo’s Dark Roast might be a good pick.
With notes of cherry and dark chocolate, this is a rich bean with an earthiness that doesn’t feel like you’re sacrificing anything to have a low-acid coffee. We liked the complexity of this coffee, which will be a big selling point for people who like a full taste. It also works great with multiple brewing methods.
This coffee is made from organic, single-origin Sumatran coffee beans that are small-batch roasted by a small family operation out of New York. While Lucy Jo’s has several different flavor options, we liked the flavors of the dark roast the best.
Although single origin coffee beans are usually a safe route for low-acid coffee, there’s good low-acid blends available too. Volcanic is a mix of a few different low-acid coffee beans, including coffees from Brazil and Sumatra. It’s a medium roast with chocolate, nut, and tangerine notes.
The gentle-on-the-stomach brew comes from coffee beans grown at low altitudes. This coffee blend lends toward a stronger-flavor. Some testers even described it as an espresso-like flavor. So if you’re looking for something that’s strong, but won’t hurt your stomach, this might be the coffee for you.
Puroast is jumping in the mix of the good-for-you-coffee game with a ground coffee that boasts 70% less acid than other brands and 7 times more antioxidants than green tea. The French Roast is a familiar, accessible flavor for most coffee drinkers that slants toward the darker side.
Puroast touts their special roasting process that tempers the natural acidity of the beans. While this is a blend, and not a single-origin bean, it is designed specifically for people who have severe digestive reactions to coffee. Some testers with GERD reported being able to drink this coffee when nothing else would agree with them.
We also recommend using slightly more coffee than you normally would when you brew with Puroast to get a full-bodied flavor. This is probably partially due to the fact that it is pre-ground, so some of the flavor is lost over time even when shipped fresh.
This is a solid low acid coffee blend that also boasts antioxidant powers. Their tagline is “a hot friend with benefits,” and this coffee boasts a completely clean process that eliminates any toxins or harsh chemicals from their coffee beans.
These low-acid coffee beans are single-origin beans from Papua New Guinea. These low-acid beans have a smooth, mellow taste and touts a pH level of 5.31, which is quite low for coffee. To prevent confusion, the antioxidant chlorogenic acid found in this coffee is not the same stuff that hurts your stomach. It’s actually reported to reduce inflammation and promote heart health.
Taste wise, the Clean Coffee Co. beans have a smooth taste with very low bitterness. Even those who normally drink milk or cream with their coffee report that they can drink this black, which is a plus. Keep in mind it’s a whole bean coffee, so you’ll have to grind it yourself.
Gone are the days when there were only a handful of K-cup options to choose from. Now, you can get low-acid coffee even in K-cup form. This 100% Columbian ground coffee comes packaged in 12 convenient K-cups, so it’s compatible with your Keurig machine.
The coffee is ranked at a 6.1 on the pH scale, which means it has much less acid in it than traditional coffee. It tends to sit well with folks who have GERD or acid reflux.
Flavor wise, this is a pretty light-tasting coffee. If you prefer your coffee milder or mixed with cream, this might be a good pick for you.
Don’t let the name scare you away – although this brand was created specifically for moms with special dietary needs, way more people suffer from digestion problems at some point in their lives.
Specially formulated to be gentle on the stomach, this coffee is Fair-Trade Certified and organic. Mommee Coffee is 60% lower in chlorogenic acid, which is the culprit responsible for most acid reflux issues.
Designed by a mom who was sick of drinking gross coffee when pregnant, this is a tasty, medium-bodied coffee with smoky notes. It’s sold pre-ground, so it is adaptable to just about any brew method. It’s best to store it in a cool, dark place to avoid flavor changes or staleness.
If you’re looking for low acid decaf coffee that will be gentle on the stomach and not deliver too much of a buzz, Don Pablo is a good choice.
This decaf coffee is a pleasantly roasty-tasting coffee with caramel, cocoa, and faint citrus notes. It has a smooth finish and works very well with multiple brewing options, from cold brew to pour-over.
Made exclusively from decaffeinated Columbian Supremo beans, this whole-bean arabica coffee is small-batch roasted to a medium-dark roast.
This mild-tasting coffee is an affordable choice for anyone who wants a low-acid, decaffeinated coffee that still tastes the real thing.
This single-origin, low-acid coffee is grown in Vietnam and features notes of wild berries, cherry, chocolate, and honey, making it a great tasting coffee for breakfast or dessert.
These are supplied as whole beans, so make sure you have a grinder on hand. Grown by fourth-generation family farmers, these beans are organic and have a very light-roast profile. Some reviewers suggested that it might not be dark enough to mix with milk or cream, so it’s recommended to consume black.
The smooth, light profile is gentle on the system and the low acid makes it easier to drink an extra cup without experiencing acid side effects – keep in mind though that it’s a fully caffeinated coffee, even though it has a very light taste!
A great choice if you prefer to buy your coffee pre-ground, Tyler’s coffee is one of the few that claims to be completely acid-free. Tyler’s claims to have perfected a secret roasting process that creates a coffee with a near-neutral pH level, so no digestive side-effects.
This coffee is sold pre-ground, so it’s important to store it correctly to keep it from becoming stale. As an added benefit, this coffee is also supposed to be gentler on tooth enamel, which is great if you find yourself at the dentist frequently.
It’s a light roast coffee with a very mild taste and very little aftertaste. It might be a bit too light for those who like a fuller-bodied coffee, but on the other hand, it does well if you like to drink your morning brew black.
Believe it or not, there are low acid instant coffee brands on the market now. Instant coffee is more popular than brewed coffee on almost half of the planet, and even those of us who prefer a good French Press brew or espresso shot sometimes resort to these convenient little packets when traveling or in a rush.
Bio Coffee comes in 12 individual packets. All you have to do is add water and stir. It contains powdered non-dairy creamer for a complete beverage when mixed up. It also contains powdered wheatgrass for an extra shot of vegetables for your day.
Taste-wise, this is comparable to other instant coffee brands we are familiar with. Some testers liked mixing it with morning smoothies to get a mocha-flavored energy drink mixed with bananas and all-natural cocoa.
An additional perk of Bio Coffee Instant Coffee is that they are dairy-free, so if you have multiple food-sensitivity issues going on this might be a good pick for you. They do contain gluten-bearing ingredients, so be aware of that if you pursue a gluten-free diet.
Just because you have acid reflux, GERD, or indigestion doesn’t mean you need to give up coffee. There are a plethora of low-acid coffee brands on the market featuring a wide variety of roast profiles, ground size, and flavors.
We’re certain that you’ll find one that is perfect for you (and your stomach!) in our coffee round-up.