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From Bean to Brew: Understanding and Managing Coffee Acidity

Updated: Sep 25, 2023

Coffee Acidity | Coffee Beans | Blog | Six Four Coffee

In the world of coffee connoisseurs, the term "acidity" doesn't refer to the corrosive substance in a science lab; rather, it signifies a vibrant and essential element of the coffee tasting experience. Coffee acidity, in simple terms, is the pleasant tanginess or brightness that graces your palate with every sip. But what exactly gives coffee its acidity, and how can you manage or modify it to suit your taste preferences? Whether you’re looking to placate a more sensitive stomach or a picky set of taste buds, this article is for you. Let's embark on a flavourful journey to uncover the intricacies of coffee acidity!

What Makes Coffee Acidic?

While the term "acidic" might bring to mind pH levels, coffee’s acidity is more nuanced. It’s a sensory perception related to the presence of certain compounds in the beans. Organic acids like citric acid, malic acid, and quinic acid are naturally present in coffee beans. These acids interact with your taste buds, creating the characteristic acidic flavours that range from mild to sharp.

Interestingly, despite the common association of acidity with pH levels, coffee is actually much less acidic in terms of pH than many common foods and beverages. For instance, the pH of black coffee typically falls between 4.85 and 5.10, which is significantly less acidic than orange juice (pH around 3.3) or even soda (pH around 2.5). This difference in perceived acidity versus pH level highlights the complexity of our taste perception and how different acids interact to create the overall flavour profile.

Factors Influencing Coffee Acidity

Coffee Bean Variety: Different coffee bean varieties exhibit varying levels of acidity. For instance, beans from Ethiopia are known for their vibrant acidity, while beans from Brazil often offer a milder profile.

  1. Altitude: Beans grown at higher altitudes generally develop more pronounced acidity due to slower maturation and increased exposure to sunlight.

  2. Processing Methods: The way coffee is processed – the stage where coffee beans are separated from the berries that they came from – can influence acidity. Natural processing tends to result in a fruitier, more acidic flavour than washed processing, and honey processing results in an acidity that lies somewhat in between.

  3. Roasting Level: Lighter roasts tend to retain more acidity, while darker roasts can mellow out acidity in favour of deeper, roasted flavours.

  4. Brewing Techniques: Factors such as water temperature, grind size, and brewing time can impact acidity in your cup. Shorter extraction times might yield a brighter, more acidic cup, while longer extractions can emphasise bitterness.

Coffee Acidity | Coffee Beans | Blog | Six Four Coffee
With natural processing, the coffee bean remains in contact with the coffee cherry for longer than during the washing process. Image source: Nick Harsell via Unsplash

Managing Coffee Acidity

If you prefer a smoother, less acidic cup of coffee, there are a few strategies you can employ:

  • Choose Low-Acidity Beans: Opt for beans from regions known for producing lower-acidity coffees, like Brazil, Indonesia or other regions where the beans are grown at lower altitudes. Try Six Four Coffee’s Sumatra Mandheling Single Origin coffee, cultivated in the Batak region of west-central Sumatra, Indonesia, at altitudes of 2,500-5,000 feet to produce coffee of lower acidity.

Coffee Acidity | Coffee Beans | Blog | Six Four Coffee
Coffee grown at higher altitudes, like at this coffee farm in São Sebastião, Brazil, tend to have more acidity. Image source: Projeto Café Gato-mourisco via Unsplash

  • Select Darker Roasts: Dark roasts tend to have reduced acidity compared to lighter roasts, offering a more robust and less tangy flavour.

  • Experiment with Brewing: Adjust your brewing parameters to shorten extraction time so that less acid is extracted. A finer grind and slightly cooler water can help reduce acidity.

Alternatively, try cold-brewing: thanks to a lower temperature and longer steeping process, less of the acids are extracted, giving rise to coffee up to 65% less acidic than conventional hot brews.

  • Add Milk or Cream: Dairy can help mellow out acidity, transforming your coffee into a smoother, more comforting drink. If you’re feeling extra indulgent, why not take your coffee up a notch with our Salted Cream Cheese Latte recipe?

Coffee Acidity | Coffee Beans | Blog | Six Four Coffee
Adding milk into black coffee. Image source: Alex Lyrs via Unsplash

  • Blending: Create your own custom blend by mixing beans with varying levels of acidity to achieve your desired flavour balance.

In the end, coffee acidity is a complex and intriguing facet of the coffee experience. Whether you're drawn to the bright, citrusy notes or prefer a mellower cup, understanding the factors that influence acidity empowers you to craft your perfect brew. So, embark on your coffee journey, experimenting with beans, roasts, and brewing techniques to create a cup that resonates with your taste buds.

At Six Four Coffee, we offer a diverse selection of house blends and single-origin coffee options. Explore our product offerings here and try our freshly roasted beans for yourself today!

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