Acidity. The ‘taste’ that lots of people prefer to not be in their coffee. Many people think about acidity in a way that reminds them of sour, bitter, or even something that gives them heart burn. But for people in the coffee industry, acidity is sought after in the coffee flavor profile. When we say this coffee is acidic we are not talking about the coffee’s pH level or natural acidity, we are talking more about a flavor note.
If it's not the acidity in the coffee, what’s causing the heartburn or upset stomach or acid reflex?
Well, it could be the coffee’s natural acidity. One way to think about this is, if you experience acid reflex, heartburn, or an upset stomach after you drink juice, soda, wine, or beer. If you do not experience those things after drinking juice, soda, wine, or beer, than coffee probably is not causing heartburn, upset stomachs, or acid reflex either. Coffee falls around a 5 on the pH scale which is means it has a lower acidic content than any of those drinks. But if you only experience it after drinking coffee here are a few reasons why. It could be the caffeine content in the coffee, it could be caused by the coffee being prepared poorly (i.e., grind size, storage, age, brewed improperly) or it may have some bean remnants left in it. Or it could even be caused by adding milk, dairy might tone down the natural acidity in coffee, during the moment, but it might cause issues for later.
What is acidity to the coffee industry?
The coffee industry refers to acidity as a flavor note. Acidity is found in coffee beans around the world, but at varying levels. There are five major types of acidity; tartaric, acetic, phosphoric, citric and malic.
Tartaric acid usually gives the coffee a grape-like undertone. Tartaric acid is also very found in wine giving it that pleasant tartness we all enjoy.
Acetic acid which if too overpowering gives almost a vinegar taste, but when roasted correctly it can a beautiful lime note in a coffee.
Phosphoric acid is a very desired acid in coffee because it produces a nice sweetness to coffee, along with tropical fruit notes such as mango.
Citric acid, which is very common, citric gives coffee those, you guessed it, citrus notes, such as orange grapefruit, and sometimes even lemon. Citric acid is one of the more noticeable acids present in coffee.
Malic acid. Malic acid when enhanced in roasting coffee gives coffee a nice apple/pear crispness and sometimes even a stone fruit flavor note.
Next time you are at your local coffee shop, don't be afraid of the acidity. Enjoy it! Try to figure out which acid is more accentuated than the others, and if you like that or not!
Krystjan and Daniel