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Coffee Basics - Levels of Acidity Explained

Posted by Meera Nair on

The term acidity has garnered such negative connotations that, except amongst a select group of people, it isn’t truly understood in relation to the role it plays in coffee.

Yes, depending on the coffee, you can experience acidity that is overpowering and does nothing for your fascination with the beverage. 

But if you are careful to choose good-quality coffees, you will definitely perceive acidity as something that balances with the rest of its flavour profile.

What is Acidity & How is it Measured?

Acidity refers to the trait of a substance that contains acidic compounds. The combination and acidic quotient of these compounds may vary from item to item.

The way acidity is measured is using the pH scale, which determines just how acidic a substance is. If you are to understand acidity in coffee, you might as well understand what pH levels are like and how acidic is too acidic.

Generally, a pH score of 7 is considered neutral; it’s the pH level of water. Anything below is highly acidic such as vinegar, which has a pH score of 2.

Where Does Coffee Acidity Come From?

In coffee, there are several acids like malic, citric, chlorogenic, and acetic acid that contribute to its acidic state. The pH level of coffee ranges from 4.85 to 5.10.

basics of coffee acidity

You might then wonder how there’s acidity in coffee in the first place and if it is something that can be controlled. 

It is the growth & processing of coffee that produces acidity of varying levels. 

A series of factors such as the temperature at which the coffee beans have been roasted, the size of the beans, the brewing method, the origin, and the climate in which it is grown - all influence the acidity level of the brew.

For instance, dark roasts are known to be less acidic than light roasts. The shorter the brewing duration the more acidity the coffee would have. And finer grounds tend to produce higher-acidity coffees. 

What are the Levels of Acidity in Coffee?

Acidity in coffee can be described as low or high acidity. This may not help you understand how that affects the taste of your coffee but will definitely help you distinguish coffees based on the acidity level. 

acidity in coffee explained

Let’s take a look at what that means exactly in terms of your coffee consumption experience.

You would’ve heard of terms such as sparkling acidity or bright acidity. These refer to flavour sensations that stand out so distinctly that the moment you take a sip of your coffee, you can feel that tangy, sour, tingling sensation on your tongue. 

That is when you know there’s a decent amount of acidity present in your coffee.

On the other hand, coffees that have low acidity are smooth, allowing you to experience other prominent flavour notes such as earthiness, creaminess, or bitterness.

Moreover, you’ll know when a coffee has little to no acidity; it tastes flat and has no depth to the flavour.

With all that said and done, in the case of coffee acidity, the more is not always the merrier. Too much acidity can be overwhelming to your palate. Consequently, it can overshadow the other tasting notes, which is never what you’d want from a good cup of coffee.

So what should you look out for? Coffees where the acidity is either an underlying flavour sensation or subtly discernable to an extent where it perfectly works alongside the taste, mouthfeel, aroma, and body.

We hope this post has helped shed light on what coffee acidity is like, how it comes to be in your brew, and what you can expect from varying levels of coffee acidity.

If you are someone who doesn’t enjoy that sour flavour in coffee, you still have many choices . Simply look for low-acidity coffees or grind and brew your coffee at home in such a way as to produce less acidity from the beans.

Our single origin from Indonesia (Blue Batak) has that malt, nutty-sweet flavour that you’d like. 

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