If you're not a morning person, and even if you are, there are few things better than a freshly brewed cup of coffee. But for anyone who may have any digestive sensitivity, that cup of joe can wreak havoc on your stomach. Fortunately, that doesn't mean you have to give up that beloved daily iced coffee altogether—instead, an option that may be easier on sensitive stomachs is low-acid coffee.
So, why is coffee irritating to your stomach? "Coffee contains several different acidic chemical, including malic acid, citric acid, and acetic acid," says Maddie Pasquariello, a registered dietitian and founder of East Coast Health and Nutrition with Maddie. When you brew coffee, these acids are released from the coffee beans, resulting in an acidic pH of around 5 in a brewed cup of coffee (for reference, water is neutral and has a pH of 7). This elevates levels of gastric acid in the stomach and can cause an upset stomach.
Your stomach is also an acidic environment to help break down food, adds Abigail Hueber, an integrative functional dietitian. However, if you have a GI system that is prone to digestive issues like heartburn of GI upset, drinking coffee can trigger the root cause and cause symptoms such as heartburn, acid reflux, bloating, and cramping. In addition, caffeine is a stimulant, which in addition to causing jitters, can increase the amount of acid in your stomach .
Why low-acid coffee may be better for sensitive stomachs
Because increased acids can lead to unwanted discomfort, one solution is to drink low-acid coffee (or some of the best decaf coffees we love). These coffees have a lower pH, so they won't increase the acidity in your stomach as much, and may be less likely to cause indigestion and heartburn. Otherwise, you can always try the good ol' baking soda in coffee trick.
What to look for in a low-acid coffee
It may be counterintuitive, but dark roasted coffee is less acidic than light roasted coffee. Darker roast beans are roasted for longer and at higher temperatures, and because of this, they often have fewer acid producing compounds that trigger your stomach to secrete more acid, says Hueber. Pasquariello says you can also brew espresso beans other than coffee beans —because espresso is brewed for less time, less acid is released from the beans.
For those who prefer their coffee over ice, there's some good news: Cold brew is often less acidic than hot-brewed coffee. The process of steeping cold brew for a long period time in cold water reduces the number of acids produced (and creates a less bitter taste).
Other possible ways to reduce coffee acidity, says Pasquariello, include diluting your coffee slightly with water, or adding a tiny pinch of baking soda, which has a high pH and can increase the pH of your coffee. (Just don't add too much, or you'll taste it, she adds).
If you and your stomach are ready to continue drinking your daily coffee, here are nine dietitian-approved, low-acid coffees to check out.
Best low-acid dark roast coffee
Lifeboost’s single-origin coffee beans are organic and ethically-sourced, and they’re low-acid to be easier on your stomach—a win-win. The beans are sourced from small farmers, roasted in small batches, and tested for mold, bacteria, and a number of different toxins.
What reviewers are saying: “I rarely drink coffee, mainly because the acid of all coffee—decaf or not— upsets my stomach, and I hate the bitter taste. And since I don’t add milk or sugar or flavors of any kind, I know it’s the coffee itself that bothers me. Lifeboost is the first I’ve ever tried that’s genuinely without any trace of acidity or bitterness.”
This dark roast from Fabula is single-origin from high elevation regions in Peru and is low-acid, organic, non-GMO and freshly roasted before being delivered. The coffee has hints of caramelized sugar and nutty aromas. There are also options for light roast, medium roast, cold brew, espresso, and French press, and they’re all low-acid.
What reviewers are saying: “A great taste with low acidity! Huge difference from my old coffee. It has a very smooth and enjoyable taste!”
Caribbrew’s single-origin coffee comes from Haiti, where it’s grown at a high elevation (4,000 feet!) without an harmful chemicals. They make low-acid dark and medium Arabica roasts, like this bag which features hints of chocolate and nuts. It’s smooth and full-bodied but not acidic, so you can enjoy your cup of Joe in comfort.
What reviewers are saying: “I’m not a person who feels obligated to having a daily cup of coffee but I must say when I do have my coffee, I like it to be of good quality. Caribbrew’s coffee is one of the best, if not the best, coffee I’ve ever had. I highly recommend it.”
You may have had a cup of f La Colombe in one of their in-person coffee shops, and you can also enjoy the small-scale roasted beans at home. This dark roast has chocolately tones for a delicious flavor that’s easy on your taste buds and your stomach.
What reviewers are saying: “Good flavor for a dark roast and worth the price. No acid indigestion!”
Puroast’s proprietary technology increases the number of antioxidants (seven times more than green tea) while decreasing the acidity (by 70 percent), helping ensure stomach aches and heartburn do not hamper your enjoyment of drinking coffee. This low-acid dark French roast is just one of the many options of whole beans (you can also get decaf or half-caf).
What reviewers are saying: “Was looking for a low acid coffee and a friend suggested I try this brand. It doesnt trigger my acid reflux and it has a great flavor. Comes in a 2 lb bag (I ordered whole bean as I grind it own) and the price is very reasonable. Also comes ground at a bit higher cost.”
This dark roast is created with high levels of antioxidant phenolic compounds and low acidity, so you can have a cup or two without the negative side effects. Made with USDA-certified organic coffee beans, every harvest is lab tested for the best levels of polyphenols (a type of micronutrient), so every carafe you brew gives you the most health benefits possible. Purity Coffee also emphasizes taste and freshness—it claims every bag will “taste as fresh as the day it was roasted.” One of its methods to keep beans fresh is flushing coffee bags with nitrogen to get oxygen levels down to 1-2 percent, so beans don’t get stale.
What reviewers are saying: “Every coffee has its own flavor. If your first cup of this coffee is bitter to you, adjust the grind slightly coarser, great flavor. Purity coffee doesn’t upset my stomach like so many other brands. Highly recommend.”
Best low acid cold brew coffee
Pasquariello says this is her go-to store-bought cold brew. It’s made from 100 percent Arabica beans sourced from ethical farms. It’s low-acid, concentrated, and unsweetened, so you can drink it however you want—black, or with a little water or favorite creamer. Each box makes about five servings and doesn’t have to be refrigerated until after it’s open, so feel free to stock up.
What reviewers are saying: “Strong, richly flavored cold brew that gets me going quickly in the morning. Tastes like freshly brewed, and it is convenient and not acidic for me.”
These Chamberlain Coffee cold brew bags make it easy to whip up a batch of fresh cold brew whenever you want. Drop a bag in a pitcher, add water, and then let it sit overnight. In the morning you’ll have delicious cold brew waiting for you. Chamberlain Coffee also offers subscriptions at frequencies of 14, 21, 30, and 60 days.
What reviewers are saying: “THE BEST COLD BREW! It’s not acidic at all and has such good flavor. I drink it on its own over ice and I love that it does give me a caffeine overload. Really like it!”
This small bottle of Jot packs a punch—this super concentrated brew is 20 times stronger than regular coffee, but smoother tasting. It’s sourced from organic farms in South America, and you only need one tablespoon (mix it with water or the milk of your choice) to get your caffeine fix.
What reviewers are saying: “Love the taste! No acidity or bitterness. It’s fast for an afternoon iced latte. No having to make coffee earlier in the day then having to chill it. Will be purchasing again!”
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