If you are someone that’s plagued with a sensitive stomach you probably want to make sure your daily coffee beverage is not too acidic. Perhaps you heard that instant coffee is less acidic than brewed coffee. Is this true?
The answer is not simple. And it requires a general knowledge of what makes coffee acidic to really understand.
Keep reading to find out what makes coffee more acidic, how instant coffee is made, and whether or not instant coffee is less acidic than brewed coffee.
First, let’s define what coffee acidity is exactly. We know how that unpleasant sour feeling in your stomach can make you feel for the rest of the day, but did you know acidity in coffee is pivotal to the coffee flavor?
Acid vs Acidity
It’s important to note that the amount of acid inside an instant coffee or regular coffee cup, which tends to hurt people’s stomach, is different from the “acidity” of coffee.
You see, “acidity” to professional brewers refers to flavor profiles that give coffee its “brightness” and fruity flavors.
These desirable flavor notes primarily arise from organic acids like Malic acid, citric acid, and tartaric acid. All great for coffee flavor.
Chlorogenic acids also add to this “brightness” of coffee as well as its antioxidant properties. However, these chlorogenic acids break down over time into quinic acids which causes that sour feeling in people’s stomachs when they drink acidic coffee.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that darker roasts have more of those “bad acids.” It’s the length of time that coffee is roasted.
Light roasts can also contain a high level of quinic acid. Also, coffee still degrades over time even when not exposed to heat. We can expect old coffee to give us that sour feeling as well.
Although chlorogenic acids are good for the coffee’s flavor profile, coffee beans with higher chlorogenic acid content will be more acidic if allowed to degrade their chlogogenic acids into quinic acids.
The Type Of Coffee Bean And Where It Grows Affects Acidity
Generally speaking, Robusta coffee beans have higher chlorogenic acid and caffeine content. Chlorogenic acid will ultimately degrade into what most would consider “bad acid.” The acid can feel like it is tearing apart your stomach.
You can prevent drinking acidic Robusta coffee by making sure you only brew fresh coffee and you obtain it from the right roasters.
Arabica beans grow at higher altitudes and cooler environments. These kinds of beans grow slower and tend to have more sugars and organic acids. Less chlorogenic acids.
Therefore, Arabica will 9 times out of 10 be less acidic than Robusta coffee.
Further Reading: The Difference Between Arabica and Robusta Coffee Explained
Type of Roast Matters
If you read the section above which details the kinds of acids you would find in coffee, one would think that dark roasted coffee would be more acidic due to the fact that you would be breaking down chlorogenic acid into quinic acids.
Remember, quinic acids are the bad acids that hurt our stomachs.
Although it’s possible dark roasts may contain more quinic acids (Even though in practice we don’t really see a difference in acidic pH levels between different color roasts), they are actually a lot easier on your stomach.
How could this be the case?
It’s because of N-methylpyridinum. Oh no, not a science lesson!
Relax, it’s real simple. This scientific experiment demonstrated that darker roasts produce more N-methylpyridinum. And this chemical helps stop our stomach from producing acids.
That’s all you need to know.
So studies show that darker roasted coffee will be less acidic.
Grind Size Matters
When coffee is brewed with hot water, different compounds in the coffee grounds are extracted at different times. First, our acids and fats are extracted, then our sugars (which cuts the acidity), and finally the fibers of the coffee break down giving us that bitter flavor.
Course grounds are more acidic than fine grounds. Coarser grounds will speed up the brew time and also decrease the extraction rate. This means that there is less time for the flavors of the coffee to be extracted. More acids are extracted and less sugar, resulting in more acidic coffee.
How Does Water Affect Coffee Acidity?
Yes, even the kind of water you use can affect your coffee’s acidic levels.
Hard water contains more minerals like calcium and magnesium. These minerals act as a buffer and lower the acidity of your coffee.
Soft water, conversely, has fewer minerals and therefore does not buffer the acid content of your coffee.
These are just 2 broad categories of waters that we can use to brew coffee. The point is that the minerals and particles found in different forms of water do cause a different reaction when extracting your coffee.
How Is Instant Coffee Made?
All the factors above affect the acidity level of your brewed coffee. But you’re here to see if instant coffee is less acidic.
Let’s talk about how instant coffee is made.
The concept is really simple actually. Normal coffee beans are roasted, ground up, and brewed into coffee. Then all the water is removed from the coffee by spray drying or freeze-drying so that you are left with dehydrated crystals of coffee. Then you simply add water and it’s coffee again!
Conclusion: Is Instant Coffee Less Acidic Than Brewed Coffee?
Now you can see why I went through explaining the factors that affect acidity in your brewed coffee. This is because instant coffee is made directly from brewed coffee!
Therefore, the acidic level of instant coffee is not intrinsic to the process of making instant coffee but rather to the original brewed coffee that was dehydrated.
So no, instant coffee is not inherently less acidic than brewed, it just depends on which instant coffee you purchase.
However, it is commonly known that most instant coffee brands are made with Robusta coffee beans. As mentioned earlier, Robusta coffee is more acidic than Arabica due to its increased chlorogenic acid content.