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Acidity in coffee

2013 August 13
by Ryan

I’ve been chatting with many people who have dropped by the shop to pick up coffee recently. And there seems to be a trend towards the “low-acid” style coffees. Again.

For longer than I can remember, the mass marketers have always been touting low acid coffees as being better for you. They won’t tear up your stomach and give you that dreaded acid reflux issue–or so they say.

I’d like to set the record straight on some things. Ready to go down the rabbit hole for a bit……?

Coffee is a natural product. It is grown in soil, harvested, processed, and delivered just like any other natural product. (Potatoes, corn, etc., etc.) The one nice thing about coffee is that it takes a while to stale. A lot longer than potatoes or corn.

Because of that fact, coffee is usually roasted, bagged, then shipped out to sell… well… whenever it sells. With no regard to the date of roast.

Oils in coffee are present from the minute of roast completion. Freshly roasted (and correctly roasted) coffees do not have oils on the surface of the bean. See, the roast process produces a lot of CO2 gases. These gases keep the bean pressurized and slowly release through the outer surface of the bean. This is why coffees smell amazing when you first open the bag but seem to fade the longer they sit on your counter. Once the gases are released, the oils can come to the surface.

That is where the problem arises. By time the oils emerge, that coffee is usually over two weeks old. Just as with any natural product, it has started to stale. The oils are starting to turn.

Let me put it this way. If you were to drink a glass of milk that was over three months past the expiration date, you’d expect to end up in the toilet for a while, right? Well, the same is true with coffee–just not at that level of severity. When the coffee oils turn and go rancid, they start tearing up your stomach–there’s your “acid” issue. It’s not acid at all–it’s stale, sour coffee.

Acidity in coffee–believe it or not– is a GOOD thing. Acidity means that coffee “pops” on your palate. It means how bright the cup is. Some coffee’s acidity is actually enough to slightly fool your palate into believing that you have drank a carbonated beverage. This is a good thing!

So in summary, Acidity=GOOD, stale coffee=BAD.

In the five years I have been roasting here at R&R, I have only had one person tell me that my coffee messed up her stomach. We have sold quite a few pounds of coffee here. To only have one person come back is pretty impressive.

Trust me, good, freshly roasted, not over-roasted coffee shouldn’t tear up your belly. If you’ve been hesitant to try coffee here because you’re concerned about your stomach, drop by. I won’t hurt you. I promise.

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