Why Is Coffee Bitter and Where Can I Find Coffee With Less Acid?

Acidity often gets a bum rap. Maybe it’s because of all the television commercials for drugs designed to control heartburn and acid reflux.

But the acid in our stomachs (hydrochloric acid) is thousands of times stronger than any acid you’ll find in coffee. It’s only when the acid gets out of the stomach, splashing up into the esophagus, that it burns. In some people, coffee makes that happen, but it’s not the coffee’s acid that’s burning; it’s the stomach’s.

Several of the weak acids in coffee are the same as those found in apples and grapes, and are not at all stomach-upsetting. But if you’re still not convinced, most of these acids are volatile and are released upon roasting, so it may surprise you to know that the darkest roasts may have the lowest acid content.

The citric, malic, acetic, and other acids in coffee add liveliness to the flavor, not bitterness.

Acids in general are not bitter; they’re sour. Caffeine is bitter, but it contributes only about 10 percent of the bitterness in coffee. And don’t turn your nose up at bitterness; it’s an important flavor component of coffee, just as it is in the other two essential food groups, beer and chocolate.

So forget about acid, and just find a coffee you like. If all coffees “tear your stomach apart,” I don’t have to tell you what to do. Just say “No.”