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Coffee Acidity: Everything You Need to Know

For many people, it may seem strange that coffee can be acidic with notes of apple and other fruits. It's all about the acids found in roasted coffee. In this article, we want to talk more about coffee acidity and main acids that are responsible for the taste of coffee. Speaking more specifically, about citric, malic, tartaric, and orthophosphoric.

What is coffee acidity and what does it depend on

Acidity is the first thing we feel on the tip of our tongue when we taste coffee. For high quality coffee, acidity is about the fruity taste, not the acidity.

When describing it, roasters usually indicate intensity: below average, medium or above average. In terms of quality, it can be sweet, juicy or bright. You can find this information on the packaging or in the coffee description in an online store.


The intensity of coffee acidity depends on the following factors.

Growing height. The higher the coffee grows, the greater the difference between day and night temperatures and the lower the oxygen level. Under such conditions, the berries ripen for a long time and accumulate more organic acids.

Beans processing method. With natural processing, after drying the whole berries, more sugars from the pulp and gluten stay in the bean. With washed processing, the pulp is removed and the beans are dried in patchwork. Therefore, such coffee is likely to be more acidic.

Roast degree. Roasting helps shape the acidity that the beans already have. But some acids are destroyed if the grain is roasted for too long or at high temperatures. The darker the roast, the less acidity coffee has.

Brewing method. The components of the coffee are not extracted simultaneously during preparation. First, a large amount of acids and oils dissolve in water, then sugars, and, finally, bitter substances. If you reduce the time, increase the grinding, and lower the temperature, then the coffee will be more acidic.

Temperature. At the championships, specialists describe acidity at two coffee temperatures - hot (70 ° C) and warm (40 ° C). When the drink cools, the acidity becomes more intense and juicier.

Types of acids in coffee

Acids can be divided into two main groups - organic and inorganic.

Organic acids appear naturally as a result of cellular respiration of plants and their fruits.
Inorganic acids appear as a result of human activities. For example, they depend on fertilizers or on the composition of the soil.

There are about 40 organic acids in coffee. But predominantly citric, malic, tartaric, and orthophosphoric acidity forms in the taste.

Citric acid. It is bright and juicy, most pronounced in green coffee. It breaks down if the coffee is roasted too hard.

Malic acid. It helps to achieve a tart and viscous acidity in the coffee taste. Feels like a green apple.

Tartaric acid. It gives the drink an astringent aftertaste and tastes like vinegar. If there is too much of tartaric acid in coffee, then its taste will deteriorate.

Orthophosphoric acid. Creates a slight tingle on the tongue. Unlike the acids listed above, phosphoric acid is inorganic and is the main ingredient in soft drinks.

All types of acids are presented in coffee, but in different proportions. Their ratio depends on the variety of coffee, the region of cultivation and the method of preparation.

You can distinguish them by tasting coffee. For example, if you feel a slight tingling, orthophosphoric acid predominates, and if there is an astringent aftertaste, tartaric acid predominates.


Mr. Viet is a coffee producer based in Vietnam. We cooperate with Vietnamese farmers in Dalat region in order to connect them to the world coffee lovers. Follow us to learn more about coffee and taste the real flavors of Vietnam!
27.08.2021

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