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Acidity and coffee

Determine and influence acidity in coffee

Often hated and loved. The topic of acidity in coffee does not leave you cold. Immerse yourself in the world of acids and you will soon get to know your coffee from a new side. Continue reading...

Säure und Kaffee

Among roasters we talk a lot about the acidity in coffee - with shining eyes. Is it fresh? Is it fruity? Is it pleasant? The more you pay attention to the acidity in the coffee, the more you notice that there is a big difference between the aggressive sour taste that has already spoiled your coffee enjoyment and the fresh acids that can make coffee taste so special. It is no different with coffee than with other drinks or fruits. There are apples, for example, from green sour, which makes everything in your mouth contract, to pulpy papery without any acidity. Think for a moment what your favorite apple tastes like. We like Braeburn, for example - with a fresh, invigorating acidity and at the same time pleasantly sweet, but not too sweet.

Sour or bitter coffee?

Often it is difficult for us to tell if something is sour or bitter. But especially for you as barista and roaster it is important to know and taste the difference. Because you can influence both the roasting and the coffee making the balance of acid and bitterness. Test with a few acid resp. a few bitter foods and drinks, as they feel in the mouth, where on your tongue or in your mouth you taste them. Often bitterness tastes a bit dry and lingers longer in the mouth.

First assessment of acidity in coffee

Take a sip and spread it in your mouth.

  1. How pleasant is the acidty? Does it bother you? Or do you really like it because it has an invigorating and refreshing effect or something interesting about it?
  2. How intense is the acidity? Is it spreading in your mouth right now or is it just outshining everything else? Or is it very fine and mild?

How does the acid taste? What do you like?

Look at the wheel below and think about which of these characteristics you will enjoy in your coffee. And most of all - which ones do you like, which ones do not?

Typical acids in coffee

Citric acid

Citrus-like acid, reminiscent of orange, lime or sometimes grapefruit. For example, you often find these in Arabica coffees from higher elevations.

Malic acid

This acid is reminiscent of apple or pear. She is a bit sweet and crispy. Often she also remembers drupes.

Phosphoric acid

This can further express the sweetness in coffee. Tropical fruits like mangoes are typical representatives of this acidity.

Acetic acid

This is vinegar-like acidity. So certainly not what you want in large quantities in your coffee. But to a lesser extent, it can have a pleasant subtle sharpness or the kick of lime-like flavours.

Tartaric acid

These acids are typically in grapes and can lead to vinous or grape-like notes in coffee.

Chlorogenic acid

This acid is to a large extent responsible for how strongly we perceive the acidity in our coffee. It is significantly reduced in the roasting.

Acid in the coffee and stomach problems

In fact, it is not the acids that cause stomach burns in individuals when they drink coffee. Current research shows that these are components of coffee oils (so-called C5HT's). These stimulate the stomach acid, which can lead to stomach burning. If you have problems with it, you can try caffeine-free coffee or roast the coffee dark.

Acidity effect in coffee

Already in the selection of the green coffee you influence the acid in the coffee: Arabica generally brings more acid than Robusta, highland coffee more than lowland coffee, East African varieties more than Brazilian. When roasting, it is quite simple: the acidity decreases with the roasting. The darker you roast your coffee, the lower the acidity - but beware, with the second crack bitterness builds up again, which you probably even less like the acid. 

In addition, you take in the preparation of coffee great influence on acidity and bitterness.

The coffee is too sour if you:

  • use too acidic water
  • have ground too coarse and the coffee flows through too short (bottom extraction)
  • use too little coffee
  • set the water temperature too low

The coffee is too bitter if you:

  • have ground too finely and the coffee flows through too slowly (over-extraction)
  • use too much coffee
  • set the water too hot
  • have not cleaned the espresso machine for too long

Ingo Albrecht Kaffee

More questions? We're here for you.

Do you have any further questions about the roaster? I'm a trained roaster and a member of the Specialty Coffee Association and the Roasters Guild of Europe, working with the machine every day. Please contact me at any time.

Telephone +41 76 261 97 17 or Email ingo[at]

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