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What is low-acid coffee, and how is it made?

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Quick Answer

Low-acid coffee is coffee that contains higher levels of a compound called N-methylpyridinium that reduces the production of stomach acid. Low-acid coffee is usually made by steaming the coffee beans or chemically treating the beans prior to roasting, and then roasting the beans until they are nearly black in color.

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Full Answer

Regular-roast and light-roast coffees contain high levels of caffeine and the plant compounds catechols and N-alkanoly-5-hydroxytryptamides that increase the production of stomach acid. Low-acid, dark-roasted coffees contain these same compounds but less caffeine and have higher levels of N-methylpyridinium, which causes stomach cells to produce less acid, explains Rodale News. The longer coffee beans are roasted, the darker they become and the higher the levels of N-methylpyridinium. In addition to roasting coffee beans until they are very dark, manufacturers of low-acid coffees treat the raw beans with steam or chemical solvents, such as ethyl acetate or dichloromethane, before roasting the coffee beans.

If coffees that are labeled low-acid are unavailable, individuals who suffer from stomach acid should select the darkest roast coffee possible to minimize excess acid production. Common names for dark roasts are French-roast and Spanish-roast. Decaffeinated dark-roasted coffees are also available for persons who experience stomach irritation from the low levels of caffeine in dark-roast coffees.

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