Is Cold Brew Coffee Less Acidic?

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Cold-water brewed coffee tastes different than hot-water brewed coffee, as you might expect. But is cold brew coffee less acidic?

Brewing coffee with cold water slows down the extraction process and alters the compounds that are drawn out of the grounds. Cold brew coffee has been found to have 66% less acidity and bitterness than hot brew coffee. Coffee can taste bitter even when brewed properly due to the presence of acids, but these acids are not extracted during the cold brewing process.

Is Cold Brew Coffee Less Acidic?

The acidity of cold brew coffee is lower than that of hot coffee. However, the gap is not nearly as wide as these studies make it out to be. Very little variation exists between pH values, and this will come as a surprise to you.

The difference between Cold Brew and Hot Brew in terms of acidity is not massive.

Acidity Of Cold Brew Vs Hot Brew Coffee

Cold brew coffee with ice
Image credit: iStock

Finding relevant scientific publications for this comparison required some online research. We found some helpful insights in a paper titled “Acidity and Antioxidant Activity of Cold Brew Coffee.”

Both Rao and Fuller, using light roasted coffees from Brazil, Ethiopia, and Colombia, compared the acidity and antioxidant content of cold brew and hot brew coffee.

The study found that while there was little variation in pH between hot and cold brews, the former had much higher CQA levels. What does this entail? In other words, pH measures how many of an acid’s protons have been removed from its molecules.

Since the pH of both cold and hot brewed coffee falls in the same range (4.9 to 5.1), there is little to no change in acidity between the two preparations. Unfortunately, it’s not quite that easy. In addition to the pH scale, there are other ways to gauge the acidity of a drink.

Caffeoylquinic acids (CQA) provide a more accurate measure of the overall acidity of coffee. The CQA values show that cold-brewed coffee is substantially less acidic than its hot-brewed counterpart.

The acidity of a coffee drink can be increased by brewing it at a higher temperature, as this helps to extract more non-deprotonated acids. Its titratable acidity is greater as well. As a result, these are the primary explanations for why hot coffee is more antioxidant-rich. So, contrary to popular belief, cold brew coffee is not significantly less acidic than hot coffee; rather, it is a lot gentler beverage with far fewer non-contaminating acids.

Acidity Of Cold Brew Coffee Vs Iced Coffee

Ice coffee drink in a glass
Image credit: Blake Wisz, Unsplash

A cup of cold brew coffee has less acids than an iced coffee. Icy coffee, as you may guess, is basically just regular coffee that has been cooled down. This is due to the shared process between making hot coffee and iced coffee.

Thus, iced coffee and hot coffee are rather comparable in terms of acidity. There’s a common misconception that iced coffee and cold brewed coffee are the same thing. The answer is no.

In contrast to iced coffee, which is typically either normal coffee or instant coffee served cold with a few ice cubes, cold brew coffee is produced in a different way. Cold brew coffee, in contrast to iced coffee, has a lower acidity.

Is Cold Brew Better For Acid Reflux?

Coffee drinkers typically recommend switching to cold brew if you get acid reflux as a result of drinking coffee.

People with acid reflux or gastrointestinal issues may find cold brew coffee more tolerable because of its lower acidity compared to its heated counterpart. Cold brew coffee is less acidic than regular coffee because the acidic molecules have been protonated.

Not all acids are extracted during the cold brewing process like they are during the hot brewing process because of the lower temperature used during the cold brewing process. Some people may not enjoy the taste of hot brewed coffee because of the elevated acid content.

This issue can be completely sidestepped by using a cold brew concentrate to produce your beverage.

Brewing Less Acidic Cold Brew Coffee

That cold brew coffee concentrate has a lower acidity level than regular coffee is common knowledge. But how can one use the cold brew technique to produce a coffee that is less acidic?

This research suggests that using dark roasted coffee beans in cold brew coffee makes for a more balanced beverage. The study tested three different roast levels, from light to dark, and found that the darkest roasts were the most effective.

Make sure your coffee beans are dark roasted if you want them served iced. If you want even better results, you can buy a brand of dark roasted coffee beans and grind them yourself.

A second major realization is that the coffee beans’ grind size is not a crucial issue. They tried both fine and coarse beans, but neither worked very well.

The Bottom Line

So is cold brew coffee less acidic? If you prefer lower acidity coffee, then cold brew might be the right choice for you. Your smooth-tasting cold brew can have all the benefits of hot coffee without stomach burns. And for the sweetest and lowest acidic cold brew, you might want to go with a dark roast!


Featured image credit: iStock