The Ultimate Coffee Glossary


The acidity of coffee typically means the flavour compounds present which give the brew an acidic taste.

What is the definition of ‘acidity’ in coffee?

When coffee acidity is mentioned, it is in reference to specific flavour compounds present in the coffee beans. This includes citric acid or tartaric acid, which can impart wonderful notes to the coffee. These acidic notes are more commonly found in light-roasted single-origin coffees.

Acid is one of the four basic tastes.

Instead of referring to the acidity in coffee, these flavour compounds will be referenced. Citric or tartaric acids, for example, may be present in coffee beans. These flavours can be lovely, and they are more commonly found in light-roasted single-origin coffees.

Which Beans Have Higher Acidity?

During the roasting process, a lot of flavours is developed in coffee. A chemical reaction occurs when green coffee beans are roasted, resulting in changes to the acid levels.
When the beans are heated, the acid concentration usually decreases as many acids degrade at higher temperatures, resulting in light-roasted coffee being more acidic than dark roasts, with exceptions.

What acids are present in coffee?

Acids are present in coffee beans in a variety of forms. Some acids are not able to survive the roasting process, while those listed below can endure the heat and contribute to a cup of coffee.
  • Citric acid
  • Phosphoric acid
  • Chlorogenic acid
  • Tartaric acid
  • Acetic acid
  • Malic acid
  • Quinic acid

Which Acids Are Sweet and Which Are Sour?

There are certain acids in coffee that are supposed to make it taste great, but sometimes they can taste awful. The way you prepare your coffee or the specific acids present in the coffee bean may be responsible for this bad flavour.
Citric Acid
Coffee flavoured with citric acid tends to be excellent, and Arabica beans contain citric acid. Because citric acid is found in citrus fruits such as lemons and oranges, it is the same substance.
Phosphate Acid
Phosphoric acid is a little sweeter than other types of acids, so it can remove sour notes.
Chlorogenic acids
These acids are the most responsible for the perceived acidity in coffee, and will usually be found in lighter roasted brews, as it degrades quickly during the roasting process.
Tartaric Acid
Too much tartaric acid in your coffee can make it taste sour, but the right amount will give you a slightly grapey-tasting brew.
Acetic Acid
Acetic acid is present in vinegar, so if there is too much of it in your morning cup of coffee, it will taste bad. A poor brew will have excess acetic acid, which will give each sip a nice sharpness. At lower levels, acetic acid adds a nice sharpness to each sip.
Malic Acid
Apples, peaches, pears, and plums have malic acid to thank for their fruity notes. It is usually pleasing in coffee.
Quinic Acid
As other acids degrade and disappear, quinic acid develops in coffee. It is commonly found in dark roasted coffee, after the other acids have been heated away. It also develops in stale coffee or coffee that was brewed and left in a warm location.
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