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If you suffer from acid reflux, is low acid coffee ok?
Which are the best low acid coffee brands in 2021? Read on to find out more about coffee and low acid coffee, and whether they could be a pain or comforter for reflux sufferers.
Here are the quick takeaways:
- Coffee is a trigger food for many with acid reflux and gerd. Coffee may relax the valve between stomach and food pipe BUT a review of a number of studies showed there was no significant association between coffee and acid reflux (Ref 1 below).
- One small study found that the amount of reflux created by the decaffeination of coffee is less than regular coffee (Ref 2 below).
- Research has shown that dark roasted coffee actually blocks the production of stomach acid.(Ref 3 below).
- Coffee has been shown to have a number of health benefits (Ref 6 below).
- A small study suggested that specially prepared “low acid” coffee does not avoid heartburn in sufferers (Ref 4 below).
- However, it’s important to bear in mind that everyone is different – the best low acid coffee brands worked well for some people with reflux.
Read on below below to find out more…
Night time reflux? Read how to avoid it here
A cup of coffee – Is it the first thing you think about in the morning? For millions it is, but for those of us who suffer heartburn, acid reflux or even gerd (gord), we often think twice before reaching for the coffee pot.
Coffee frequently appears as a heartburn trigger food which is to be avoided by anyone prone to this condition. But what is it that gives it this reputation, and in practice is it deserved – would, after all, a cup of something which gives so much pleasure to many offset momentarily the misery of having to live with acid reflux on a frequent basis?
If coffee is such a bringer of pleasure, could you reduce the risks of heartburn through brewing low acid coffee, and if so which are the best low acid coffee brands to buy?
Conventional wisdom suggests that coffee (and tea for that matter) are bad if you suffer from acid reflux and gerd. Caffeine relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), thus allowing acidic stomach contents to flow into the esophagus.
Also, coffee is described as an acidic food, adding to the acidity in the stomach and therefore possibly acting as a heartburn trigger.
A study published in Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics (Ref 3 below) found that drinking regular (caffeinated) coffee led to significant reflux effects whilst the decaffeination of coffee significantly reduced reflux symptoms.
However, a Stanford University study evaluated medical reports published from 1975 to 2004. The study found no scientific evidence to support the contention that eliminating coffee helps to avoid reflux. Another study published in the European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology also found that caffeinated coffee had no effect on acid reflux.
The other thing to bear in mind is the overall beneficial effects of coffee, a number of which have been supported by research, which are largely rooted in the antioxidants it contains. For example there is evidence to suggest it helps you burn fat, lower the risk of Type 2 diabetes, and is associated with a lower incidence of dementia, Alzheimers, Parkinsons and some forms of cancer. See ref 6. below.
What the Stamford study also found was that a component called N-methylpyridium (NMP) blocks the production of stomach acid. NMP does not occur naturally in the bean, and only appears when the beans are roasted; darker-roasted coffees contain a greater amount of NMP, which means espresso, French roast, and other dark-roasted brews may actually be less irritating to the stomach. (See reference 3 below)
Nevertheless, whether that translates into fewer incidents of heartburn, is another matter – less acid in the stomach doesn’t necessarily translate into less acid in the esophagus (though this is exactly how acid blockers such as Protein Pump Inhibitors work).
Low Acid Coffee
But what about low acid coffee? This is coffee which has been roasted for an extended time, called conduction roasting, to the point where the chlorogenic acid in the coffee bean is reduced or even removed. Whilst that may seem a good thing, it is important to bear in mind that chlorogenic acid is an antioxidant, and its removal or reduction may reduce the beneficial effects of coffee.
But what about the impact of low acid coffee blends on heartburn?
What evidence there is relating to low acid coffee and heartburn has been recently reviewed on Nutrition Facts (Ref 4 Below).
A small study (Ref 4 at the end of this article) suggested that specially prepared “low acid” coffee does not avoid heartburn in sufferers.
But, it was a small study, and you only have to take a look at the Heartburn forums and Facebook pages devoted to acid reflux to see that one man’s poison is another’s nectar.
We looked at the best brands of low acid coffee to see the user feedback, assuming that those buying such coffee would be more likely to suffer from stomach complaints in general, and heartburn in particular. There were certainly a lot of supporters for low acid brands.
The Best Low Acid Coffee Brands
There are now a number of brands of low acid coffee on the market, all with varying levels of acidity. A study (Ref 5 below) performed by a coffee roaster, Mavericks, tested the various brands – the acid content is summarised in this graph:
We’ve looked at the brands with the best user feedback on Amazon. These are set out below.
Remember that the darker roasts, of any brand, tend to have a higher proportion of the acid blocking NMP, mentioned above.
Also, decaffeinated coffee has been shown to reduce the incidence of reflux.
Here are the best low acid coffee brands we found. They all had 4 out of 5 stars and above at Amazon at the time of writing:
- Lucy Jo’s Coffee, Organic Mellow Belly Low Acid Blend, Ground
- trücup Low Acid Coffee, Whole Bean, Stuck in the Middle, 12 Ounce
- HealthWise Low Acid Swiss Water Decaffeinated Coffee, 12 Ounce
- Simpatico Low Acid Coffee – Regular – Medium – Ground (2 pound bag)
- Mavericks Low Acid Coffee – Organic Coffee – Ground 16 oz
- Puroast Low Acid Coffee House Blend Drip Grind, 2.5-Pound
I decided to test the Puroast Low Acid Coffee House Blend Drip Grind, 2.5-Pound coffee which boasts that it has 70% less acid than other coffees, and 7 times more antioxidants than green tea. The coffee is produced using a special, unspecified, roasting technique which results in a low acidity and high antioxidant level.
I chose the Dark French Roast to test. The 12 oz / 340 g packet displays a bright, Mexican style design, which hints at the origin of the coffee beans used in the production.
Usefully, it sports a metal band around the top which facilitates a virtual airtight seal after opening.
Once open, the smell exhibits all the headiness of that usual intoxicating coffee aroma. Preparing the brew according to the instructions on the packet (simply 2 tablespoons for each cup in a cafetiere or filter) the coffee produces a rich, deep flavor with a hint of nuttiness. There is no suggestion of bitterness and the aftertaste has a characteristic creamy taste. The overall impression is of a full flavor coffee with a satisfying taste, easily holding its own with the best of ground coffees I’ve tried.
But what about the acid test – what were the after effects of the coffee on digestion? Well, for me, the experience was entirely positive – it wasn’t a heartburn trigger. I didn’t experience any symptoms of acid reflux or heartburn as a result of sampling this coffee on a number of occasions, and I will certainly add it to my collection of reflux aids.
In my view, the take away from this is pretty simple: drink coffee if it doesn’t regularly trigger heartburn, and make it a dark, rich blend. If it does cause acid reflux symptoms, try a decaffeinated or a low acid blend, or enjoy a cup less frequently – but you’ll have to be careful if your reflux symptoms persist. The best low acid coffee blends clearly pass muster among their users, so give one of those a try.