5 Coffee Hacks for Acid Reflux Sufferers
For everyone that deals with reflux there are a number of really frustrating limitations to what you can eat or drink. Unfortunately, many times the food and drinks that trigger reflux are things we love (I’m looking at you wine and cheese). I’ve talked to so many people who have said some version of “If I could just eat/drink that one thing I’d be sooo happy!”. For me that one thing is coffee. I don’t drink a ton of it, but I definitely drink it every day and every stinking day I get hit with that burning sensation we’re all familiar with. Even as I’m drinking it I’m thinking to myself “Happy now, sad later”.
There are a couple of reasons that coffee can cause reflux.
Number one: caffeine can cause the Lower Esophageal Sphincter to relax which can allow acid to back up.
Number two: the high acidity of coffee can cause your already acidic stomach to produce MORE acid. It can be really difficult to figure out which mechanism is affecting you, but experimenting is the key.
So, I started doing some research into coffee alternatives and coffee hacks that may help me keep my favorite morning routine without paying a price.
Ok, let’s talk about a few non-coffee options. If you’re a coffee snob (raising my hand), then these may not be for you, but they may be a great option to keep you in a coffee-adjacent routine without the heartburn.
Tea can be a great switch for some people looking to address both acidity and caffeine, but it’s not as simple as that. Different teas have very different levels of acidity and caffeine. Three main categories of tea are black, green, and herbal. Black tea has roughly half the caffeine of coffee, but only slightly less acidity. Green tea has about ¼ of the caffeine and is slightly alkaline, which is great in terms of acidity. Herbal teas are caffeine free and usually neutral acidity, but watch out for anything with lemon or rosehips- major acidity!!
Chicory has a long and interesting history of use as a coffee replacer. First popularized in France during an 1800’s era coffee shortage, it was a staple during the American civil war, and today still remains a New Orleans specialty. When dried and roasted the chicory root has a flavor very similar to coffee, but often described as “nuttier and earthier”. Chicory is caffeine free and a source of a fiber called inulin, a type of prebiotic that promotes the growth of healthy gut bacteria. So, chicory tastes like coffee AND has gut health properties? Win, win!!
Yes, indeed. There are quite a few companies out there right now blending mushrooms with such ingredients as cacao, decaf coffee, maca, and tea for a flavorful, caffeinated and healthy coffee drink. For the most part these blends are low acid and come in different levels of caffeine strength, but you may have to do some experimenting with different brands to see what suits you.
Ok, enough of this non-coffee nonsense, if you’ve read this far you want the good stuff. You want to drink REAL coffee that tastes like REAL coffee and makes you feel like REAL coffee is supposed to make you feel, right? Unfortunately, it's not that easy. But, there are a few hacks that may allow you to have your coffee and drink it too.
Hack #1: Buy low acidity coffee.
Different coffee beans and different roasts can have wildly varying amounts of acidity. Here’s why: coffee beans are only as acidic as the soil they were grown in. Beans harvested in high elevation volcanic soil tend to be much higher in acidity. Think Guatemala, Peru, and Ethiopia. So, conversely, coffee grown at lower altitudes like Brazil, Hawaii, or Costa Rica will tend to have lower acidity. Be aware- low altitude beans have a different flavor than their more elevated cousins.
Hack #2: Try a dark roast
For some reason this is the opposite of what it seems like should be true, but here’s what happens: As coffee is dark roasted it develops a chemical compound called NMP and two other compounds C5HT and CGA begin to decrease. Researchers found that the balance of higher NMP and lower C5HT and CGA caused the stomach to produce less acid. Science, right?!
Hack #3: Change up your brew method
Different styles of brewing can reduce the acidity released from the beans. Temperature seems to be a big difference maker here with Aeropress and drip style brewing at lower temperatures and thus releasing less acidity. For the lowest acid cup consider cold brew. This simple method creates a beautiful nuanced flavor with almost 70% less acidity than hot brewed coffees.
Hack #4: Pay attention the the water
If the main ingredient in coffee is water, let’s be sure we’re using the good stuff. Sometimes tap waters are pH adjusted at levels that are above the neutral range. A simple home filtration system can ensure that your water isn’t already acidic before you start adding coffee to it.
Hack #5: Try something weird
Here are a couple weird things that are proven to reduce coffee’s natural acidity:
1. Add a couple crushed egg shells to the grounds before you brew. Seriously! The alkaline nature of egg shells is known to offset the pH of the mix and result in a lower acid brew. One note, you definitely want to make sure they’ve been washed so there isn’t any “eggy” flavor. Ew.