Science of Coffee: What is acidity?

Why acids can make or break your coffee drinking experience

by Renee Frechin | December 21, 2016
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Acidity is the tanginess or tartness of a coffee. It’s a lively palate-cleansing characteristic you’ll taste and feel on the sides and tip of your tongue, and sometimes the back of your tongue or jawbone, like when you taste citrus fruits. Coffees with high acidity are described as bright, tangy and crisp with a clean finish. Low-acidity coffees feel smooth in your mouth.

Understanding what makes coffee acidic and how acids influence flavor can help you learn which coffees are most likely to make your taste buds happy. We asked Starbucks coffee experts Renee Frechin and Lennon Fediw to help us learn more with this coffee chemistry lesson.

In the Details

If you’re curious to know which specific acids are affecting your palate, the primer below will satisfy your inner scientist. 

Citric Acid: Lemon, orange, grapefruit notes.
Phosphoric Acid: Tastes sweeter than most acids; can turn sour-tasting grapefruit too sweet.
Malic Acid: Essences of stone fruit, apple or pear.
Chlorogenic Acid: Largely responsible for coffee’s perceived acidity, high levels in light roasts make them taste “bright” and acidic.
Acetic Acid: Found in vinegar, low levels are pleasant, but high levels create a bitter bite.
Tartaric Acid: Grape or wine-like at low levels, sour if concentration is too high.
Quinic Acid: Can give coffee a clean finish, but too much can taste sour and highly astringent.
If you’re curious to know which specific acids are affecting your palate, the primer below will satisfy your inner scientist.

Citric Acid: Lemon, orange, grapefruit notes.
Phosphoric Acid: Tastes sweeter than most acids; can turn sour-tasting grapefruit too sweet.
Malic Acid: Essences of stone fruit, apple or pear.
Chlorogenic Acid: Largely responsible for coffee’s perceived acidity, high levels in light roasts make them taste “bright” and acidic.
Acetic Acid: Found in vinegar, low levels are pleasant, but high levels create a bitter bite.
Tartaric Acid: Grape or wine-like at low levels, sour if concentration is too high.
Quinic Acid: Can give coffee a clean finish, but too much can taste sour and highly astringent.

In the Details

If you’re curious to know which specific acids are affecting your palate, the primer below will satisfy your inner scientist.

Citric Acid: Lemon, orange, grapefruit notes.
Phosphoric Acid: Tastes sweeter than most acids; can turn sour-tasting grapefruit too sweet.
Malic Acid: Essences of stone fruit, apple or pear.
Chlorogenic Acid: Largely responsible for coffee’s perceived acidity, high levels in light roasts make them taste “bright” and acidic.
Acetic Acid: Found in vinegar, low levels are pleasant, but high levels create a bitter bite.
Tartaric Acid: Grape or wine-like at low levels, sour if concentration is too high.
Quinic Acid: Can give coffee a clean finish, but too much can taste sour and highly astringent.

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Acids in Coffee Are Your Friends

Whether you prefer the tang of pronounced acidity or a more mellow, low acidic coffee, the bottom line is that acids are an important, positive part of every coffee drinking experience. To figure out which levels of acidity and associated flavor profiles suit you, choose a roast and learn about proper brewing methods. Talk to your Starbucks barista to get recommendations, and have fun experimenting until you find the flavors that fit.

Share This Article December 21, 2016 | 1912pike.com
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