Acidity

acidity scale
acidity scale

Acidity is a positive flavor attribute in coffee, also referred to as brightness or liveliness. It adds a brilliance to the cup, whereas low acid coffees can seem flat. Acidity can sound unattractive. People may relate acidity to stomach discomfort, or to sour flavors. This would be confusing the flavor of acidity with its effect though: cheap commercial Robusta has much higher acidity than even the brightest, arabica that has a flavor acidic snap to it.

The acidity in good high-grown arabicas imbues the cup with delicate flavor accents, complexity, and dimension. Good acidity is fleetingly volatile, a momentary sensation, giving effervescence to the cup, and informing the mouthfeel as well.

Coffees with no acidity can taste flat. Acidity is not about quantity, it is about quality, and good coffees have a complex balance of many types of acidity: malic, citric, acetic, phosphoric, quinic, to name a few … and a whole set of chlorogenic acids that are very important to flavor experience as well. Kenyas, which by flavor are some of the higher acid coffees, actually have measurably less than Brazil arabicas (of quinic and citric acids), more of others (malic, phosphoric) and far less than some robusta coffees (chlorogenic acids)!

Dark roasts tend to flatten out acidity in flavor. But contrary to the taste, darker roasts have more acidity than lighter roasts. So quantity does not always follow perception. Acidity in coffee might be described by terms like bright, clear, effervescent, snappy, dry, clean, winey, etc. Coffees without acidity tend to taste flat and dull, like flat soda. Acidity is to coffee what dryness is to wine, in a sense.

Different coffee origins will possess different kinds of acidity; like the wine-like high notes of some African coffees versus the crisp clear notes of high grown coffees from the Americas. Unpleasant acidic flavors may register as sourness.

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