Heartburn Concerns to Consider When Drinking Coffee
1) Coffee Contains Caffeine
Caffeine is a heartburn trigger that can relax the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) allowing acid to reflux into the esophagus causing heartburn.
There are many ways to drink coffee from black to any number of specialty offerings. It’s somewhat difficult to judge how much caffeine they contain. The brew times, the darkness of the roast, and the coarseness of the grind factor into caffeine levels. The Mayo Clinic has adapted a list that can help us understand the caffeine levels in standard coffees.1
|Coffee Type||Size||Caffeine Level|
|Brewed||8 oz.||95 – 200 mg|
|Brewed – Decaf||8 oz.||2 – 12 mg|
|Brewed – Single-Serve||8 oz.||75 – 150 mg|
|Brewed – Decaf – Single-Serve||8 oz.||2 – 4 mg|
|Espresso||1 oz.||47 – 75 mg|
|Espresso – Decaf||1 oz.||0 – 15 mg|
|Instant||8 oz.||27 – 173 mg|
|Instant – Decaf||8 oz.||2 – 12 mg|
|Specialty – Latte, Mocha, etc||8 oz.||63 – 175 mg|
Different roast types have different caffeine levels. Darker roasts have lesser caffeine levels. Light roasts have the most caffeine. If you are having trouble with heartburn after drinking coffee, it might be due to the caffeine level. To reduce your chances of heartburn, try one of the following:
- Darker roast
- Roast type with less caffeine
- Half-caff blend
2) Coffee is acidic
Being acidic, coffee can contribute to acid in the stomach.
There are 4 things to consider when trying to determine the acidity levels:
- Some beans have naturally low acid levels.
- Some companies make lower acid coffee by chemically altering the bean or by putting antacids into them.
- Dark roast has slightly less acid.
- Cold brew has up to 65% less acidic.
If you want to lower your acid intake in order to lower acid levels in the stomach or to balance your body’s pH, drinking a brew with a lower acid content might be preferable.
3) N-methylpyridium Levels in Coffee
Don’t worry. I’ll keep this simple. There is a chemical produced when roasting coffee called N-methylpyridium (NMP). Scientists have discovered that NMP has the ability to block the stomach from producing hydrochloric acid (HCl). Higher NMP levels could provide a way to reduce or avoid acid irritation.
NMP levels are significantly higher in darker roasts, though levels vary depending on the variety of bean and the method used to roast the beans.2
4) Coffee Oils
- Coffee oils are destroyed during longer roast times.
- Solvents in the decaffeination process are used to dissolve caffeine-containing oils.
- The coffee flavors are in the oils. If you remove coffee oils, you will remove many of the delicate flavors that may have otherwise been found.
- Oil, in general, can cause slower digestion leading to acid buildup in the stomach. It’s not likely that the amount of coffee oil in a cup of coffee is overly significant in comparison to fatty processed meats, but it is worth consideration.
If you are looking for a coffee with less oil, dark roasts and decaffeinated are best.
If you are a java drinker like me, you might consider your reason for drinking it. Is it the caffeine to keep you going, the taste, habit, or other? Coffee is one of the heartburn triggers, but if you adjust the roast or how you drink it you may significantly reduce your chance of acid reflux and heartburn.
I’ve cut back on my intake significantly during my quest to avoid heartburn. I’m lucky to prefer the taste of darker roasts. But I do drink caffeinated to keep from nodding off in the morning. It might not be the best choice, but dark roasts are better than most.
- Mayo Clinic “Nutrition and healthy eating”
- American Chemical Society “Brewing up a gentler java: Dark-roasted coffee contains stomach-friendly ingredient”