Heartburn Concerns to Consider When Drinking Coffee
1) Coffee Contains Caffeine
Coffee contains caffeine, 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
|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. Dark roast coffee has lower caffeine levels than light roast coffee or medium roast coffee. Light roast coffee has the most caffeine. If you’re 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:
- Dark roast coffee
- Low acid coffee
- Half-caff coffee
- Decaf coffee
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 acid levels:
- Some beans have naturally low acid levels which make for great low acid coffee.
- Some companies make low acid coffee by chemically altering the bean or by putting antacids into them.
- Dark roast coffee has slightly lower acid levels.
- Cold brew coffee has up to 65% less acid.
If you want to lower your acid intake in order to lower stomach acid levels or to balance your body’s pH, drinking coffee with lower acid levels would 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 dark roast coffee, though levels vary depending on the variety of coffee bean and the method used to roast the beans.2
4) Coffee Oil Levels
- Coffee oil is 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 the coffee oil, you will remove many of the delicate flavors that may have otherwise been found.
- Oil, in general, can cause slower digestion leading to an 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 roast coffee, and decaf coffee are best.
If you love coffee like I do, 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 heartburn and acid reflux issues.
I’ve cut back on my intake significantly during my quest to avoid heartburn. I’m lucky to prefer the taste of dark roast coffee, but I do drink caffeinated low acid coffee to keep from nodding off in the morning. Caffeinated might not be the best choice, but my choice of dark roast low acid coffee is far better than most.
1) Mayo Clinic Staff. “Caffeine content for coffee, tea, soda and more.” Mayo Clinic, April 14, 2017.
2) “Brewing up a gentler java: Dark-roasted coffee contains stomach-friendly ingredient.” American Chemical Society, March 21, 2010.