Acidity is a wonderful but slippery term to try to get to grips with. Though often unfairly boxed in with connotations of ‘sourness’ or ‘bitterness’, the natural acidity found in coffee is actually the unsung hero in creating the bold spectrum of far-out flavors in your cup. When cultivated correctly, acids can add brightness, zeal and imagination to your cup, helping to tell the true story of the coffee you’re drinking and illuminate all of the vibrant characteristics of its origin.
It’s exactly this versatile, non-conformist nature of acid that we celebrate and champion at Minor Figures, and why we specially formulate our Oat M*lk to not just compliment, but elevate it. But what exactly do we mean by acidity?
For starters, we’re not talking about the actual pH level of coffee – although it generally ranges from around 4.5 to 6 on the pH scale, making it slightly less acidic than beer, wine and orange juice, if you really want to know. What we actually mean here is the complex and subtle layers of tastes, textures and aromas that together make up what we call the ‘profile’ of a cup. This psychedelic take on our flavor wheel below should help to visualize this spectrum.
There are over thirty acids found organically in coffee that each have their own special part to play in this multi-sensory kaleidoscope, but there are a few key players that enjoy more time in the spotlight.
Citric As its name suggests, this prominent acid is the same found in lemons, limes and oranges, and accounts for the distinct, citrusy tastes and aromas found in certain coffees, particularly those from East Africa, such as Kenya and Ethiopia. Citric acids are found in large supplies in green coffee, and are steadily reduced during the roasting process.
Acetic Also found in vinegar, acetic acids are created during the processing and roasting stages, and in low quantities help contribute to a sharp, clean cup.
Malic This acid helps create a tart and juicy feel to your coffee, and is also found in apples and pears – it’s the reason an unripe apple tastes so sour. It can also contribute to stone fruit flavors, such as peaches and plums. It’s created from the very beginning of a coffee plant’s life-cycle.
Lactic Though the name might bring back painful memories of sports day sprints, lactic acid helps to bring a soothing, creamy texture to your cup, and is created during the fermentation process.
Phosphoric This type of acid is inorganic, or mineral, and is added during the fertilization stage and increased through roasting. Just the right levels can give your cup a sparkling sensation, and when reacting with other acids can create new flavors, such as blackberry or even mango.
All of this, of course, is not to say that more is always better. There is a subtle balance and interplay that is carefully considered at each stage of the production process, from growing and harvesting to roasting and brewing. Some acids are encouraged and elevated, whilst others are quashed and softened. It’s exactly in this sweet spot that we as specialty coffee lovers get high on acids and look to enhance when we make our Oat M*lk, using as few ingredients as possible and leaving out anything that might put a dampener on the party.
See the new High on Acids merch collection here.