Morning coffee and acid reflux

Suffering from acid reflux? Read this before you point the finger at your breakfast coffee…


Coffee often finds itself in the firing line when we start talking about stomach acid. We blame it for causing acid reflux and bringing about yucky symptoms like heartburn and bloating. But is your early morning coffee really responsible? And can you reduce acidity after drinking coffee?

We’re on the case!


Mini cafetiere sitting on open copy of The Times beside blue butter dish and bowl of Weetabix with raspberries


Drinking coffee in the morning

We all like a coffee in the morning. It’s our sippable alarm clock, the get-up-an-go elixir that sees us out the door. What’s its secret? Why does coffee wake us up in a way that, say, cornflakes, just don’t?

Let us introduce you to adenosine. By decreasing the rate at which nerve cells fire, this important body chemical makes us feel sleepy. The shape of caffeine molecules is pretty similar to that of adenosine molecules. This doppelganger likeness means the caffeine can bond with the brain receptors instead of adenosine. Caffeine gives nerve cells a boost rather than putting them on slow-mo and this, coffee lovers, is why your morning coffee wakes you up.


sunrise over coffee farm in Brazil


Coffee and (buuurp…) acid reflux

Even though caffeine gives us that vital morning boost, some coffee lovers are still a bit wary about sipping it in the morning. This is all down to the common finger-pointing that blames coffee for acid reflux and upset stomachs which are, some say, made worse by drinking your joe.

Acids are essential for digestion. Whatever you’re eating – chocolate drops? A chippy tea? – you need acids to break food down. When you take a bite, a valve snazzily named the lower oesophagal sphincter opens up to allow the food (or drink) to travel from your oesophagus into your stomach. The valve closes after it’s passed through. Acid reflux describes the not-very-nice sensation of stomach acid coming back up through the throat.

For some people, coffee might exacerbate acid reflux because it can trigger the production of stomach acid. There have also been suggestions that coffee makes the lower oesophagal sphincter go a bit lax and not close fully, which allows the acid to come back into your oesophagus.

Chemex coffee maker beside three bags of Two Chimp coffee


Does coffee cause acid reflux?

Despite the blame game, experts have found no definite link between coffee drinking and gastrointestinal issues. It very much depends on how your body responds to acidic foods. Any food with a pH under seven is considered acidic, so anything from tomatoes to zingy grapefruit could trigger acid reflux. And coffee, just so you know, has an acidity level somewhere between 4.85 and 5.13.

Acid reflux is a diagnosable condition (it’s called Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD) which can’t be caused by coffee, but might be triggered by it. But it might also be set off by tomatoes. Or alcohol. Or chocolate. Or… It just depends on the person. We’re all youuu-nique!


Close up of double shot of espresso pouring into red coffee mug


Will drinking coffee on an empty stomach make acid reflux worse?

Should you drink coffee on an empty stomach? Or should you wait ‘till after your toast?

Some say yes, you should wait, because there are no other foods in an empty stomach to stop the acids from damaging the stomach lining. However, no hard-and-fast scientific evidence exists to prove this theory. It depends much more on you and your body. If you’ve been drinking coffee on an empty stomach for years without a trace of burpiness, then you’re probably just fine to continue as you are!


Two Chimps barista spooning coffee grounds into glass jar


What is the best time to drink coffee?

What time is coffee o’clock? To answer this question, we’re going to sidestep from acids and oesophagi and take a look at a hormone called cortisol. It’s the body’s primary stress hormone and controls mood, fear and focus. Cortisol is at its highest level around 30 minutes after we wake up, meaning that this is the time when our bodies are naturally most alert. I know it might not feel like it when you’re on yawn no. 36, but this morning peak means that we are most alert during the first hour after the alarm pings.

As such, scientists suggest that it might be better to have a mid-morning coffee rather than a just-got-outta-bed cup. Try shifting your first coffee to around 10am, when your cortisol levels have started to dip, and see what happens… you might make that caffeine boost even better!

Bag of Two Chimps coffee besides Chemex and swan neck kettle


Drinking coffee on a FULL stomach

Coffee on an empty stomach giving you a funny tummy? Then you’ll want to know the best breakfast foods to eat with coffee.

First off, why not try breaking the fast with some alkaline or less acidic foods to reduce the overall acidity of your meal? Healthy breakfast foods like avocado and eggs (especially the whites) can be a top alkaline pairing to coffee and will help to take the acidity down a notch. Fibre-rich wholegrain foods like brown bread and porridge can also help to combat the symptoms of acid reflux. We see avo on toast coming on…

Embrace a milk moustache and include some calcium in your breakfast, too. This will help to neutralize stomach acid and the acid found naturally in your coffee. We all know that milk and yoghurt are high in calcium, but did you know that almonds, kale, chia seeds and malted brown bread are also good sources?

comparison of acidity levels in coffee and different foods


Solve the burps with low acid coffee

You’re still suffering from acid reflux and avocados aren’t coming to the rescue. But you don’t want to give up your morning cup (obviously). No fear – try choosing low acid coffee instead!

Beans with low levels of acidity can be some of the best coffees for acid reflux. Look out for darker roasts rather than bright, fruity light roasts and coffees grown at lower altitudes, too. Commodity coffee farmers often grow robusta beans at very low altitudes, and we’d never recommend these bitter-tasting beans for your cup. Why not try a medium-altitude coffee instead? Look out for coffee grown at around 900 – 1200 m (3,000 – 4,000 ft) – beans from Brazil or Bouma are often grown at medium altitudes.


coffee cherries in the sun


Like cold brew? Great news! Cold brew coffee sports a low acidity that’s kind to sensitive tums. Cold brew coffee can be up to 70% less acidic than its hot brewed cousins, making it great for acid reflux sufferers or those who prefer a naturally sweet taste. Or those who just want to cool down…

pouring cold brew from mizudashi cold brew coffee pot into latte glass


So, is coffee really the cause of acid reflux?

No! Lovely coffee won’t ‘create’ acid reflux or upset stomachs. Acid reflux and GERD are underlying conditions that can be triggered by a number of different foods and drinks, coffee being just one of them.

It very much depends on the individual. If your morning coffee is causing some cheeky symptoms, try a low-acidic option, some tummy-lovin’ alkaline foods or breaking the fast before your first first.

Plenty of solutions, so you can keep enjoying your coffee!


Two Chimps coffee mug on coffee sack



Want to learn more about the health benefits of coffee? Hit the link below!


Coffee Health Benefits


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