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Non-acid coffee


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Hi all,

We are having trouble finding good coffee.

Since Starbucks invented over-roasted, bitter, coffee for the masses we cannot locate a source for a non-acid, smooth brew. I remember having such a thing in French ($$$) restaurants a long time ago, but not any more, as people demand the stronger beverage.

We have a Capresso drip coffee maker, so it's not an equiment issue.

Does anyone share our taste? Any ideas? We're assuming it'll be an online supplier...

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You really want to look at varietals of coffee themselves as opposed to vendor in terms of acidity. Both Kona and Jamican Blue Mountain are relatively low in acid compared to other varietals. You want 100 percent in those cases, not blends with them, and unfortunately they aren't cheap either. They are also some of the best varietals you can buy, in my opinion. Light roasting your coffee as opposed to espresso or french roasting them is also going to result in less acid.

This site lists acidity levels for other varietals, your mileage may vary.


In addition to pursuing lower acid varietals themselves there are some companies that use proprietary roasting processses to lower the acid, such as these guys:



Edited by Jason Perlow (log)

Jason Perlow, Co-Founder eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

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The proprietary roasting process that supposedly reduces the acidity of the coffee by a significant degree is questionable. If I recall correctly the claims made by the companies involved have been debunked. I'll nose around tonight when I find time and post a link to the article or discussion.

Coffee in general is not as inherently acidic as some people think - it has a much lower acid content than... for example... orange juice. But for some reason the type of acidity it has seems to affect suspsceptible people in a noticeable way - especially those with any acid reflux issues.

Possible avenues to pursue

1) Indonesian coffee in general and particularly Sulawesi have a much smoother lower acid flavor profile than central American and African coffees.

2) Properly made espresso has far less acid than drip coffee - you can mix it with hot water to make an Americano.

3) The Cold Brewed Coffee methods such as the Toddy system yield a concentrated extract that can be stored in the fridge and then mixed with hot water to yield an extremely low-acid brew.

4) Best of both worlds is most likely to try using the AeroPress Coffee Machine - a new press style device that uses a radically different concept to extract flavor than regular press pots - and the result is said to be very low acid.

When in doubt turn to an authority no less than Ken Davids of Coffeereview.com

whose comments include

  • * Try to find a coffee with the acid reduced through a process much like the ethyl acetate solvent decaffeination process. These coffees, treated in Germany, are marketed under the name special mild coffees. They are hard to find, do not offer much choice, and suffer from the same potential for flavor-diminution as decaffeinated beans.
    * Buy a moderately-dark- to dark-roasted coffee. Dark roasting reduces the acid sensation in coffee.
    * Buy a lower-altitude, naturally low-acid coffee brought to a moderately dark roast (full-city, Viennese, light espresso). To me, this is by far the best solution for acid-shy coffee drinkers. Naturally low-acid coffees include Brazils, most India and Pacific (Sumatra, Timor, Hawaii) coffees, and most Caribbean coffees.

It also helps to buy very good coffee, because the best coffee has been processed from ripe coffee fruit, and coffee from ripe fruit is naturally sweet and lacks the sharp, astringent sensation of cheaper coffee processed from less-than-ripe fruit.

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i second the suggestion of cold brewed or toddy coffee. they actually sell it in ready made concentrate, and lots of supermarkets have it. i use it mainly for iced coffee and it works amazingly well there. i have to say though that their presweetened ice coffee mix is way too sweet for my taste.

if you decide to make it yourself though its idiotproof, and their kit is quite cheap. it will make almost any coffee a lot less acidic so if thats what your looking for, just use your favorite coffee with a toddy cold brewed coffee maker

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It's also worth noting that simply chilling regular hot brewed coffeee does not. achieve the same effect. It's the cold brew process itself that yields the "acid" reduction. Also - chilled hot brewed coffee keeps well only for a day or so in the fridge before there's a noticeable reduction in the quality of the flavor profile whereas cold brew coffee, properly stored, is good for up to about one week.

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My wife and I have found we can't drink coffee made from almost any of Peet's beans without getting "acid stomach" after.


One country whose beans we have been enjoying lately, though, is Peru.

First discovered it when I mail ordered it on a whim from the nice folks at Ancora Coffee in Madison, WI. We have since tried it from a few other places, and have so far found it to be a pleasant well rounded cup.



Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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I find that I do much better with Terrior brand (they sell it at Whole Foods). They have descriptions of the beans on the bag and I focus on the mild or mellow types. I also like Barrie House brand (they sell it in the bins at my local market). Decaf is much gentler on my stomach (although it lacks the flavor of regular). In terms of technique to improve the acid response, I find that my stomach likes coffee made using espresso (just make a shot of strong espresso and cut it with almost boiling water) or French press made coffee much more than percolated or drip coffee. I have no idea why that would make a difference but it does. I would speculate that there is less caffeine in those processes but I'm not sure. Good luck and happy testing.

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Well, I have a lot to chew on.

I had been resisting the Kona/Blue Mountain purchase, not only because of the $$ but because it smelled of marketing hype, but I guess it's time for experimenting.

I'll report back!

Thanks to all

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Well, I have a lot to chew on.

I had been resisting the Kona/Blue Mountain purchase, not only because of the $$ but because it smelled of marketing hype, but I guess it's time for experimenting.

I'll report back!

Thanks to all

Check your warehouse store. They may have blends at lower prices.

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This has been discussed extensively on another thread but any coffee with "Kona" or "Blue Mountain" in the name that includes the word "blend" and does not say 100% can legally contain only 5% of that coffee and still carry the name. Some of those coffee blends are certainly very tasty but 100% Kona or 100% Jamaican Blue Mountain they are not.

I'm a coffee roaster and real Blue Mountain purchased direct at wholesale prices unroasted from a broker in 50 pound barrels was about $14 - $15 per pound last time I checked. But it may have gone up. Kona is sometimes a bit less depending on what farm it comes from but not by much.

But "island coffee" in general has a less bright flavor profile than Central American coffee. "Bright" and "acidic" are coffee qualities that people often confuse.

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This has been discussed extensively on another thread but any coffee with "Kona" or "Blue Mountain" in the name that includes the word "blend" and does not say 100% can legally contain only 5% of that coffee and still carry the name. Some of those coffee blends are certainly very tasty but 100% Kona or 100% Jamaican Blue Mountain they are not.

I'm a coffee roaster and real Blue Mountain purchased direct at wholesale prices unroasted from a broker in 50 pound barrels was about $14 - $15 per pound last time I checked. But it may have gone up. Kona is sometimes a bit less depending on what farm it comes from but not by much. 

The packages of JBM I find in a big box location do say 100% and everyone who has tasted it says it is probably the real thing. Is there any reason not to take advantage of a product offered by a buyer of future contracts, who does not take a windfall profit, and marks it up 14%, continent-wide?

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The price of real Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee is in a completely different category than "C-Grade" or commodity coffee. It's based on demand, which is very high, and on total production output in any given year due to climate, weather etc.. When crop yields are lower the prices go higher. But demand always stays high - especially in markets such as Japan where they will pay markedly higher prices than the US or most of Europe will for certain items.

Whether you choose to believe it or not - the total annual output of true Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee grown in areas such that it legally qualifies to carry that name - is low enough that they have no need or reason to enter into restrictive futures contracts that guarantee them only a low price.

The bulk supplier who packages coffee for Costco (I'm fairly certain that it's Magnum Coffee out of MI) could try to contract to buy the entire annual output of Blue Mountain on a futures contract... save money on shipping by importing it directly without brokers.... use highly automated roastign/packaging facilities... add on only a 14% margin.... and they STILL couldn't sell it for less than about $14 - $17 per pound if it's the real thing.

Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee definition

Among the restrictive and definitive factors:

The Coffee Industry Regulation Act specifies what coffee may use the label Blue Mountain. Additionally, it restricts the use of the Blue Mountain trademark to those authorized by the Coffee Industry Board. Broadly speaking, coffee harvested from the parishes of Saint Andrew, Saint Thomas, Portland and Saint Mary may be considered Blue Mountain coffee.

In other words... if it does not have the trademark or it did not come from a US importer and roaster who can document the provenance of the beans - and most particularly if it's selling for a lowball price - you can be assured that it's not the real thing.

That doesn't mean that there isn't any Jamaican Blue Mountain in the blend - it's possible that the Costco coffee contains as much as 5% genuine Blue Mountain by volume - but probably less than that. The Coffee Industry Board of Jamaica has no authority or power to control use of the phrase Jamaican Blue in the US. And the FDA could care less - it's not a big enough or hot enough issue.

If shysters are allowed to sell pills on TV or radio that claim to make you lose weight while you sleep... what prompts you to believe that every label on a Costco bag of coffee is 100% true?

There are no federal laws prohibiting this deceptive practice!

Here's an article well worth reading - it explores the crisis faced by Kona coffee farmers who are battling for regulations that will prevent anything other than true 100% Kona coffee to carry that label.

Kona Coffee farmers lobby for truth in labeling

One pertinent comment from the article:

(Hawaii) State law allows coffee to carry the Kona name as long as it contains just 10 percent Kona beans. There are virtually no protections on the federal level.

In other words.... a bag of "Kona Coffee" at Costco can contain no more than a percentage point or two by volume/weight of real Kona coffee yet still carry the Kona label.

Yes... some of you will still insist that the stuff you buy for $5 or $6 per pound (or less) is really the real thing and 100% authentic. But it's not.

A single coffee tree produces only about one pound of green beans per harvest. Land and the cost of living are both expensive in HI, farmers must pay US minimum wages etc to all workers and furthermore - coffee is one of the most labor intensive agricultural crops that exists (other than monkey picked tea and they don't pay the monkeys all that well :biggrin: ).

Do the math - the numbers don't work.

But after all this - I'm not denying that the "Jamaican Blue Mountain" you buy at Costco or some other wholesale club tastes good. It probably tastes great and it's likley to be a pretty darn good coffee. But authentic Blue Mountain its not.

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When I Googled JBM I found lots of suppliers at $14/lb, 100% beans. There were lots at $30., but frankly, it is not hard to imagine a huge, well heeled club buyer whittling the price way down. Most of us don't have any idea of the power these buyers have. Procter and Gamble has to devote an entire department, VP included, to warehouse sales.

I haven't seen any other forum leader as denigrating to the clubs as right here.

We had 'Costco-a-Go-Go' two years ago, with participation and support by egullet brass.

I am amazed to see this quote,

"If shysters are allowed to sell pills on TV or radio that claim to make you lose weight while you sleep... what prompts you to believe that every label on a Costco bag of coffee is 100% true?"

There is a certain integrity to their operations that is often lacking, even in your area, Owen.

In the past 12 months I have found exceptional buys in many quality foodstuffs there, blue cheese, brie, (both French), dried cepes, Alaska King Salmon etc., as well as island beans and Brazilian organic beans.

When I find 100% JBM in the same aisle as Folgers, at a similar price, if only one month each year, then naturally I will try it and recommend if it is good.

But when I visit this forum, I see mainly recommendations for $400 grinders, $1000.+ coffee makers, and custom roasted beans up to $70/lb, and not nearby.

The forum could be a little more pro-sumer.

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Costco has a reputation as an ethical retailer who is also an exemplary employer. I already belong to and shop at BJ's and Sam's Club. If Costco were in my area I'd most likely shop there as well.

I'm not questioniong Costco's practices. But I am stating unequivocally that if the price for a certain type of coffee looks too good to be true then it is too good to be true. It could be a coffee broker, an importer, a roaster or even some unscrupulous individual in the supply chain at the country of origin. And there's no way Costco could know that.

The Kona coffee debacle occurred in 1997 and the settlement was reached in 1999. Kona farmers are actively working for better protection of their brand and product (which is costly to produce).

But the same thing could still happen today and there's no way the US government can enforce it unless the individuals who knowingly duped others in the supply chain happen to be located in the US. In the Kona case it all happened in the US but if an unethicall middleman in Jamaica decides to repackage low grown Jamaican coffee or some Central American beans in bags with phony "100% Certified JBM" and then packs them in containers to be shipped to the US.... who is to know?

And I can state with assurance that the Peruvian organic Norte Balcones I've been drinking lately tastes as well balanced, smooth and delightful as any JBM I've ever consumed. And it's not expensive.

From the Class Action Reporter dated 1999

KONA KAI: Coffee Distributors Settle CA Claims Of Selling Fake Kona


Gourmet coffee drinkers who pay a premium price to savor unique Kona

beans have greater assurance they are getting the real thing under a

$1.2 million settlement with some of the nation's biggest coffee


The farmers reached a settlement with the now defunct California-based

wholesaler Kona Kai Farms and some of the nation's top retailers,

including Starbucks and Costco, who sold coffee falsely labeled as being

from Kona on the west side of Hawaii Island.

The settlement on the class action lawsuit filed in 1997 is subject to

approval by a California state court, according to Mark Davis, an

attorney representing 650 Kona coffee growers.

"The farmers undertook a difficult battle to fight for the protection of

the Kona name and to send a message that coffee farmers would seek to

fight the expropriation of the fraudulent use of their product for

profit," Davis said Wednesday.

The civil case stems from federal criminal charges brought in 1996

against Kona Kai and its owner, Michael Norton, for allegedly

distributing a cheaper and inferior grade Central American coffee

labeled as Kona coffee. Norton is awaiting trial, Davis said.

Kona Kai and its insurance company agreed to pay $1 million to the

farmers while the $255,000 balance comes from retailers including

Nestle's Beverage Co., Price Costco Inc., First Colony & Tea Co., S&W

Fine Foods, Gloria Jeans' Gourmet Coffee Corp., Peerless Coffee Co., The

Coffee Beanery, Starbucks Corp., Brothers Gourmet Coffee, Peets Coffee

and Tea Inc. and Klein Brothers, Davis said.

The $1 million is all the assets and insurance coverage available from

the defunct Kona Kai.

While there is no evidence the retailers were aware of Kona Kai's fraud,

"we all have a responsibility to ensure that when we buy coffee and make

a representation to the public about what it is that we ensure that it

is authentic," Davis said. "The deals consummated by some of the

retailers were too good to be true and they were, in fact, too good to

be true."

Starbucks' attorney here, Daniel Bent, said the company agreed to settle

two years ago because it was the best business decision to make.

"We settled for less than a month's legal fees," Bent said. "There was

no evidence whatsoever that Starbucks received any of the phony coffee.

We don't think we did," he said.

As part of the settlement, some of the retailers have agreed to buy

161,000 pounds of green Kona coffee over the next five years from Kona

farmers, he said.

When attorneys' fees and expenses are paid, the settlement will give the

farmers about $600,000, or about $300 per acre in production during the

1987-1995 period of Kona Kai's scheme, Davis said.

The settlement falls far short of the losses suffered by Kona farmers

when 20 million pounds of Kona Kai's falsely labeled and lower-priced

coffee hit the world market, artificially depressing Kona prices, he


Two-thousand acres in Kona annually produce about 2 million pounds of

green coffee which, after roasting, retails for an average $20-$22 per

pound. That's second only to Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee, which can

fetch up to $40 a pound.

"Kona coffee is one of the finest and most expensive coffees in the

world and there are many who capitalize on that fact and take advantage

of the public," said Gus Brocksen of the Kona Farmers Alliance. For

years, Kona farmers have been seeking a federal certification mark for

their coffee but have been blocked by local processors who make money

off so-called Kona blends, which under state law can be marketed with as

little as 10 percent Kona beans, farmer John Langenstein said.

However, the Hawaii Coffee Association is close to gaining separate

certification marks designating Kona and other growing regions,

including Kauai and Molokai. "That's what's used with the Jamaican Blue

Mountain coffee industry, Colombian coffee uses it and most notable any

other significantly point-of-origin agricultural product -- Idaho

potatoes, Maui onions," he said. "The farmers are united to protect the

Kona coffee name and we will continue our ongoing battle."

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Thanks for the advice on Peruvian Norte Balcones, Owen.

I have had several good bags of Brazilian organic from Costco. When I get to some dealers in Toronto, I' m sure the Peruvian will be there.

Maybe this is off topic, but has the Colombian trade fallen off because of internal problems? There isn't much discussion lately.

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I'll start a separate thread to point folks to information about CoE competitions - also known as Cup of Excellence. The first Colombia CoE competition was held last year and met with great success. Reports on the coffees were excellent and auction prices, if I recall correctly, hit record highs.

I'm not aware of any fall-off in Colombian production but the vast majority of their production is targeted at the C-Grade market and doesn't get discussed much in the specialty roaster business.

That said, Colombian Supremo is a very consistent bean from year to year and is very useful in blends where price is an issue. I've seen it tamed nicely by adding a Sumatran or Sulawesi to the blend and a bit of complexity is offered by using Colombian roasted to two different roast levels.

I also have a soft spot in my heart for Colombian because it was responsible for my first true coffee epiphany - which happened back around 1979 or 1980. My girlfriend had gone to Cali Colombia for the year to teach English but returned for Christmas. She brought home a one kilo bag of dark roasted pre-ground coffee from some sort of export store where they sold the highest grades (as with many coffee producing countries the highest grades were reserved for export and not available to the local markets).

I made a small pot with my Mellita cone and was blown away - it was so rich, smooth, fragrant and lacking in bitterness that it begged to be consumed straight black with no half 'n half. Until that day in my life I'd never tasted a coffee that was remotely close to being that good (and I had tried other straight Colombian). It was years before coffee and espresso became a passionate hobby for me, eventually leading me into the business on a professional level, but that day was the catalyst that started me on the path.

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