Cold brew coffee has its skeptics -- coffee connoisseurs, snobs, casual-sippers, etc.. everyone has their mind made up on certain things. We understand that not everyone is going to like cold brew coffee, just like how not everyone likes espresso, drip or single serve!
However, when it comes to us hearing various critiques, it's worth noting that there is a science to cold brew coffee. There's a reason why it's easier on the body.
Recently, an article has picked up some steam, and we'd like to humbly address it.
"Firstly, allegations that cold brew coffee is actually less acidic — and therefore easier on the stomach — didn’t withstand the analysis of chemists Megan Fuller, Ph.D., and Niny Rao, Ph.D., of Philadelphia University. Their analysis of six coffees from Mexico, Ethiopia, Myanmar, Brazil, and Colombia published in Scientific Reports found that hot and cold brew coffees had similar pH levels — a measure of acidity. They ranged from 4.85 to 5.13 across all samples, a very small difference.
“It’s weird. I think it’s a marketing ploy,” Fuller tells Inverse. “Somebody was saying, ‘It’s less acidic! Try cold brew coffee!’ And I thought, that’s a weird and specific claim. It was interesting to find out that at least by the pH measure, there’s really no acidity difference, at least in the six coffees we tested.”
“We don’t know individual compounds with specific certainty. We know that there are different compounds coming out in hot and cold coffee.”
A piece of the article we feel essential to highlight --
To start, Ms. Fuller admits that she "didn't know the individual compounds with specific certainty". This is a big problem, and if anything shows the pH testing she did is perhaps the marketing she is talking about because her tests do not tell the full coffee acid story. According to the US Geological Survey (USGS) "pH is a measure of how acidic/basic water is. The range goes from 0 - 14, with 7 being neutral. pHs of less than 7 indicate acidity, whereas a pH of greater than 7 indicates a base. pH is really a measure of the relative amount of free hydrogen and hydroxyl ions in the water". The article featuring the Philadelphia University study also points out that Ms. Fuller is "an analytical chemist who usually extracts compounds from soil" and she says "she would like to see a study in which individual compounds are actually isolated before she recommends abandoning cold brew". Great news because this is what our lab tests actually do!
We conducted lab tests that test for actual properties found in coffee (Titratable , or total acids , Tannic Acids and oily compounds, particularly Cafestol) and feel it important to explain that the kind of extensive 3rd party lab testing we have had done, is EXACTLY the kind of tests Ms. Fuller was unaware of. The Philadelphia University study leaves out the specifics of actual acids in coffee and testing only for pH only is not a test of acids in coffee. Coffee pH level could be impacted merely by the pH of the water used to brew the coffee and would have no impact in the actual acids released during the brew process, pH and acids are apples and oranges. If you are only looking at pH and not looking at specific acids you are not telling the full acid in coffee story.
First of all we had our cold brew extract, brewed with the BodyBrew system, tested by a lab and scientists that specialize in coffee testing. We tested both concentrated and diluted extract against a variety of coffee brewed using different brew methods -- French Press (both Hot and Cold brewed), Espresso, Pod/Single-Serve, Traditional Drip. The tests involved using the same coffee (a well known national chain's coffee) and following the manufacturer's instructions for brewing for each device.
To say that 'acidity' is only measured by pH, is simply leaving out a lot of critical information, specifically the actual acids that are in something (be it soil, water, coffee, fruit juice etc.) There are all sorts of different kinds of acids! Organic, Inorganic, Hydrochloric, Sulfuric, Phosphoric, Nitric, etc.. To put all 'acidity' and acids under the same umbrella is not an accurate representation of the acids in coffee! (The citric acid in your orange juice isn't the same corroded battery acid in your car, is it? No.)
We tested for the various kinds of acids known to be in brewed coffee -- specifically for our test because these acids are known to be present in coffee, the lab (of scientists that specialize food science, particularly coffee) tested both Tannic & Titratable (or total) acids. Each sample's measurement of these acid levels was based on PPM (parts-per-million) so the actual measurement of the acids in samples were noted and you can see the percentages of variables in the charts below.
Cold brew coffee has irrefutably lower acid levels -- that's why people with GERD (or other stomach sensitivities) often tolerate cold brew coffee in that they can enjoy it, without a burning, churning stomach. Hot water + extreme pressure is what releases acids in coffee during the brew method or as heat is continually exposed to coffee (i.e a coffee pot sitting on a burner for hours at a time).
Tannic Acids are the acids that are best known for staining teeth and can cause acid-wear (erosion of tooth enamel) (which, by the way -- Enamel DOES NOT grow back) -- so again, cold brew coffee is often the better choice for those who value their dental health.
So while we understand the Philadelphia University study is getting noticed, it is extremely one dimensional and does not tell the full or accurate story of acids in coffee. We felt it was important to clarify the differences between pH and actual acids in case you hadn't done that deeper dive. We want to make sure coffee lovers have all the info needed to make an informed decision on coffee and acidity . The actual differences between hot brew and cold brew methods are dramatically different when you peel back the layers and examine actual properties in coffee, which is what we did years ago. And while our 3rd party lab tests by the coffee scientists at Coffee Enterprises certainly don't hurt our marketing efforts, they were done because we wanted to really know the differences between hot and cold brew and why cold brew was tolerated by people with sensitive stomachs better and why dentists recommended cold brew to their patients. We know the reasons and now you do too!
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