Baking soda is a kitchen staple with plenty of uses. It can help to block odors in your refrigerator, it’s a required ingredient in plenty of baking recipes, and it can even get stains out of clothes. But did you know that this chemical compound can serve to improve your cup of Joe?
It might sound strange but it’s true! If you have a sensitive stomach that doesn’t mix well with coffee, this may just be the solution you’ve been looking for. Thanks to the wonders of chemistry, baking soda can help to neutralize the pH balance of your coffee, making it less acidic and less likely to cause those uncomfortable symptoms you may be accustomed to.
What is baking soda?
Before adding baking soda, otherwise known as sodium bicarbonate, to your morning brew, you might be curious as to what it actually is. Of course, you’ve likely heard of baking soda and used it for myriad reasons, but knowing what baking soda is can help explain why it can be beneficial when mixed with coffee.
Baking soda is a chemical compound that is both naturally occurring and manmade. Its use actually dates back to ancient Egypt where it aided in mummification. While most of the baking soda found on the market today has been mined from ore and chemically created through a heating process, it is still possible to find natural baking soda mined from nahcolite as well.
The chemistry of baking soda + coffee
You may remember learning about the pH scale in a school science class. While you might have felt like it would never have any real-life applications, the combination of baking soda and coffee is a perfect example!
The pH scale measures how acidic or basic substances are, ranging from 0 being the most acidic and 14 being the most basic, or alkaline. Coffee is acidic, coming in at around a 5 on the pH scale. Baking soda, on the other hand, is alkaline and lands around an 8, which is just above neutral (7).
Knowing the chemistry behind these substances can help us to understand why it can be beneficial to combine the two. Essentially, what we’ve learned here is that by adding a base substance to an acidic substance, you can help to increase its pH level just enough to bring it close to neutral on the pH scale.
The benefits of adding baking soda to coffee
Now that we have a clearer picture of what happens when you add baking soda to coffee, let’s get into why you would want to do it in the first place. While some folks can handle acidic foods and beverages just fine, others can suffer from uncomfortable or even painful side effects when consuming them. Oftentimes, this means opting out of certain meals and drinks, rather than suffering the consequences later. Unfortunately for some, this includes coffee.
If you love coffee but the acidity is just too much for you to tolerate, adding a pinch of baking soda to your coffee could be life-changing. This is especially true for anyone with conditions such as:
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Acid reflux
- Stomach ulcers
As with any addition to your diet, it is recommended that you discuss adding baking soda to your coffee with a medical professional if you have any cause for concern. Consuming too much baking soda could result in or worsen high blood pressure, so proceed with caution if you’re at risk for this condition.
How to add baking soda to coffee
It doesn’t take much baking soda at all to help neutralize coffee, which is good because adding too much would cause it to taste metallic and salty. You can either add the baking soda to a whole pot of coffee or just sprinkle some into your cup.
A good rule of thumb to follow is this… For a pot, try adding about ¼ to ½ a teaspoon. If it’s going in your coffee mug, just a pinch will do the trick.
Such a small amount of baking soda shouldn’t impact the taste of your coffee, but there are a few ways to improve the taste of any coffee beverage.
- Use filtered water to ensure the water isn’t the source of any funky taste
- Use fresh coffee beans for a stronger flavor
- Use high-quality coffee–there really is a difference in taste and acidity that’s worth paying for
- Use coffee beans instead of grounds, which will make for a fresher cup of coffee
Factors that affect coffee’s acidity
Just as there are countless varieties of coffee on the market, there are varying levels of acidity, depending on a number of factors.
- Lower-quality, cheaper coffee tends to be higher in acidity
- Lighter roasts can cause your stomach to make more acid, as they don’t have as much N-methyl pyridinium as darker roasts
- Black coffee and espresso are also higher in acidity than some other coffee beverages
Other surprising uses for baking soda
The fact that it’s called baking soda makes it pretty obvious what it’s mostly used for, but baking soda’s uses go far beyond leavening baked goods.
Baking soda is great for cleaning all around the house. Just mix it with vinegar and you’ll have your own cleaning solution. Baking soda, followed by hot vinegar, can also clear up clogged drains.
Or you can mix it with a little bit of water to create a paste that will remove grime from items like faucets and drains in your kitchen or bathroom. By adding enough water to create a slurry, you can use this mixture to remove tough cooked-on stains and grease on baking dishes and appliances.
A bit of baking soda added to warm water can serve as a mouthwash. When added to bath water it can relieve itchy skin and in paste form, it can be applied to insect bites for itch relief as well.
The power of baking soda
Baking soda is an underrated item almost all of us have in our homes. We may use it for one or two things, but it serves so many purposes! The best news here, though, is for coffee lovers with a sensitive gut.
You don’t have to kiss coffee goodbye or suffer the consequences if you can’t give it up! All it takes is a bit of baking soda–such a simple and inexpensive ingredient–to turn coffee into a neutral beverage that won’t cause you any discomfort.