If I add equal amounts of lemon juice and sugar into water, does the ph-value remain unchanged, as both cancel each other out?

This question arose in my head as I learned that pouring milk into coffee increases the ph-level of the beverage making it taste less sour (You might want to check out the following video at 5:43: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eTYsQUqodeE; it's in German but you will get the overall point, I'm sure).

Now, if I add lemon into my tea, it tastes more acidic, so the ph-value would be more acidic right? If I add additionally some sugar, the tea tastes not sour anymore. So, I wonder if sugar is able to make a acidic drink more alkaline as it tastes less acidic...Or am I comparing apple with pears?

(Sorry, if my question sounds a bit unscientific...)

  • $\begingroup$ Welcome rena, your question is fine. Some of your answers are going to be found in acid/base theory, which you can probably read about a bit in Wikipedia or an introductory chemistry book in order to get more background. Feel free to leave your question as it stands or add more details/refine the questions if you find some of the information (see for example this article. $\endgroup$
    – jonsca
    Jun 1, 2013 at 9:53
  • $\begingroup$ These are interesting questions. You can buy over 100 strips of pH paper for about $3 on Amazon. This should answer your questions without a doubt. $\endgroup$
    – Eric Brown
    Jun 1, 2013 at 11:51

1 Answer 1


You're right about the lemon juice and the milk but wrong about the sugar. Lemon juice is weakly acidic (hence its sour taste) and milk is slightly basic (or alkaline, the terms are used interchangeably). A sugar solution is completely neutral since sugar can't take hydrogen ions out of the water or donate them in.

If you don't have background in chemistry, then let's not talk about pH - I thought pH was confusing when I learned it because "lowering the pH" makes a solution more acidic, and "raising the pH" makes it more basic! (Ironically, the pH scale was originally devised to make the concepts of acidity and alkalinity more accessible to the general public)

Your observations about tea probably have nothing to do with acidity or alkalinity since the foods you've described are not significantly acidic or alkaline (except lemon juice). Tea is slightly bitter because of tannins in the leaves. You've evolved to think of things that taste bitter as unappetizing because they often do not have nutritional value and may even be poisonous.

Sugar (and sweet things in general), on the other hand, is very tasty because you've evolved to know that consuming sugars (carbohydrates) will give you energy. Milk also contains sugars, as well as lipids (fats) which give it its creamy taste, which you've also evolved to find appealing because they give you energy - more than simple sugars.

The creamy taste of milk or sweet taste of sugar are usually enough to cover up the bitter taste of tannins (if the tea is brewed right, that is, but that's an issue for another discussion) and make your tea tasty.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for your elaborate response. I agree that adding sugar and milk to food always tend to make food more tasty for its sweetness and richness. I heard from people putting a bit of salt (or baking soda) into their coffe powder when brewing depending on the hardness of the water... a little drop of something here and there can sometimes have a tremendous effect on the taste... So I see what you mean; it does not solely depend on the ph-value of a food/beverage for it to taste 'pleasant', there are a lot more factors to consider... $\endgroup$
    – rena
    Jun 9, 2013 at 10:35
  • $\begingroup$ Correction on an old post: Lemon Juice has a pH of 2 making it a strong acid - not weakly acidic, unless you are diluting your lemon juice with water. $\endgroup$ Apr 6, 2018 at 20:57

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