One of the biggest complaints a coffee lover usually has about their favorite beverage is its bitterness.
Even if you’ve been brewing coffee for years, that bitter taste might still be the biggest downside to being a coffee drinker.
Of course, the simple solution is to load your coffee cup with cream and sugar to give it a sweeter, more palatable flavor.
But what if there was another option that didn’t involve adding sweeteners to your drink?
Fortunately, there is.
If you want to cut back on bitterness, you can add a dash of salt to your coffee grounds.
Read on to learn a bit more.
Why Do People Put Salt in Coffee?
When you come across salt in a recipe, you probably think it’s to add flavor to savory dishes or act as part of a chemical reaction in baking.
That’s a perfectly logical assumption, considering how delicious it tastes when you add a few shakes to a batch of fries and how it affects how well your cake rises.
However, one of salt’s best qualities is its ability to bring out natural flavors.
As a result, many sweet recipes, such as smoothies and milkshakes, can actually taste sweeter with a dash of salt added in.
So it shouldn’t come as any surprise that salt can help enhance your coffee’s flavor, too.
In fact, it can cut back on that bitterness that might have you reaching for the sugar for your morning cup.
A Short History of Salt and Coffee
Salted coffee has a long history in Europe and Asia.
It was pretty popular in northern European countries, and some accounts posit they took it from seafarers in the far east.
There are also reports that salted coffee is common in many Chinese coffee shops.
The trend made its way further west and found a revival in the early 21st century in the US.
In 2009, chef Alton Brown shared on his show that a little salt can help lower your coffee’s bitterness.
According to him, adding half a tablespoon of salt to two tablespoons of coffee for each cup of water will give you better-tasting coffee.
Brown also said salt can decrease the stale taste of water that’s been sitting in a tank for a while.
This was later called the “Alton Brown coffee trick” and quickly took off among coffee drinkers everywhere.
The Science Behind Adding Salt To Coffee
Humans have five basic tastes: salty, sweet, bitter, sour, and umami.
Your taste buds have specific receptors that recognize these flavors and release certain signals that tell your brain what you’re tasting.
Combining these tastes in recipes can actually bring flavors out in unexpected ways.
For example, adding a dash of salt to a strawberry smoothie will bring out the fruit’s sweetness.
Likewise, adding an ingredient with umami flavors, such as parmesan cheese or soy sauce, to certain recipes will allow you to cut back on your salt content.
It’s an interesting phenomenon and just one of the many fascinating ways science makes our food taste even better.
How Does Salt Combat Bitterness?
So, how is it possible for salt to be so effective at neutralizing bitterness?
When you eat bitter-tasting food or drink, your taste buds react by releasing a calcium ion.
That ion tells your tastebuds to tell your brain that what you’re tasting is bitter.
Typical ground coffee contains chlorogenic acid lactones, a chemical compound that causes coffee’s bitter flavor.
Thanks to the wonders of science, salt neutralizes that bitterness, overriding your tastebuds’ reaction to bitterness.
What does that mean for you?
It means you can turn that bitter cup of coffee into something much more enjoyable.
How Much Sodium is in Coffee Already?
Believe it or not, coffee already has a small amount of sodium.
A single 8-ounce cup of coffee contains 5 milligrams of sodium.
The Benefits Of Putting Salt in Coffee
Salted coffee has several benefits.
Not only does it reduce bitterness, but it can improve the taste of stale water and even replace your usual sugar.
Combined, those benefits allow you to make a cup of really good coffee.
As stated earlier, adding salt to your coffee can reduce your coffee’s bitterness while delivering your daily caffeine fix.
So if you’ve struggled to develop a taste for coffee because it’s a bit bitter, sprinkling in some table salt will help you get that caffeine boost without the bitter taste.
Improves Stale Water
Stale-tasting water could result from water that’s simply sat too long in a tank, or it could be due to brewing equipment that isn’t cleaned properly.
Adding a bit of salt to your coffee can help counteract that bitterness, just like it does to the bitterness caused by coffee beans.
Enhances the Flavor and Replaces Sugar
Bitterness is one of the main reasons people add sweeteners to their coffee.
Some prefer regular refined sugar, while others might enjoy the taste of an artificial sweetener better.
But if you want to cut back on your added sugar intake, adding a touch of salt will help eliminate the bitterness you don’t like.
How Does Adding Salt to Coffee Taste?
If you add salt in just the right proportions, you shouldn’t notice a salty taste at all.
The only difference will be a decrease in bitterness, which will allow you to taste the natural flavor of coffee more clearly.
That said, there’s a specific formula you should follow, which you can read about in the next section.
What is the Best Way to Add Salt to Coffee?
To make a good cup of salted coffee, it’s important to make sure you measure out your salt to avoid an unpleasant taste.
Alton Brown’s trick is:
- 1 cup of water
- 2 tablespoons of coffee grounds
- ½ tablespoon of salt
The amount of water you add will depend on how strong you want your coffee.
The one-cup ratio Alton Brown suggested might be just right.
You can add more or less to suit your tastes, though.
How Much Salt Do I Need to Put Into My Coffee?
Based on Alton Brown’s trick, you should add coffee and salt in a 4-to-1 ratio.
However, you might need to play with your measurements a bit before you find the right flavor.
When Shouldn’t You Add Salt?
Since the amount of salt you’d need to add to your coffee isn’t terribly high, there aren’t really any health downsides to it.
That said, added salt in your diet could potentially exacerbate other intestinal ailments that affect the stomach lining.
This is especially true if you drink a lot of coffee throughout the day.
What About Acid Reflux?
There’s conflicting evidence about how salted coffee affects acid reflux.
Chemically, salt doesn’t do anything to cut back on the acidity of coffee.
In fact, salt triggers acid reflux in some individuals.
The best way to reduce the effects of acid in your coffee is by switching to a darker roast.
Light and medium roasts tend to have a higher acidity level, which can irritate the esophagus and stomach.
You could also try switching to cold brew or iced coffee instead of your regular hot brewed coffee.
On the other hand, darker roasts have lower acid levels, but can also taste more bitter due to the roasting process.
So, switching to a darker roast and adding a dash of salt could help you cut down on your acid intake in a more palatable way.
Are There Any Health Benefits To This?
One of the leading causes of weight gain is sugar.
You’ll find added sugar, especially of the refined variety, in many places that might surprise you.
So, whenever possible, you should try to limit your sugar intake each day.
A great way to do this is to add salt to your coffee.
Since it helps cover up your coffee’s bitter taste, it’ll be a great way to start trimming your sugar intake.
Another benefit is that added salt can help balance your body’s sodium levels.
Despite its high water content, coffee can cause you to lose sodium, which can be detrimental because your body requires a careful balance of sodium and water to stay healthy.
Salting coffee can help combat the sodium loss that might result from drinking a lot of coffee.
Should You Now Swap Milk And Sugar For Salt In Your Coffee?
If you’d like to decrease the amount of sugar in your coffee, adding salt is a great choice.
Whether you use salt to help you eliminate milk in your coffee depends on why you add milk to begin with.
If you simply like the taste of milk in your coffee, salt won’t give you any benefit.
However, if you add milk to cover the bitterness, you could effectively eliminate your added milk, too.
Surprising as it might be, salt can be a useful and beneficial addition to your morning cup.
When you add it in just the right amounts, your coffee will taste better and give you a healthier start to your day.
So, if you want to change things up and switch to black coffee, consider adding a dash of salt.