If you’ve ever added salt to your coffee by mistake – and we have on two occasions – you might be forgiven for wondering how on earth salt could improve the flavor of coffee.
The first time we fell for this trick was in the Vietnamese-owned coffee chain, Joma, when traveling in southeast Asia. Ladling two heaped tablespoons of salt into the house Americano was certainly not the right way to start the day!
The same thing happened in the Philippines with a sachet of instant made even worse with the addition of some salt rather than sugar.
Now, on neither occasion could we be said to have applauded our decision to add salt so it is really a wise idea to add salt to coffee?
We’ll double down on that right now…
I. The First Suggestion of Salted Coffee?
Back in 2009, celebrity chef Alton Brown claimed that adding a pinch of salt to your coffee could help to counter the bitterness many find unpleasant.
Indeed, Brown suggested adding slightly more than just a pinch. He suggested that for each cup of water you use for your coffee, you should add a couple teaspoons of ground coffee along with half a teaspoon of kosher salt.
Brown expanded upon this in a Facebook post where he claimed that adding salt to coffee could:
- Cut out the bitterness
- Smooth out the taste of stale stored water
Not only did this theory gain no traction, Brown was mocked with his suggestion referred to as the Alton Brown Trick”.
II. Other Examples of Adding Salt to Coffee
While the above incident with Alton Brown was perhaps the most famous recent appearance of the idea of salting coffee, this is certainly not a new idea.
In many coastal towns, salty seawater mixes with river water to produce very slightly salted coffee.
People have also added salt to their coffee for generations throughout Siberia, Turkey, and Scandinavia, too.
So, given that salting coffee is not novel, what’s the point of doing it in the first place? Was celebrity chef Brown right with his assertion? Let’s delve into that now.
III. Why Should You Add Salt to Coffee?
Even though he got very little credit for the idea, Alton Brown was spot-on when he suggested salting coffee could temper that trademark bitterness, and it could also help with treating the taste of stale water as well. Throw in a general improvement with flavor and maybe he wasn’t so crazy after all.
Does the science back it up, though?
We’ll address the following three questions to determine whether this is hot air or a fact-backed claim:
- Does Adding Salt to Coffee Make it Less Bitter?
- Does Adding Salt to Coffee Improve The Taste of Stale Water?
- Does Adding Salt to Coffee Have an Overall Benefit on Flavor?
Does Adding Salt to Coffee Make it Less Bitter?
Bitterness can be effectively neutralized with sodium, but why does this occur?
Well, your taste buds react to the salt rather than the bitterness. The receptors on your tongue will block bitter and sour flavors, which explains why salt is routinely added to foods to make them taste better.
If you add sugar to coffee, all you’re really doing is disguising that bitterness. By getting creative and adding some kosher salt instead, you’ll get a much less bitter brew.
We can safely say that adding salt to coffee makes it markedly less bitter.
Does Adding Salt to Coffee Improve The Taste of Stale Water?
How do you use your coffee machine? Do you leave water in the tank and just take the occasional coffee using the same stored water?
A great cup of joe is composed of almost 99% water. It goes unsaid that the finished coffee in your cup will only be as good as that foundational water.
We always recommend using fresh filtered or bottled water when you’re brewing coffee.
If you add salt to stale water, there’s every chance it will slightly improve the overall taste. The much better hack here? To use fresh and clean water instead, then you won’t need to pep it up! The jury is out on this one, then.
Does Adding Salt to Coffee Have an Overall Benefit on Flavor?
Salt enhanced existing flavors so you could very well find that adding some to your morning cup of joe might be to your liking.
If you need to cut back on the amount of sugar you consume, but you dislike bitter coffee, salt could prove to be the ideal compromise. Try some and tell us what you think.
IV. Are There Any Drawbacks to Salting Your Coffee?
Well, you should now see that maybe adding salt to your coffee isn’t quite so crazy after all.
Is it all good, though?
In a word, yes. You should always sensibly limit your salt intake but adding salt to coffee presents no special risks, and you shouldn’t encounter any negative side effects either.
Beyond this, salt can actually deliver some worthwhile health benefits.
Salt is loaded with magnesium, and it’s also packed with antioxidants that can help your body fight back against the damage of aging free radicals.
Coffee itself also has powerful potential health benefits if consumed in moderation. Unfortunately, many of these benefits are counteracted if you cram sugar, creamer, and syrup into that cup of joe. Instead, you could try using some salt and surprise your dinner guests while serving them up with a taste sensation.
Well, if you started today with no idea about whether or not salt could improve the taste of some coffee, you should be better informed now.
If, like us, you’ve been bitten before by unexpectedly adding far too much salt to coffee when you were expecting a mouthful of sweetness, we’re sure you’ll be reluctant to give this trick another try. We know we were! That said, we decided to perform a simple test by leaving a tank of water in our single serve Keurig machine overnight. The aim here was to allow the water to get slightly past its best. We then brewed up our regular cup and added salt in the quantities recommended above.
It tasted good. Not showstopping good, but then it’s a cup of single serve so you need to keep your expectations reasonable. We noticed less bitterness and we also noticed that the coffee tasted crisper than we would have expected considering it was made using water that has been left overnight. Our experience was poles apart from those nasty Asian experiences!
Feel free to get in touch any time to let us know if you tried this trick out. Feel free to share your favorite coffee tips with our readership, too.
We have a busy content slate over the coming weeks, so be sure to bookmark LaMano and pop back any time you want the low-down on all things caffeinated. We’ll see you soon!