Why You MUST Try Salt in Coffee
Everyone has a preferred way of drinking coffee. Regardless if you enjoy it black, with sugar, syrup, or different types of milk. Given such a plethora of options, it’s clear coffee is a versatile drink.
But, is it agile enough to taste great if you add salt to it?
There are a variety of potential benefits associated with adding a pinch of salt to your coffee. Salt can be a viable sugar substitute (weird I know), and it can cut the bitterness of a poor brew if used right.
Having coffee with salt might seem intimidating at first, but once you learn how to utilize it, you’re in for a delectable treat!
So let’s get to it and outline why salt in coffee isn’t as unwise as it first sounds.
Caffeine isn’t to blame for bitterness
Caffeine, for most people, is the main driving force for drinking coffee. It is the world’s most used natural stimulant. It is also found in other beverages like tea and chocolate. However, coffee is the king in terms of caffeine content.
People tend to associate caffeine with bitterness. But, it’s not the primary culprit. Actually, caffeine is thought to only account for 15% of the bitterness. With that said, let’s see what else can cause it.
There are two antioxidants that cause bitterness
The primary reason why coffee is sometimes bitter is because of two compounds called Chlorogenic Acid Lactones and Phenylindanes. These compounds are released during the coffee roasting process.
Chlorogenic Acids contain no chlorine despite the name. This compound also gives unroasted coffee beans it’s greenish hue. When the acids are dehydrated, it forms a bitter-tasting chemical called Chlorogenic Acid Lactones.
Phenylindanes are by-products of the lactones when the coffee undergoes the roasting process. The darker you roast, the more of these compounds are released into the beans. In case you’re wondering, it’s why dark roast coffee can have a harsher bitterness compared to lighter roast profiles.
Pinch of salt
We’ve discussed the leading cause of bitterness in your coffee, so where does salt come into the equation?
Adding a pinch of salt in your coffee can neutralize the taste of these compounds and cut the bitter flavor.
Food journalist and expert Alton Brown mentioned in 2009 that adding salt in coffee can cut the bitterness in overextracted coffee. Alton suggests a quarter teaspoon of kosher salt to every 6 tablespoons of ground coffee. Interestingly, this decreases unwanted bitterness while not making your coffee taste salty.
Although that particular ratio might not be the best for you, so try to experiment with different amounts of salt to coffee.
Salted coffee can be a custom
In some countries, they’ve been adding salt in coffee for years. For them, it can be a custom instead of simple cutting down the bitterness in coffee.
Turkish Coffee can have a unique taste because of the different spices blended in it. They also use salt for coffee but not in the way you might think.
It is a tradition used by women for informal pre-marriage rituals. Used as a sign to tell if the potential husband will let the bride have her way in the kitchen.
The future groom and his family will visit the woman, and the bride will brew coffee for them. The catch is, the bride will mix salt in the future husband’s coffee. If he smiles and acts like it’s delicious, then it’s a sign that it will be a good relationship.
Asian countries started the trend in salted foam drinks, but Taiwan was the first to cater to coffee addicts.
Taiwan’s most famous cafe chain popularized a drink called “sea salt coffee“. The brew is essentially a sweetened iced Americano topped with sea salt whipped cream. It originates from a localized habit of sprinkling salt on fruit.
Benefits of Salted Coffee
Sodium Cuts Bitterness
So, how can the addition of salt cut down on those bitter flavors in your coffee?
Well, sodium chloride is the primary compound found in salt. When it’s mixed with liquid, it releases sodium ions. These ions are proven to reduce bitterness.
The sodium bonds to the portions of our taste buds that detect bitterness, and as a result, reduces sensitivity to these flavors.
If you think your brewed coffee is a bit over-extracted, mixing in a pinch of salt in your cup can help balance out those flavors. Go on, give it a shot!
Can Rejuvenate Stale Water
We can focus on the right beans, grind size, and brew time, but having the right water is also essential. Water makes up the majority of your coffee, and you ideally need to use filtered or mineral water. It is also the catalyst in which flavors are extracted from coffee grounds.
Water that sits a long time can become less effective for use when brewing coffee and can lead to inconsistent extractions. Alton Brown also mentions that mixing salt with your stored water can even out the stale taste of old water.
So if you’re in a hurry to brew your coffee or want to avoid wastage, adding salt can improve old water, which has been sitting in your coffee machine for a while.
Sometimes even if you brew coffee in mostly the right conditions, it can lack flavor. Adding a tiny bit of salt in your coffee grounds might help liven up the taste.
For some, it’s common to add sugar to a brew, but, in this case, salt can work too. Interestingly, it can enhance the sweetness in your brewed cup of coffee.
We mentioned before that salt can reduce bitter flavors, well this is also why it can improve the sweetness of your coffee if it’s too bitter.
On the other hand, salt can boost sour flavors too, which is perfect for coffee with fruity tasting notes if that’s not your thing.
It’s a win-win scenario since salt can reduce bitterness while enhancing your coffee’s flavors without using any sugar!
Potential Health Benefits
Coffee is already a health pocket knife, yielding a variety of potential benefits. We all know it can boost your energy, but coffee has also been linked with reducing the risk of type 2 Diabetes, and issues with the liver.
Mixing in additives like cream, sugar, and syrups is a pretty standard affair for many coffee lovers. These additives may add flavor or mask it.
However, consuming too much sugar and related additives can also be detrimental to our health.
If you’re looking for a healthier alternative, mixing salt with your coffee can be a useful lever to taper off sugar in coffee. Even a small amount of salt can enhance your brew’s flavor without the use of any sugar.
Still, nearly anyone can also benefit from adding salt to coffee – including keen coffee addicts like me! Drinking too many cups of coffee can result in a loss of sodium, and adding a pinch of salt to your coffee can offset that amount.
If salt in coffee can help you avoid sugar and other unhealthy additives, this could be a plus all round.
Disadvantages of Salted Coffee
Salt is essential for our bodies. As with sugar, consuming too much can be problematic.
Regulating your salt intake is essential for homeostasis, maintaining your body’s fluids, hormones and overall hydration within a specific threshold. Internally we are all made from water, and salt helps retain the pH balance within our body.
So just stick to a pinch. Too much of anything, including salt, is a bad thing. So if you’re a coffee-holic, don’t drink salty coffee each time you brew!
If you’re looking for a good substitute for cream and sugar, salt might be the way to go. It might take time to get used to having salt in your cup of coffee, but the potential benefits could prove useful.
Nonetheless, you might not need to add salt at all if you’re brewing a high-quality coffee and the usual right grind, water, and so on. This type of coffee tends to be less harsh and has complex flavors, so it’s better drunk with no additives.
Whether it’s a way to stop consuming sugar or want to try out a new way to drink your coffee, keep it in moderation and stay caffeinated fellow coffee fans!
Ex-Barista and now coffee writer
A life long coffee drinker, Philip has been looking for new ways to enjoy coffee since he started in the coffee industry in 2017. His favorite coffee is a light roast Rwandan single origin. If he’s not binging on food shows or trying out new coffee recipes, you can catch him here at Sip Coffee!