Salt for Coffee: Why & How it All Works
Coffee with salt may sound like a strange combination. However, there's actually some compelling science behind why this unlikely pairing works! Read on to learn more.
Here, We are going to talk about why people have salt with coffee and what the benefits are. Then, you can decide whether this interesting combo sounds like something you want to try.
If you are looking for a coffee that already showcases savory, lightly salted flavors, we recommend our Salted Caramel or Bacon Flavored coffees! Without further ado, here's what to know about salt for coffee!
So Why Are People Drinking Coffee with Salt in It?
When it comes to coffee, salt can be used as a bitterness-reducing component. In fact, many cultures have been using salt to cut through the bitterness of coffee for centuries. It is also thought that salt brings out the inherent flavors of coffee. Last, salt can help improve your body's water absorption, making coffee a slightly less potent diuretic.
Who Uses Salt in Their Coffee?
People all over the world have established the practice of adding salt to coffee. For instance, in Turkey, a traditional bride-to-be will prepare coffee for her husband and his family with a hint of spices and salt in it. This is often part of the informal premarital ceremony.
Moreover, Taiwanese sea salt coffee consists of salted milk foam atop a freshly-made, iced Americano. In Northern Scandinavia, many coffee drinkers add a sprinkle of salt to improve the overall flavor of coffee grounds.
It is even rumored that some coffee producers use salt to hide the bitterness of their Robusta blends. However, it is unclear how accurate this rumor is. Finally, in some areas of Europe, brackish, slightly salty water is used to brew coffee.
Should You Try Salt in Coffee?
There are some pretty compelling reasons to try salt in your coffee. Leading scientists suggest that adding salt can balance the bitter flavors of coffee. Also, some coffee brewing companies add salt to Robusta blends to help reduce the bitterness. Robusta coffee is very bitter compared to Arabica coffee.
Many coffee connoisseurs believe that adding salt is simply a hack that makes low-quality coffee more palatable. Others believe that there are health and flavor benefits to adding salt to your coffee. It really all depends on who you ask!
Sara Marquart, head of The Coffee Excellence Center, was quoted stating:
“The addition of salt in coffee dampens bitterness without using other additives,” she says. “Salt naturally brings out the sweetness of coffee and maintains pleasant aromas. If people are sensitive to bitterness, even in specialty coffee, adding salt is a good alternative to using milk and sugar.”
Food science specialist Alton Brown indicated adding salt to coffee in an episode of Good Eats. He expressed that for every cup of water or two teaspoons of ground coffee, you should add half a teaspoon of salt. This can help to counterbalance the bitterness of coffee.
Alton Brown was quoted saying:
“Not only does salt cut the bitterness, but it also smooths out the ‘stale’ taste of tank-stored water. Research has proven that salt is actually better at neutralizing bitterness than sugar.”
Will This Make My Coffee Taste Salty?
No, it won't actually taste salty. Especially if you use the correct amount of salt. In fact, salt is commonly used in all sorts of beverages. Remember that numerous foods contain salt but aren't necessarily salty-tasting.
For instance, pretty much every chocolate chip cookie recipe calls for salt. Without it, the cookies taste bland. Most cake and bread recipes require a bit of salt as well or at least the use of salted butter.
When you add salt to coffee, you have to be careful about the amount you use. You definitely don't want to use as much salt as you would sugar. While you might be used to adding about a tablespoon of sugar to your coffee, a tablespoon of salt would render your beverage undrinkable.
You only need a small pinch of salt per cup. You can add half of a teaspoon of salt to an entire pot of coffee.
Another way to use salt and coffee involves making a latte with lightly salted whole milk. When you heat up your milk for the latte, simply add a pinch of salt per 8 oz of milk. You can also add a little bit of sugar to the milk or sweeten your latte with simple syrup. This is the perfect savory combination for a rich and creamy pick-me-up.
The Science Behind Salt in Your Coffee
To understand the science behind putting salt in your morning cup of joe, it is important to understand the chemical makeup of coffee. While a small percent of the bitterness in coffee comes from caffeine, a majority of bitterness is generated by Phenylindanes and Chlorogenic acid lactones.
These compounds are released as coffee is roasted and the chemicals in green coffee beans are broken down. They also impact the acidity of coffee. Phenylindanes produce the perception of bitterness. Bitterness is also influenced by extraction. A lack of accuracy when brewing coffee, like letting it sit on a burner too long may lead to over-extraction and bitterness.
“The majority of bitter Tastants are more evident in over-extracted coffee beverages. They taste harsher and more bitter than usual.”
Human taste buds can identify sour, sweet, bitter, salty, and umami flavors. Our biological reaction to bitterness is different from our biological reaction to saltiness or sweetness. When we consume something bitter, calcium ions communicate with our brain, usually causing a “bad taste” response. Salt can enhance sour, umami, and sweet flavors. So, it reduces our perception of bitterness, creating a more positive flavor.
Therefore, when sodium ions from salt react on our palates, our brains are tricked into thinking that something is less bitter. It's the same kind of chemistry behind licking salt after taking a shot of tequila!
Coffee With Salt: The Final Verdict
So there you have it! Now you know what cultures use salt in coffee and why it is a popular trick to reduce bitterness. If you ever burn a cup of coffee or brew it for too long in the pot, you may want to try adding salt to reduce the bitter flavor notes. Just remember not to add too much salt or your coffee, or it will be undrinkable!
To ensure that your coffee isn't bitter, the best thing you can do is choose a 100% pure Arabica roast and brew it with care. Make sure that each bag of coffee is as fresh as possible and has been roasted to a medium or dark level.