Should You Put Salt in Your Coffee?
Many people like to add a little bit of sugar or cream in their coffee first thing in the morning. But did you know that there are people who add salt instead?
Salted coffee recently became a trend again, and many people wonder if it benefits the beverage in any way. As it turns out, salted coffee indeed has some benefits.
In this article, we will explain why you should try to put salt in your coffee too.
The “Alton Brown Trick”
Alton Brown, a famous cookbook author and food science expert, suggested in a 2009 episode of his show that adding a pinch of salt to a cup of coffee can neutralize the bitterness. He insisted that for every cup of water that you use to make coffee, you should mix two spoons of ground coffee with half a spoon of kosher salt.
Brown also further explained this method on his Facebook page (1). He said:
Not only does salt cut the bitterness, but it also smooths out the “stale” taste of tank-stored water. (…) And by the way, research has proven that salt is actually better at neutralizing bitterness than sugar
Most of the mainstream media picked this up, calling it the “Alton Brown coffee trick.” As a result, putting salt in coffee has sparked the curiosity of coffee lovers around the globe. However, Mr Brown wasn’t the first who put salt into the coffee.
For those of you who prefer visual explanations, here’s our fun animated video on the topic:
Other Instances of Salted Coffee
There are many records of different cultures salting their coffee. This practice is an integral part of the coffee-making tradition of Hungary, Scandinavian countries, Siberia, Turkey, etc.
There are coastal places where salty seawater mixed with fresh water from the rivers. Here, it was normal for people to use slightly salty water while preparing their coffee (2).
Also, there are various stories about people in the army adding salt to their coffee to make low-quality, bitter coffee better.
The Benefits Of Putting Salt in Coffee
There are several ways how adding salt to coffee can improve your drinking experience.
It is a scientific fact that sodium, a major component of salt, neutralizes bitterness (3). This happens because the taste buds will react to salty flavour instead of bitterness. So, sodium might even be more efficient in covering up the bitterness of coffee than sugar. Sugar can only mask it a little bit, while salt neutralizes it completely.
Specialist pediatric dietitian Clare Thornton-Wood explained this (4) in an article for the Royal Society of Chemistry:
Salt tastes good as it is picked up by receptors on the tongue. It blocks bitter and sour flavours, which is why it’s often added to foods to make them more palatable.
It’s just one simple effective hack (of few) to reduce bitter coffee fast.
Improves Stale Water
Salt will make the water better. As Mr Brown said, the water that stays in your coffee maker for a long time can become stale. And since your coffee can only be as good as your water, brewing it with stale water will certainly reduce the quality. If you include salt, it may thus improve water quality. It will also make the water denser, giving your coffee a thicker texture.
Sodium ions prevent the taste buds from registering bitter flavour, therefore neutralizing the bitterness of the coffee.
Enhances the Flavour and Replaces Sugar
Salt will certainly enhance the taste of coffee. The best thing about salt is that it enhances the flavours that are already there. Also, if you need to limit your sugar intake but the bitterness of the coffee is too high, salt can be a viable replacement.
Salted coffee can enhance flavour, improve the water quality, and add some other valuable health benefits.
P.S. If you’re curious about low acid coffee, read this article.
What about your health?
Coffee itself already has a bunch of benefits since it contains some important nutrients like magnesium and a lot of antioxidants to boot. Moreover, drinking coffee helps to fight some brain-related diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia. Regular coffee will increase your adrenaline and energy, as well as help you burn fat (5).
However, if you fill your coffee with sweeteners, syrups, and cream, you will remove many of these benefits. At the same time, you may gain weight and experience further health complications as a result of high sugar intake. Salty coffee can replace all these additives. And while it won’t make your coffee taste sweet, it may suppress the bitterness and keep you healthy.
Researchers have also found that drinking an excessive amount of coffee causes your body to lose sodium (6). James DiNicolantonio, doctor of pharmacy and a nutrition expert, says:
The original limit on sodium intake set by our Dietary Goals back in 1977 was only 1,200 mg per day. No one ever warned the public that we could lose that much sodium by consuming just four cups of coffee
However, adding a bit of salt to your coffee grounds will stop you from losing sodium at all.
Health Downsides of Salty Coffee
When it comes to health, there aren’t any major downsides to drinking salted coffee. All the cons are similar to those of taking regular salt. For example, you shouldn’t drink it if you are sensitive to sodium.
Adding salt will also increase the overall sodium intake, meaning that certain conditions such as inflammation of the stomach lining can appear. Also, while eating salt in moderate amounts is good for your heart, consuming it in larger quantities may lead to heart-related issues (7).
Now that we’ve talked about mixing salt and coffee, here are other things you can mix with coffee:
Adding salt to your coffee may not seem like a good idea at first, but a quarter of a teaspoon can do a lot more good than harm. You should always keep in mind that high-quality coffee is not as bitter and harsh as low-quality one. So, if you are always enjoying the high-end varieties of this beverage, you might not need to add salt.
However, drinking a type of coffee that would require a lot of sugar or cream is not healthy. Also, some types of coffee have such high acidity that prevents many people from enjoying their daily fix. In both these cases, adding salt may do the trick.
FAQ About Salt in Coffee
When you put salt in your coffee, it neutralizes the bitterness by blocking the taste buds responsible for it. A pinch of salt will help to enhance the flavour, but more than that may make the coffee undrinkable. It will also add thickness to the beverage by making the water denser.
Salt in coffee can be good, especially for your health. It acts like a solid replacement for sugar and other sweeteners, and it doesn’t make you fat. Other flavour enhancers can harm your health since you’re essentially consuming a bunch of empty calories.
Yes, salt can reduce acid in coffee. Some put salt in their coffee beans specifically to mellow out coffee that is too acidic. This may also reduce acid reflux.
Yes, coffee may reduce the levels of sodium in your body. In fact, four cups of coffee can strap your body of 1,200 mg of sodium, which is the recommended daily intake. Adding salt to your coffee beans or grounds can prevent this from happening.
- Brown, A. (2015, August 04). I touched upon this on Good Eats, but I often read about my addition of salt to coffee from fans all the time. So here it goes … [Facebook status update]. Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/altonbrown/photos/a.271831096179839/1127605000602440/
- A pinch of salt for your coffee, Sir? (2010, March 31). Retrieved from https://khymos.org/2010/03/21/a-pinch-of-salt-for-your-coffee-sir/
- Breslin, & Beauchamp. (1995, December 01). Suppression of Bitterness by Sodium: Variation Among Bitter Taste Stimuli. Retrieved from https://academic.oup.com/chemse/article-abstract/20/6/609/380122
- Hughes, E. and Boxer, A. (2019, June 10). Pass the Salt. Retrieved from https://edu.rsc.org/feature/pass-the-salt/3010532.article
- Palsdottir, H. (2017, June 18). Salt: Good or Bad? Retrieved From https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/salt-good-or-bad
- DiNicolantonio, J. (2017, June 02). Your Morning Coffee Is Missing This Key Ingredient – And It Might Be Harming Your Health. Retrieved From https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/coffee-boosting-tips
- Schuster, R. (2018, January 15). Why you shouldn’t put salt in your coffee. Retrieved from https://www.haaretz.com/science-and-health/2017-08-27/ty-article/why-you-shouldnt-put-salt-in-your-coffee/0000017f-dc0f-d856-a37f-fdcf5a2b0000