Salt is a versatile kitchen ingredient. Many rely on it for a ton of different reasons including the unusual hack that is using it to season coffee. Keep reading to find out more about the trend that is widely approved by multiple baristas.
Salt can do many things. Some use it to season and preserve food, to clean greasy surfaces, and to get rid of stains; there are even those who use it as an alternative to mouthwash.
When it comes to coffee, salt has been used for a long time in several cultures. Some have claimed it is an effective way to reduce bitterness and enhance desirable flavours for years.
Unfortunately, not everyone is convinced salt is so beneficial. It is often not treated as a flavour enhancer but rather as a “hack” that makes lower quality coffee more manageable.
Keep reading to learn more about bitterness, flavour perception, and how salt affects extraction.
In different parts of the world, adding salt to coffee has become an established practice for decades.
In Turkey, it’s traditional for the bride-to-be to prepare coffee with salt for her potential husband and his family as an informal premarital ceremony.
Similarly, “sea salt coffee”, which consists of salted milk foam atop an iced americano, is a popular beverage in Taiwan.
But why do people opt to do this?
Sara Marquart, the Head of Flavour at The Coffee Excellence Center, a leading public science, technology, and innovation center, shared her thoughts on the matter.
She stated that adding salt is a great way to balance the flavour profile of bitter robustas and coffees with very dark roast profiles.
“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.”
In 2009, food science expert Alton Brown urged his followers to add half a teaspoon of salt to every cup of water and two teaspoons of ground coffee to neutralize the bitterness.
“Not only does salt cut the bitterness, it also smooths out the ‘stale’ taste of tank-stored water. Research has proven that salt is actually better at neutralizing bitterness than sugar,” he said.
Sara suggests adding salt to your coffee grounds before you brew, but not everyone agrees.
David Jameson, the head of Coffee and Sustainability at Bewley’s Tea and Coffee said that whenever he’s added salt to coffee, it has always been at the final stage.
“It’s much easier to control dosage this way,” David says. “It might be advisable to pull a shot, or prepare a drip coffee first, assess its bitterness, and then start adding salt, increasing the amount until the perfect taste profile is achieved.”
Meanwhile, coffee roasting expert Scott Rao discovered that 0.15g of salt per 100g of brewed coffee produced the best tasting results, for both espresso and filter.