Adding salt to coffee can bring its flavors alive

Sure, sugar and cream are standard when it comes to your morning brew, but you are not the only one who has wondered about the combination of coffee with salt. We’re not about to suggest that you add a spoonful of salt to your cup every morning—unless you’re craving quite a horrific taste that you will likely pour down the drain. 

When we talk about adding salt to coffee, what we mean is just a pinch or dash. By adding that pinch of salt, you are not only counteracting bitterness but also giving yourself some slight health benefits.

Below, we lay out the reasons why you should consider adding a little bit of salt to your morning cup of coffee.   

Closeup of a salt shaker sitting on a bar

Health benefits of coffee 

Many coffee drinkers know that drinking some coffee every morning has health benefits. Of course, the caffeine in coffee dehydrates your body a little bit, but it’s nothing that a nice cup of water can’t remedy later on in the day. 

Coffee comes with antioxidant compounds as well as nutrients such as potassium and magnesium, making it a healthy start to your day. It has also been determined that coffee can help fight against aging-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia later in life.

Coinciding with these benefits are the upsides to your mental state as well. We can all relate to that!

The adrenaline released by caffeine in coffee encourages you to burn fat and develop the more productive chemicals in your brain. Of course, once you add sugar, cream, and anything else that doesn’t come directly from the coffee beans themselves, it dampens the calorie-burning aspect of drinking coffee. 

Why add salt to coffee?

What does adding salt in coffee bring to the table? 

When you drink coffee, you are not only depleting your water levels but also losing sodium, which is central to your daily intake and energy levels. Over time this can cause headaches and dehydration. In fact, coffee can make you lose around 1200 mg of sodium. By just adding that pinch of salt to your coffee you can regain that lost intake and begin your day on the right foot. This simple addition helps to keep your body feeling great without any unnecessary electrolyte product.  

Health benefits of salt in coffee

  • Encourages healthy metabolic activity.
  • Healthy boost to the nervous system.
  • Replenishes daily sodium intake.
  • Great alternative to other coffee additives that are full of sugar and calories.

How does salt in coffee affect the flavor?

The benefits of adding salt to your coffee are not solely health-related. There is also upside when it comes to flavor. Although a hint of bitterness can be a pleasant aspect to coffee, you want the right balance of sweetness and bitterness in coffee.

One of the effects of adding salt to coffee is a lot like what happens with wine and oxygen. By giving your wine time to breathe, you’re able to open up certain flavors that otherwise wouldn’t be there, which gives you an elevated flavor experience. It is the same with coffee. 

White wine swirling in a glass
Salt can do for coffee what an oxygenating swirl does for wine.

It all starts with understanding how your taste buds come into play. Your tongue has different senses of basic taste sectioned off. For example, the sour taste buds are in a different location on your tongue than the ones that sense sweetness. Salt in coffee naturally amplifies these other flavors. This is similar to adding kosher salt to fruits, which gives them a sweeter taste.

Although many enjoy the bitterness of coffee, the simple addition of salt can turn even bad coffee drinkable. Coffee with a bit of salt does not alter the taste in a negative way, making it approved by even coffee lovers. 

Man sipping coffee from a large white mug

Fun fact: salt is known to mask the taste of bitterness in coffee. When you encounter something with a bitter flavor, your tongue sends a reaction to your brain’s perception of bitterness. Therefore, salt works to stop that signal from being sent. The addition of salt is a hack that helps to mask bitter tastes while at the same time replenishing your sodium levels.  

The history of adding salt to coffee

If you are wondering who discovered the effects and upsides of adding salt to coffee, the name is Brown, Alton Brown. 

Alton Brown is a science food expert as well as a cookbook author. In an episode of his show, he shared that adding a pinch of kosher salt to your cups of coffee could have all these effects, thus popularizing the practice. For every cup of water you use for your coffee, add half a teaspoon of salt to your scoop of coffee grounds. 

It started with water

To be clear, Alton Brown is not the first person in history to do this. He just put the practice on the trending list back in 2009. In fact, many countries have been known to do this throughout their history, such as Turkey, Hungary and the nordic countries, to name just a few. 

This is due to these countries making coffee with brackish waters with a salt content that is higher than freshwater, but still lower than sea water. 

Time to give it a try

As you can see, adding salt to coffee has been a practice in other parts of the world, but can still be worthwhile today. It can be a great addition to ground coffee or espresso made in a coffee machine. The effects can be beneficial to our health as well as to the flavor of the coffee.

You can have all the pleasures of coffee without any of the negative side effects such as acid reflux, unwanted bitterness, or depleted sodium levels.

If you are still unsure about the whole thing, there’s only one way to find out. Brew a cup of joe and try it out yourself!