Coffee with salt – Explained!


It’s always intriguing to become aware of unusual food and drink habits people around the world have. When I first heard that some individuals like having their coffee with salt, I sincerely questioned why someone would want to do that. I did thorough research and now I know there are quite a few reasons to add a tiny pinch to your cup or the ground beans before brewing. In this Woke Lark article, I’ll share with you the science behind these reasons. The potential benefits of putting salt in coffee might convince you to add this peculiar (in such a context) condiment at least once.

Of course, I’m not talking about having your cup of Joe with an excessive amount of table or Himalayan salt, as this could get you sick. You’re going to need just a little bit to be able to enjoy your salted coffee, but I’ll touch on this in more detail later.

Now let’s dive in.

Why Coffee with Salt?

At first, I was hesitant to put even a tiny bit of salt in my coffee, but it is, in fact, not a bad idea.

As long as you don’t add more than the necessary amount, you’ll most likely like the result.

With that being said, here’s why you would want to have your coffee with salt:

Having coffee with a bit of salt is reasonable, since salt has a positive impact on flavor perception as it reduces bitterness. When the proper amount is added, this condiment won’t make your coffee too salty. On the contrary – it would improve its palatability by suppressing the unpleasant bitter taste while enhancing sweetness. Therefore putting salt in your coffee is a good idea as it could make your cup of Joe more pleasant even without adding sugar.

Adding salt to your coffee may also be beneficial if you’re intermittent fasting or on a low-carb keto diet. Salt may improve your well-being by lowering the chance of lightheadedness caused by low blood pressure while ensuring proper electrolyte balance.

Science behind adding salt to coffee

There are actually a number of studies which confirm the bitterness-suppressing effect of salt.

Thanks to the sodium channels on our epithelial cells the sodium ions (atoms that carry electrical charge formed after the dissociation of salt) pass into our taste receptor cells and signal our brains that something is salty.

Nevertheless, that’s not the only way salt alters our food’s flavor.

It also suppresses our perception of bitter compounds, and enhances the perceived sweetness of the food or drink we consume.

That’s why many dessert recipes include salt as an essential ingredient.

When it comes to coffee, many people dislike having it black mainly because of its bitter taste, which is more pronounced in darker roasts. It’s also worth mentioning that Robusta coffee beans are generally more bitter compared to Arabica beans. The fact that darkly roasted Robusta coffee is the most widely spread, might explain why many consumers have an issue with their coffee’s strong bitterness.

That’s why they add sugar, milk, or creamer to suppress this unpleasant taste.

Adding salt instead of the aforementioned condiments has proven to be a very effective alternative that enhances the coffee’s natural sweetness and reduces its bitter taste.

Keto diet, fasting & salted coffee – Benefits Explained

If you’re intermittent fasting or simply want to reduce the amount of sugar you consume, drinking black coffee with a bit of salt might be perfect for you.

Not only because of the potential taste improvement. Doing so has a number of health benefits.

Don’t worry, neither salt nor coffee would break your fast.

In fact, salt is an essential mineral that will help you avoid lightheadedness caused by a low-carb keto diet or prolonged fasting.

Adding a bit of salt to your coffee or water during fasting or while in ketosis is also important for maintaining the electrolyte balance in the body and making you feel more energetic.

There is also evidence that prolonged low-carb diets slow down the body’s ability to retain sodium. To avoid the negative consequences of this effect you might want to add a bit of salt to your water or coffee.

Often people who are on a keto diet and have bulletproof coffee daily, add a small pinch of Himalayan or sea salt to their cup. Not only does it make their drink more pleasant, but the addition of salt also has a positive impact on their well-being.

Not to mention, that the stimulating effect of caffeine also contributes to the fact that this keto-friendly salted coffee is a perfect pre-workout drink.

How much salt to put in coffee?

Putting a dash of salt in ground coffee beans has been occurring for a long time in different corners of the world.

You might’ve heard of it referred to as ‘navy coffee’ as sailors, allegedly, used to put salt in their coffee grounds to improve its flavor because they only had cheap bitter-tasting beans available.

To be fair, I have a friend who’s a coffee enthusiast and often adds a bit of salt to his freshly brewed V60 pour-over coffee. He doesn’t actually use a low-quality dark roast Robusta, but lightly roasted single-origin Arabica beans. He says that a tiny pinch of salt added to the grounds prior to brewing brings out some of the more subtle notes.

Overall, I’ve found that in every crowd, when I mention this unusual way of improving your cup of Joe, at least one person has heard of it or recalls a grandparent or parent who used to do that.

Nevertheless, Alton Brown is one of the people who made having coffee with salt a lot more popular.

He doesn’t only promote it to reduce bitterness.

He also suggests that adding a quarter of a teaspoon of kosher salt to every 6 tablespoons of grounds will smooth out the stale taste of tank-stored water.

James Hoffmann, who’s an authority figure in the world of coffee aficionados, has a whole video where he shares his thoughts on having coffee with salt.

What I found quite intriguing is the fact that he didn’t just sprinkle his brew with table salt. He used a 20 % saline solution instead, in order to be more precise. Hoffmann did notice a significant improvement in a cup of Nescafe instant coffee by adding just 0.6 grams of the saline solution, which equals 0.12 grams of salt.

I tried this experiment at home with instant coffee and it did work pretty well.

You can watch the full James Hoffmann video below:

He also mentions that it’s much easier to mess things up if you put the salt directly in your cup. It definitely makes sense that it’s safer to add it to the ground beans before brewing a larger batch.

On the other hand, if you only brew a single cup of coffee at a time, it wouldn’t matter when you pour in the salt.

But we should always be cautious with the amount we’re adding. After all, adding salt increases the liking for that food up to a certain point, after which more salt reduces its pleasantness (palatability) (source).

So ‘a pinch’ or ‘a dash’ might be a bit too much if added directly to your cup.

That being said, when it comes to how much you’re supposed to put, you can stick to Alton Brown’s recommendation of adding a quarter of a teaspoon of salt to every 6 tablespoons of ground coffee. Nevertheless, feel free to experiment until you find what works best for you.

Coffee acidity: does salt reduce it?

There are people who wonder whether salted coffee is less acidic.

Adding salt to your coffee wouldn’t make your caffeinated beverage more or less acidic than it already is. Nevertheless, because the sodium ions alter the way you perceive your drink’s overall taste, by smoothing it out and reducing the perceived bitterness, it might seem that your coffee is less acidic.

Over to you

As you see there are reasons why you would want to have your coffee with salt.

I hope you found some useful information in this Woke Lark guide.

When it comes to the type of salt you’re adding – many people prefer adding Himalayan (or sea) salt to their coffee instead of table salt.

The reason behind the fact that the former is generally considered to be a healthier option is because it contains more trace minerals compared to table salt. Nevertheless Himalayan salt is still mostly sodium chloride and the tiny bit of salt we put in our coffee, wouldn’t make a significant impact on the variety of our mineral intake and, respectively, on our health. You can take a look at this video if you’re interested to find out more.

Anyway, drop me a comment below in case you have a question or you want to share your thoughts related to this article.

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