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What Happens When You Add Salt to Your Coffee?

should you add salt to your coffee

Should You Add Salt to Your Coffee?

The answer is no....but maybe yes? We cover what happens when you add salt (sodium chloride) to your morning brew.

There are five basic tastes that the human tongue can sense which tell us whether or not we should put something in our mouth. They are salty, sour, sweet, bitter and umanmi. We would argue spicy peppers should be the sixth...but that's a topic for another day.

Coffee can hit four of those depending on factors like bean quality, brewing method, cleanliness of the pot and more.

Salt is an essential part of human life and one of the originally used seasonings and methods of food prevention. So needless to say, humans have been experimenting with adding salt to just about, everything.


Will Adding Salt to Coffee Decrease Bitterness?

Yes, but to varying degrees depending on your personal taste receptors. When your tongue senses something bitter, calcium ions are shot up to the brain. Salt, which tends to enhance sweetness and sourness, also acts to reduce the sense of bitterness on the tongue.


What About Flavor? Will Salt Help Coffee Taste Better?

Adding salt will enhance the sweet flavors of coffee, specifically if you are drinking arabica coffee which has a natural sweetness to it.Robusta Coffee will naturally have more bitterness, especially when sourcing lower quality beans.

The downside to salting your coffee is it can mask the enjoyable bitterness that a quality and perfectly brewed coffee can possess. Think of how bitterness can make IPA beer and chocolates enjoyable. When balanced with sweetness bitterness can be great.

So adding salt may enhance some flavors but if you are the type who enjoys some bitterness your main focus should be on finding quality coffee beans are learning how to brew correctly. Over extraction, excessive heat and low water to bean ratio can all cause bitterness.

We touch on how to fix bitter coffee. 


How Much Salt Should I Add to my Coffee?

This will be a personal preference. Salt perception will vary from person to person. Some people are naturally salty (okay this doesn't really have any effect).

Our suggestion would be to start with .2 grams of salt and do a personal taste test. We've found depending on brewing methods and your volume of water a range of .2-.8 grams of salt works the best.


When Should You add Your Salt?

Before drinking...of course. We know that sounds silly but we also need to put "caution hot" on hot coffee so we figured might as well make the disclaimer.

The best results will come from putting the salt in the mug when brewing. When adding to the grinds you will not be sure how much salt actually touches the coffee during the brewing process. Start with the suggested .2 grams and work up from there to personal taste.

If you are using brewing methods such as a French Press, you can add the salt directly to the water as it will help cut the bitterness if you brew a little too long.


What Type of Salt Works Best?

The cheaper option. For the sake of reducing bitterness in your coffee, a simple table salt will work just fine. You do not need to go out and get kosher, organic, raw or sea salt. In fact, the larger sea salt may not work as well. Raw salt may carry with it other flavor profiles that will change the taste of the coffee.

You can cancel your salt procurement trip to the Foothills Himalaya's and simply grab some table salt from your local grocery store.


Where Did the term "Old Salts" come from?

During WWI and WWII sailors relied heavily on coffee to stay alert. Since "morning" was relative to your shift and not a time of day, many of these vessels were brewing coffee 24 hours a day. With little downtime you could imagine how gross the coffee pots became over time. Cleaning coffee pots was not a high priority while chasing around German U-Boats.

Ever hear someone say "this coffee taste like an ashtray"? We imagine some of those coffee pots fell into this category.

So sailors would add salt to the coffee to help enhance the natural flavors, overcome the bitterness of cheap government coffee and sweeten up stale coffee.

While they do not salt their coffee, Old Salt Coffee is a veteran brand inspired by those hardcore coffee drinkers of the war.

When Should You Avoid Adding Salt?

For anyone who has water retention issues or heart concerns adding salt may be something you should consult your doctor on. Those with naturally high sodium levels should also limit their added daily salt intake.


What About Decaf Coffee Since There Is No Bitter Caffeine?

While caffeine does contain some natural bitterness it is only part of the bitter profile of coffee. This is why even decaffeinated coffees can be bitter even after the caffeine is removed.


Are There Any Other Benefits of Salting Your Coffee?

For those of us who brew using Keurig K Cup style brewers, adding some salt may help. Brewers which have water storage tanks and internal heating compartments are known to produce a stale coffee taste as the water sits in those machines for hours or even days between brews.

Adding some salt directly to the water tank can help cut the stale water flavor and even clean the lines. Make sure you DO NOT add sea salt or other larger salts as their coarse texture can damage the lines. Once again a simple table salt wins.



Adding salt to your coffee may be a great option if you're finding the flavor is lacking or the bitterness is too much for you. Most seasoned coffee addicts will enjoy some bitterness but even a coffee veteran can be overwhelmed by poor quality bitter coffee. Avoid those $5 discount bags which are mostly made with cheap poor quality robusta beans as a cost cutting filler. Aim for 100% Arabica brands which will be more on the sweeter side right out of the bag.

Do you add salt to your coffee? Tell us how you brew!


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