I’d like to have a medium coffee with cream, sugar and a pinch of salt. Wait, what? A pinch of salt? You heard it right. It sounds totally strange to add salt to a cup of coffee but it is now a thing. Adding salt to your coffee has proven to work wonders. It basically takes away the bitter edge off a coffee. We can add it while grinding or to an already brewed cup.

To begin with, we should always aspire to perfect the coffee ground-water ratio because that can highly affect how bitter or sweet your coffee will be. Let’s see below how salt can change the way your coffee tastes.

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Why is Coffee Bitter?

There simply are too many reasons that your coffee tastes bitter. Initially, the coffee beans aren’t bitter. In Fact, they have sugar along with it. During the roasting process, the sugar found in the beans are cooked. If allowed to roast for a sufficient amount of time, sugar is perfectly caramelized and the resulting coffee isn’t bitter tasting but if the beans are roasted for a longer-than-usual period of time then that could make your cup of good coffee really bitter.

Can brewing methods make it bitter?

The way we brew the coffee can also dictate the taste of your coffee. Over brewing or over steeping can make it bitter. Steeping is a phenomenon used during brewing, it means to pour hot water over the coffee grinds as opposed to passing it through the filter first.

Using cheap coffee grounds, exceeding the coffee-water ratio, using too hot water are some of the ways that can make a really bitter coffee. Brewing is an important step and we want to be really cautious while at it.

How to combat the bitterness?

There are several ways in which we can fix a cup of bitter tasting coffee.

  • Use fresh coffee beans, avoid using cheap beans.
  • Roast it for the right amount of time.
  • Avoid using tap water, filter the water before you brew.
  • Use the correct grind level for a specific brew method.
  • Set a timer when you start brewing your coffee.
  • Do not let the water sit for too long.
  • Do not pour too hot water. Take the vessel off the heat for 30-45 seconds before you brew it.
  • Perfect the coffee-water ratio (Ideally 1.5:6 coffee-water ratio)
  • Keep your gear clean.
  • Add a pinch of salt.

How does adding salt help?

The tasting part begins and ends with the tongue. We have thousands of taste buds lying on the surface of our tongue which are very much capable of recognizing the 5 basic flavors – sweet, spicy, salty, bitter and sour. For our brain to identify each taste, the tongue sends a chemical reaction and that’s how we know what we are eating. It is proven that salt has an ability to amplify the other flavors-sweet, spicy or sour.

Bitterness, as opposed to others, has a unique operationality. Unlike the normal reaction, the taste buds release a calcium ion that sends a ‘bitter’ signal to the brain. Salt, for reasons unknown, overrides this reaction on the tastebuds hence masking the bitter sensation on our tongue. We are not suggesting that you put three spoons of salt to your coffee to get it to taste better but adding less than a quarter for about 6 spoonfuls of coffee powder works really well.

Does it have any health benefits?

Avid coffee drinkers would agree that it acts as an adrenalin booster, it increases your energy level and can give you a perfect kick that you need to start your day. It can help burn fat too. When we add milk, sugar, cream, chocolate and what not, we are just building a tower of our calorie intake, so to compensate for all the extra calories to suit our tongue, add salt. Salt acts a neutralizer so you wouldn’t have to worry much about the calories. It can help keep you on the right track of your diet.

Final Verdict

In the end, I’d like to ask you to experiment with it. Take 2 cups of coffee, in one add a pinch of salt and in the other just keep it plain, you will notice the change of taste for yourself. If you are under the impression that it’s a new trend, let me tell you that it isn’t. For over years now, people living in the coastal regions use brackish water in their coffee because it is more saline. Go ahead and try it for yourself.


Grant is the man behind Just Coffee Maker, a site dedicated to the art of brewing coffee manually! Grants's writing is unpretentious and really captures the beauty of the ritual in making great coffee.

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