Adding Salt to Coffee (to Reduce Bitterness)


Adding Salt to Coffee (to Reduce Bitterness)

  • If coffee is slightly over-extracted (and thus bitter) salt can mitigate the sensation on our tongues.
  • Add the tiniest pinch of salt to a slightly bitter coffee to make it sweeter.
  • This can also improve the aromas noticeable in a brew as well (by the action of decreasing bitterness).
  • This only works on slightly bitter coffee - too bitter and it won't help much!

Transcript (Speaker: Adam Marley)

Hi everyone, welcome back to another Tips & Tricks with me, Adam. First of all, if anyone's wondering what's going on with my hair, it makes a little bit more sense from the side. So, this week we're going to keep it a little bit more light, friendly, cheeky, because last week, last Tips & Tricks was a little bit technical, and I was a little bit mean to everyone, chastising them for not using scales.

So this one is, let's say you have brewed some coffee, and it's a little bit over extracted, or you're forced to drink some hotel coffee or airplane coffee, or just generally bad coffee. More often than not, one of the biggest problems with that coffee is going to be that it has unbalanced bitterness. It's going to be too bitter. If you do find that's the case, and you've got a coffee which is a little bit too bitter, then adding the tiniest pinch of salt... And I mean the tiniest pinch, you can count the grains. Not like when you're cooking. Tiniest pinch of salt to that coffee, to your cup of coffee, and it will drastically reduce the bitterness that you perceive in that coffee.

The other thing that will happen when the bitterness is reduced, at least for me personally, is that I find that the sweetness and the acidity are bumped up a little bit. So, you might have a coffee which was pretty close to being great, but the bitterness is just a bit unpleasant. And let's just say you're brewing this yourself, because there's going to be a lot of other problems with airplane and hotel coffee. Let's just say, there's good coffee, and you've just slightly over extracted it when you've been brewing it. This little pinch of salt, by reducing the bitterness, it allows you to perceive the sweetness and the acidity in that otherwise good coffee more effectively. So, you can save a coffee that's just on the edge of over extracted, and turn it into quite an enjoyable experience to drink.

I don't know the science behind this. This is one of the times where I haven't gotten really geeky about it. It works. I use it. It's handy. So, if anyone does know the science behind this, please let me know on the comments, because I'm really curious to find out. And then, a point would be, I should have started with this. This is directed towards black coffee. If you're drinking milky coffee, and the coffee's a little bit bitter, it's probably not going to be that unpleasant anyway. And I'd probably add sugar, if it was me, if it was a hotel coffee or something, and it was with milk, some sugar's going to probably be more effective in that situation.

But yeah, if you're brewing black coffee, particularly high quality, especially black coffee at home, and it's a little bit over extracted, the other thing to do is, after you've done the salt trick, and hopefully found a good experience with it, make a note of what went wrong in the brewing process. Change one variable next time, and try and reduce that extraction. Grind a little bit courser, use cooler water, agitate less, whatever it might be. Variables are yours to play with, but just change one at once. And that's it for this week.

The other thing I'll point out is, if you find that it's tasting salty when you do this trick, you've used too much salt. So, when you look at the salt, and you pinched it, and it's a little bit of salt, if you think it's not going to be enough, that's the right amount. Cool. Thanks guys. I'll see you on next time.