Does salt in your coffee make it taste better?

8 Feb 2022


Switch the sugar shaker for a pinch of salt to get the most out of your morning brew — here’s how

Have you ever accidentally sprinkled salt in your coffee instead of sugar? Chances are you realised your mistake in the first sip and swiftly poured yourself a new cup! While we often think of adding sweetness to coffee, some people suggest that a dash of salt is a better way of enhancing it.

Let’s take a look at why you might like to put salt in your coffee and how to strike the perfect balance with it.

Sea salt and wooden spoon

Why put salt in your coffee?

Coffee has a complex flavour profile that many of us adore. Here at Hotel Chocolat, we appreciate the nuances that come from different coffee bean varieties. That’s why we came up with five distinct blends that cater for different tastes and preferences — from mellow and comforting Cashmere to our bold, oaky Rocket offering.

We also know that, whatever kind of coffee you go for, pairing it with another ingredient tends to alter its flavour in some way. If you find coffee too bitter, you might be tempted to add a spoonful or two of sugar. While this will indeed sweeten your drink, sugar tends to overpower those delicate coffee notes. It also masks the intricate flavours in cacao, which is why we prefer to keep our sugar levels low and cacao content high.

Although sugar can reduce the depth of your coffee flavour, other ingredients can actually underscore and enhance them. Milk, for instance, may emphasise the coffee’s sweeter notes and bring out a hint of fruitiness. Some people like to add a sprinkle of cinnamon to give their coffee a gentle hint of spice with a subtle sweetness. Meanwhile, in Italy, it’s traditional to serve an espresso Romano with a wedge of lemon.

Salt is another seasoning that can give your coffee game a boost. How?

Salt can reduce bitterness

While we maintain that brewed coffee beans reveal a whole spectrum of different flavours and aromas, it is, on the whole, a bitter drink. But just like alcohol and tea, the bitterness in coffee is something we love.

Having said that, great flavour is all about balance and we all have different preferences. Some may enjoy the bitter edge of 90% Dark Chocolate, for instance, while others prefer the subtle vanilla-sweetness of creamy white chocolate. If you find coffee a little too bitter, salt could help.

Salt has no impact on the coffee itself. It doesn’t change the coffee’s compounds or alter its flavours. However, salt in your coffee activates the salt receptors on your tongue. The sodium ions also suppress the taste buds that pick up on bitterness, thus making each sip taste less bitter.

It can enhance the coffee’s flavour

You probably use salt in a range of culinary dishes. Whether you stir it into a pasta sauce, garnish your salads with coarse sea salt or sprinkle a pinch over your chips, it’s well known for its flavour-enhancing properties. The same principle applies to coffee.

As well as diminishing the level of bitterness you taste, salt in your coffee can activate the other receptors on your tongue. This activation means you will be able to experience other flavours more intensely. You’ll be able to enjoy the sweet undertones that you may not usually be able to taste beneath the bitterness.

We find salt has a similar impact on caramel. Our salted caramel chocolates are brimming with depth of flavour, and a twist of salt helps them shine through even more.

You’ll get a more rounded flavour profile

Because salt enables different tastes to shine through more equally, you get a smoother, more balanced combination of flavours. Ideal if your favourite coffee is more on the mellow side.

Blue coffee cup and coffee beans

What type of salt should you use?

Convinced that salt in your coffee is a good idea? Your next question may be what kind of salt to go for — will any do? In terms of taste, most salts will yield similar results. You could stick with regular table salt but it’s worth bearing in mind that this type of salt is refined. The refining process strips the salt of its minerals and producers usually add an anti-caking agent to prevent it from clumping.

Kosher salt and sea salt, which have a coarser grind than table salt, are less refined options. They retain more nutrients so could be a healthier choice.

How much should you add?

As for quantity, how much salt you add to your coffee depends on your taste preferences and the coffee you choose. On the whole, good quality coffee beans contain less bitterness than poor-quality coffee so you will probably need slightly less salt. This is why it’s important to choose your coffee carefully and go for Arabica beans rather than Robusta.

Ultimately, you want enough salt to neutralise excess bitterness but not enough that you can taste the salt in your coffee. Coffee connoisseurs have different opinions on this, but many suggest adding around a quarter teaspoon of salt for every 30 g of ground coffee.

When to add salt

Some people like to add a pinch of salt to their ground coffee before brewing. You might want to try this if you use a drip filter coffee machine on a timer. That way you can wake up to the perfect brew, all ready and raring to go! Simply add your salt to the grounds and mix thoroughly. If you go by this method, it can be beneficial to err on the side of caution and add less salt than you think. You can always add more in after but you can’t take it out again!

Another option is to brew your cup of coffee (using any method you like) then stir in your salt. Just make sure the granules have fully dissolved before drinking. And remember, if you’re sensitive to sodium, be wary of adding too much.

Cappuccino beside a bowl of salt

Aromatic, flavour-packed coffee — with or without the salt

What are your thoughts? Will you be sprinkling salt in your coffee from now on?

Our Rabot Estate Coffee blends are made by uniting top-quality coffee beans from around the world. Each blend has a distinct flavour and we’ve purposefully ensured none of them are too bitter. But why not try adding a dash of salt to really make those nuanced flavours pop? Make your morning even more vibrant!