Coffee Hack #3: Add Salt

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I used to work as a meal server in the Alzheimer’s unit of a nursing home. One night, one of the residents kept complaining that his coffee wasn’t sweet enough. I was running around serving the rest of the residents their meals, so a nurse sitting at his table offered to sweeten his Sanka for me. I’m not sure if it was the Alzheimer’s or if he was being intentionally persnickety, but every time she emptied another packet of sugar into his coffee, he took a sip and told her “More sugar! It’s not sweet enough!”

Photo by Karyn Christner

This went on until he had at least six packets of sugar in an 8-ounce cup of coffee. Finally the head nurse stepped in: “Before we give this man a heart attack, did you try adding salt?” I had never heard of this before, and by the shocked looks the nurses were sporting, I guess they hadn’t either. But all it took was a tiny pinch of salt on the top of his coffee and he stopped asking for sugar.

It turns out that a pinch of kosher salt on the top of a cup of coffee or at the bottom of your French press adds another dimension of flavor and can help lessen the bitterness in coffee. Usually, we mask coffee’s weaker or bitter flavors with too much sugar, but salt is actually more effective at decreasing your tongue’s ability to detect bitterness.

So the next time you’ve added sugar to your coffee and you’re still not getting the taste you want, add a pinch of salt to the top. 

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