What Does Putting Salt in Coffee Grounds Do?

fine ground coffee in a white cup

From using instant coffee to make a whipped-up ‘Dalgona’ for TikTok to adding multiple syrups and ice cream to an espresso shot, people do strange things with coffee all the time. But coffee aficionados are rarely among these people. If you’ve recently seen someone with respectable taste in coffee adding a pinch of salt to their coffee grounds, you know this isn’t one of the wacky experiments done by people dressing up their coffee for social media. This must have real utility.

Putting salt in coffee grounds neutralizes the bitterness of coffee without reducing the caffeine content of the cup. It is one of the lowest-calorie methods of improving the taste of your coffee, especially if you enjoy caffeine-dense cups but can’t stomach the bitterness that comes with intense extraction.

In this article, you’ll learn more about how adding salt compares to other methods of reducing coffee bitterness. You’ll also discover some methods that do not involve sugar, cream, or salt and still make your coffee significantly less bitter. So, bookmark this article and continue reading!

Salt in Coffee Grounds: An Overview

Salt in coffee grounds is a little-known hack to reduce the bitterness of coffee while keeping its caffeine content high. Generally, one has to sacrifice the caffeine content to reduce bitterness because the essence that contains caffeine also carries the bitter elements that give coffee its signature taste. 

However, instead of having to drink multiple mild cups, some people enjoy consuming a single cup and getting more caffeine out of it. When you add a little salt to coffee grounds, you neutralize the resultant coffee’s bitterness without compromising the caffeine content. 

Of course, adding salt isn’t the only way to neutralize the bitterness of a cup. After all, sugar is one of the most used methods of making coffee more palatable. However, there are a few problems with having sugar in your coffee that are not present in salt.

The first is mainly that coffee aficionados tend to keep sugar minimal. If you look at extremely sugar-packed coffee beverages, you’ll notice mainstream appeal: even people who don’t drink coffee will get an occasional serving of mocha frappe from a chain store. 

This leads to a cultural connotation between sugar and coffee outsiders. So, if you load your coffee with sugar, there will be some external judgment. This, however, isn’t an issue if you’re brewing a cup at home.

Still, sugar can add to one’s weight, and you might want to reduce added sugar for health reasons. If that’s the case, then you can opt for a sweetener like Splenda

This or salt can be used to reduce your coffee’s bitterness. But of the two options, the one that reduces bitterness without overpowering or masking the true flavor of coffee is salt, given that you do not load up the grounds with salt.

Another benefit of adding salt to the grounds is that you don’t have to tamper with the cup. The coffee comes out to your liking, and you don’t need to actively load it with sugar or cream (discussed later). All you need to do is add 1/8 of a teaspoon of salt to the coffee grounds before you brew your cup, and the resulting coffee will be noticeably less bitter than the previous cup.

Aside from sugar, creamer is also used to tone down coffee’s bitterness. This, again, is something that can be looked down upon by coffee purists. If others’ judgment counts for a lot, or you simply don’t want your coffee being too smooth yet wish it weren’t as bitter, you can opt for salt. 

Then there’s the possibility of combining multiple taste-altering factors. Sugar, cream, and salt aren’t mutually exclusive. You can add 1/10th of a teaspoon of salt to the grounds, then neutralize the rest with a small sachet of sugar and a little creamer. The resulting drink will still be as loaded with caffeine as a bitter cup without these additives.

The reason some people prefer salt over creamer even when they’re not on a diet is simply that creamer is the greatest contributor to the post-coffee crash. When you consume coffee, you take in enough caffeine to alert your body for a few hours. 

However, when the cup comes loaded with carbs, your blood sugar spikes aided by caffeine, which inevitably leads to an insulin spike that causes a sugar crash. If you feel drowsy an hour or so after having coffee, then reducing creamer and using salt to offset any noticeable bitterness might be the right solution.

Other Ways to Reduce Bitterness in Coffee

As you may have noticed, 1/8th of a teaspoon is a small amount of salt. That’s the recommended upper limit of the salt one must add to coffee grounds. Adding any more introduces a sour taste and can also contribute to blood pressure concerns. 

This means salt can help reduce bitterness in your coffee only to an extent. After that, you’ll need alternative methods to reduce bitterness. Sugar and creamer are discussed earlier, but there are more ways you can improve your drink’s taste.

Change the Brewing Technique

You can change the method you use to make coffee. Certain techniques squeeze too much oil and juice out of the grounds. A prime example of this is the french press which literally pressure presses the grounds to squeeze the essence out. Drip coffee goes easier on the grounds and hence takes much less out of each batch. Cold-brew produces an even lower caffeine content per resulting cup.

Remember, however, that there are significant trade-offs in caffeine content. While salt neutralizes taste without reducing caffeine, using less efficient methods of brewing reduces bitterness alongside caffeine content.

Reduce the Brewing Time

Another way to reduce bitterness in a cup of joe is to simply squeeze less joe. With reduced brewing time, the bitter oils, which are usually released towards the end, aren’t extracted from the grounds. This method has better caffeine output than switching to mellower brewing methods, but caffeine content still gets compromised for taste.

Switch to Darker Roast or Coarser Grounds

Finally, you can always improve the taste of your coffee by going for grounds that look more like cornmeal than cocoa powder. The thicker the grounds, the less essence gets released into a cup. And if you’ve tasted an overtly bitter cup, you know that in some cases, less truly is more.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to making your coffee less bitter without compromising its caffeine content, adding 1/8th of a teaspoon of salt to the grounds is a great tactic. It neutralizes the bitterness of coffee to a great extent without impacting the texture or the calorie content too much.

Tim S.

Tim loves roasting, brewing, and experimenting with coffee. After years of perfecting this craft, working as a barista, and owning a small coffee service in college, he has decided to share his knowledge with the world.

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