A coffee purist might reject adding anything to their coffee, preferring to take it straight; no cream, no sugar, only black coffee will do. Our thinking? Vive La Différence! There are no rules when it comes to preference. However, if you’re adding cream, sugar, and flavoring to combat bitterness, and want to avoid the extra calories, then there’s a better solution.
Counteract the bitter taste of a robust roast with salt. It sounds a bit radical, we know, but it works and is a practice that’s been around for a very long time. In fact, in some countries, coffee is brewed from brackish waters in coastal areas. That would be an experience!
Adding a touch of salt brings out the natural flavor of coffee and neutralizes bitterness, but it only takes a pinch to balance flavors. Add an eighth or quarter teaspoon to the brewed coffee in your cup, or add a quarter teaspoon of salt to ground coffee before brewing. If you prefer a dark, robust roast, but can’t handle the bitterness of the coffee profile, then salt may be the answer to your caffeinated-induced prayers. In the same way that salt highlights sweetness in some desserts, it completes the same action for coffee. Salt can also make a positive difference for less than spectacular brewing water.
Taste buds detect saltiness, sweetness, sourness, bitterness, and umami (flavors associated with glutamates). When salt is added to bitter-tasting foods or drinks, it suppresses the bitter taste perceived by our taste buds while increasing the other tastes, such as sweetness. The salt doesn’t create a reaction in the coffee we drink but to our taste receptors.
The jury is still out on which method of adding salt is better; pre-brewing or afterward. Culinary experts and coffee connoisseurs often disagree on the best method, so feel free to experiment. Your taste buds will thank you.
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