Why Put Salt in Coffee? The Science + Salted Coffee Recipes

For many people, there is no better way to start the day than drinking a good cup of coffee. Some like it plain or with a bit of sugar and milk but others prefer it with salt. Adding salt in coffee is unusual for many, and some may even think it a strange combo. So what makes people put salt in coffee drinks? 

Salted coffee goes way back, as it has long been a common practice amongst sailors and fishermen. The only potable water available for them to brew coffee with was stored in containers, and had usually long-since developed a stale taste. Which brought up the idea of adding salt to remove the stale taste and balance out the bitterness in the coffee, as there was rarely milk, either. 

There are numerous benefits that come from adding salt to coffee. It enhances the final flavor of the coffee by canceling out the bitterness, producing a much more mellow taste. This unusual trend has resurfaced recently, though it’s been very popular in Southeast Asia for a long time, specifically in Vietnam, where the famous Vietnamese Salt Coffee originates from.

Read along if you want to know more about how you can incorporate salt in coffee recipes new & old, and learn about its potential benefits.

Why Put Salt in Coffee? The Science + Salted Coffee Recipes

Why Try It: Benefits of Salt in Coffee

Wondering if you should join the trend of putting salt in coffee? Here are some of the benefits of drinking salted coffee rather than your regular joe.

  • Salt Neutralizes Bitterness

Some people may know that sodium, present in salt, can lessen the bitterness of certain foods, including coffee. The presence of sodium ions prevents your taste buds from recognizing bitter flavors, which neutralizes most of the bitterness people perceive in coffee much more effectively than sugar can. 

  • Enhance the natural flavor of coffee

Adding salt to coffee will give your brew an overall more flavorful taste. Salt enhances the flavors already present in the coffee.

  • Sugar Replacement

Don’t want a bitter coffee but you’re tight on your sugar intake? You’ll be surprised how adding a little salt can go a long way. Just a pinch of salt combined with monk fruit can be used as a substitute for sugar if you need to limit your intake, but still don’t want the bitterness of the coffee. This is a good alternative for diabetics or if you are simply avoiding sugar.

  • Stale Water Problems

Leaving your brewed coffee for awhile in the coffee maker can affect its flavor, making it taste stale. Good water makes great coffee, and a little salt can help the quality of the water improve, bringing a thicker texture to your coffee thanks to the density change in the water.

  • Health Benefits

Coffee on its own has a lot of health benefits thanks to its nutrients and minerals, like magnesium and antioxidants. However, adding too many sweeteners, syrups, and creams can mask those benefits. This is why salted coffee is a generally healthier way to reap all the benefits of coffee. 

Why Put Salt in Coffee? The Science + Salted Coffee Recipes

The Science: What Happens if You Put Salt in Coffee?

It was back in 2009 when a trendy cookbook author, Alton Brown, popularized how adding salt in coffee could make it taste better by neutralizing the bitterness. He recommends using half tablespoon of kosher salt for every cup of water and  2 tablespoons of ground coffee. This practice would later on be known as the Alton Brown Trick.

When it comes to the type and amount of salt you should put, you can just follow Mr. Brown’s suggestion, but you can also play around with regular sea salt and himalayan salt, as these types tend to both work well in coffee. 

The science behind this technique is the same as that of those soldiers of old. The sodium in salt neutralizes the bitterness in the coffee because the receptors in our tongue will pick up the taste of salt instead of the bitterness in the coffee beans. Salt masks bitter and sour flavors and highlights the natural flavors of our coffee and food. 

Why Put Salt in Coffee? The Science + Salted Coffee Recipes

How Do You Make Salted Coffee at Home? (3 Methods)

There are 3 ways to add salt to your coffee— add salt in the coffee grounds before you brew, add salt when the coffee is in a cup and it’s done brewing, or create a saline solution. Most people seem to use a fixed concentration of .15g salt per 100ml needed in each cup of coffee. 

There are also a variety of brewing methods that work well for salted coffee, but we have listed the top 3 for you to try out at home.

Filter Method

Using any regular filter coffee maker or a more exquisite version, like Chemex, yields the best salted coffees. Some prefer to add the salt into the coffee grounds for this method, but others contest that the salt may not dissolve and can lose its function along the way. So we suggest that you add the salt after brewing, and assess how bitter the coffee is so you can adjust the amount of salt needed. You will observe that salted coffee using the filter method produces a smoother and lighter mouthfeel than using sweeteners.

Cold Brew Method

Salt can enhance the flavor of a cold brew, emphasizing rich caramel notes that you might not have otherwise tasted. For this style it’s better to add the salt with the coffee grounds, as it sits in the fridge for hours, to help it end up with a more sweet & neutral taste.  


Espresso and salt are a great combination. You’ll get a smoother and less bitter mouthfeel, and the final flavor of your coffee will be rich. You can use a saline solution with this method, or try adding a pinch of salt before doing your espresso shot; either way works fine.

Why Put Salt in Coffee? The Science + Salted Coffee Recipes

5 Best Recipes for Salted Coffee

Sea Salt Shakerato

Level up your Salted Vietnamese Coffee to the next level with this recipe. It’s combination of salty and sweet flavors that don’t overpower the aroma & taste of the coffee. 

Taiwanese Sea Salt Coffee

This Taiwanese Sea Salt Coffee recipe is a refreshing way to start your day. It’s made with sweetened coffee and topped with a thick layer of sea salt cream, much like the renditions in Vietnam. The perfect mix of sweet and salty all in one delicious cup!

Iced Sea Salt Coffee

Cold-brewed coffee is naturally sweet and rich; this recipe is enhanced with a hint of sea salt and topped with whipped cream, giving it a combination of sweet, salty, and creamy in every sip.

Maple Sea Salt Latte

This vegan espresso recipe is made with pure maple syrup, and topped off with a splash of non-dairy milk, then sprinkled with ⅛ tablespoon of sea salt. A great sea salt coffee recipe to kickstart your day.

Vegan Salted Caramel Mocha Coffee

Another guilt free sea salt coffee recipe! If you love the caramel and mocha variants of Starbucks, then this one is a treat for you. Your vegan version of salted caramel mocha coffee.

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