How to enjoy your coffee without the bitterness

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12 Apr 2013, Pancevo, Serbia --- Woman sprinkling sugar in coffee in cafe --- Image by © Lumina Images/Blend Images/Corbis

I love my coffee, but like a lot of people I’m not a fan of it’s bitter flavor. So to mask it, apart from adding lots of milk, I guiltily dump in a spoonful (or two) of sugar.
I am not alone. Even connoisseurs of coffee, such as the Specialty Coffee Association of America, treat bitterness as a defect, describing it as “caustic,” and “alkaline”.
So, recently when I decided that I needed to cut down on sugar, I wondered, “How could I enjoy coffee without sugar?” The answer it seems, is to add a pinch of salt instead!

Research shows that common salt, or sodium chloride mixed in an aqueous solution liberates sodium ions. These ions suppress bitterness, thus enhancing coffee’s flavour. If you are sensitive to salty flavours, you can even use sodium acetate (which is less salty than common salt, and which you can make at home with vinegar and common salt) to do the job.  If the idea still sounds weird, consider that there are entire countries—Turkey, Hungary, and Sweden—where salt is added to coffee as a matter of routine.

And this trick works not just for coffee, but to mask bitter flavors in other substances, such as tonic water.

My preference is to add salt once the coffee is brewed, but there are other methods, such as adding salt to coffee powder or coffee beans before brewing.

Coffee has many health benefits, but only if you skip the cream and sugar. So if a little bit of salt in your coffee can make your mental boost healthier, surely it is worth a try?