Brace yourself. There may come a day when you have to choose between drowsiness with a headache, and a less than perfect cup of coffee. It happens. Whether you’re on a road trip through a less cosmopolitan area of the country or just running so late that you can only afford to stop at a convenience store or fast food joint for your morning cup, there will come a time when you have to drink the stuff that’s not so great.
But a bad cup of coffee is still infinitely better than no coffee at all. You may wonder, isn’t there anything we can do to a bad cup of coffee to make it taste better? Why yes, aside from dumping a ton of sugar and cream in it, there is something you can do. Just try adding salt.
Why Salt in Coffee?
To some, it may seem counterintuitive, and to others, it may seem downright wrong. Considering all the years we’ve been led to believe that the best you could do for bad coffee was to add sugar and cream, putting salt in coffee might sound like heresy. But the truth is, it works.
Salt has been used for thousands of years – seriously, thousands of years – to make everything taste better. Salt is a natural component of our bodies, and does some truly magical things to food. Salt naturally makes flavors, even the sweetness of some foods, stand out.
As anyone who has mistakenly left the salt out of a cake recipe can attest, the flavor of unsalted foods is generally bland. By bringing the flavors of coffee forward, salt can help to mask the bitterness that is the calling card of bad coffee.
Blind Taste Test It Yourself
You don’t have to take the Internet’s word for it. The next time you find yourself the houseguest of someone who clearly doesn’t get the whole gourmet coffee thing, just take some of what they’re offering you and add a pinch of salt.
Try a cup plain, and then try a cup with just a little pinch of salt. You’ll most likely notice a difference. Be careful with the salt though – it’s easy to cross the invisible line between flavor enhancement and over salting. And salty bad coffee isn’t what we’re after here.
In the Grounds or in the Finished Product
You may find some people swearing that the salt has to go in with the grounds before the bad coffee is brewed. Our taste tests found no such thing to be true. The same amount of salt included with the grounds and poured directly into the finished product had pretty much the same effect.
So the next time you’re at your crazy uncle’s house for the weekend, or late enough for work that a drive-thru coffee is better than no coffee at all, remember a little pinch of salt goes a long way toward better drinking brew.