The Secret Ingredient No One Adds To Their Coffee But Should

How do you like your coffee? Black as night, or sweet and creamy? Flavored or unadulterated? Dairy or non? Or did you, perhaps, jump on board the bulletproof coffee train and start doctoring your morning cup with coconut oil and butter? Well, forget that greasy joe. Instead, try the coffee hack credited to everyone's favorite food science guru Alton Brown. You'll never guess the secret ingredient he uses to make his coffee taste better: kosher salt

That's right — everyone's favorite seasoning can even improve the flavor of your coffee. Brown claims that adding a quarter teaspoon of salt to each six tablespoons of ground coffee cuts the bitterness and smooths out any "stale" taste in the water.

As it turns out, salt in coffee isn't actually a new thing at all. According to molecular gastronomy blog Khymos, salty coffee has been a long-standing tradition in Northern Scandinavia, Siberia, Turkey, and Hungary. People in coastal areas would even prepare their coffee using brackish (mixed fresh and sea) water, while those in mountain regions might use melt water from glaciers. Wow, even more exotic than yak butter.

Food writers, when they heard about Brown's weird coffee prep secret, were inclined to take his suggestion with a grain of, well, salt. Still, you never know until you try, and try it they did. The Kitchn's Joseph Lamour found that the salt really did take away bitterness so that he needed less of his usual coffee condiments (sugar, cream, and cinnamon). Serious Eats' Liz Clayton was somewhat less enthusiastic, saying that that salt didn't make the coffee taste "noticeably worse or particularly salty," before ultimately concluding that salt's bitterness-minimizing effects can also be achieved by the standard additions of cream and sugar. Similarly, though Julie R. Thomson with HuffPost was not a huge fan of the saltiness imparted by Brown's coffee hack, she admitted, "If you really love salt and hate cheap coffee but often drink it, this secret ingredient might be just what your life has been missing."

Though the taste testers may have delivered a mixed verdict regarding taste, there are still several other reasons you might want to consider adding salt to your coffee. While drinking coffee may offer some health benefits, it does deplete the body's sodium levels, which adding salt can help to offset. Salt also lessens coffee's acidity, so it can reduce the chance of reflux after drinking coffee to which it has been added. Not to mention, if the bitterness-reducing effect of the salt really does cause you to need less cream and sugar, then you're saving on calories, and when is that ever not a good thing?