Coffee is one of the most popular beverages on the planet, giving a much-needed boost of energy to face everyday life.
To soften its natural bitterness, it is consumed with milk, sugar or even honey. But did you know that some people add a pinch of salt? If this sounds surprising, think again: according to Science Alert this anti-bittering tip has recently made the buzz on social networks. Sodium chloride is actually very effective in reducing the bitterness of coffee and many other foods.
The unsuspected power of salt
Sodium chloride, also known as table salt, has accompanied humanity throughout its history. By reducing the perception of bitterness, it allows other flavors, such as sweetness or umami, to reveal themselves more. Scientists demonstrated in the 1990s that salt is indeed effective in masking bitterness. By mixing sweet and bitter compounds, the addition of salt made the preparation sweeter and less bitter.
The mechanism behind bitterness suppression
Although it is not yet fully understood how this suppression works, a 2013 study in mice showed that at low concentrations, sodium chloride activates the epithelial sodium channel (ENaC), which is responsible for salty taste. At higher concentrations, it also activates the acidic and bitter flavor receptors. This would be because the combination of these flavors is unpleasant. Nevertheless, a small amount of salt is perfect to reduce the bitterness of some products.
Salted coffee, a worldwide tradition
Adding salt to coffee is nothing new. In Vietnam, salted coffee is mixed with condensed milk to make a delicious caramel-like drink. In Sweden, a tradition of Arctic coffee is to add a little salted meat or cheese. Even members of the U.S. Navy drank salted coffee during World War II.
Dare to be salty and revolutionize your coffee experience
If you don't like latte or very sweet, it may be worth experimenting with a little salt. Start with a pinch and adjust to your preference. However, if you're looking to control your sodium intake, don't worry: sugar and milk also reduce bitterness, so you can continue to add a splash of milk to your coffee as usual. So, are you ready to try salted coffee and change your habits? This tip could well revolutionize your coffee break!