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Does Salt in Coffee Reduce Bitterness?

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Add a few grains of salt to make coffee taste less bitter.

Add a few grains of salt to make coffee taste less bitter.

Bob Ingelhart, Getty Images

Question: Does Salt in Coffee Reduce Bitterness?

Answer: In some countries, the tradition when preparing coffee is to use brackish water or to add a small amount of salt to the water used to brew the coffee. The reason given is that adding the salt improves the flavor of the coffee. As it turns out, there is a chemical basis for this practice. The Na+ ion diminishes bitterness by interfering with the transduction mechanism of that taste. The effect occurs below the level at which the salty taste would be registered.

References

Breslin, P. A. S; Beauchamp, G.K. “Suppression of Bitterness by Sodium: Variation Among Bitter Taste Stimuli” Chemical Senses 1995, 20, 609-623.

Breslin, P. A. S; Beauchamp, G.K. “Salt enhances flavour by suppressing bitterness” Nature 1997 (387), 563.

Breslin, P. A. S “Interactions among salty, sour and bitter compounds” Trends in Food Science & Technology 1996 (7), 390.

 

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