Thursday, September 6, 2012

Salt in Coffee? It really works.

Coffee is an essential part of life.  It's also a fairly expensive part of life.  That's why, when operating under an extreme food budget, it's necessary to find this essential at the lowest price possible.  Occasionally, I splurge and have one pound of extravagantly good coffee.  More often, I am buying what is on sale, or worse, what can be had the cheapest.  This last shopping trip, I ended up with some Brazilian espresso that is so dark and bitter, you could unclog drains with it.

So, I decided to try a suggestion once made to me many years ago.
I added a little salt. A friend told me that salt makes coffee less bitter and more flavorful, but was this anecdotal brewing tip really true?

Surprisingly, it is.  And there's a good scientific reason for it.  The  sodium (Na ion) interferes with the transduction mechanism of the bitter flavor - whatever that means.  And espresso is particularly bitter.  Percolated coffee can also be more bitter because it is brewed with water near its boiling point.  In fact, the hotter the water in the brewing process, the greater the extraction and the more bitter the coffee will be.  Just imagine the coffee made out on the trail in the Old West. They boiled it in a pan right over the fire. Wow.  Those cowboys were made of tougher stuff than I if they could drink that coffee.  I wonder if Wishbone put a pinch of salt in the coffee to make it palatable for Rowdy Yates and the rest of the Rawhide crew?

So, I added something like a pinch of salt to the coffee grounds before brewing (I haven't found an exact measurement requirement).  It was really more like a shake or two of the salt shaker.  How did it taste?  Well, that's a good question.

It does neutralize the bitterness - but, as bitterness is an integral part of the taste of coffee, is that a good thing?  It's hard to say.  I am not sure it tastes exactly like coffee anymore, but not exactly unlike coffee.  It's smooth and it's hot and it's brown and it tastes fine with the all-important caffeine still intact.  But, without the bitterness, something is missing. Of course, I started with some cheap and nearly undrinkable coffee, maybe bitter was its only flavor?

I am going to experiment with varying amounts of salt per pot of coffee.  It may be that one needs just enough salt to neutralize the excess bitterness, but not enough to remove the bitterness entirely.

In any case, it does work.  Salt in the coffee will make the coffee less bitter and that's a good thing if you dislike the bitter taste of the brew or if, like me, you bought cheap, disgusting coffee.  Give it a try.  Let me know if you discover the exact proportion of salt to coffee to produce the perfect cuppa. 

1 comment:

Amdrewmac said...

that's a racist photo. Insinuating that Diner waitresses make bitter coffee, and That's why cowboys love them.

Oh, wait. I've been watching the DNC for 2 nights. I'm sorry.