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Sometimes a pinch of salt is added to a cup of coffee - but why?

Is this only done for low-quality or mediocre coffee? When is the best time during the coffee-making process to do this?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

I'm not a coffee drinker, so can't comment on the timing -- but it's due to salt's effect of masking bitterness.

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This is common practice in places like Ethiopia, where it is used (much like Americans use sugar) to cut the bitterness. This is a longstanding cultural practice (they domesticated it, so I figure they probably know better than we do), in an area where sugar was not readily available. In this situation, it is added just prior to drinking.

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3  
In my experience, sugar does absolutely nothing for coffee's bitterness; you have to add milk or cream to have any hope of producing a drinkable liquid. But maybe I'm just strange. :D –  Marti Apr 26 '12 at 22:31
    
You could allways switch to drinking tea if you don't like the taste of coffee. Kind of like complaining about sugar tasting sweet, and you want to reduce its sweetness. –  Chad Apr 27 '12 at 5:03

The question, and the answers have astonished me. In Spain, the combination of coffee and salt is a popular "recipe" for provoking vomit to sober up; popular but wrong and even dangerous in cases of heavy intoxications.

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It's likely a difference in the amount of salt ... for what KatieK is asking about, it's only a pinch, not a large proportion. See the comment from Neil Fein in this answer : cooking.stackexchange.com/a/7512/67 –  Joe Apr 27 '12 at 11:34

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