Alton Brown Adds This Strange Ingredient to His Coffee

You've probably taken it with sugar, cream, milk or cinnamon, but coffee with salt? Find out why cooking science guru Alton Brown adds a spoonful of the stuff to his morning brew.

To conquer coffee’s natural bitterness, most people reach for cream and sugar. Not Alton Brown, though. The Cutthroat Kitchen host and Iron Chef celeb stirs a secret weapon into his grounds, making his coffee with salt. It might sound a bit unorthodox, but there’s scientific reasoning behind adding a little brine to your brew.

Brown divulged the surprising coffee secret on a 2010 episode of his TV series Good Eats, recently rediscovered by BuzzFeed.

Why should I add salt to my coffee?

When it comes to salt, Alton Brown has never been one to shy away. We’d expect him to love salt on his favorite burger and fries, but why coffee? There are two reasons for this approach.

According to Brown, salt cuts through the bitterness of coffee better than sugar does. Plus, salt actually has less acid in it than sugar, so it can lead to an overall silkier liquid. Once disintegrated, you’ll have a smoother brew than unsalted coffee—who would have thought?

(Speaking of a smoother brew, how seamless is your morning method? Do you make these mistakes almost everyone makes when brewing coffee?)

How much salt should I add?

If you’re convinced by this Iron Chef science (or even just curious!), Brown explains how to do it yourself in this Facebook post from 2015. He recommends using a quarter teaspoon of kosher salt with every six tablespoons of coffee grounds. Any less, and you won’t achieve the intended effects. Any more, however, and you’ll probably taste a bit of that saltiness in your drink.

Be sure not to just dump the salt into your finished cup, either. It’s important to start with the coffee grounds, allowing the flavors to fully integrate.

(If you’re all-in on Alton Brown, you need to read his advice for buying kitchen knives, too.)

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Emma B. Kumer
Emma Kumer is a marathon-runner, magazine-writer, and graphic design addict. She was a digital editorial intern for Taste of Home Magazine for Summer 2017. She is also a junior in Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.