You’re heading to work in the morning and need a caffeine hit before getting the day started. So, you walk into a Starbucks and ask for a venti Americano. What arrives is a big cup of black coffee with some appealing brown crema sitting on it.
Countless coffee lovers opt for black coffee to get their day off to a good start each morning. But what exactly separates Americano from other black coffees? Isn’t Americano just a fancy name for a regular brewed black coffee?
It’s not quite as straightforward as that. This article will examine exactly what constitutes an Americano and what makes it different from other black coffee drinks. That way, you’ll have a sound idea of what you’re ordering next time you’re passing a coffee shop in need of a serious caffeine hit.
We also made a short video to show you how simple it is to make an Americano at home.
What Is An Americano?
An Americano is just a diluted espresso. A barista will pull one or two shots of espresso, then add some hot water. You will be able to order a hot Americano or an iced one in some coffee shops too.
This simple but amazing coffee is one of the best-loved of them all, and one of the most popular among coffee fans who love black coffee.
What Are The Origins Of Americano Coffee?
There is an unsubstantiated account of where Americano coffee has its roots, which is widely believed. It states that “Caffè Americano” is Italian for “American coffee,” and, much like other well-liked coffees, the story goes that the Americano began its rise in Italy…
In the Second World War, US soldiers based in Italy found the flavor of espresso too strong for their tastes. That’s because the local Italian espressos were brewed to be extremely bitter, which they found unpleasant. So, acting on their complaints, the local barista began watering down the shots with some hot water. This addition lent the beverage a quality far more in keeping with the drip coffee the soldiers were more familiar with. The drink became known as the “Americano,” and this is how this particular black coffee originated.
What Does Americano Taste Like?
Because Americano is essentially a watered-down espresso and retains some of the crema, you will not be surprised to learn that the flavor profiles of the two coffees are similar. The main difference is in the strength, with Americano being milder in every way than an espresso. Indeed, Americano tastes more like a French press or drip coffee than espresso, despite being so closely related.
The flavor will change depending on the amount of water you add to the espresso drink. If you only add a little water, the mouthfeel the coffee gives will be thick, while it will have a strong taste. Some people like to have a ratio of one part espresso cof, one part water, while others prefer a 1:2 ratio. Some baristas prepare Americano with a single shot of espresso to 8 parts water or more at the other end of the scale. At this point, the Americano begins to resemble a drip coffee.
Difference Between An Americano And Other Black Coffees
If you check out our guide detailing the different types of coffee, you’ll see a range of black coffee drink options. However, some people may find the choice overwhelming. In the following section, we’ll go into greater detail to give you a clearer idea of what to order next time you’re in a coffee shop.
Americano vs Drip Coffee
According to the perceived origin of the Americano that we outlined earlier, in the beginning, it acted as an alternative to regular drip coffee to suit the tastes of American soldiers in World War II. However, there are many differences in the flavors, textures, and aromas of the two beverages. There are also some major differences in the ways they are brewed.
As we explained earlier, we make Americanos from espresso and hot water. When we brew an espresso, the machine uses pressure. However, drip coffee uses filtration, allowing the water to drip through a filter of coffee grounds. This makes for the following differences between the two drinks:
Time Required To Brew
Extracting coffee takes far less time brewing espresso. This short timeframe is because of the process of using pressure. It only takes around 20 to 30 seconds to pull a shot of espresso. “Espresso” is an Italian word for fast, and, true to its name, it is a speedy way to brew coffee. After pulling your espresso shots, add hot (or cold) water to turn it into an Americano.
To brew drip coffee, you need to pour hot water over the grounds in a filter and allow it to seep through the grounds and into the pot below. To extract a more subtle coffee flavor, the drip method takes a longer time. Depending on the coffee maker you use, the whole process takes around three to five minutes.
To pull a genuine espresso, you need an espresso machine. However, when making drip coffee, there are several machines you can use, including a pour over dripper like a Kalita Wave, Chemex, or V60, or an auto-drip machine.
Brewing espresso usually requires medium or dark roast beans with earthy flavors and aromatic oils. Beans of this nature ensure it stays robust after you add your water or creamy foamed milk. In contrast, drip coffee is better suited to light or medium roasts, giving it a lighter taste. Meanwhile, pour over works excellently with high-quality or single-origin beans, lending it a delicate flavor and lighter, floral notes.
Because espresso has such a short extraction time, you need to use finely ground coffee, giving the beans far more contact surface area. However, when brewing drip coffee, using a fine grind size leads to over-extraction of the coffee because the water mixes with the grounds for so much longer. Therefore, a medium size is best for drip coffees.
Crema is the thin, light brown layer that sits on the espresso. It represents the most characteristic element of a high-quality espresso shot. If you pour hot water onto the espresso, the crema will move to the top with it. This means an Americano also has a layer of crema sitting on top. By comparison, regular coffee is absent of crema.
We can’t be certain that the addition of crema makes the overall taste of the coffee taste better or not. Some coffee lovers insist it does, while others aren’t as sure. We discussed this further in our espresso crema guide. However, crema does add a new taste dimension to Americano and differentiates its appearance from standard drip coffee.
Does An Americano Contain More Caffeine Than Ordinary Coffee?
The USDA states that on average one fl. oz of espresso holds 63.6mg of caffeine. However, serving two shots of espresso for a 12oz Americano is the norm, meaning there’ll be an average of 127.2mg of caffeine per cup on average. On the other hand, brewed coffee has on average 120 to 200mg of caffeine per cup. This amount is similar, then, but will depend on the beans used. For example, Robusta coffee beans have around twice the caffeine content of Arabica beans.
Americano vs Long Black
How often have you spent a while choosing two different drinks from the menu at a coffee shop, only for the barista to present an order where the drinks look almost identical? If you’re familiar with this scenario, and you wonder why, you are not alone. After all, only serious coffee lovers can tell much difference between a Breve, Cortado, Latte, or flat white. Black coffee is no different. Let’s examine the differences between an Americano and Long Black.
The only difference between the two drinks is the order you add the hot water. The ingredients are identical.
But how did Long Black originate? It’s a similar story to the creation of the Americano. This time, the origin in Australia. Similarly to Americans, the strong espresso taste didn’t sit well with the average Australian palate. So, they watered down the robust espresso flavor, but in the opposite order – first pouring the water and then pulling the espresso into it. Because of its geographical origins, you’re most likely to find long blacks on the menu in Australian and New Zealand coffee shops.
Some coffee lovers believe adding hot water to an espresso shot ruins the crema, so they insist on following the Long Black method to protect it. However, we think the two drinks are identical, both in appearance and flavor. If there is a difference, it’s so slight as to be unnoticeable.
How To Brew An Americano At Home
As we’ve explained, you make an Americano by adding water to an espresso, making the process straightforward as long as you can pull the perfect espresso shot.
If you own a semi-automatic espresso machine, pull either a single or a double shot of espresso, then pour over a specific amount of hot water. There’s no set rule as to how much water you need to add, so just proceed according to your preferences.
The 1:2 ratio is a good starting point. If you usually like a milder coffee, you can add more water until it dilutes enough so it’s enjoyable. There is also the option of adding cold water and some ice cubes to create an iced Americano.
If you use a super-automatic espresso machine, a preset menu can make an Americano. This will enable you to make an Americano by just pressing a button.
Not everyone has the budget -or counter space – for a pricey espresso machine and a high-quality espresso grinder. Thankfully, there are cheaper, more compact options available, including Moka Pot and AeroPress, both of which can make a satisfying and robust “Americano.” We shared a guide on making espresso at home using an espresso machine or alternative methods.
This article has covered all the aspects you need to know about what is an Americano, including how it originated and ways you can brew a perfect one at home.
As we have explained, although Americano coffee may appear similar to many other black coffees, in reality, there are various things that set an Americano apart in certain areas, including appearance (the formation of crema), the equipment needed to brew it, and the time it takes to make.
Most notably, the grind size and the type of bean needed for an Americano over, say, drip coffee is markedly different, leading to two very different finished drinks, even if they may share similarities in the way they look and taste.
The next time you’re in a coffee shop and ask for an Americano, we recommend taking a close look at how the barista brews it and watch out for that all-important crema on the surface when it’s served to you.
We hope we have given you the information you need to know exactly what to look out for and how to tweak an Americano to your requirements if you make one at home.
The standard ratio of espresso to water for making an Americano is 1:2 or around 30-50ml (1-2oz) of espresso for 60-100ml (2-3oz) of water. However, there is no set rule with the measurement. You can pour in as much water (or espresso, for that matter) as you desire. It all depends on the texture and strength of the coffee you prefer. Do you typically enjoy lighter coffees? Add more water. Do you prefer a robust, thick coffee? Reduce the coffee to water ratio accordingly.
Your tastes are worth keeping in mind when ordering an Americano at a coffee shop, too. Often a barista will make you an Americano using a 1:8 coffee to water ratio. Don’t be afraid to ask for it weaker or stronger if that’s what you’d like.
Definitely! By adding cream, milk, or an alternative to an Americano, you can transform your drink or enjoy a gorgeous addition to a typical Americano. Keep in mind that while lattes and cappuccinos begin as espresso, they don’t include any additional water. Instead, they contain a mixture of espresso and steamed milk. If you’re after a creamier, thicker texture that has espresso at its base, you should just ask for a latte or cappuccino instead of an Americano with milk.