What’s an Americano coffee?

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Have you ever felt bewildered by the menus in coffee shops? It’s easy to get confused by terms that are used for different drinks even though they all basically contain some combination of coffee, water, and milk.

So what is an Americano? How do you make one? And how does it differ from the local favourite, the long black? In this article, we take a deep dive into the world of Americano coffee.

Americano: What is it?

An Americano is a single or double shot of espresso, topped up with hot water. In Australia, these will generally be served in a 155ml ceramic cup.

While it may sound simple, and in many ways it is, the quality of an Americano comes down to the quality of the espresso. And, as any espresso drinker can tell you, not all shots of espresso are created equal.

An espresso should present a balance of three elements: acidity, sweetness, and body.

In order to create a great espresso shot, the barista (or home barista) needs high quality, freshly roasted beans, consistent and accurate grind size, and an espresso machine that can deliver stability in the pressure, temperature, and volume of water.

History of the Americano

While we don’t have a verified origin story of the Americano, the generally accepted version is as follows:

American soldiers stationed in Italy during World War II could not get enough coffee supplied through their shipments from the US, so tried some of the local coffee.

To make the taste more familiar, they supposedly diluted the strong Italian espresso with hot water. Essentially, they were trying to recreate the long drip coffee found across the United States.

The locals dubbed the drink “caffè Americano”.

How to make an Americano coffee

What you need

  1. Coffee beans roasted for espresso
  2. Coffee grinder (unless your beans are pre-ground)
  3. Espresso machine
  4. Kettle
  5. Coffee mug

Steps for making an Americano

Note this recipe uses a single shot or espresso but you can also use a double for a stronger Americano.

  1. Warm up your espresso machine.
  2. Boil some water and set it aside to start to cool.
  3. Grind 7 – 9 grams of coffee into a single coffee basket.
  4. Tamp and insert portafilter in group head.
  5. Pull a single shot of espresso into your pre-heated coffee mug.
  6. Top up your cup with hot water from your kettle.

Americano vs long black

Long Black

Australian and New Zealanders will be much more familiar with the long black, which is similar to an Americano in terms of preparation, but not quite the same.

A long black is made by pulling one or two shots of espresso over hot water. And yes, you’re correct, the ingredients are exactly the same. However, the order that they are added slightly changes the make-up of the coffee in the cup.

The difference is that by adding the water second, as done with an Americano, the crema on the top of the espresso shot gets broken up and incorporated into the hot water.

With a long black, the crema remains on top.

Compared to an Americano found in the United States, a long black will typically be stronger and more full-bodied, because it is served in a smaller cup.

Americano FAQ

Is an Americano just black coffee?

The answer to this question will depend on where in the world you are. In America, black coffee refers to drip coffee, in which case they are very different drinks, as an Americano is made with an espresso machine. In Australia, if you ask for a black coffee you’ll usually receive a long black, which is very similar to an Americano.

Is Americano a strong coffee?

How much caffeine is in an Americano vs a drip? According to the Mayo Clinic, an Americano made with two shots of espresso has 94 to 150 mg of caffeine, whereas a drip coffee has about 95 to 200 mg of caffeine.

Does Americano have milk?

The Americano differs from most other espresso-based drinks because it generally is not made with milk. You can, of course, add milk if you wish.

What is an Iced Americano?

An Iced Americano is a cold version of an Americano made with espresso, ice, and water.