What is Americano Coffee?

So have you ever been to a cafe and wondered what all those words on the menu mean? “Americano, what is an americano?” this is something you might wonder when reading the coffee of the day. Have you ever wanted to order something, but had no idea what it was? We are here to explain all that.

An Americano is a shot of espresso mixed with hot water. The result is an intense tasting coffee. You get about the same amount of caffeine as a regular coffee, but the taste is completely different.

What is an Americano?

the anatomy of an americano drawn by coffee informer

So an americano is just espresso and water. The ratio of these ingredients is usually 1/3 espresso and 2/3 water. However, this ratio can change depending on how many shots of espresso you like.

Depending on where you are the amount of water ratio may vary. In areas where the locals enjoy espresso, there will be a higher espresso to water ratio. In places like the US where milky and sugary drinks are popular your americano may taste a little watered down.

How is an Americano different from regular coffee?

comparing an americano and a regular coffee side by side drawn by coffee informer

The biggest difference between an americano and regular coffee is how it’s made. An Americano has a minimum of one shot of espresso inside of it while drip coffee just uses hot water to extract flavors from the bean without the use of pressure.

Since an Americano is made from espresso the coffee is ground much finer and it allows for more of the flavor to be extracted from the bean. As a result, there is much more variance in flavor with an Americano than with drip coffee.

There is also a crema to an americano depending on how its made. Crema is a thin layer of foam from the coffee bean oil that sits on top of an espresso. While some people think it tastes good others think it takes away from a great espresso.

In the coffee world, there are two ways to make americano. There are only two ingredients so it can only go two ways. By adding the water first and then the espresso on top after it can preserve the crema, but results in a less uniform mix of coffee and water, called a “Long Black”. If you add the water on top of the espresso it helps thoroughly mix the coffee and the crema and create a drink more similar to a regular black coffee.

The Taste

By adding water to espresso the taste of an Americano is stronger than a black coffee but lacks the kick of espresso. Therefore, americanos have more body than drip coffee and are smoother too. However, contrary to popular belief, drip coffee is the stronger drink. An Americano usually only contains 1 or 2 shots of espresso of about 40 to 80 mg of caffeine while a 12 oz drip coffee may have upwards of 200 mg of caffeine.

Lastly, compared to a regular cup of coffee, americanos can reach temperatures much higher than a normal cup of coffee. So be careful when taking your first sip! The water is brewed separately from the coffee grounds and is never in direct contact with them. As a result, you can take boiling coffee and pour it into espresso to serve a cup of americano much hotter than normal temperatures. Keep this in mind! I have scorched my tongue on americanos one too many times.

What is the Difference Between A Latte And an Americano?

Americano vs Latte drawn by Coffee Informer

So the americano is a very similar drink to a latte. The main difference is the latte is a shot of espresso with foamed milk added.

The process of creating a latte is the same as americano. It would be 1/3 espresso and 2/3 foamed milk. However, the drink is totally different. This is because a latte is milky and creamy while americano is more similar to black coffee.

You can add milk to your americano. By adding milk and sugar to it you lose the intense and bitter flavor. Unlike a latte, however, you can add just a dash of foamed milk for only a slightly milky flavor. The milk is usually not foamed or frothed. Again this is similar to a drip coffee with a bit of milk in it.

An Americano at Starbucks

So you’re ordering at Starbucks and want to try something different. An Americano is a great choice. They have the Caffè Americano at a very reasonable price.

If you’re wondering “how much does an americano cost at Starbucks.” Don’t worry it’s not too much more than a regular cup of coffee. A short Americano is $2.25, a tall Americano is $2.45, a grande Americano is $2.95, and a venti Americano is $3.25. You can also get an additional shot of espresso for $0.80 cents each.

This is comparable to a regular coffee at Starbucks! So for what is in an Americano at Starbucks. It is just a regular americano. They have 1 espresso shot for a short Americano, 2 espresso shots for a tall, 3 espresso shots in a grande, and lastly 4 espresso shots in a venti. You can always ask for more shots if you prefer a stronger coffee.

How to Make an Americano

What you need

  • An Espresso Machine – You will need something to get up to at least 9 bars of pressure when brewing espresso. We recommend the Flair Espresso Maker. Our article about it is coming out soon!
  • Coffee Beans – Any beans of your choice.
  • Electronic Scale – You need a scale to create a consistent and accurate cup of java.
  • Grinder – Grinding the beans allows for even extraction of espresso and better-tasting coffee when done right.
  • Water Boiler – You can use any pot to boil water, and you will need it to make your espresso and your americano.

If you need any of the equipment listed above, head to our gear category to learn about the best equipment you can get to brew coffee.

Step 1: Choose your Beans

Like we said before an americano coffee allows you to get better extraction from your beans and as a result better-tasting brews. The flavors you prefer is personal, but to make a great cup of coffee you need great beans to start with. Once you brew the espresso it amplifies and good qualities and bad qualities in a coffee bean so get a bean that you love.

Step 2: Measure our your Beans

When brewing espresso for an americano you will want to use a double shot for a normal cup. We think that when you make it with a single shot it tastes quite weak. One shot of espresso is around 7-9 grams and a double shot is 14-18 grams.

We highly recommend trying it with 2 shots and toning it down only if it is too strong.

Step 3: Finely Grind your Beans

A high-quality grinder is imperative to a good espresso. You will need to grind your beans to make espresso so you will have to dial your grinder in to very fine.

Step 4: Tamp your Grounds

Tamping your espresso is another art of coffee brewing. It is very relaxing and fun process.

We have a full article on tamping coffee to explain the whole process.

Step 5: Make the Espresso Shot(s)

Put your tamped portafilter into your machine and brew as many shots of coffee as you need. Follow the instructions with whichever machine you have.

To learn how to brew the perfect shot of espresso we have an article explaining all the secrets to a good shot.

Step 6: Preparing and Pouring the Water

When making an Americano we noticed that the process easily allows you to overheat the water for the coffee. This results in burned tongues and mouths. By boiling the water and instantly pouring it on to the espresso it creates a drink that is far too hot and takes too long to cool down.

Normally, we brew our water to around 200 degrees Fahrenheit, but we think it should be around 160-170 degrees Fahrenheit when you pour the water into your coffee.

The ratio like we said before is typically 1 part espresso to 2 parts water. There are many debates about whether you should pour the water into the espresso or the espresso into the water. You should experiment and see which one you like. It is a very minor difference and should not make a huge difference.

Congratulations, you have a great cup of Americano!

For a summer variation of this recipe try adding cold water to your espresso at a ratio of 1 parts espresso to 1.5 parts water and then add ice. The result is a refreshing iced americano, great for summer parties.

What about a Long Black?

Americano vs Long Black drawn by Coffee Informer on Microsoft Paint

Many coffee aficionados compare americanos with long blacks because it is very similar to make. In America, the long black is not a widely popular as an Americano despite being very similar.

Historically in Italy, the two most popular espresso drinks were espresso and cappuccino. However, as American tourism increased, the taste for the American black coffee increased as well. In order to fulfill the request of black coffee, baristas created the “Long Black” which was created by pouring hot water into a cup of espresso.

You make a Long Black differently than an Americano. Although, the ingredients are the same. You make an Americano by pulling an espresso shot then pouring hot water to fill the cup. However, you make a Long Black by pouring the espresso shot into the water preserving the crema from the espresso.

The crema is important to the Italians and the coffee because it shows the quality of the beans and the machine. It reveals the freshness of the beans and the recent grind as well as the skill of the barista pulling the shot.

The History Behind Americano Coffee

The story is during World War II, Americans stationed in Italy preferred regular drip coffee over the strong espresso available to them at the time. To replicate their drip coffee they had at home the soldiers added hot water to Italian espresso to create the “Americano.”

Conclusion

Don’t be afraid when you go to a cafe and look at the menu. You should always stay curious and ask what goes into every new coffee drink you find and never be afraid to ask questions.

We believe this is a coffee drink you should have in your arsenal and something you should introduce all your friends with when they come over for a cup of coffee.

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