In this article, I will be focusing on the classic Americano Coffee. This coffee style is the backbone of many high street cafes but is often lost in the menu and shadowed by other popular drinks such as lattes, mochas, and frappuccinos.
It is a shame that this coffee beverage isn’t as popular as it once was. It’s not an inferior brew by any means; in fact, this caffeine beverage is quite versatile. Baristas also love it when you order Americano coffee – why? Because it’s one of the easiest drinks to make on the entire menu.
It’s basically just a watered-down espresso, but don’t let its simplicity fool you. The Americano deserves just as much respect as any other coffee drink on the menu (maybe not the unicorn Frappuccino, but you get my point). Pull one or two espresso shots into a regular cup and add hot water – congratulations, you’ve just made an Americano.
The History of The Americano
If you hadn’t already guessed, the word “Americano” literally translates as ‘American’ in Italian or Spanish. The name is directly derived from how this coffee beverage came into existence. The rumors suggest that the Americans were behind creating this espresso-based coffee drink, and its roots can be traced back to World War II.
Apparently, homesick Soldiers (1) based in Italy would add additional water to their espresso shots to mimic a regular drip-brewed cup of coffee from home. There is no concrete proof that this is how the Americano was born, and no one can say for sure, but the story seems to have some credibility as far as I’m concerned.
Difference Between Americano, Drip Coffee, and Espresso
By just looking at Americano coffee, you would struggle to differentiate it from other popular beverages. Drip coffee, for example, looks almost identical when placed side by side with Americano, and an espresso shot also looks similar, albeit smaller. So, what makes the Americano stand out?
To understand the differences (2), it’s best to look at how drip coffee and espressos are made.
Drip coffee brewing is typically done using an automatic coffee maker; however, manual drip is also possible using a Chemex or V60. Medium grind coffee is added to a cone-shaped paper filter, and hot water is poured over the grounds. Water then drains through, pulling with it the flavors and goodness found in your coffee, which then end up in your cup.
Espresso brewing is entirely different when compared to drip. Fine ground coffee is placed into a portafilter and attached to an espresso machine. Steam pressure is then forced through the grounds, which in turn produces an espresso.
Since Americano coffee is a combination of hot water and espresso, the end result is simply a diluted espresso shot. Sure, it looks very similar to drip coffee because of the volume and consistency. Still, the one key difference that separates these two apart is the foamy golden crema, which is often found on the perfect Americano coffee.
Americano vs. Long Black Coffee
To add even more confusion into the mix. There are two ways of making a Café Americano. One method involves pouring espresso over hot water in a tall cup; this is called a “Long Black.” The other process is the reverse of that. The espresso is added first and then topped with water, which is called “Americano.”
I prefer the Long Black method because it tends to retain the crema and is less voluminous, therefore more intensely flavored.
Many baristas will make a Long Black even if you ask for an Americano simply because the result is a better-tasting drink with the same ingredients and the additional crema.
How Does An Americano Coffee Taste?
Even though this beverage’s key ingredient is espresso, don’t expect it to taste exactly like one. Since it is diluted with hot water, you lose out on some richness and boldness along with the caffeine kick found in espresso. While Café Americano may be lacking compared to a smaller espresso, it is definitely the winner when put up against a regular drip-brewed coffee.
The process of pulling an espresso unlocks far more flavors from the coffee beans than regular drip could ever do. Even though the Americano is diluted with water, the flavors and smoothness are still there.
Caffeine Content of an Americano
You might be surprised, but for those looking for an extra kick of caffeine, you’d be better off ordering a regular black drip or pour-over rather than Americano.
A typical one-ounce shot of espresso contains roughly 47-64 mg of caffeine, whereas a regular eight-ounce cup of drip-brewed coffee contains between 95-165 mg of caffeine.
Of course, these numbers can vary depending on the type of coffee beans, the way they have been roasted, and the growing region.
Plus, not forgetting the amount of water added to the espresso and whether you order a single or double shot, but these figures give you a better understanding of the caffeine content.
Due to the dilution of the espresso, the caffeine levels can stay relatively low. But the good news is you’re not sacrificing on taste.
How To Make An Americano Coffee?
I have already talked about the two different ways to make an Americano. The traditional way that involves adding the espresso and then topping with water and the Long Black method, which is the reverse of that, water then add espresso.
The Long Black is the better of the two methods and allows for more crema and foam to stay on top of the drink, which means more flavor. The name Long Black is a name given to this method by the Australians after the drink was introduced to them by the Italians.
If you are ordering an Americano, there are a few different methods that a coffee shop will use, and each barista will have their preferred way. But that doesn’t mean you can’t tell them how you want it to be made, after all “the customer is always right” (or maybe not, I’ve learned that over the years, but that’s another story).
Americano coffee can be made with either one or two espresso shots and is typically diluted in a 1:1, 1:2, or 1:4 ratio with water (the 1:4 ratio is the most popular and standard).
Lighter Texture, More Volume
Other milk coffee drinks such as the lattes, mochas, and frappuccinos on the blackboard menu, sure do look tempting, but, in my opinion, nothing beats the taste of a good old American coffee.
Remember that most of those other concoctions come loaded with syrups, sugar, whipped cream, and flavorings that are guaranteed to stick to your hips well after you’ve drunk the coffee.
Americano coffee isn’t dull, far from it, this overlooked beverage allows you to taste the coffee in its best form, far from artificial flavorings and unwanted or needed toppings. The Americano knows how to be unique, and changing flavors is easy when you swap out the bean or choose a different roast intensity.
If you landed on this page looking for answers to “what is an Americano coffee” I hope that you have a better understanding, and you’re armed with the knowledge to order one to your liking next time you walk into your favorite cafe.
Go on, ask your barista for an Americano on your next visit, or better still, ask for a “Long Black” and see if they know what you’re talking about – you might end up teaching them a thing or two!