The Complete Caffè Americano Guide

Table of Contents

Getting the perfect cup of coffee in the morning means something different to everyone. But far too often it means going to a coffee shop for an expensive cup of your favorite brew.

Luckily, you don’t have to do that anymore. You just need to know how to make your favorite coffee at home.

And when it comes to an americano, you can absolutely learn how to brew it yourself just as fast, and just as well (if not better).

What is Americano Coffee?

The basics of an Americano is simply that it is an espresso with some added hot water. This may not sound like a big difference from a traditional espresso, or even from a traditional drip coffee if you’re not quite as much of a connoisseur, but there is quite a big difference to those who drink their coffee this way.

For example, espresso is generally served in a smaller cup because of the higher concentration of it. When you turn it into an Americano, however, it will generally be served in a larger cup to accommodate the added water (instead of just the single shot that an espresso by itself comes in.

coffee and magazine

A Quick History of Americano

The generally accepted story is that the Americano came from American soldiers fighting in World War II. The soldiers were deployed in Italy, where espresso was a more popular drink. However, the Americans were used to drinking traditional black or drip coffee back home.

So, they diluted the espresso with hot water to create a drink that was more similar to what they were used to. Just like that they created an entirely different type of drink that was neither a drip coffee nor an espresso.

Why is it Called Americano?

So, just why do we call this espresso and water blend an Americano? Because it was originally created by Americans.

Americano simply means ‘American coffee’ in Italian and because American soldiers created it while in Italy that’s what the Italians referred to the drink as. The name stuck and today most countries around the world refer to this specific mixture as an ‘Americano.’

holding a white ceramic cup

Americano Coffee Preparation 101

There are actually two official ways to make an Americano, though both are quite similar and will result in the same flavor of drink. Only the look of the drink will be different. The first method gives you the traditional crema of the espresso, and will provide you with a more professional look.

  1. Pull a double shot of espresso.
  2. Pour approximately twice that double shot worth of hot water into your mug.
  3. Pour the espresso into the mug.
  4. Enjoy.

The second option is simply to pull your double shot and pour it into the mug first and then top it with water. You will not get the same crema on the top of your drink but the drink will ultimately taste the same because the ingredients are the same.

You can also add any other ingredients you choose at this point including cinnamon, honey, sugar or creams.

Americano Vs. Other Coffee’s Compared

There are plenty of different types of coffee out there and if you’re the type to try them all (or at least wonder about them all) you’ll want to take a look at some of the most popular and the ones that are most commonly compared to an Americano.

Specifically, we’re going to look at the traditional drip coffee, the long black, espresso and latte.

Americano vs. Drip Coffee

One of the biggest comparisons that you will find is between Americano coffee and drip coffee. But there is actually a slight difference between the two. Now, both drip coffee and Americano can be made with the same type of coffee, however they’re still going to turn out quite different in overall flavor.

A drip coffee is processed slowly. It’s the kind of coffee you get from your coffee maker at home. It has a more sweet and delicate flavor but it does not have a crema.

An Americano, on the other hand, is a type of espresso, which means that it’s not brewed but ‘pulled’ and this is done quickly, using pressure, and at a high temperature. It doesn’t have the light tones but instead has a dark and rich flavor.

Americano vs. Long Black

The next comparison that you may find is between the Americano and the long black. The difference between an Americano and a long black is subtle, and many won’t recognize the difference in the names because they may prefer to make them different ways anyway.

Technically, an Americano is made by pouring hot water into a cup of espresso. This displaces the crema at the top of the espresso and can slightly change the flavor profile of the drink.

With a long black you’re actually pouring the water into the cup and adding the espresso on top. This preserves the crema at the top of the espresso and may give you a slightly smoother flavor.

Some people do not actually use different terms for these two drinks. In many places pouring the water first or second is not considered to be changing the drink and either may be called an Americano.

Americano vs. Espresso vs. Latte

Finally, let’s take a quick look at a few drinks that are made with espresso and just how these drinks differ from one another. Each of these is going to be a little different from the others, and each is definitely going to give you a unique flavor profile, so you’ll want to check out each.

An Americano is made with espresso and hot water. You are technically supposed to pour the hot water into the cup and then pour a double shot of espresso (approximately half the amount as the water in the cup) on top to preserve the crema and the overall flavor of the espresso.

A traditional espresso is just the espresso, pulled from a standard machine. You can make a single or a double shot but you will get the full flavor of the espresso undiluted and the full crema on the top as well.

Finally, a latte is a little more complex. For this you will actually need the espresso as your base, but you will also need both regular milk and foamed milk. You will have a single espresso shot, to six parts milk and one part foamed milk over the top. (Though you can customize this combination to fit your specific preference.)

With any of these you can add other flavors such as cinnamon or honey or cream to get a slightly different flavor. You can also adjust the quantity of ingredients such as how much hot water to espresso or how much milk to espresso.

coffee and laptop

Americano FAQ

The Americano is a relatively popular drink in all parts of the world, which means there are several different things you may want to know about it before you decide to try it out for yourself. Or maybe you’re already a fan but want to know more about it.

Either way, here are several of the most frequently asked questions about an Americano, from the difference between it and several other drinks to how to pour them and even just how to order your own. By the time you’re done, you’re going to know a whole lot more about Americano’s and just when you want to order your next one.

What is the Difference Between Regular Coffee and Americano?

Let’s start with the basics. What is the difference between a standard cup of coffee and an Americano? If you’re the type who loves to start your day off with that perfect cup, brewed fresh from a pot at home (or maybe your favorite coffee shop) then you might be wondering if an Americano is going to be your new favorite. Well, the two are actually quite different.

A regular coffee is generally a drip coffee that comes from a traditional coffee machine. These are at your local convenience store, probably on your counter and at all of the coffee shops you might frequent.

You can also add whatever you might like to it but a drip coffee will generally come ‘black’ which means that there’s nothing added in by default. It’s up to you to add sugar, creamer or anything else you might want.

Drip coffee also comes in a variety of different flavors from a variety of different brands. You can get lighter or darker roasted drip coffee and you can get actual flavors built right into the coffee as well. It also comes in caffeinated and decaffeinated blends.

With an Americano, on the other hand, you’re actually using espresso. Now, espresso can be made with the same coffee grounds or beans that you use for traditional coffee but it needs to be ground finer. And often you’ll find that it’s made with specially prepared espresso beans instead. What you’ll also find is that this type of coffee is a little less common.

You will likely find espresso in coffee shops but not in convenience stores. And not as many people have an espresso machine at home (though you can buy them reasonably). The espresso is darker and bolder because of the way it is prepared. And then, for an Americano, hot water is added to balance out the espresso slightly (to make it a little less bold). You can still add other flavorings and ingredients to this drink as well.

Is an Americano Just Black Coffee?

The short answer is that no, an Americano is not just a black coffee, though that is a popular misconception. In fact, an Americano is not even made with traditional ‘black coffee.’

The Americano is actually made with espresso that has been diluted with hot water (at a ratio of approximately 1:1). On the other hand a black coffee is made with traditional coffee beans (rather than espresso) and does not have any added ingredients.

You can add milk, cream, sugar, cinnamon, honey or anything else you like to a black coffee but then it’s no longer considered ‘black coffee.’ It does still have a different base than an Americano, however.

Is Americano Stronger Than Black Coffee?

Actually, because an Americano is made with espresso you would think that it would be stronger than a standard black coffee. And if you were to drink just the espresso compared to a standard coffee you would be right. But because the espresso is diluted with hot water it ends up roughly the same strength as a standard cup of coffee.

The reason for this is that the espresso in the Americano is diluted with approximately double the amount of water. When you have half espresso and half hot water you’re going to get something that tastes just about as strong as your favorite coffee does.

You might have a little bit more strength to the espresso (depending on the specific blends you use) but in most cases the two will be very similar.

You may also still notice that despite the similarity in strength the Americano tastes a bit richer and fuller than the coffee. Though again, this will depend on the specific beans/grounds you use.

holding a cup of coffee on a saucer

What’s the Caffeine Content in Americano?

The average Americano, prepared with a double shot of espresso, has somewhere between 94 and 150 milligrams of caffeine. This is actually similar to the amount that you will find in a standard drip coffee, which ranges between 95 and 200 milligrams. It all depends on the specific blend that you use.

For example, some types of coffee beans have a slightly higher (or lower) caffeine content. The specific amount of espresso you add to your drink (if it’s a true double shot) will also vary the caffeine content slightly. It’s also important to consider the same when looking at drip coffee, where the amount of water used will vary the caffeine content of the final cup.

Either way, you’ll find that there’s a good amount of caffeine in your drink to help get you moving for the day (or midday).

How Do I Order an Americano?

Ready to order an Americano at your favorite coffee shop for the first time? Well, you won’t have any trouble because it’s actually a relatively standard drink. Just about any coffee shop that you go to should know what it is and all you have to do is tell them what size of Americano you want.

For example, Starbucks offers a short, tall, Grande or venti size for all of their drinks, including an Americano. The smallest size has one shot of espresso and the largest has four. For other coffee shops you might find something similar so you’ll simply tell them you want an Americano and then the size you want, which will correlate to the amount of espresso added.

Is Espresso Stronger Than Americano?

The short answer is yes, it’s going to be stronger. An Americano is technically a more watered down espresso, which means that a standard cup of Americano is going to contain the same amount of espresso as your standard double shot, but it’s also going to contain a relatively large quantity of hot water, which waters down the strength of the drink.

If you’re going to drink the same quantity of drink then you’re definitely going to have more strength to a full cup of espresso compared to a cup of Americano because the amount of actual espresso is much higher.

How Do You Pour An Americano?

The official, ‘correct’ way to pour an Americano is to pour hot water into a cup that already has espresso in it, however not everyone subscribes to this method. In fact, the alternative method is to pour espresso into a cup of hot water.

While these two methods of preparation may not sound different they can slightly alter the flavor of the drink because pour hot water over the espresso displaces the crema.

For those who are a little more particular, a cup of espresso where the espresso is poured over the water is called a ‘long black,’ while a cup with the hot water poured over the espresso is an Americano.

Most will call either form an Americano however, or would not fault you for doing so. Which means you can choose to pour your own espresso however you like but keep in mind that if you go to a coffee shop or have someone else brew it for you they may pour it differently.

Does Americano Have Crema?

It will actually depend on just how you make your Americano as to whether it will have crema or not. That’s because if you displace the espresso you will not have crema. If you pour espresso over the top, however, your beverage will have crema.

The official way to make an Americano is to pour in your espresso and then your hot water, which means you would displace the espresso and the end result would be a drink with no crema. On the other hand, you could pour the hot water into your cup first and then pour the espresso over the top. If you do then you will have a crema on top of your drink.

How Does Starbucks Make Their Americano?

Before you head to your local Starbucks to get an Americano you may want to know exactly how they do things. After all, you want to make sure that you’re getting the drink that you want and that it’s going to taste the way you expect. Luckily, Starbucks prepares their Americano the same way that everyone else does.

A standard Americano (tall at Starbucks) contains a double shot of espresso. That means your barista will pull two regular shots of espresso in a cup and pour the hot water over the top.

This will result in a full cup of your Americano (with two shots of espresso) and will give you a whole lot of flavor and boldness to the drink because everything is done quickly and with the hottest of ingredients so you don’t lose any of the flavor.

What is an Americano With Milk Called?

What if you want your Americano a little differently? Well, you can get an Americano in just about any way that you want, and you can add additional ingredients however you like as well. That includes adding them yourself or going to a coffee shop and asking for them with additional ingredients.

An Americano with milk is actually not as ‘strange’ as you might think and is actually a relatively common drink. You can order a ‘white Americano’ but not all coffee shops will know what that means. You can also just ask for an ‘Americano with milk.’ The barista at your local shop will definitely add the ingredients you want.

This type of drink is not quite a latte (which uses blended steamed milk and espresso) or a cappuccino (which uses layered espresso, steamed milk and foamed milk), but it is perhaps most similar to a latte. The difference is that a ‘white Americano’ will generally use cold milk rather than steamed, which is then poured into the drink (also there is already hot water to dilute it).

Is Americano Coffee Good for You?

You’ve probably heard a lot of mixed messages about whether or not coffee in general is good for you or not. Many studies seem to suggest that, in small quantities, coffee can actually be good for you, though larger quantities of anything are generally frowned upon. So, that could lead you to wonder whether an Americano is actually good for you.

The best way to evaluate whether it’s good for you or not is to look at what’s in it. An Americano is espresso (usually a double shot) and hot water. It’s calorie content is based on the specific grounds used but is generally around 15 calories (since there’s no calories in water). And there is no sugar in it by default.

That means that an Americano is actually relatively healthy and most definitely one of the healthiest drinks you can order at a coffee shop (coming in only after freshly brewed tea and traditional brewed coffee. Of course, the health benefits only really come if you are drinking these beverages ‘black’ or the way that they come, without adding in cream, sugar or other additives.

coffee with chocolates and a boquet of tulips

How to Make Americano at Home

Are you ready to make your own Americano at home? Well, you’re going to need the right equipment and you’re going to need to make sure you have the perfect ingredients. But luckily, the process doesn’t have to be as difficult as you might have thought (especially if your previous experience was watching the barista at Starbucks).

Step 1: Get Great Beans

The first thing you need in order to brew a great cup of any kind of coffee beverage is the right type of beans.

You want to have true espresso beans, first of all, as using regular coffee beans won’t give you the same flavor. You also want to make sure that you have high quality beans with a good, bold flavor. But remember, it’s entirely up to your preference so get something you like the flavor of.

Step 2: Measure Precisely

Once you have the right beans you’ll need to measure them out to get the right quantity for your drink. If you’re trying to make an Americano you will generally want a double shot (this is the standard that you would get at a coffee shop). That means you need around 14-18 grams of beans. Too much will make your espresso much bolder and too little will make your espresso too mild (unless you’re going to make a triple or a single shot instead of a double).

Step 3: Fine Grind

Next, grind the beans down to make sure they’re ready to prepare your espresso. You want a very fine grind because it’s going to ensure you get the right flavor profile when you pull your espresso.

Remember, espresso grounds should be much smaller than coffee grounds so you may need to turn down your grinder in order to get the right consistency. But also keep in mind that you can go too fine, which will result in grounds getting into your espresso. You may need a little trial and error to get it right.

Step 4: Tamp is Good

With espresso you need to have a good tamp to press the grounds down for the right flavor. If you have an espresso machine it may tamp the grounds down for you, packing them in firmly so you’re ready to pull the espresso. Otherwise you may need to get a tamper and press them down manually.

Make sure you’re using the right amount of pressure so your grounds are packed down firmly but not so much that your water can’t get through. This is another area where you may need to spend a little time perfecting your technique.

Step 5: Make the Espresso

Next up, you need to make the espresso. This part of the process is going to vary slightly based on whether you’re using a standard espresso machine or if you are using something else to simulate an espresso machine. Also, different machines will have different processes to get it just right.

Make sure you know how your espresso machine works and pull yourself a double shot to serve as the flavor base for your Americano.

Step 6: Get Into Hot Water

Next, you need to heat your water. In general, you want something that’s between 160 and 170◦F, but it will depend on your personal preference and tastes. Some people prefer their water a little cooler while others want a little hotter. Just remember that you want to be able to drink your espresso, so don’t make it too hot. And don’t make it too cold or you could ruin the flavor of the espresso.

Step 7: Pour the Espresso

Next up, you’re going to pour your beverage. You will get the best overall flavor by pouring your hot water into a cup and then pouring your double shot of espresso over it. You’ll use approximately twice as much water as you will espresso in a single cup, so make sure you have enough prepared.

You can also choose to heat some water and pour it into the cup early to heat it, then dump out that water, add the hot water for your Americano and top with the espresso. This will give you a great crema on top and make sure you have the best possible flavor to your drink.

Step 8: Enjoy Your Americano

Finally, you’re ready to enjoy your Americano. You can choose to drink it just like that (with hot water and espresso) or you can choose to add some other ingredients like cream, sugar, milk or anything else you might like. Enjoying your Americano is all about getting the flavor profile right for your personal taste, after all. So make sure you figure out what that is.

Summary and Conclusion

Now that you know everything there is to know about the Americano it’s time for you to have one and enjoy yourself. Maybe a nice cup will make for the perfect end to your day (and it might become your new favorite morning beverage). All you have to do is decide whether you’re going to brew your own or head to your favorite coffee shop.

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Sources

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What’s the Difference Between Americano and Black Coffee?
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