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What is an Americano?

What is an Americano?

Ever ordered an Americano coffee, just to get something different, and then find yourself wondering what it really was?

When it comes to coffee, there are so many options to choose from. Not only do you have the original black coffee, to which you can add an almost unlimited amount of flavorings, but then you have lattes, mochas, frappuccinos and espressos. The Americano seems to be left out a lot these days.

That’s not to say that the Americano is an inferior coffee. Not only does it have pretty patriotic (rumored) roots, but the coffee drink is also quite versatile. So what’s the difference between an Americano and the rest?

So, What is the Americano?

The Americano is basically a watered-down espresso shot. But that’s such a crude way of putting it. The Americano deserves to be respected just like any other coffee out there. Take a regular coffee cup, add one or two shots of espresso and fill the rest with hot water. With that simple process, now you can make an Americano coffee at home.

The Americano’s History

The name of the Americano literally means ‘American’ in Spanish or Italian. The name of the coffee is directly correlated to how it came about to be, since many think that the American’s were behind the invention of the drink.

It’s rumored that the origin of the Americano can be traced back to World War II, when American soldiers in Italy who missed their regular brewed coffee, would add extra water to their espresso shots to mimic the coffee from home.

No one knows for sure though, although the story is a probable one. Many say that the Americano is the Italians answer to American’s preferring drip coffee or brewed coffee to the usual Italian espresso.

The Difference Between Black Coffee, Espresso and Americano

While an Americano may be made up of the same ingredients that an espresso and the usual brewed black coffee is, the differences between the way they’re put together is really what makes the Americano coffee stand out.

First, the difference is really in how a black coffee is made and how an espresso is made. Black coffee, or brewed coffee, is made using the drip method. That is, simply letting how water drip through the coffee grinds and into a cup.

Americano Espresso Doppio

Espresso, on the other hand, is made by forcing steam through the coffee grinds. You can make a shot of espresso much faster than you can a regular cup of coffee, since the water is being forced faster through the coffee grinds. Also, the coffee beans are ground much finer for an espresso than for regular cup of coffee. Typically you would want to use an espresso machine that is designed to handle the finer coffee grounds, unlike a standard drip coffee brewer.

Since an Americano is made by mixing a shot of espresso with hot water, the end result is pretty much a diluted espresso. Because of the different methods in making them, the Americano can’t be confused with regular drip coffee, although in some countries they serve the Americano as a ‘black coffee.

The Taste of an Americano

Although the Caffè Americano is created with espresso, don’t expect it to taste exactly like one. Because of the fact that it is diluted with water, it loses some of the kick of espresso and instead tastes more like a richer, bolder cousin of the black coffee.

An espresso is usually much thicker than the regular drip coffee, but when it comes to the Americano the body is not quite as rich since it has water added. Even so, the smoothness is there, and you can expect the Americano to bring this out in contrast to the drip coffee it imitated many years ago.

Also, when an espresso is made, there is usually a layer of foam on top that is created from the rapid push of the water through the coffee bean grinds. This layer of foam is called “crema and adds another dimension of taste to the Americano and sets it apart even further from the regular drip coffee.

And one last point of difference — the Americano tends to run a little hotter than its drip coffee counterpart. When making espresso, the water used is heated up a lot more so the end result is that the Americano is also hotter (because you don’t expect the barista to add cold water to make your Americano, do you?).

Caffeine Content for an Americano

If you’re trying to watch your caffeine levels, it might be better to order an Americano, compared to a regular black coffee. According to the Mayo Clinic, eight ounces of a cup of drip coffee has between 95-165 mg of caffeine (it differs depending on the region the bean is from and how it was roasted), while a one ounce of espresso has only 47-64 mg of caffeine.

Considering that the Americano is made by pouring water over a shot, or at most two, of espresso, the caffeine content can stay relatively low. That’s not to say that you will sacrifice on taste though — as we discussed earlier the Americano has its own unique taste.

Methods of Pouring an Americano

There are two ways to pour the Americano, and it seems that different people and, sometimes, entire countries prefer either one or the other. The coffee can be poured the traditional way, which is by pouring the espresso into the cup first and then adding the hot water.

The second way is to pour the hot water into the cup first and then add the espresso shot (s). It seems that some prefer this second method because you can get more of the foam from the espresso to stay on top and not dissolve into the drink before you can even start drinking. It helps to keep the espresso together because the water doesn’t break it up when it’s poured over.

The different methods even have different names, as the original Americano is usually poured with the espresso first and the Long Black is poured with the espresso last. The Long Black is a name concocted by the Australians, after the drink was brought to them by the Italians.

Variations of the Americano

There are a few different ways to make an Americano, and every barista and coffee shop has their preferred way, although you can always tell them how to make one specifically for you. Either one or two shots of espresso can be used and then the espresso is diluted either in a 1:1, 1:2 or 1:4 ratio with water (the latter being the most common).


If you’ve read this far, you’re now pretty knowledgeable on the Americano drink. And you know the drink is nothing to scoff at. From its (alleged) history to the many ways that it’s enjoyed today, the Americano sure knows a thing or two about being a standout.

The Americano also knows how to be unique. Changing flavors is easy when you change the bean or roast intensity, but the Americano can go one step further and even change up its components.

Try asking your barista for a Long Black next time you go and see if they know what that is. If they don’t, you get to tell them a thing or two about their craft.