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Anybody who drinks coffee is likely familiar with an Americano. It is the standard black coffee that is served in most cafes. At home, our coffee machines are filter coffee machines. This is because making Filter coffee is very much more affordable than making Espresso coffee, but more on that later.
Often, a cafe will offer both Americano and Filter coffee as standard black coffee options. Have you ever wondered just what the difference between these two drinks? What is an Americano in the first place?
Well, that’s what we’re here for! Today we are going to be talking about Americano coffee, what is is, where it comes from and how does it compare to other types of black coffee.
What is an Americano?
Americano coffee is espresso with hot water added to it. Any combination of espresso with hot water added after is an Americano. Learn here more about it.
In America, an Americano is normally made using a double espresso. The ratio is generally one part Espresso to three parts water.
In Europe, where coffee size is generally smaller, the ratio is closer to 1:1 i.e.. one part Espresso to one part water. This is also known as a short Americano in The States or an Italiano on the west coast.
How do You Make an Americano?
To make an Americano, first you brew an espresso. An Espresso is made by forcing hot water through finely ground coffee at his pressure.
The art of making an Espresso is a whole other article in itself but essentially with the right recipe (coffee volume, grind size, water pressure and water amount) the brewing process should take around 30 seconds.
After you have your Espresso, you simply add hot (but not boiling) water slowly to it in order not to ruin the crema on top. The amount of water added is up to you, based on preference.
This means that an Americano is less strong and less oily than an Espresso. More about the taste later.
Americano Coffee Brewing
Americano is Espresso based coffee that is made using finely ground coffee and pressure.
In order to make an Americano, we require an espresso machine that is able to create this high pressure. This is an expensive process, therefore pump espresso machines are not that cheap. Espresso alternatives, such as Moka pot coffee are acceptable, however, the taste profile will be different. Americano coffee can be brewed with any espresso machine. For the convenience seekers, some super-automatic espresso machines have a one touch option for Americanos.
Where Did the Americano Come from? A Little History
Americano, like other Espresso coffee, comes from Italy. It is said that the American G.I.s in World War II found the Italian Espresso too strong and would water it down to make it more similar in strength to the coffee they would drink at home.
When the early Espresso machines were invented, a longer Espresso black coffee drink was originally called a Caffè Crema. This name fell out of fashion in favor of Americano in the 1950s. These days, Caffè Crema is a different drink, I’ll talk a bit more about that in a second.
Americano vs. Filter Coffee
So, I hear you ask, just what is the difference between Americano and Filter Coffee? Aren’t they both just black coffee? Two names for the one drink?
Well, I am here to tell you today that the answer to that question is a resounding no! Surprisingly, these two types of coffee are actually completely different drinks, brewed in a completely different ways.
What about Drip Coffee? Americano vs Drip Coffee Compared
Filter coffee, on the other hand, is brewed using only gravity. This means that Filter coffee is much slower to brew. The standard brewing time for Filter coffee is anywhere between three and five minutes.
It also means that we need coarser ground coffee, so that the water can pass through the coffee without the aid of pressure. These different brewing methods produce very different drinks with different flavor profiles.
Early on in my coffee experience I tried to make pourover filter coffee with pre ground, store bought coffee. Pre ground coffee is generally ground much finer so that it is compatible with Espresso machines. Anyway, long story short it took about 15 minutes to brew the Filter coffee and it tasted disgusting. Safe to say I learned my lesson and never did that again!
Americano Appearance and Taste
Americano coffee is typically a darker, stronger tasting drink. This is because the high pressure generally gets rid of any lighter, subtle notes. Therefore, Americano coffee, and Espresso coffee in general is generally paired better with darker roast coffees and darker notes typical in south American coffees.
A well made Americano will also have crema. This is again possible due to the high pressure, which forces the oils in the coffee bean into the drink.
The crema in Espresso coffee is something that coffee aficionados swear by. It serves as a barrier against the outside elements and preserves the taste of the coffee for longer. When it comes into contact with the air this crema starts to dissipate. Therefore, Americano coffee should be drunk quickly.
Filter Coffee Appearance and Taste
The slower filter brewing process causes the coffee produced to have a lighter, more tea like texture.
The tasting profile is also much lighter. The water is in contact with the coffee for much longer, so the brew has time to pick up flavors from the coffee beans that you don’t get with Americano. Lighter notes and tones are also preserved due to no pressure being used in the preparation.
The Filter brewing method, therefore, pairs well with lighter roasts and beans typically from Africa.
These are only general guidelines, however, and lots of experienced coffee drinkers prefer their pairings the other way around, or else like to play around with different brewing methods, beans, roasts and recipes.
Well made Filter coffee has a more balanced taste than Americano, as the recipe accounts for the extra water content. With Americano the ideal Espresso recipe is diluted with the hot water. The recipe is then thrown off a little and the Americano is a little more bitter to taste.
Caffeine Content Americano vs Filter Coffee
The caffeine content in Americano and Filter coffee is quite similar and isn’t worth getting worked up about.
However, contrary to popular belief, there is actually slightly more caffeine in Filter coffee than there is in Americano, despite the Americano’s stronger taste. This is simply because with Filter coffee the water is in contact with the coffee for longer, and so it has the opportunity to extract more caffeine.
Long Black vs Americano - Which One Is Better
Some of you may or not have heard of a Long Black so first thing’s first, I’ll explain quickly. If you heard of it and you aren't sure if Americano coffee is better than a Long black, you'll find your answer here.
What is a Long Black?
A Long Black is very similar to an Americano with a few subtle differences. It is also made by adding hot water to Espresso.
There are two main differences. Firstly, the hot water is added before the Espresso. This preserves the crema from the Espresso. The second difference is that there is generally less water in a Long Black.
The Long Black is the standard, Espresso based black coffee in New Zealand and Australia but it is growing in popularity the world over.
The Long Black also has its origins in Italy. The story here is that Italian baristas created the Long Black when American tourists kept asking for a ‘longer black coffee’. This was as opposed to the ‘Short Black’ (Espresso).
In reality, the Americano and the Long Black were likely the same drink at the start that morphed over time and became two different drinks associated with different cultures.
Which is Better Long Black or Americano?
As usual with coffee, there is no right answer here - it comes down to preference. If you prefer more coffee in your cup, and a drink that isn’t as strong then the Americano is for you. If you like a stronger coffee that doesn’t take too long to drink, but is still more than an Espresso, give the Long Black a try!
Personally, I am a big fan of the Long Black. I generally like drinking Espresso. However, when you are meeting someone for coffee, you want a brew that is going to last a little bit longer. In this instance, a Long Black is great. I also like that the crema lasts longer with a Long Black.
Caffè Crema - Another Espresso Beverage
Finally, we have the Caffè Crema. Originally the same drink, a Caffè Crema is now its own entity. This version of black coffee is popular in Switzerland, Germany, Austria and Northern Italy.
A Caffè Crema is made by running a longer shot through an Espresso machine, as opposed to making Espresso then adding hot water after brewing.
The potential advantage of this is that, if you get the extraction right, the Caffè Crema is more balanced.
On the negative side, it is much harder to properly extract coffee in this way. Espresso machines are built to pull Espresso shots. Coffee needs to be ground courser for this to work, and some experimentation is required. However, this is true with all coffee brewing, so don’t let it put you off!
So there You Have It!
Hopefully that has cleared up some questions that you might have had about Americano and black coffee. If something is still unclear, feel free to ask a question in the comments below!