Americano vs Latte – What Are The Differences?

While Americanos and lattes are two popular espresso-based drinks, they are entirely different. If you don’t know about the differences in each beverage or haven’t had the chance to try one of them, you can continue reading to learn more about what makes each unique.

Comparing Cafe Latte and Americano - How are they different?

Every coffee enthusiast has experienced the feeling of standing in the front of a busy line at a coffee shop, not knowing what the various menu items mean. While all you want is to get a caffeinated beverage to help you wake up, the thought of asking aloud what each drink can give you feelings of anxiety. 

Luckily, once you can tell the difference between each, you will be able to have greater confidence the next time you order. 

Shots of Espresso

Each drink begins with a base shot of espresso. Because of this, each drink offers a richness that you cannot get with a basic coffee cup.

The word espresso means “quick.” To brew espresso, high pressure is used to brute force hot water through very finely ground coffee. This entire process is swift, as it only takes around 30 seconds to produce a highly concentrated caffeine shot.

If you are looking to either cut down on your coffee habit or reduce the time you spend in line early in the morning, you could always make your espresso at home. Espresso machines can be rather expensive, and the entire process can be time-consuming when you factor in preparation and cleanup. If you don’t want to spend the money or the time to do it on your own, you can continue reading to fully understand what drink you might like to order the next time you find yourself in front of a busy line at a coffee shop.

Shots of Espresso for Latte or Americano

What Exactly Is An Americano?

As mentioned previously, the base of an Americano is an espresso. From there, additional hot water is added to the base. That is all there is to it. To put it simply, an Americano is an espresso shot diluted with hot water. This is the most classic version of the drink. While some might add either ice for milk and sugar, those wouldn’t be a traditional Americano. Because of this, Americanos can be very strong and would primarily be for those that enjoy bolder flavors.

Americano Preparation

You usually prepare an Americano in a single 6-ounce cup. The typical ratio can vary from either 1/2 and 1/2 to 1/3 espresso and 2/3 water. The majority of local cafes will ultimately lean towards the later because a lot of customers would prefer a more diluted variant. 

The most significant debate surrounding the preparation of an Americano is when the hot water should be added. While the consensus is that the barista should start with the espresso and add hot water later, some do it the opposite way. This order dissipates the crema, which is the foam that can contribute to the boldness and the aroma that is traditionally found in an espresso pull. Whereas, if you reverse the order by adding the espresso shot to hot water, you can keep the crema intact. When done in reverse order, it is usually referred to as a “Long Black,” which is very popular in Australia.

Cafe Americano freshly brewed

What Exactly Is A Latte?

Like an Americano, this drink starts with a base of espresso. Unlike an Americano, steamed milk replaces the water. This drink produces a thin layer of foam at the top, which many latte lovers love. Therefore, a latte is usually a hot beverage that features a classic espresso flavor and milk for added texture and creaminess.

That being said, lattes can come in various preparations, much like an Americano. You can order a latte iced, and you can even add different flavors to it, including but not limited to hazelnut, cinnamon, caramel, and more.

How to prepare a Latte

A latte is a combination of three things. 

  1. The desired amount of espresso shots are poured into a mug. 
  2. Steamed milk is added (typically 4 to 6 ounces). 
  3. A thin layer of milk foam gets added on top. 

Because of the milk, the drink produces a thick, textured, and creamy end-result.

The actual term “latte” is a shortened version of an Italian term known as Caffe Latte. This term in Italian means “milk coffee.” It is a very appropriate term considering what the drink constitutes. Usually, a latte is served in a cup that holds 8-ounces. It is for those looking for an enjoyable yet not as a bold caffeinated drink like an Americano.

Typically, a barista will showcase his or her skills by adding their own intricate designs using the foam found on top, which is referred to as “latte art.” Therefore, if you are someone who enjoys taking pictures of your coffee, you will be able to get Instagram-worthy shots of your latte’s art. 

Making Latte Art

The Key Differences Highlighted:

While each of these drinks is espresso-based, there are a lot of differences between the two. Here is a breakdown of some of the critical differences.

Ingredients

As mentioned, the ingredients differ significantly. For one, an Americano consists of only espresso (coffee) and hot water. Whereas, a latte consists of espresso (coffee) and steamed milk.

Taste

An Americano produces a much more authentic and bolder coffee taste. Thus, it is much more intense than what a latte delivers. Each uses the same amount of espresso. The flavor is diluted when in Latte form by the addition of steamed milk. A latte will also offer the kind of texture and creaminess that you cannot match with an Americano.

The difference in boldness is likely to make you assume that an Americano contains more espresso and caffeine. This would only be true if you asked for more espresso in one or the other. It can vary from coffee shop to coffee shop, so you might want to ask if you are looking for a more caffeinated drink.

Texture

As mentioned time and time again, the texture is another significant difference between the two. Americanos are going to offer a much more liquid and watery consistency because it is diluted by water. Whereas, a latte will feature a much more textured and velvety texture due to the addition of steamed milk.

Which one Should you Order? 

Either drink is going to be for those who enjoy caffeinated beverages. However, if you are looking for an option that is entirely dairy-free and one that is going to deliver the boldness you might expect from a traditional cup of coffee, an Americano is likely what you are after. If you are someone who wants something flavored or you enjoy creamy consistency, a latte is likely up your alley.

Keep in mind that you can order lattes without dairy at most coffee shops, which makes lattes an option for those looking to avoid dairy but who might prefer the creamy texture it offers.

Comparing Cafe Latte and Americano - How are they different?
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