What is Americano Coffee? – Background and Brewing Guide

Coffee drinkers have made the Americano so popular that it has become somewhat of a culture. There are so many different types of coffee available in the market; from beans to roasts and even the preparations. There has been a buzz around the drink for a long time, with its popularity just continuing to grow. We can especially see this through the rise of coffee shops – of which, you are likely to see one at every corner of a street.

What is it? How do you make Americano (at home)? How is it different from brewed coffee?

Whether these are local, specialty coffee shops, or large chain coffee shops, they still have one thing in common; the Americano. This staple coffee drink will definitely be found on the menu of any coffee shop.

So, what exactly is an Americano? Find out everything about this deliciously simple cup o’ Joe below as we break down everything about it. You’ll find out about the history and how Americano is made and where it is different from drip coffee, a long black coffee, flat white, and other coffee beverages.

What Is an Americano?

Very simply put, an Americano is a black coffee. It is prepared by diluting one or two shots of espresso with hot water. It is said that the origin of this style of coffee started in World War II. This popular preparation of coffee came into being when soldiers from America that were stationed in Italy did not enjoy the strong taste of an espresso that everyone around them was drinking – What is Coffee Bloom? – Does it Affect Taste and Aroma?

Those soldiers that were stationed in Italy in and after World War II were used to drip coffee at home and not to shots of espresso! They instead poured boiling water over the espresso shot to enjoy the coffee as they were used to back home. The Americano was their way of replicating the American staple drip coffee in a foreign land – Drip Coffee Maker vs Percolator.

How Is an Americano Different from Regular Coffee?

With coffee preparations and brewing, it is all about the process. You might think that the final cup of coffee in front of you looks the same; whether it’s an Americano, a long black, a drip coffee, espresso, or even instant coffee stirred into a cup of hot water. The real difference lies in the process and the taste.

When you talk about “regular coffee”, you are probably referring to drip coffee since it is the most widely seen process. Drip coffee is a lot milder in flavor with a subtle aroma as compared to the intense, earthy flavor of an Americano.

Don’t let the flavor fool you! When you compare an Americano vs drip coffee you’ll surprisingly have the latter one be the stronger one. A cup of drip coffee has a lot higher caffeine content as compared to an Americano, with roughly 120mg of caffeine content per cup of drip coffee compared to the 80mg caffeine content of an Americano.

An Americano is prepared using finely ground coffee beans while drip coffee requires a coarser grind. Another major difference is the thin layer of foam on top of an Americano, which you will not find on a regular cup of coffee prepared as drip coffee.

An interesting fact about the difference between an Americano vs a Long Black is that they pretty much taste the same but they just have one minuscule difference. In a Caffè Americano, you pour the water over the shot of espresso. In a Long Black, you pour the shots of espresso over the hot water – that’s it! That being said, there’s really no difference in the end product, and the long black tastes the same.

Can You Make an Americano At Home?

Why not? As long as you have an espresso machine at home, you can prepare yourself a coffee-shop-style Americano right at home! You cannot prepare an Americano with a drip coffee maker though. Well, you kinda could if you prepare your espresso in your drip coffee machine. It’s not 100% but it can get you close.

Prepare your espresso as you normally would using your espresso machine with finely ground coffee beans. You can make it a single or double shots of espresso, depending on your preference. Pour it into your favorite mug and top it off with hot water. That’s how an Americano is made!

Don’t be confused though. You can’t make it at home if you only have a drip coffee maker! Drip coffee is by no means the same as an espresso and the brewers are very different.

The ratio for making the perfect Americano is 1:2. That means a 30ml shot of espresso is topped off with 60ml of water. However, if you prefer your cup of coffee stronger, add more shots of espresso or less water – there are no hard and fast rules for this. It all depends on what strength you want for your cup of coffee and what thickness you want from the brewed coffee – it’s all about personal preference.

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Having an Americano for Breakfast

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How Many Shots of Coffee Are in an Americano?

Like we stated above, there are no hard and fast rules for how much espresso you can add to an Americano? It just depends on personal preference. If you go to a coffee shop and ask for an Americano, you are likely to get one with just 1 shot of espresso, while other times you might get one with 2 shots. If you have a preference of what strength you like your Caffè Americano, let your barista know when you place your order at your favorite coffee shop!

Is an Americano an Espresso?

An Americano is not espresso. Espresso is the base coffee of it much like it is for many other coffee preparations. It is made in a specific espresso machine where pressurized water is forced through finely-ground coffee beans to result in a small cup of concentrated coffee that is thick and creamy.

An Americano is the result of the additional pouring of hot water over this shot of concentrated coffee. A slight variation in the way you prepare your coffee can have an effect on the taste and texture.

Does an Americano Have Crema?

Crema is not exactly what it sounds like – meaning it is not the result of adding cream to your coffee. It is a thin layer of foam that settles on the surface of your coffee, especially on an espresso shot. It is a light brown color and results from the pressure applied to the coffee grounds and the type of bean used. It is usually an indicator of the quality of the coffee.

Since Americanos are made from espresso shots, they can have a layer of crema on top, but that all depends on how the water is poured on top. If it is poured in an angle and the top layer of the espresso is not disturbed, the Caffè Americano will not have crema. However, some baristas prefer to pull the mug away while pouring the coffee, breaking the surface, and mixing the crema into the Americano; this is said to mellow out the flavor of the coffee resulting in a more enjoyable cup.

What Is an Americano At Starbucks?

At Starbucks, if you order a Caffé Americano, you can expect it to be brewed using their Starbucks Espresso Roast. They use their specialized espresso machine to get a concentrated shot of rich coffee that has a thick layer of crema. The flavor of their espresso is very intense, but when it is poured over with hot water, the cup of coffee gets a milder taste with caramel tones and a subtle sweetness.

What Is an Americano With Milk?

Even though an Americano was invented for the purpose of mellowing out the taste of an espresso shot, many people still find the taste too intense, especially when compared to drip coffee. An Americano is slightly more intense than a regular black coffee, so if you think regular black coffee (Comparing Black Coffee vs White Coffee) is too strong, an Americano might not be your cup of tea (or coffee in this case).

Milk can be used to diffuse the flavor of the intense coffee – however, this will be a lot less milk than a latte and not foamed like a cappuccino (What is a wet cappuccino?). You can control just how much you want to your liking. Sugar can also be added to tone down the bitter notes of an Americano.

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Making a Double Americano

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How Is an Americano With Milk Different from a Flat White?

There are many differences when you look at an Americano vs a flat white, even when milk is added. Yes, they are both espresso-based drinks, much like many other coffee drinks but that is the only similarity between them. Both preparations start off with either one or two espressos. In a flat white, steamed milk is poured directly over the shot(s) of espresso. No foam is added to the top like you would in a latte.

In contrast, to make an Americano, you would pour water over the espresso, regardless of if you want to add milk (Using Soy Milk in Coffee – Can you use it in your Americano?) to it or not. Once it is prepared with water, a splash of milk is added on top to tone down the coffee flavor.

Do Italians Drink Americano?

Italians prefer to drink their coffee while standing, even in a coffee shop. Their normal order of coffee is a shot of espresso. They don’t walk around with their takeaway cups in hand; they drink it quickly and without fuss. Italian coffee shops that serve Americanos (Americano vs Drip Coffee – What are the Differences between each Cup?) do it for the tourists, not for the locals.

The younger generations of Italians have started getting into this Americanized version of their beloved espresso, but if you want to drink coffee like a true Italian, go for it straight and strong with no fuss; an espresso.

How Do You Make an Americano Without A Machine?

Getting an espresso machine isn’t the most feasible option for a lot of people, especially, if you aren’t a regular coffee drinker, but you still like to enjoy your occasional cup. Don’t worry, making a Caffè Americano at home without a specialized machine is still possible – Americano vs Latte – What Are The Differences?

If you enjoy your coffee, you are likely to have a French press or a Moka pot at home; either of which can help you get that initial concentrated shot of espresso that can be the base.

Use a French Press

In a French press, use double the amount of coffee you regularly would and grind it very, very finely. Make sure the ground coffee beans you use are an espresso roast. Add a few splashes of hot water to the press, and let the coffee bloom.

Add about a cup more of hot water and let it extract for 4-5 minutes before you plunge. Pour out an espresso shot amount of coffee and top off with hot water according to taste.

Using a Moka Pot

With a Moka pot, you want to follow a similar process. You want to add a finer ground espresso roast coffee at double the amount you usually would. You will fill the water only up to the minimum fill line at the bottom of the pot.

Place the pot on medium heat and wait for the hissing sound to tell you it is done. Stir the coffee, and pour out an espresso-sized shot into a mug, and top it with hot water for a makeshift Americano!

Final Thoughts 

An Americano is a great way to enjoy an intense cup of coffee if the espresso is too bitter for you. Americanos are better than drip coffee as they are prepared fresh per cup and have a much more aromatic and bolder flavor. Next time you’re planning to grab yourself a cup of black coffee, skip the pot of pre-brewed drip coffee and try the fresh new flavor of the Americano.

What is it? How do you make Americano (at home)? How is it different from brewed coffee?
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