What is an Americano? (And How to Make One)
The Americano is a classic, simple and everyday coffee drink that should be championed more than it is. This straightforward expression of black coffee has humble beginnings, but is a pure expression of coffee flavor with a slightly less abrasive flavor.
The americano has an interesting origin story and it is actually seen as a bit of an outcast in Italy…
So, if you are someone that likes black coffee but aren’t sure what an americano really is, you’ve come to the right place!
What is an Americano?
An americano is typically made using a double shot of espresso, which is then diluted with equal parts hot water. A higher ratio of hot water to freshly brewed espresso can be added to an americano to reduce its strength and make it more palatable to a wider audience. Therefore, a 2 oz/ 60 ml double shot of espresso would be topped up with 2 oz or 60 ml of hot water in an americano.
The americano can be made with a single or double shot of coffee. Traditionally, it is made using a single shot of espresso with about twice the volume of hot water added to lessen the bitterness and strength of the drink. However, most coffee shops that serve americanos now will offer them with a double shot of espresso.
Why is it Called Americano?
It may sound a little strange that an espresso based drink from Italy would be named after America…
However, if you dig a bit deeper into how the americano came about, it actually makes perfect sense. According to Cafe De Lipa’s (March 2022) article “Coffee cup feature: Why do we call the Americano, Americano?” American soldiers tried espresso when posted in Italy during the second world war. Being used to weaker, drip brewed coffee, the Americans found the short, sharp espresso a bit too strong and bitter for their liking.
So, they added an equal volume of hot water to their espresso shots to dilute them, and the americano was born!
However, rumor has it the americano doesn’t go down particularly well in Italy… According to “What Is An Americano? How Does It Differ From A Long Black Or Drip Coffee?” by Jovana D of Home Grounds, diluted espresso shots are known as ‘dirty water’ to the Italians!
How to Make an Americano (Step by Step)
An americano is quite a straightforward drink to make, given that it is simply espresso topped up with hot water. That being said, the lack of ingredients in this coffee means the quality of the coffee used is even more important!
Finely ground, Medium roasted espresso coffee beans
(Alternatives): Aeropress/French Press/Moka Pot/Percolator
Here is a simple step by step method to help you make an amazing americano for yourself!
Step 1: Choose Your Coffee Beans
The first step in making a great Americano from the comfort of your own home is to pick the perfect coffee beans.
Traditionally, Americanos are made using medium roasted, Italian coffee beans. Bear in mind that no milk is used in a traditional americano, so the espresso flavor has more of a chance to shine through, compared to milkier coffee drinks like a latte or flat white.
As a result, picking a medium roasted coffee bean that is well balanced and has distinctive nutty or chocolaty flavor notes will be ideal for an Americano. If you are looking for a well balanced Italian coffee, something like Illy Classico coffee beans will do just fine. That said, pick any espresso bean that you prefer to drink without the softening effect of milk. Generally, more subtle tasting coffee beans tend to work better in black coffee, but the choice is yours!
Step 2: Brew Your Espresso
Next, you’ll need to brew your espresso. Either a single or double shot of espresso can be used in an americano, depending how strong you would like it to be.
The first thing to do is grind your coffee beans finely if you have a grinder at home. Alternatively, look out for ground coffee that is labelled as espresso grind, as this will be fine enough to use in your espresso machine.
If you are using an espresso machine, simply add your ground coffee to your portafilter, distribute evenly, tamp and away you go!
If you don’t have an espresso machine at home, you could also use a moka pot, percolator or aeropress to brew strong espresso.
If you don’t have a fancy espresso machine at home, check out these 7 alternative ways to make espresso-like coffee!
Step 3: Top Your Espresso with Hot Water
Once you have your freshly brewed espresso ready, it is time to add your hot water.
Simply pour your single or double shot of espresso into your serving cup, and top with an equal amount of hot water, so your espresso is perfectly diluted.
Step 4: Serve and Enjoy!
Now it is time to serve and enjoy!
Traditionally, an americano is simply served without cream, milk or sugar, but if you find the old school americano a little too harsh or bitter, you can add a dash of sugar or sweetener to take the edge off.
Americano Compared to Other Coffee Drinks
Whilst Americanos are very popular espresso based coffee drinks in Italy, there are also a number of other black coffee drinks that may take your fancy.
Drip Brew Coffee
A popular alternative to an americano is a straightforward drip brew coffee. Drip brew coffee uses a V60 or chemex and coffee filters to extract the coffee infused water by submersion. This is different to an americano which is made from an espresso. Espresso is made when hot water is forced through the finely ground coffee beans using pressure, whereas the drip brew method uses simply gravity and time to extract coffee. Drip brew coffee is also known as filter coffee, or pour over coffee.
This gives a drip brew coffee a more balanced and subtle flavor compared to an americano.
Instant Black Coffee
Another comparable coffee brewing method that makes a strong black coffee is simply using instant. Instant coffee sometimes gets a bad wrap due to the perceived lower quality, lack of caffeine and weaker flavors.
However, there are a lot of high quality instant coffees out there today, so coffee enthusiasts should feel no shame in using it.
An instant black coffee will generally have a lower caffeine content, a more subtle flavor and perhaps taste less fresh than a traditional americano. That said, it is a very convenient way to brew a long black coffee, so it shouldn’t be dismissed!
The fundamental americano recipe calls for simply equal parts freshly brewed espresso and hot water to be added to a serving cup. However, there are a few variations on the americano that may well be worth trying!
One of the most popular takes on the hot version is an iced americano. This uses the same hot, freshly brewed shot or two of espresso, but combines it with cold, filtered water and ice cubes.
This is a very refreshing drink that gives you a nice pick me up in hot weather. If you would like to find out more about the iced americano and how to make one, check out my article on this here.
You may have heard of traditional Italian names for popular coffees and thought, what does that actually mean? Is an americano actually any different to a lungo?
Well in short, no. These two drinks are practically the same, since they both use a shot of espresso and hot water. However, the only real difference I could find after a bit of googling was that the hot water is added whilst the espresso is brewing with a lungo, whereas with an americano, hot water is added after the espresso shot has already been brewed.
This will make no material difference to the taste of either drink however, so you can treat them as one and the same!
Another popular variation on the original americano is a white americano, where milk is added. Typically, this will be cold milk that is not steamed or frothed. Cold milk or cream is added to an americano to reduce the acidity of the drink and take a bit of the bitterness out of the flavor.
Overall, an Americano coffee is an Italian coffee that is popular across the world. Whilst it is not Italy’s favorite espresso based brew, it is a simple but punchy drink that combines freshly brewed java with hot water.
An americano is incredibly easy and affordable to make from the comfort of your own home. All you need is a way of making strong espresso and a kettle!
Is an Americano Just Black Coffee?
An americano is a type of black coffee, but they are not exactly the same. Black coffee simply refers to any type of coffee that is served without milk or cream, whereas an americano specifically uses hot water and espresso. Black coffee in general could be made using a drip brew method, instant coffee or a moka pot for example.
How is An Americano Different From Regular Coffee?
An americano is made using espresso and does not contain milk, whereas most people think of regular coffee as typically containing some form of milk or cream. Also, ‘regular coffee’ can be made using any brewing method, whereas an americano is always made using at least one espresso shot.
What is An Americano With Milk Called?
An americano with milk can be referred to as a white americano or an americano misto (which is how Starbucks refer to an americano with a small helping of steamed milk).