Americano vs Latte: Which to Choose?
There are so many coffee variations out there that it can sometimes be a bit overwhelming when you walk into your local coffee shop and aren’t sure which to pick!
However, two of the most popular coffee based drinks are the americano and the latte, but for quite different reasons. One is a simple, no nonsense drink that lets the natural espresso flavor shine through, and the other is a silky smooth, creamy drinking experience.
So, let’s take a closer look at what americanos and lattes are, the similarities and differences between them, and which you should choose!
What’s the Difference Between an Americano and a Latte?
Both americanos and lattes start off with a double shot of espresso. However, a traditional americano is topped up with just hot water (no milk), whereas a latte is made using steamed milk and a thin layer of foam.
What’s more, americanos (despite their name) were first drunk in Italy during the second world war, whereas lattes started being consumed a century earlier.
Let’s take a closer look at what each of these popular coffee drinks is, where they came from and the differences between them.
What is an Americano?
An americano is made using either a single or 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 at least 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.
Check out my article for more detail on what an americano is, and how to make one!
Where an Americano Comes From
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! Clearly they aren’t keen on outsiders watering down their espresso!
What is a Latte?
A latte is a very popular, traditional espresso-based drink that combines rich, espresso with a generous helping of steamed milk and a thin layer of foam for good measure.
Lattes are made up of a double espresso shot, combined with approximately 4 to 6 oz of steamed milk. A layer of foam is then nestled on top of this brew, which is typically formed into a pattern, called latte art.
Check out my article for more detail on what an latte is, and how to make one!
Whole milk is usually used to make a traditional latte, but alternative ingredients can be used to add a bit of variety to the latte’s taste and texture. Many milk alternatives such as oat milk, soy milk, and almond milk can be used for those that are lactose intolerant or people that simply want an alternative flavor in their latte.
Iced lattes are also incredibly popular, substituting hot, steamed milk and foam for cold milk and ice cubes. Also, a “breve latte” can be made using half and half (a combination of whole milk and heavy cream) rather than regular milk.
Lattes are very versatile coffee based drinks. Their creamy texture is universally loved, which makes the latte a great base for customization. Check out my article detailing 14 latte alternatives to find out more!
Where a Latte Comes From
The common term for latte did not come into the mainstream until the mid-1800s. According to the Wikipedia page for the latte, the first reference to Caffe e latte came in the essay “Italian Journeys” by William Dean Howells.
Back then, the term latte was kind of used interchangeably for coffees containing steamed milk or froth.
The Similarities Between Americanos and a Lattes: Explained
Despite americanos and lattes using different ingredients and being aimed at slightly different audiences, there are a few similarities between them.
Both Use a Double Shot of Espresso
Since both the americano and the latte originated in Italy, it is unsurprising that they use a double shot of espresso as their base. Espresso is a small volume of concentrated coffee, made using a steam powered machine, that forces how water through very finely ground coffee beans.
Both americanos and lattes dilute the bold espresso flavor down with their water and milk, making them more palatable to a wider audience.
If you want to recreate a great americano or latte from home, but don’t have a fancy espresso machine, check out these 7 alternative methods to make great espresso-like coffee!
Americanos and Lattes Both Come from Italy
It may be surprising to hear, but both americanos and lattes actually originated in the home of coffee in Europe, Italy! However, the latte is viewed much more favorably by the Italians than the americano, it’s fair to say!
The Differences Between an Americano and a Latte: Explained
So, here are the main differences between an americano and a latte. Whilst they both contain a double shot of espresso and come from Italy, there are actually a number of differences that separate them!
Americanos do not contain Milk, Lattes do
The biggest difference between an americano and a latte is that a traditional americano is simply made from espresso and hot water, whereas a latte contains a generous helping of steamed milk.
This gives an americano a stronger, bolder flavor compared to a latte, which is more more mellow.
Lattes have a Thicker, Creamier Texture than Americanos
Due to the use of steamed, whole milk that is traditionally used to make a latte, it has a thicker, creamier and more luscious texture than an americano. The micro foam found in steamed milk gives the latte a much smoother texture than the americano, which has a much more watery mouthfeel by comparison.
Americanos are More Acidic than Lattes
Since an americano contains no milk to offset the acidity of the espresso compared to a latte, it is a more acidic drink. However, compared to a double shot of espresso on its own, both the americano and the latte are less acidic drinks overall.
Check out my article on the best low-acid coffees here.
So, Which Should You Choose?
So, americano or latte, which should you pick?
Well if you are a relatively new coffee drinker that likes a milky, smooth coffee that is not too strong but will still get you up in the morning, then a latte is a great place to start. There are loads of ways to customize a latte and you will be able to taste the espresso, without it being too strong.
However, if you prefer a bold, bitter coffee that is still a long drink and emphasizes the natural bitterness and unique flavor profile of a specialty coffee bean, then an americano would suit you down to the ground!
Overall, whilst the americano and the latte both originate from Italy, they are actually very different drinks.
Where an americano is a bold blend of espresso and hot water that emphasizes the natural bitterness of the coffee, a latte is a much smoother, creamier combination of steamed milk, espresso and foam.
Is an Americano Stronger than a Latte?
An americano does taste stronger than a latte, as there is no milk used to dilute the intense espresso flavor.
Does an Americano have more caffeine than a latte?
Since an americano and a latte both use a double shot of espresso, assuming the coffee beans and brewing time is kept constant, americanos and lattes will contain the same amount of caffeine
What is an Americano with Milk called?
An americano that contains a splash of milk is called an ‘americano misto’. Steamed or cold milk can be added to an americano to bring a bit of creaminess to the party.