What Is Americano Coffee? The Secrets Behind This Classic, Popular Coffee

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By: Tom Valenti


There’s a lot that people, even coffee lovers, don’t know about the Americano. Where it comes from, how it’s made, how different is it from drip coffee, and a lot more. So what is American coffee? This drink has been a part of the wonderful world of coffee for the longest time, so it’s time to get to know all about it.

An Americano or Caffè Americano is espresso diluted with hot water. So that’s different from coffee traditionally brewed. The strength of an Americano depends on how many espresso shots you add (1 or 2) and also how much hot water is poured over the espresso.


The Definition of Americano Coffee – What Is Americano Coffee?

You most probably have heard of Americano coffee because it’s a very popular beverage. You add espresso to water, and that’s the gist of it. But there’s more to an Americano.

Keep in mind that it’s a coffee drink, not a coffee brewing method like pour-over or French Press. Rather an Americano is similar to a cappuccino, latte, or mocha. Meaning it’s prepared with already brewed coffee.

A traditional Americano consists of an espresso shot and 8–12 ounces hot water. But I prefer my Americano with two or double espresso shots, like many, many other caffeine enthusiasts. But when you add two shots of espresso, you also have to adjust the amount or ratio of water.

For an Americano, hot water is added to the espresso and not the other way around as the latter becomes a Long Black. So to make an Americano, hot water is poured into a cup containing an espresso shot. While a Long Black is hot water first so the espresso floats on top, this way the crema is preserved.

The Origin of Americano Coffee

Back to World War II where American soldiers ditched the Italian way of sipping strong espresso and very successfully came up with their own version of drinking drip coffee by adding water to it. This is how the classic Americano came into being (during the late 1920s).

American soldiers stationed in Europe at the time were consuming copious amounts of coffee. But they didn’t like the local espresso, hence its more palatable and less bitter sibling was found. And this drink came to be known as Americano or Caffè Americano.

The Aroma of Americano Coffee

Does it have the same rich aroma as your regular coffee? Typically, the fragrance is even richer and more complex and nuanced. Since double espresso is used, it gives off a more distinct, stronger aroma.

The Taste of Americano Coffee

An Americano offers a stronger, bolder, and richer flavor than regular coffee. The flavors imparted by brewed coffee may be more delicate and complex, but it’s Americano that contains more depth in terms of taste. On top of that, unlike brewed coffee, Americano is less likely to taste burnt or bitter.

However, the flavor profile here depends on the espresso. If the espresso shot is not properly extracted, it tends to mess with the Americano taste. For example, overly extracted espresso will have a harsh and bitter profile while under-extraction results in the coffee flavor being acidic and sour.

The Mouthfeel of Americano Coffee

Espresso is subjected to a shorter extraction time, so it retains most of the rich coffee oils that are such a natural part of the beans used. These oils then become a part of the silky foam known as crema, which feels very velvety in the mouth even in the case of an Americano. There’s more viscosity here in comparison to regular coffee.

The Caffeine Level of Americano Coffee

Americano is made using espresso, which many people believe is loaded with too much caffeine. That, however, is NOT true. And to do away with this myth, I have dedicated an entire post to how much caffeine is there in one shot of espresso.

One espresso shot consists of only 80 ml of caffeine. A 12-ounce cup of coffee, on the other hand, contains about 120 ml of caffeine.

But the caffeine level or ratio increases when you add double espresso shots to your Americano.

How Americano Coffee Is Prepared

What Is Americano Coffee?

Espresso shot or shots and hot water, isn’t that how an Americano is made? Yes, it is but how hot the water should be, the quality of the espresso, and the coffee-to-water ratio – all these factors matter when preparing Caffè Americano.

1. Espresso

If the main ingredient of the Americano is not great, how can you expect the drink itself to be great? That said, I should stress the importance of brewing the most flavorful espresso. Now there are no espresso beans because espresso is made using the same coffee beans as regular drip coffee. Instead, it’s the blend, roast, and brewing technique that play a role.

To be more specific with you, dark roast beans are perfect since they are packed with less acidity and a fuller body that’s ideal for espresso.

More important than that is the thicker crema you get with dark-roasted coffee beans. Thanks to the build-up of oil on the beans’ surface, which is extracted out of them by hot water as well as steam. This process results in forming a rich, oily foam layer called crema.

As for the most suitable blend for espresso, that would be a mix of Arabica and Robusta coffee beans. Arabica is softer, cleaner, and sweeter whereas the Robusta version is harsher with a lot more caffeine and bitterness. So for espresso, Arabica beans are combined with a limited quantity of Robusta beans. That way, you get the best of both worlds – more caffeine and body.

Finally, the brewing method for espresso involves finely-sized ground coffee, high pressure, and slow dripping. Hot water passes slowly through coffee at high pressure to produce a thicker and stronger dark brown liquid known as espresso.

2. Water

When you talk about Americano, you’re talking about layering two different types of liquids – espresso and hot water. The two are not combined, they’re layered instead. Since espresso goes first, its crema needs to be preserved, which can be done only through clean and fresh water. This will also give you a much smoother drink.

What about water temperature? That can be anywhere between 190 degrees and 200 degrees Fahrenheit. The goal is to match the water temperature with the coffee temperature.

In the case of iced Americano, however, you add cold water.

3. Preparing the Americano

Does the espresso go first or second? When making an Americano, the process is clear and simple, even Starbucks follows this rule – to pour hot water over the shot of espresso. Doing it any other way means messing with the crema and body of the espresso. That’s how a classic Americano is made.

But if you want to pour espresso over hot water, you can go ahead and do that too by all means. But then the drink will be a Long Black, not an Americano.

Moving on, what is the coffee-to-water ratio for Americano coffee? 1 or 2 shots of flavor-packed, full-bodied espresso with 6 ounces of hot water.

If you want your Caffè Americano to be more potent, using strong espresso is a must. While for less potency, choose a Lungo (the Italian word for “long” – this is when ground espresso coffee goes through longer extraction). This type of espresso is more bitter and weaker than a standard double shot.

Different Types of Americano Coffee

White Americano

The white in a White Americano is lightly steamed or cold milk. Part-milk and part-water (hot water) are added to a single or double shot of espresso.

Iced Americano

It’s classic Americano but you use cold water instead of hot water. With ice cubes if you like.


Closely related to the traditional Americano, a Longo consists of espresso being pulled with a larger volume of water. Either that or water is poured over the espresso for a longer time. The extra water will dilute the espresso just like it does with a regular Americano.

Americano vs. Other Coffee Drinks

I’m all in for taking my coffee with milk, even my Americano. Only that the Americano then goes from being a traditional Americano to a White Americano. Steamed half-and-half is also quite popular, but that doesn’t taste anything like a latte or cappuccino (americano vs cappuccino).

A latte contains espresso, steamed milk (twice the amount of a cappuccino), and flavorings like hazelnut or vanilla. So a cappuccino would have the same base espresso shot, steam milk, and an additional foam layer on top (latte skips the foam).

As for a macchiato, it’s the same as a cappuccino except that the espresso ratio is more and that of milk is less. Even a mocha is like a cappuccino but with chocolate syrup or hot chocolate.

All of these delicious coffee drinks, unlike the classic Americano, don’t have hot water. And that’s the difference. Although you can add flavored syrups or even cinnamon if you want to infuse a more unique flavor into your Americano.

Difference Between Americano and Regular Coffee

Difference Between Americano and Regular Coffee

Preparing regular coffee requires you to brew ground coffee in hot water. The fresh brew is then served black or milk, sugar, or cream is added. This coffee drink’s flavor and strength vary based on the brewing technique, coffee bean type, and coffee-to-water ratio.

Making an Americano is an entirely different thing. The classic or conventional version includes a single or double espresso shot and hot water. Because of the espresso, the coffee has a bolder and richer flavor.

Regular coffee is brewed using hot water.

Americano is made by diluting espresso using hot water.

Difference Between Americano and Drip Coffee

Once again, the difference between the two is that drip coffee doesn’t have espresso shots. But Americano does, which is why its flavor is comparatively a lot bolder.

Hot water is poured over ground coffee placed in a filter – that’s how you get drip coffee.

Hot water is added to a single or double espresso shot – that’s how you get Americano.

Difference Between Americano and Long Black

For an Americano, you have to pour hot water over the espresso. For a Long Black, the opposite is the case – meaning espresso is poured over hot water. In the latter scenario, the thick, creamy crema is preserved, thus adding more richness to the flavor of Long Black. So this is why Americano has a milder, less pronounced taste.

Frequently Asked Questions About Americano Coffee (FAQs)

Is Americano Black Coffee?

Technically, Americano is black coffee. An Americano is prepared by bringing together hot water and 1–2 shots of espresso. The former dilutes the latter, and that’s you make a classic Americano. Because of the dilution, it has a milder taste than standard drip coffee.

Can Americano Be Made Without An Espresso Machine?

You need that rich consistency and taste of espresso, which can only be achieved through an espresso machine.

A drip coffee maker or French Press, on the other hand, uses an entirely different brewing method. As for Keurig or Nespresso machines, these give you very concentrated coffee (Nespresso even more so in comparison to Keurig), but the denser, stronger, and bolder Americano-like espresso flavor will still not be produced.

How Many Espresso Shots Are Added to Americano Coffee?

You can add 1 or 2 shots of espresso to your Americano, it depends on your personal preferences. A traditional Americano has just one espresso shot, which is diluted by hot water. But if you want a stronger drink, it’s okay to double the espresso shot.


Wanting to move things around such as upgrading your regular drip coffee to an Americano is only common if you’re a daily coffee drinker.

Americano is perfect for when you want to take sipping coffee to the next level but without adding any sugar or milk. It’s a very simple yet classic drink that provides the caffeine boost you need in the morning or during the day.

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Tom Valenti

Chef/Owner of both Ouest and ‘Cesca, and the Executive Chef of Le Cirque, Alison on Dominick, and Butterfield 81.

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