Everything You Need To Know About Americano Coffee: An Easy Everyday Guide

by | Sep 19, 2019

If you’ve visited a coffee shop in the last fifteen years or so, you’ve probably encountered the Americano. The same applies if you brew coffee at home.

Many coffee shop menus now use Americano to mean a “standard black coffee”. With the “flat white” appears to be especially popular, now is a good time to explore the Americano. There’s more to an Americano than you might think.

What Is Americano?

“Americano” is the Italian word for American-style coffee. It probably dates from around World War Two, when American GIs were posted to Italy. Americans have always been known for drinking plenty of coffee, especially since the Boston Tea Party. Many soldiers, however, found the strong Italian offerings too robust.

At that time, the drip coffee method was the primary American method of whipping up a brew. The drip coffee approach is slower than the espresso method. Resulting drinks were much milder than the espresso drinks prevalent in Europe. To make the Italian drink more acceptable to their palates, GIs diluted the strong espresso shots with water. MIlk or cream and sugar were added to make it gentler still.

Originally thought to be called “caffè Americano”, the term coffee Americano was sometimes used. Gradually it was shortened to Americano. Let’s explore, then – just what is an Americano coffee?


How To Make An Americano – Our Great Recipe

Start by boiling freshly drawn cold water – ideally, filtered. Use a cup (preferably non-plastic) to measure water to suit – usually somewhere between two parts of water to one part of espresso.

It’s straightforward to make basic Americano. You need simply espresso and water.  And as with so many coffee drinks, the key to quality is the right blend of espresso beans.

An espresso grind needs to be much finer than for typical drip coffee. For a double shot of what could be termed American expresso, you need half to around three-quarters of an ounce of ground beans. Tamp the coffee into a clean portafilter. Prepare the espresso in an espresso machine or manually. Allow the water to drip through for somewhere between 23 and 28 seconds. Although the liquid drips through the grounds, it’s a faster method than drip coffee, so the flavor is more intense.


Brewing a double shot of espresso usually results in the best flavor. For that delectable crema, pour the espresso into the water. The hot water is less likely to burn the coffee – a potential issue if you pour the espresso first.

Unlike those long-ago GIs, we have a wide choice when it comes to tasty additions to our coffee.  Shot of caramel syrup in the milk? No problem. Or how about a gentle aftertaste of butterscotch or bubble gum?


Can An Americano Be Home Brew?

Americanos are one of the easiest coffee drinks to make as a home brew.  If using the single-serve coffee machines on the market, this will almost certainly be an option available in pods and capsules.

Some companies, like Nespresso, may call the beverage something else.  In their range, for instance, a Lungo, or long black, is close to an Americano. Lungo literally means “long” as opposed to “short”, or Cortado if we’re staying with the industry-standard Italian names.

Other firms, like Keurig, offer pods with the flavor of particular high-street coffee shop chains or global companies. Some pods are called Americano. New blends are frequently released.


Does Americano Have More Caffeine Than Coffee?

On average, a typical 8 ounce serving of coffee contains between 80 and 100 milligrams of caffeine. For filter coffee, it’s around 95 milligrams, and even decaffeinated, despite its name, still contains around 2 milligrams per serving. Cold brew coffee, where ground beans are steeped overnight, is generally higher in caffeine, somewhere between 153 and 238 milligrams.


What’s In An Americano?

When it comes to caffeine content, instant coffee is considerably lower, around 62 milligrams on average per cup. A single 1 ounce shot of espresso has about the same. For a  typical Americano, however, it can vary dramatically between coffee chains. At Dunkin Donuts, for instance, it’s about 249 mg, while at international group Costa, now owned by the Coca-Cola Company, a medium Americano can contain 277 mg of caffeine.

Does an Americano contain more caffeine than your average cup of coffee? Well, it depends. There are so many factors at play: the size of the beverage, the strength of the beans used, and what, if anything, has been added to the drink.


The Difference Between Black Coffee, Espresso and Americano

Since these three are some of the most common menu choices in a typical coffee shop, what are the differences between Americano vs coffee, shots of Espresso, and ordinary black coffee? Well, some differences result from the brewing process.

In most cases, an ordinary black coffee is prepared using the drip through or pour-over method. With ground beans, the grind can be coarse or fine, depending on preference. For most ordinary black coffees, Arabica beans will work well.


source: littlecoffeeplace.com

For Espresso, beans should be much more finely ground. They are tamped down firmly before water is poured over. Typical brewing time is much shorter than for ordinary black coffee and the amount of water added much less, resulting in a stronger-tasting brew, best enjoyed black. If you want to horrify an Italian (or a coffee purist), just mention adding milk or cream to an espresso.

An espresso shot is still the base of an Americano, but considerably more water is used than for a standard espresso. An Americano is made by adding water –  around 2 parts water to 1 part already-brewed espresso.

Variations Of The Cafe Americano

Whether you refer to it as a caffe Americano, an Americano drink or coffee, or simply an Americano, it’s usually one of the mildest caffeinated drinks on the menu. Americano is also a very good choice as a base for iced drinks, whether you’re using blended ice or ice cubes. Many iced coffees add syrup, milk, or sugar.

Americano also offers an excellent base for some truly gorgeous limited edition drinks offered by chains like Starbucks. These might include pumpkin spice in the autumn, salted caramel, or mulled varieties with nutmeg as winter approaches.


Something Special?

In the mood for something of a celebration, and of legal drinking age? Did you know Americano is also the name of a cocktail? Americano is a deceptively simple,  very refreshing drink. It’s no more than a splash of Campari, sweet Vermouth and soda, poured over ice, with maybe a slice or so of fresh orange.

Suggested proportions for the perfect Americano recipe cocktail are around 1.5 ounces for each of the liquid ingredients. Like the coffee drink, it’s mild and gentle, diluted further by the soda and ice.


Serving Suggestion

Some like this drink hot, dark, and just as it comes. Some prefer it white and sugary, with syrups, cream, and deliciously decadent toppings. And some prefer an iced Americano, or even in the form of a cocktail.

So, whatever your preference, hot or cold, bottoms up! After all, if it was good enough to help American GIs and marines keep going, in Italy and elsewhere, it must be worth a try.

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