What is Americano coffee? It’s a question one naturally asks after learning about the different types of coffee.
So is an Americano coffee different from regular American coffee?
No, quite different.
Indeed, if you’re tempted to order one in the expectation that you’ll enjoy an interesting experience, you might be surprised.
Americano coffee isn’t just the same old coffee with a catchy name.
To be precise, it isn’t even a drip coffee. A caffe Americano is in essence an espresso with hot water.
So, Why The Name Americano Coffee?
Well, it all began during World War 2 – or maybe even earlier.
Though Somerset Maugham referenced an Americano in his stories, it wasn’t until WW2 that Americano coffee grew in visibility. Troops on the front loved it, and drank it all the time. This even led to shortages in coffee supplies to the army.
American GIs posted in Italy found the strong espresso disgusting. So they modified it, made it less bitter and more drinkable – by topping it up with hot water.
The name stuck – and it became called Americano coffee.
In time, the drink grew in popularity. And gradually spread to an even wider audience of coffee lovers.
How To Make An Americano?
At first glance, it sounds easy.
Just add hot water to an espresso… and hey presto! You’ve got yourself an Americano coffee!
Hold on, not so fast.
In reality, the quality of ingredients and how you make the drink actually affect how your Americano will taste.
And then, there’s the inimitable Americano aroma!
It’s typically richer than regular coffee. A higher ratio of espresso to water lets a stronger aroma waft around the room.
The taste matches, being bolder and richer than regular American coffee.
Americano coffee isn’t bitter or burnt. It draws on the espresso for flavor, so a perfect espresso boosts your chances of enjoying a stellar Americano coffee!
Start With Great Espresso
Unless you make a nice espresso, your Americano coffee won’t be anything special.
There are no unique espresso coffee beans. Just the same beans used to prepare drip coffee. What makes a great espresso special is how you roast, blend and brew your coffee.
Boiling hot water is forced under pressure through fine ground coffee to extract all the essence and flavor. A thick, dark espresso with a nice crema is the outcome, if you get this right.
Arabica coffee beans are often better for coffees than Robusta… except when it comes to espressos.
The best blends mix in Arabica with just a little Robusta to give your espresso more body, and a stronger shot of caffeine.
Using a good espresso coffee maker will ensure even distribution and better extraction of flavor from your beans. The end result is a delicious espresso – which in turn leads to a richer Americano coffee.
Add In Water
Clean, fresh, hot water – that’s the key.
Since you’ll pour over the water to layer over your espresso, the coffee is smoother and even preserves a crema.
Heating water to 185F is highly recommended, though some suggest hotter is better. Whether the water is poured from the espresso machine itself, or separately, has no bearing on your Americano coffee.
Which Comes First?
To make an Americano coffee, you must mix an espresso with hot water… but which to pour first?
Order your Americano at Starbucks, and they’ll pour water over your espresso.
But listen to other coffee enthusiasts, and they’ll have you believe a decent Americano coffee can only be made by pouring espresso over water!
Leave it to some wise-guy to give them separate names!
So when you add water to espresso, it’s called an ‘original Americano‘. But layering espresso over hot water is called a Long Black.
No matter which way you make your drink, there’s no denying that an Americano coffee is delicious!
Summary: How To Make An Americano
1. Boil a kettle.
2. Pull two strong espresso shots.
3. Pour espresso carefully into your cup, retaining a crema.
4. Add 5 or 6 ounces of hot water from the kettle – but slowly enough to not dissolve the crema in water.
Your Americano coffee is ready!
Modifying Your Americano Coffee
You could add an extra shot of espresso to make your Americano stronger.
Or top it up with a shot of black coffee – for a drink called a ‘red eye‘.
Or you can keep it less potent by leaving it to extract longer – making a ‘lungo‘.
A traditional Americano coffee is made from a shot or two of espresso, mixed with 6 ounces of water.
A caffe crema uses coarser espresso grounds, and is popular in some parts of Italy.
A traditional Americano has 60 to 120 mg of caffeine. That’s quite a lot more than the 95 mg in regular drip coffees.
Do You Need An Espresso Machine To Make Americano?
Maybe. Because an espresso is made in an entirely different way than drip coffee.
You could use K-pods in a Keurig single serve coffee maker to whip up an espresso base… but it won’t be quite as good as the ‘real thing’.
With a Nespresso Vertuo coffee machine, you get closer to the ideal Americano foundation. The key difference is how strong or concentrated you can make your espresso with such a speciality machine.
In the end, it boils down to you – and how you enjoy your coffee.
An Americano coffee is certainly interesting.
Try it. You just might get hooked to it!