Most Americans like to start their day with a cup of their preferred coffee. While there are many ways to brew amazing coffee, we will look at “What is an Americano” in this article and all the relevant details about it.
What is An Americano coffee?
Americano Coffee is also called Caffè Americano, café americano, American Coffee, or simply Americano. Americano basically means American in Italian, Portuguese and Spanish languages. “Caffè Americano” literally means “American coffee” in Italian.
As you may know, espresso-based coffee drinks are prepared by blending strong espresso coffee with steamed milk (without foam or wet foam [microfoam] or dry milk foam) or water. The notable espresso and hot water drinks are Americano and Long Black.
In an Americano coffee drink, the espresso is diluted with hot water till it comes to the strength of a regular brewed coffee. Of course, it has its own characteristic flavor that we will talk about later in the article. The strength of the coffee will vary with the number of shots of espresso you choose to include and the amount of water.
As per popular belief, the American soldiers stationed in Italy during World War II found espresso in local coffee shops too strong for their liking. They began adding hot water to their espresso drink to match the strength of the drinks they were consuming back home. The espresso diluted with water practically resembled the strength of a filter coffee.
However, some recent documents show that the term ‘Americano’ was in use even earlier.
What is an Americano Made Of?
As stated earlier, the Americano just contains the espresso shots and water. While each coffee shop may have its own recipe, the most commonly used ratio between hot water and espresso is 2:1, i.e., two parts water and one part espresso. Traditionally there is no steamed milk in an Americano, but some people add just a little to suit their personal preference.
An espresso shot is prepared in an espresso machine using finely ground coffee beans in the portafilter and passing hot water at 185ºF to 204ºF through it at a pressure of 9 bars.
The flavor will differ with the Espresso brewing ratios (Ristretto/Normale/Lungo) and the number of shots. The commonly used Espresso brewing ratio (EBR) is 2:1, which means 30 gm shots using 15 gm grounds.
How Many Espresso Shots in an Americano?
Traditionally the Americano uses a double shot of espresso weighing about 2 ounces. If you plan to use the 2:1 ratio of hot water to espresso, you will require 4 ounces of water. Hence your total dink will be about 6 ounces.
The amount of water depends on your personal taste. Adding anywhere between four to eight ounces of hot water to two espresso shots is very common.
You can even have the double espresso with equal parts hot water, which means 2 ounces of hot water with two ounces of espresso. Such a drink is sometimes also referred to as Italiano.
Does An Americano Have Crema?
As the base of the drink are the pulled shots from the espresso machines, a layer of dense foam known as crema develops on the top of the drink. Crema is a colloid formed from the emulsified oils in the coffee grounds. It only forms in espresso and not in other coffee drinks because the high pressure of the espresso machine forces more carbon dioxide to dissolve in the water.
While espresso coffee lovers like it, many Americano lovers prefer to remove it. While crema is visually appealing, it has tiny particles of ground coffee in the foam, which adds to the bitterness of the drink. Removing it definitely improves the flavor.
You can remove the crema before or after pouring hot water. Both methods give good results.
How is an Americano different from a shot of espresso?
In filter-based drinks, the water is added for extraction and flows through gravity, while French Press and cold brew are immersion drinks. In both these types, the complete water in the drink is used for extraction. In an Americano, the extraction happens only in the water used to pull the espresso shot. Balance water is added to dilute the brew to normal filter coffee strength.
The Americano aroma
If your Americano contains two shots of espresso, it will have a stronger aroma than regular coffee but similar to that of an espresso.
The Americano taste
The taste of an Americano will usually resemble that of a filter coffee, but also depends on the initial brewing quality of the espresso shots. If your espresso is under-extracted, it may taste acidic and sour. If espresso is over-extracted, it may taste harsh and bitter. It will anyway be more bitter than the corresponding espresso from which it is made. This is why some people prefer to add milk to their Americano, which takes care of the shortcomings of the espresso.
The Americano mouthfeel
If you like to retain the crema in your Americano, you will still get a creamy mouthfeel like an espresso, though less.
Americano Vs Drip Coffee
Both are forms of black coffee made with coffee grounds and hot water. However, Americano has an espresso base where you pour hot water to dilute its strong taste. Espresso has a much shorter extraction time due to the use of higher pressure, while drip coffee is basically a filter coffee extracted over a significantly longer time.
Many coffee shops favor Americano as they can serve filter-strength coffee without any additional equipment. The process of diluting an espresso increases the bitterness slightly.
On average, drip coffee may have higher caffeine content than Americano due to higher extraction volumes, but this depends on the shot variables at the end of the day. You require a very fine grind of coffee for Americano compared to a medium or medium-fine grind for a drip coffee.
Americano Vs Long Black Coffee
Theoretically, there is hardly any difference between the two brewing methods, as both use espresso shots and hot water. The difference lies in what goes first to your coffee cup.
In an Americano, you pull shots of espresso first and pour hot water over them, while in a Long Black coffee, espresso shots are added to a cup of fresh and clean hot water or brewed directly on top of it.
A long black is an Australasian drink popular in Australia and New Zealand, while Americano is as per the American taste.
Variations in Americano
In addition to variations in the number of shots and the quantity of water, you can try out other variations as described below:
In the summer season or on a hot summer day, just replace the hot water with cold water and ice cubes. Some coffee enthusiasts recommend pouring espresso shots into a glass of cold water and ice, swirling the contents, and drinking.
In a variation, a small quantity or splash of cold or lightly steamed milk is added to the Americano coffee. The added milk provides some sweetness and depth and a touch of creamy taste.
We had talked about the espresso brewing ratios earlier. Lungo has the highest water volume compared to ristretto and normale. It requires a higher time to pull, resulting in more volume but weaker drink with a lack of mouthfeel and body and a more bitter taste. The grind is coarser than ‘Normale’ to have a higher flow and more extraction.
It takes an even longer time than Lungo to extract a shot of Cafe Crema
Red Eye Coffee
As discussed in our separate article on Red Eye Coffee, it is prepared by pulling the espresso shot directly over your cup of drip coffee. This is done to increase the caffeine content of your regular coffee if you plan to remain awake the full night.
How to Make an Americano
As you would have understood by now, the process of making an Americano is very similar to pulling the shots of Espresso. It is, however, summarized in brief for the readers.
Choose the beans of your choice. A dark roast is preferred for espresso shots and most espresso-based drinks. Use your espresso coffee machine to pull two shots of espresso of your desired length.
If you do not have an espresso machine at home, you may go in for capsule or pod-based machines. Some of the pods include fruity and floral notes. You have the choice to go in with a more intensive experience with pods made from 100% Arabica beans.
You can approximate the espresso shots if you have a moka pot or an Aeropress. While you will not get a perfect Americano with them, it will still be a decent one.
The Water & The Americano
Boil the hot water in the kettle. Let it sit for about a minute, as boiling water is not good for the coffee.
Carefully pour the water into your coffee so as not to disturb the crema too much. If you don’t like crema, remove it with a spoon before pouring the water. This will give you a clear and less bitter coffee. You can remove the crema after pouring water also if you prefer.
If you are trying an Americano for the very first time and are not sure how much water to add, start with approximately a 1.5:1 ratio, and add more water if you want to soften the brew intensity further.