What is an Americano? [Americano vs. Drip and Espresso]

What is an Americano

To the inexperienced drinker, coffee is coffee. But to an expert, coffee is a term that could refer to any out of hundreds of possible variations. An Americano, or "café americano" is one of those many variations. So what is so special about the history of this fairly standard black coffee drink, how is it made, and how is it different from other types of black coffee? Let's find out!

What is an Americano

What Is An Americano?

An Americano is essentially a coffee drink that is made from an espresso coffee shot diluted with water. It is served in a cup or tall glass, and has a smooth, pleasant taste. While it has none of the creaminess of a latte, it is also a lot more inoffensive than a strong shot of espresso. In other words, it is a simple drink for those who take their coffee black—but want a long drink rather than a shot. 

Where Does The Americano Come From?

The Americano actually has a pretty interesting story. It comes from Italy where it was well-loved amongst...Americans! More particularly, the Americans that were stationed in Italy during the Second World War used to drink it. Arriving in Italy, they soon found out that their taste in coffee was quite a bit different from that of the Italians. While Italians used to drink almost exclusively strong espresso shots served in very small coffee cups, the American G.I.s had been used to large bowls of drip coffee from home. The legend says that when they came to Italy, one of them had the idea of topping up an espresso shot with some hot water. The resulting drink was a very tasty long coffee drink that reminded the Americans of their home. Soon, the beverage became more popular and spread all over the world where it is still known as an "americano", in reference to its singular origins, in between Italy and the U.S.

How Is An Americano Made?

An Americano is made by taking a shot of espresso, and topping it up with boiling water, or sometimes milk. An espresso shot is made in an espresso machine. It is a very unique technique for obtaining coffee, which uses pressure and heat to get the most out of coffee beans. In an espresso machine, ground coffee beans are placed in a recipient. Hot, pressured water is then shot through it, which "expresses" the aroma contained in the beans. The result is a very strong liquid with a powerful taste and a high caffein content. Because espresso is one of the best ways to brew coffee, it is used as a basis for most coffee beverages, from a latte to a flat white or a cappuccino. 

Americano with Water

Making an Americano from an espresso shot is pretty simple. It just involves placing the Espresso shot in a larger cup, and filling the rest of it with hot water. Alternatively, the water can also be placed in the cup first, and the espresso shot added on top, which preserves the crema. There is no exact recipe for the americano, no strict amount of water that needs to be added. As a general rule, an espresso will be made with a third of espresso to two thirds of water. Some countries favor a lighter Americano while others prefer a stronger one, and the owner of the coffee shop may have their own ideas too, which makes it hard to generalize what a "real Americano" should look like. And again, this will depend mainly on the size of the cup that you choose to use. 

Can You Make An Americano Without An Espresso Machine?

Using espresso is what makes an Americano a unique form of black coffee. It's what gives it its unique flavor, its intensity, and its rounded taste. It isn't French press and it isn't drip coffee and it certainly isn't cold brew. So the idea of making an Americano without an espresso machine doesn't make much sense. Now, will your French-press or drip coffee taste very different from an Americano? No, not really. But does that give you the right to call it an Americano nonetheless? Certainly not. 

Should An Americano Have Crema On Top?

If you are unfamiliar with coffee-specific terminology, crema is a layer of foam that forms on top of an espresso shot. It is yellowish in color, sometimes verging on orange. It is made up of coffee oils and carbon dioxide, as a result of the reaction that happens when espresso is "extracted" in an espresso machine. While most espresso enthusiasts agree that a good shot of espresso should have crema, nobody can seem to decide whether an Americano should do as well. 

Should an Americano have Cream

What will decide whether an Americano has crema on top is the process that you use to prepare it. The most popular method of preparation of an Americano is to place the espresso shot at the bottom of the cup, adding the hot water on top. In that process, the crema mixes in with the rest of the drink, and is no longer visible. Those who swear by crema and think that an Americano should have it too deal with the issue by adding the espresso shot on top of a large cup of hot water. Now whether or not this is the best way to make an espresso, we are not here to judge. 

Is An Americano The Same As Drip Coffee?

Although they look and taste similar, an Americano is different from drip coffee. First of all, the process of making them is completely different. An Americano is made from an espresso shot, which is coffee extracted at a very high pressure in a special machine. Drip coffee on the other hand is obtained by letting hot water drip through ground coffee beans. But the difference doesn't stop here. An espresso is made with water that is hotter and the beans are ground thinner. These settings really affect the taste of the coffee. An espresso is generally considered to have more flavor, having a richer flavor-profile, and a rounder taste. Drip coffee on the other hand may have less identifiable flavors but be more hearty, and as some find it, more comforting. 

Drip Coffee vs Americano

Where Is The Americano Popular?

Unsurprisingly, Americanos are still very popular in America, where the G.I.s brought them back. But the special drink doesn't seem to have gained in popularity in Italy, where it is still consumed mainly by foreigners. For true Italians, there is only one real form of coffee: pure, undiluted espresso straight out of the espresso machine. In the rest of Europe however, the Americano has traveled well. You will be able to order it throughout the European continent, where it may take different names. For example, an Americano is sometimes called a "café allongé" in France, or "schwarzkaffee" in Germany. Ultimately though, it remains a popular drink in Europe and America, where it has taken over other traditional forms of coffee making, like drip coffee or Turkish coffee. 

What Coffee Beans Are Used To Make An Americano?

Because of its unique preparation, Americanos are sometimes made with different coffee beans from either an espresso or drip coffee. In the preparation of an Americano, the coffee beans are ground finer than for a cup of drip coffee. Although coffee shops will generally use the same coffee for espressos and Americanos, some take advantage of the special preparation method of Americano to use different coffees. For example, Americanos can be made with single origin coffee, which as delicious as it is can be too strong served in an undiluted shot of espresso. 

Coffee beans americano

What Are The Different Variations Of The Americano?

An Americano is a simple drink: just a shot of espresso and some water. It does have some popular variations however, which aim to make the beverage a little bit more interesting. An iced americano is made with the same shot of espresso, but diluted with cold or iced water. It is a popular beverage in the summer, and in hotter countries. Even more unique, the "red eye" is a beverage that is made by diluting a shot of espresso in...more coffee! The espresso shot is topped up with warm, drip coffee. This makes it a powerful beverage with a strong caffein content, and some of the best flavors from both espresso and drip. Less commonly, an Americano can also be served with milk, for a variation that is less creamy than a latte, but smoother than a plain Americano. 

Final Words

With its rich history, the Americano is a coffee drink that has remained popular since its invention during World War II. Bringing together the flavors of espresso and the mildness of a longer coffee drink, it is a popular alternative to drip coffee. Nowadays, it is still enjoyed primarily in the U.S. but has also been gaining in popularity around Europe, and in Asia. Easy to make, and with a beautiful, round taste in the mouth, it is sure to remain a popular beverage for years to come!

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