How To Make An Americano

While it seems that a caffè americano is very popular in North America and other parts of the world, it hasn’t quite caught on in Italy yet. 

Standing in a crowded café in Rome recently, I ordered an americano and, to my surprise, the entire room fell silent. Everyone turned to stare. The Barista smiled and poured me a double shot. I mimicked adding hot water to it but he didn’t seem to know what I meant. I certainly caused a stir in that coffee bar.

I often drink americanos at home - and it took some practice to get it right. So, what is a caffè americano exactly and how is it done right? Simply put, it's an espresso-based brew with hot water added to it. The water slightly dilutes the espresso giving you the volume of a drip, but with an espresso taste. 

Read on to learn how to make the perfect tasting americano yourself.


how to make an americano step by step

Americano

What is a café Americano? It is made by adding hot water to an espresso shot. The water dilutes the espresso a bit, giving you the volume of a drip, but with an espresso taste. Read on to learn how to make the perfect tasting Americano yourself!

Course Drinks
Cuisine American
Keyword americano recipe
Prep Time 2 minutes
Cook Time 3 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Servings 1
Calories 1 kcal

Ingredients

  • 14-18 grams espresso coffee beans
  • hot or almost boiling water
  • espresso machine
  • scale
  • grinder
  • tamper

Instructions

  1. Measure out your beans for a double shot. Grind them really fine.

  2. Tamp the beans, then put the portafilter into its spot on the machine.

  3. Make the espresso.

  4. Heat up the water to 160-170 degrees Fahrenheit.

  5. Pour the espresso into the hot water, mix 1 part espresso to 2 parts water.

Recipe Video


How to Make an Americano

Making an americano might seem like you’re just pouring hot water into an espresso, but there is more to the recipe than that (1) – much more, for some coffee lovers. And the difference between a caffè americano vs. regular coffee will become clear.

For your caffè Americano recipe, you will need: 

  • An Espresso Machine 
  • Espresso Coffee Beans – You can make an Americano with non-espresso beans, but it’s not really an Americano and it won’t taste the same.
  • Coffee scale – Because accuracy is critical.
  • Grinder – Grinding the beans just before making the coffee is important for the quality of the brew.
  • Hot Or Almost Boiling Water – Hot, hot, hot – you will add hot or almost boiling water to the espresso to make your Americano.
  • An espresso tamper – You’re making an espresso first, so you need to tamp.

If you need any of the equipment listed above, head to our gear page. If you're looking for the right coffee beans, visit our coffee bean hub here.

Making this style of coffee well is an art.  In fact, some have taken it to a whole other level.

There is a Canadian company with coffee bars in Toronto and Vancouver that is VERY serious about its americanos – they even have their own espresso machines just for making them (2).

Step 1: Get the Good Beans

Coffee beans are a personal thing. But, to make a good americano, you need good espresso beans. While making an americano actually dilutes the espresso shot, the process seems to amplify any flaws in the coffee (3), so get a bean that you know you like. 

"In general, americanos have fuller bodies and richer tastes, but... Some coffees make excellent espressos that create delectable americanos." - Driftaway Coffee

Step 2: Measure

jar of fresh coffee beans

Measure out your beans. Most people don’t make an americano with a single shot (3). It is recommended that you measure for a double (14-18 grams).  If you are a fan of the Americano, a single shot is probably not strong enough

Step 3: Fine Grind the Beans

fresh espresso grounds to make americano coffee

Your grinder is a key tool for making great espresso, which is the first step to a great americano. As you know by now, this coffee beverage is made with one or two (depending on personal preference) espresso shots. So you'll need to grind your beans as you would for making a shot of espresso - go really fine (5).

"...grind size is no small matter. Controlling this variable allows you to improve the taste of your coffee, ensure repeatability, experiment with recipes, and more." - Sam Koh

If you make an americano with a less-fine grind, it just doesn’t work. Not fine enough of a grind and it’s an #AmericanoFail.

Step 4: Tamp It Good

tamping coffee grounds for espresso shot

Tamping is an important part of the process. Some machines these days tamp automatically for you. Others don’t. It’s okay if your espresso machine doesn’t tamp the beans automatically. Whether it’s automatic or you’re going to do it the old-school way, now is the time to tamp. 

If you need more tips on tamping, this guide has you covered.

Step 5: Put the Portafilter Into the Machine

ground espresso beans tamped

I figure if you want to make an americano, you already know to do this. However, you know what happens when you assume… right? So, once you have tamped, please put the portafilter into its spot on the machine.

Step 6: Make the Espresso

a shot of espresso pouring from espresso machine

Every machine is different – so do your thing and brew a shot of espresso with your machine. Here are some tips if you're a novice. There’s really nothing like the aroma of a fresh double shot of espresso being made, is there? It’s like happiness aromatherapy. 

If you find yourself craving an americano and there is no espresso maker, you can still do it. Check out how to make an espresso without a machine here.

Step 7: Get Into Hot Water

When making an americano, there is some discussion about how hot the water should be. And it is personal to your preference. Too hot and it takes too long to cool down and that affects the taste. Too cold and it brings the quality of the espresso down a bit as well. Overall, about 160-170 degrees Fahrenheit works well. 

You can use your kettle to get the water to that temperature or add the water out of your steam boiler tap.

Step 8: Pour The Espresso Into The Water

The ratio of water to espresso is one of those things you will want to tweak to suit your personal taste. Typically, you mix 1 part espresso to 2 parts water (6). It is recommended you pour the espresso into the water, rather than the other way around to prevent burning the coffee. The espresso seems to blend better with the water this way.

Experience shows that pouring the water into the espresso disrupts the taste and messes up that beautiful crema you worked for so diligently (7). Make it a slow pour into the hot water in your cup. It feels wrong to rush the process - and in this case, slow is better. Check out this great video on how to do this here. 

Step 9: Enjoy your hot Americano!

Typically, an americano is served black, but the world is not typical and neither are coffee fans. If cream and sugar is your thing, fill your boots. Once you have poured the espresso into the water, sit back and enjoy. 

freshly brewed americano with espresso crema

Bonus Step - Ice it up

If you want an iced americano, the process is just a tiny bit different. Instead of hot water, add some cold water (You can use about 1.5 to 1 water to espresso – this is to account for the ice). Next, you pour your espresso into the cold water and add ice - Et voilà!

Iced americano for those dog days of summer. Check out a video on how to do this here:

You may be wondering what the difference is between iced americano vs. iced coffee – and there is a difference.

An iced americano is typically made as an americano and is drunk without milk or sugar. An iced coffee can be almost anything you want it to be – from putting the most basic coffee that you made in the morning into the refrigerator and having it over ice later that day, to some wildly imaginative concoctions that are simply delicious.


Lighter Texture, More Volume 

a cup of americano coffee with biscuit

I find that when you bring up americanos, it can create an interesting discussion. A few of my friends (and the people in the coffee bar in Rome) don’t understand adding water to an espresso shot. They just don’t get it. For me, there are days when I want a bit of a lighter texture and more volume – and the americano hits that spot perfectly!

Want to try other brew methods? Find more ways to make great coffee here.

FAQs

Can you brew espresso with no espresso machine?

Yes, you can brew espresso without a machine - but it wont have the pressure required to brew a good shot of espresso. There are a few ways to do this but the most simple and easy way to brew espresso without a machine is to use an AeroPress. The AeroPress, like an espresso machine, uses pressure to extract the flavor of your coffee grounds. 

Does americano have more caffeine than coffee?

An americano contains approximately the same amount of caffeine as a regular black (drip) coffee. The foundation of a caffè americano is espresso. A regular shot of espresso has between 47 and 75 milligrams of caffeine compared to a standard cup of black coffee with 95 and 200 milligrams (8). Most cafes, though, serve an americano with a double shot of espresso, then diluting the pour by adding hot water to it. The doubled quantity of espresso amps up the strength of an americano to same level as a standard cup of black coffee.

What's a white americano?

A white americano is one that is not topped up to the brim with hot water. Arguably, an americano is a black coffee - espresso combined with hot water. But, since the (coffee) world is not without quirks, you’ll find people that wanna add milk or sugar to their cup of caffè americano. Thus, asking for a white americano will get you that cup with some extra room so you can add a little something of… quirky stuff like milk or sugar.

References:

  1. American Espresso Drinks. (n.d.). Retrieved July 7, 2019, from https://www.coffeereview.com/coffee-reference/espresso/espresso-cuisines/american-style-drinks/
  2. Soder, I. (2017, March 29). More About Our 'Perfect Americano'. Retrieved July 8, 2019, from https://www.quantumcoffee.io/blogs/news/our-quest-to-bring-you-the-perfect-americano
  3. Vitaly, V. (2019, May 14). How to Make Americano. Retrieved July 7, 2019, from https://tasteofartisan.com/how-to-make-americano/
  4. Michelman, J. (2018, December 26). This Is A Good Drink. Retrieved July 7, 2019, from https://sprudge.com/this-is-a-good-drink-131685.html
  5. Koh, S. (2018, April 05). A Guide to Coffee Grind Size, Consistency, & Flavor. Retrieved July 7, 2019, from https://www.perfectdailygrind.com/2017/12/guide-coffee-grind-size-consistency-flavor/
  6. Rao, S. (2017, December 18). The 2:1 Ratio. Retrieved July 7, 2019, from https://www.scottrao.com/blog/2017/12/17/the-21-ratio
  7. Hoffmann, J. (2006, November 19). Burning the Coffee? Retrieved July 7, 2019, from https://jimseven.com/2006/11/19/burning-the-coffee/
  8. S. (2017, September 21). Difference Between Americano and Drip Coffee. Retrieved July 8, 2019, from https://driftaway.coffee/americano-vs-drip/

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