The Battle: Americano vs Brewed Coffee
Just by looking at a cup it can be difficult to make a distinction between Americano vs coffee. To make things clear right away, by coffee we mean the regular brewed coffee that can be found in any American home. As you know, both types feature the same main ingredients – hot water and coffee. This is the reason they look the same, but the taste is completely different.
This article will outline the preparation technique for each drink, which is one of the main reasons they have a different flavour. Plus, there is a quick historical overview of both Americano and brewed coffee to give you a better perspective of each type’s origins.
Americano vs Coffee: Similarities and Differences
The basic similarities have already been established, and you should also know that both beverages contain about the same amount of caffeine. To be exact, there is 95mg to 200mg of caffeine per 8 ounces of regular brewed coffee (1). Americano usually features two shots of espresso which can have 40mg to 75mg of caffeine. That puts it in approximately the same ballpark as brewed coffee.
Aside from hot water, coffee, and caffeine content, there are no other similarities between the two. So it’s time to check out the preparation technique that puts these two drinks worlds apart.
The method to make an Americano is not set in stone. You can take one or two espresso shots and pour hot water over them. However, according to expert barista Mike Jones, this is not the right way to do it.
Just have the shot of espresso and add hot water over that, which I think is an inferior way of doing it because it will break apart the espresso.
A better way to assemble an Americano is to start with hot water and then add one or two shots of espresso. In other words, pour the hot water into a mug, then pull the espresso shot and gently pour it over the water. You need about 5 ounces of water for a cup of Americano, and some like to add a just a splash of milk on top. We discussed what an Americano is in more detail here.
A variation of this drink, the Fat Americano, has also been growing popular.
Brewed coffee means you pour hot water over the grounds and let it brew for a while. The methods may vary and the usual ones include pour-over, drip brewing, immersion, French press, etc. However, electric drip brewers are the most common and can feature disposable or built-in filters.
You might think there’s little science to brewing a perfect cup, but you need to nail the right brewing temperature and time. For example, if it’s too cold, your coffee turns out sour; if it’s too hot, it could be bitter.
The optimal brewing temperature is between 195°F and 205°F, while the brewing time should be 4 to 6 minutes.
Finally, there is the taste. Drip coffee doesn’t have a rich and full-bodied taste like an Americano. But it’s not only about the brewing technique – the coffee type also plays an important role. For example, some coffees could be great for drip brewing, yet make a subpar espresso/Americano.
You can learn more about the different types of coffee drinks in this guide: https://www.homegrounds.co/uk/types-of-coffee-drinks/.
History and Origins
We must discuss differences in origins of these two coffee drinks. Let’s see…
History of Black, Brewed Coffee
In 1908, Melitta Bentz invented the disposable coffee filter and changed the way people prepare coffee forever (2). A decade after WWII, another German patented the electrical dip machine and the rest is history.
In fact, brewed coffee is a huge part of the world’s collective culture. It has been featured in numerous books, magazines, movies, videos, and other cultural artefacts. Also, it is hard to imagine a bar, a restaurant, or a hotel without a drip brewer.
History of the Americano
Americano is a drink that came into being in the times of need. As the legend goes, American soldiers in Italy invented it during WWII. At the time, coffee was a scarce and prized commodity, plus the soldiers weren’t used to the poignant espresso taste (3).
To get a more familiar taste, the soldiers decided to dilute the espresso. This was a win-win situation – there was more coffee for everyone and it suited the soldiers’ palates better.
Americano is first mentioned in “Ashenden: Or the British Agent” by W. Somerset Maugham. However, it is not clear if it’s the same drink we know today.
It’s easy to get all nitpicky and rant far and wide about the differences between an Americano and regular coffee. But the truth is that both drinks are inextricably woven into the American culture. As such, it would be wrong to think that one is better or tastier than the other.
Yes, Americano is black coffee, or at least it belongs to that category. Besides Americano, drip coffee and different types of espresso also belong to the same category.
No, an Americano doesn’t taste like coffee if you compare it to drip brewed coffee. On the other hand, it doesn’t taste the same as a straight espresso, either. Think of it more like a fuller-profiled cousin of regular coffee.
- USDA Food Composition Databases. (n.d.). Retrieved July 4, 2019, from https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/?query=ndbNumber:14209
- Bellis, M. (2017, April 7). This is the History of How We Brew Coffee. Retrieved July 4, 2019, from https://www.thoughtco.com/history-of-how-we-make-coffee-1991478
- The humble Caffè Americano has a mysterious history. (n.d.). Retrieved July 4, 2019, from https://gallagher.co.za/2017/09/04/the-humble-caffe-americano-has-a-mysterious-history/