What Is An Americano? [Americano vs Drip, Long Black, Latte]

Are you one of those people that gets confused by the menu boards in coffee shops?

Do you panic when you’re faced with a million different terms for what are, essentially, mixtures of coffee, water and milk?

You aren’t alone.

You're handed a black coffee...but it could be one of 5 drinks. What is it?

So what is an Americano then?

What Is An Americano?

The most simple answer = it's a shot of espresso topped with hot water

If you're American you'll know that a Starbucks Americano comes hot or iced...but whats really in that drink? and where did it come from?

Americano drink layers. Water and coffee

The story goes that when American soldiers were stationed in Italy during WWII, they balked at the strong flavour of the espresso drunk by the natives.

Raised on drip coffee, the full-bodied and rich flavors of an espresso were unfamiliar.

So, they hit on the idea of adding more water to a shot of espresso, and the famous black drink was born. Simple, right?

By the way, Italians aren’t that keen on drinking coffee in any other way besides espresso (they call diluted espressos 'dirty water')

An espresso (meaning ‘quick’) is made by forcing water at high pressure through finely ground coffee. It creates a small amount of richly flavored coffee.

Perhaps the most characteristic element of espresso is the crema.

What is crema?

An americano coffee in a glass mug

Coffee beans which have been carefully processed will be full of aromatic oils.

When an espresso is brewed, the hot water first forces those oils out of the beans.

You might have noticed a light brown, creamy substance coming out of the espresso machine before the dark coffee.

This substance rises to the top in what some people call, ‘the guinness effect’. For a long time, crema was seen as a mark of a great brew.

Unfortunately, as with most things coffee related, it’s not as simple as that.

If you’ve read our article on coffee bloom, you’ll know that beans also give off Carbon Dioxide for 48+ hours after roasting.

If your espresso has been made with freshly roasted coffee the cream may taste sour due to the favor of CO2.

An Americano is simply an espresso that has been poured over, or been diluted with hot water. The cream rises to the top, giving you a longer coffee drink, with the oily richness preserved.

so a true Americano will have a layer of crema.

Watch Mike Jones of Third Rail Coffee, New York, make a perfect Americano.

How to Make Your Own

The first ingredient in the Americano coffee recipe is a shot of espresso.

Suggested tutorial: How to make an Americano
3 steps to making an americano coffee

The high pressure technique of espresso does mean investing in some specialist equipment:

But if you don't want something so large or expensive?

Try using an Aeropress, or a handheld espresso machine (like this one). 

The Aeropress kit uses a plunger to force grounds through a micro-filter, giving you a quick and easy brew with all the guts of a true espresso.

Take a flask of hot water and you can enjoy a fresh cup of joe quite literally anywhere

To convert your espresso to an Americano simply dilute it with a 1:2 ratio of water. (twice as much water as espresso)

Whether you add water to espresso, or espresso to water is another one of those debates in elite coffee circles. It all comes down to crema.

Adding water to espresso will dissolve the crema. Adding espresso to water will preserve it.

All this talk about water got me thinking about the best water for coffee. Want to learn more? Check this complete article here.

But Wait...What's Drip Coffee Then?

While espresso might be considered ‘fast’, a drip coffee is anything but.

Whether you use an auto-drip machine, or you’ve invested in a stylishly beautiful piece of manual drip kit like the Chemex, drip coffee takes time.

Drip coffee in a coffee maker

To make a cup of drip, pour water just off boiling point over grounds and let gravity do the hard work.

Time allows some of the grounds to dissolve and pass through the filter along with those flavour particles.

A cup of drip has a more subtle coffee flavor than an Americano.

The Americana vs Other Black Coffee's

You could be drinking a black coffee and have no idea what it is....is it a drip coffee? a long black? and espresso? a ... (the list goes on). Thats confusing!

Lets clear up the differences once and for all, so you know what to order, or what you're drinking!

Lets clear it up.

Drip coffee being poured

A drip coffee

Americano vs Drip

So you know that the former is brewed using a shot of espresso, and a drip coffee is filtration. But apart from the brewing methods, what’s the real difference?

In both scenarios you end up with a full cup of coffee, right?

Naturally, there are some differences for us coffee geeks who like to explore the details. Lets use a table. Everyone like tables, right?




Intense, deep coffee notes. Nutty, earthy flavors - floral and lighter notes are destroyed by the high temperature.

Subtle, lighter flavor. Sweeter, more floral and delicate flavors are allowed to develop with time.


40 mg per espresso (average). It’s common to use 2 shots per 12 oz serving, so 80 mg per Americano.

Average of 10 mg per ounce of coffee. 120 mg per average 12 oz serving.


Yes, if the espresso is not broken

No crema.


Fine grind for espresso.


Americano vs Long Black

Ok, i'll be honest: in my opinion, there is NO difference between these 2 drinks.

The only minute difference some people may say is:

  • An Americano is made when you pour hot water over the espresso shot
  • A long black is where you pour the espresso shot over the hot water.

​​You'll get the same drink, but when you pour the hot water over the espresso, you'll break the crema.​​

The verdict: There is no difference. A Long Black is what they call it in Australia. Enough said.

Americano vs Espresso vs Latte

I feel silly for even writing this, but there are some folk out there who insist and have asked this question.

  • Americano vs espresso - If you're still reading this and you don't know the difference between these two; you must be stoned because you are not paying attention. An espresso is just a shot of pressurised coffee which forms the base of this, and many other drinks.
  • Americano vs latte - A latte is a shot of espresso topped with creamy foamed milk. Its a totally different drink; milk based and creamy.
latte coffee on table

Clearly a latte

Now you Know

So now you know!

The difference between the two drinks is the way they are brewed, and what that means for the flavor.

Were you surprised to find that a drip had more caffeine?

Which of these brewing methods do you prefer? 

Drop us a comment in the box below and let us know what you think. We’d love to hear from you.


Alex is the Founder and Editor of Homegrounds.co. He is passionate about brewing amazing coffee at home, and teaching others to do the same.

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