What Is An Americano coffee? Is It Different to Black Coffee or Drip Coffee?

Is it just me, or are there more and more options adorning the coffee shops menu every time you visit? For some this can become quite daunting and sometimes overwhelming.

Sure you may have heard of some or even most of them, but do you actually know anything more than each drinks name?

Maybe you fancy something different next time you visit your local, and want to order with confidence. Well If you have ever wanted to try the Americano Coffee, then this is the article for you.

By the end you will know as much as your local barista, be able to tell if your Americano has been made correctly and avoid any embarrassing confusion when you order one for the first time.

Time to Americano like a pro!

What Is An Americano?

First things first, what exactly is an Americano?

Well the basic answer is simply a double shot of espresso topped with hot water. Ideally it should be 1/3 espresso and 2/3 water.

History of the Americano

Americano coffee

Where did it come from you ask? Well the legend has it, that during the second world war the American troops stationed in Italy could quite get to grips with the espresso the locals drank. You see the soldiers were used the weaker and less intense American drip coffee.

So in order to try and make the local espresso drink more like the drip coffee the Americans were accustomed to they added water to mellow it out. (1)

And that was it the Americano was born!

How Do You Make An Americano Coffee?

You would think then, that with just a 2 ingredients and a pretty firm back story that the americano recipe would be pretty fixed? I mean how much variation can there be?

Well like most things in the coffee world there is always a debate.


The first of these debates is the ratios of espresso shots to water. Different countries and different coffee shops will all serve a different ratio as standard.

Traditionally it should be 30% espresso and 70% water, but is much easier to do 1/3 to 2/3 (50ml espresso, 100ml water).

Some of the more “Italian” or independent coffee shops will make a “strong Americano” which is 50/50 espresso to water. Which is incidentally how I like mine.

The more American coffee shop chains will offer the 1/3 to 2/3 ratio.

But the important thing to remember here is, the choice is yours nothing is really correct and do not be afraid to tell your barista if you want a weak or strong americano coffee.

The Ordering

Another hot topic for debate among the Americano fans is what order should you pour it? You may not think this will make any difference at all, but believe me it does and coffee drinkers will argue until they are blue in the face about the correct way.

So which way is correct?

Do you add the espresso shots to the cup first?

Or should you add the water to the cup first and layer in the espresso shots?

The truth is, as it normally is, there is no hard rule one way or the other. Its personal preference.

The difference is when you pour the espresso first, you disperse the crema and make a mellow drink. You could argue this is how the original GI’s made it so is the correct way, but you would just be being pedantic.

If you pour the water first and then add the espresso, you maintain the crema on top like a large espresso. So the next question should americanos have a crema?

Should It Have A Crema?

Espresso crema

If your not familiar with a crema, this is the thin creamy layer of foam on top of an espresso shot. It is in my opinion essential part of shots. It is formed by the oils being forced out of the coffee beans by the brewing method.

Technically the first americanos made were to try and make the espresso more like the drip coffee from back home in the US. It is most likely then it was made by adding the hot water to the espresso shot, which breaks the crema.

So traditionally NO an Americano should not have a crema.

Ice or Not

The final variation is whether you want to make a hot americano or a iced americano?

In the US a new variation has arisen, mainly through Starbucks, offering an iced version. Basically instead of using hot water, the coffee drink is made with cold water and a few ice cubes.

How To Make An Americano At Home

So you fancy one, but want to make your own at home before heading out to the coffee shops. Good idea, you can try all the variations above first, and decide what you like best.

To make an Americano at home you will need either an espresso machine or a bean to cup coffee machine. There really isn’t a specialist americano coffee machine.

What is the best coffee machine for an americano? Anything that will let you make a proper espresso.

Once you have pulled your espresso shots, you need to make the hot water in either a kettle or using the steam wand.

The important information you need to remember is the water temperature, NEVER use boiling water, it should be made with hot water. The temperature should be 93.5o Celsius

Then how you make your americano is really up to you, I urge you to try all of the above variations and see what you prefer.

If you don’t have an espresso machine you could try making an espresso style shot with different brewing methods such as a moka pot and making an americano, but it wouldn’t be traditional.

Americano Vs Black Coffee

So some of you are probably thinking about now, its just another black coffee, and to be honest you are part right, it is another option for the lovers of a cup of black coffee.

So how does the Americano compare to other black coffees?

Americano Vs Long Black

Lets start with the easy one, technically these are the same drinks and it just depends where in the world you are. In the Northern hemisphere we drink the Americano, in the Southern Hemisphere (Australia and New Zealand) they drink the Long Black.

There is a very subtle difference though, remember earlier we talked about the order in which you make the drink?

Well that actually dictates if you are having and Americano or a Long Black

Espresso first = Americano
Water first = Long Black

Americano Vs Drip Coffee

Drip Coffee

The drip coffee is very different to the americano. Firstly the brew method is completely different, the espresso in your americano is pulled at high pressure and quickly. Where as the drip coffee is a slow process of pouring water over ground coffee in a paper filter and waiting.

This results in two distinct drinks, both great in their own way.

The americano is more intense, full bodied and earthy.

The drip coffee is more subtle in its flavour profile and will be sweeter, lighter and more floral in aroma.

Americano Vs Espresso

As we have discussed the espresso is the base for the americano (and a lot of other coffee drinks). There really isn’t any difference between the two drinks, other than the addition of some water.


How Much Water Is In A Caffè Americano?

Traditionally a café americano is made with 70% water. However nowadays most people will either use 2/3 or 50% water depending on their taste and strength preferences.

But in reality there is no rule, you can add as much or as little as you please, depending on what you want.

Does An Americano Have Milk?

Traditionally the Americano does not have milk included. However you can add milk if your prefer, some people may find the drink a little bitter and will try to mellow this by adding a splash of milk.

If you add milk it is more like adding milk to a filter coffee, you do not need to foam or texture the milks first. You can also add as much or as little to your drink as you prefer.

Why Is It Called An Americano?

The Italians call it the Caffè Americano, which literally translates to “American Coffee”. It was given this name after the American soldiers who are widely credited with created the drink in the second world war while they were stationed in Italy.

Is It Stronger Than Drip Coffee?

An americano is made with 2 shots of espresso which on average will contain 128mg of caffeine (2), where as a drip coffee has 192mg on average. So in terms of caffeine content a cup of drip coffee is stringer than an Americano.

However if you are talking about taste and flavour then the Americano will have a stronger taste than a drip coffee, due to the espresso base.

About Jacques Carner

Jacques is the man behind behind We Spill The Beans. He as a lover of all things coffee, and has previously worked as a buyer for one of the biggest coffee companies in the world. You can find more about him here.