Some varieties of coffee are nearly identical at first glance. However, they can taste quite different from someone who pays attention to the nuances of their coffee. Two drinks that are really easy to mix up are Americano and black coffee.
While the drinks may look nearly identical at first, they are brewed differently. Black coffee is made by brewing a standard cup of drip coffee, then adding nothing to it. An Americano is made by brewing espresso, usually a double shot, and then adding water to cut the strength and bitterness.
Read on to learn about why these different drinks exist, what sets them apart, which has more caffeine, and what Americanos and lattes have in common. You can also learn how to tell which drink the barista is serving if you missed the order.
Why Do We Call It an Americano?
While the exact origins of the name haven’t been confirmed, legend has it that soldiers returned home to America after World War II, having developed a taste for traditional Italian espresso. When they asked for it back in the United States, they were given an American-style version dubbed Caffè Americano, which just means “American coffee.”
Another theory is that American soldiers in Italy needed their espresso shots watered down because the espresso was too bitter for them to enjoy otherwise.
It may seem unusual for such relatively recent history to be so unclear, but tracking how people took their coffee wasn’t everyone’s highest priority during World War II. The end result, though, was a drink called Caffè Americano, or Americano for short.
Is It Always Called an Americano?
The world is quite varied, and not everybody calls this drink the Americano, but for most of the world, ordering an Americano will get you a shot of espresso cut by water. It should be enough liquid to fill a standard coffee cup.
Italians generally call espresso topped with water an Americano. This is also true in the United States, especially since the Caffè Americano is one of the drinks that’s been made popular by chains like Starbucks. In fact, Starbucks claims the Caffè Americano as one of their most popular drinks.
Why Is It Called A Long Black Coffee?
In Australia, the same drink is called a long black. A short black, in contrast, is simply a shot of espresso. Occasionally, people get Americanos and black coffees mixed up because of how similar they look. They even taste nearly identical to a lot of people. This means that sometimes black coffee is called an Americano and vice versa. However, once you know the difference, you might be able to tell them apart like a pro.
What Is in an Americano?
An Americano has very simple ingredients. It has espresso, which is a pressurized brew of finely-ground, dark-roasted espresso beans. It also has water. That’s it! The simplicity of the drink is certainly one of its appeals. It can be adjusted from there, but then it’s no longer a standard or traditional Americano.
How Do I Make an Americano?
A traditional Americano recipe will start with a double shot of espresso. Espresso is made with dark-roasted, finely-ground coffee beans. Although some devices, such as the AeroPress, also require an espresso maker, they claim to make espresso without an espresso machine.
The other part of an Americano is the hot water, usually 4- 6 ounces to make a full cup of liquid. Some people add it after the espresso, and some add the espresso to the hot water. Traditionally, it’s added afterward, but it’s easier to keep the crema on top, especially for someone with less experience, if the water goes into the mug first.
What Does an Americano Taste Like?
Espressos use very dark roasts. This makes for a beverage that tastes a little bitter but has flavor notes of chocolate and richness that are appealing to many people. Additionally, the foam-like crema on top of espresso is sweeter than the rest of the drink and helps an espresso shot find that perfect balance of flavor.
The additional water in an Americano helps cut the bitterness significantly, which is a large part of why it appeals to so many people, especially those who don’t like their drink as strong as an espresso shot. If you like espresso but want it a little less bitter and with a little more volume, you should try tasting an Americano.
Can I Add Milk to my Americano?
Your barista might give you a funny look if you ask for milk in your Americano, but you absolutely can do it. It’s your drink!
That said, you might want to consider a latte instead. A latte, like an Americano, starts with espresso. Then, steamed or foamy milk is added, about 4-6 ounces, the same as the amount of water in an Americano. This gives a much richer drink than an Americano with milk, with the same ingredients in a different ratio.
Does an Americano Use a Paper Filter?
Espresso, the base of the Americano, doesn’t actually use a coffee filter. Instead, the brewing process is pressurized, with water forced at high speed through very fine coffee grounds.
Black coffee, by contrast, filters out coffee grounds using a standard paper filter. Water drips through the coffee grounds and paper filter and then into the pot or mug.
How Does Black Coffee Taste Compare to an Americano?
A black coffee flavor might seem the same as an Americano’s flavor to someone who doesn’t drink much coffee or someone who usually takes their coffee with cream, sugar, or other flavorings. To the untrained taster, both just taste like bitter coffee.
However, someone who drinks both regularly will tell you that the Americano is sweeter thanks to the crema. It’s also a little stronger since espresso includes more bean content than a standard drip coffee.
How Can I Tell a Black Coffee and an Americano Apart?
Without the right knowledge, it can be difficult to tell a black coffee and an Americano apart. They can be nearly impossible to tell apart if the Americano isn’t made quite right, but as long as the barista is competent and uses traditional methods, you should have no trouble.
Black coffee is typically all one type of liquid. The cup will have dark brown or black liquid, and that’s it.
An Americano, on the other hand, should have a layer of crema on top. Crema looks a little like milk foam, but it’s darker, made solely from the espresso beans’ pressurized brew. It tastes sweeter than the rest of the drink and is easy to spot once you know what to look for.
Which Has More Caffeine, Black Coffee or Americano?
While it depends on the particular coffee beans used for the black coffee and the Americano concentration, in general, an Americano will have a little bit more caffeine than the average cup of black coffee, but they are very similar in caffeine content.
One espresso shot contains 60-65 mg of caffeine, and Americano is generally made with a double shot, which puts it around 125 mg of caffeine. A cup of black coffee ranges from 65 mg to 125 mg of caffeine, depending on the roast and the extraction rate, with the average cup measuring around 95 mg of caffeine.
What’s the Difference Between an Americano and a Latte?
Americanos and lattes taste very different, but they’re actually pretty similar to make. Both drinks start with espresso. A latte, however, has steamed milk added to it instead of hot water. Both drinks end up around 6-8 ounces of liquid once they’re completely made.
Lattes are richer and creamier since they aren’t watered down, and the milk cuts the bitterness more thoroughly than the water does for an Americano. An Americano has more of the bitter coffee taste of an espresso shot and is the better choice for those who favor that flavor.
What Type of Roast Is Used for Black Coffee and Americanos?
Americanos are espresso-based, so they use espresso roasts. Espresso beans are dark roasts, and they’re ground very finely because the fine grounds work better with the pressurized brewing espressos require.
Black coffee can be made with any level of roast. Black coffee has a more balanced extraction, so it captures more of the acidic and floral flavors, which means that it can benefit from lighter roasts, which emphasize these flavors. This gives coffee drinkers a wide variety of nuanced flavors to choose from for each cup.
What If I Don’t Like Black Coffee or Americanos?
If you don’t like your coffee without some sugar or cream (or both!), you’re not alone. However, it’s perfectly acceptable to add things to your coffee. Coffee is quite flexible, so that you can add cream, milk, or a dairy alternative. You can add sugar, syrup, or an alternative sweetener. Whatever you like in your morning (or all-day) drink is entirely up to your own tastes and health requirements!
- What Is in an Americano?
- How Do I Make an Americano?
- Can I Add Milk to my Americano?
- Why Do We Call It an Americano?
- Is It Always Called an Americano?
- Why Is It Called A Long Black Coffee?
- What Does an Americano Taste Like?
- Does an Americano Use a Paper Filter?
- What If I Don’t Like Black Coffee or Americanos?
- Which Has More Caffeine, Black Coffee or Americano?
- How Does Black Coffee Taste Compare to an Americano?
- How Can I Tell a Black Coffee and an Americano Apart?
- What’s the Difference Between an Americano and a Latte?
- What Type of Roast Is Used for Black Coffee and Americanos?