What is an Americano? Much More Than Espresso and Hot Water

Updated on: June 23, 2022
Author: Nick
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What is an Americano

What is an Americano? This question is asked by many people who are new to the coffee world.

The answer, quite simply, is that it is espresso mixed with hot water. But there is much more to Americano coffee than just espresso and hot water...

In this post, we'll explore what makes a great Americano so that you learn how to make one at home.  We are hoping to get you hooked because making it home will save you lots of money and time. Plus it will help you be a more environmentally responsible coffee drinker.

Also, did you know Americanos are one of the healthiest coffee drinks out there? Yes, that's right!

In this post, we'll cover this and much more!

So what are you waiting for? Grab a cup of coffee (or tea!) and let's get started!

What is an Americano, Exactly?

Before we spoil the surprise (okay, fine, not too much to spoil here) we'd like to talk about the reason an Americano has this curious name.


A Bit of History First

The origins of the Americano date back to World War II.

During the war, American soldiers in Italy often complained that what they found served as coffee was far too strong and bitter for their taste. They were being served espresso coffee while they were more accustomed to large drip coffee mugs.

In an effort to make the drink more to their liking, they would add hot water to their espresso shots. This resulted in a coffee that was lighter and more diluted than straight espresso.

The Italians took notice of this combination and started to refer to these weird coffee drinks Americans would drink as Americano coffee or Caffè Americano in Italian.

WW2 Americano

Thanks for the History Lesson, But What the Heck is an Americano?

Thank you for bearing with us so far...

But now that we have some context, an Americano is a hot black coffee drink made by mixing espresso with hot water.

How much water, you ask? There is no set standard so it depends. But usually, the ratio is half espresso and half hot water. Sometimes it's more diluted, about 1/3 espresso and 2/3 hot water.


Well, not so simple. Things in the coffee world tend to be quite nuanced and the Americano is no exception to this...

The Americano Can Be Controversial Despite Being Such A Simple Drink

We mentioned above that an Americano is espresso mixed with hot water. But what if we were to tell you that there are different ways to make an Americano?

Confused? We don't blame you.

There are two schools of thought.

  • Most coffee snubs say hot water should be added to the espresso to help mix the crema with the drink. This results in a more mellowed-up drink (the crema is quite bitter, even more than the espresso itself).
  • Other coffee snubs say espresso should be added to the hot water.  This preserves the crema at the surface, which can result in a stronger, more bitter drink. This is considered an Americano variation and has its own name: a long black (because in the coffee world, a tiny variation of a drink deserves a whole new name...)
Americano Espresso Crema

How To Make an Americano at Home?

But first...

Why Should You Make Americanos at Home?

This is a valid question, especially if you can easily run to your local coffee shop (don't run, it's not safe, especially in winter).

If you make it a habit of having daily Americanos, then you should make your Americano at home.

Here's why:

  • You will save money. This is still true even if you buy a brand new espresso machine. At around $3, your daily Americanos will cost you $1,100 per year. That's $3,300 per year if you drink 3 cups of coffee per day like most Americans do. That's more than enough for that espresso machine you've been coveting.
  • You will save time. This is an obvious one. No need to leave the house or make a detour before work to get that Americano.
  • You will produce less waste. The environment and future generations will thank you.

So Here's How To Make An Americano at Home!

It's very simple. Here's what you need.

Equipment and Ingredients

  • An espresso machine (Nespresso, AeroPress or a Moka Pot work fine)
  • A coffee grinder (if your machine does not have one built-in)
  • Your favorite mug
  • 1 espresso glass
  • 17g of espresso coffee beans
  • 236 to 355 mL of filtered water (8-10 oz of filtered water)

Preparation Instructions

Once you've gathered all the equipment and ingredients...

  1. Heat the water to about 80 degrees Celsius.
  2. Grind the coffee beans (finely ground for espresso coffee).
  3. Extract two espresso shots into the espresso glass. This should yield about 2 ounces.
  4. To your favorite mug add the hot water and then espresso shots.

Note: you may have noticed we added the espresso to the hot water. You can of course add the hot water to the espresso and compare! This should mellow the flavor of the Americano.

You can also try to make a Red Eye coffee if you're feeling a little adventurous!

Tell us Some Tips to Make an Americano Like a Pro

Like most coffee drinks, how delicious your drink will be, boils down to the quality of your ingredients, tools, and your skills.

Here are some easy tips to make your Americano even better.

  • Start with quality water. Use filtered or distilled water - some areas contain water with high mineral content which could impact the flavor of your drink.

  • Use whole espresso beans. You can use ground coffee beans but these coffee grounds won't be as fresh or tasty.

  • Use a quality grinder (that means, please oh please don't use bladed grinders). There are many manual coffee grinders at a reasonable price. If you can't bother with hand grinders use an electric grinder.

  • Use an espresso machine. Sorry, there is no way around this. You can use an AeroPress or Moka Pot or strong coffees like French Press, but here, the espresso machine trumps. If you drink daily Americanos, we’ve already made the case of how buying an espresso machine will save you money over time vs buying daily drinks at a store.

  • Preheat the portafilter to improve the extraction of your espresso shot.

  • Experiment! Try adding hot water to the espresso, and then espresso to the hot water and see what you prefer. Also, experiment with the water volume. Or dilute it by brewing just one shot of espresso.

What Are Some Variations of Americano Coffee?

There are many variations, possibly hundreds if you consider all the possible customizations that can be made. Just look at the menus of some coffee shops like Starbucks.

We'll cover some of the most popular ones.

  • Iced Americano - this icy version of the Americano is a great thirst quencher during those hot summer days while giving the caffeinated boost you deserve...

  • The Long Black - the Americano version in Australia and New Zealand. With this version of the drink, you add the espresso to the hot water. The crema is better preserved, resulting in a more bitter and bolder drink. Long blacks also tend to have less water than American Americanos (hah, was waiting for the chance to write this) resulting in a stronger drink.

  • Sweetened Americanos - the name says it all. Add some simple syrup to sweeten your drink.

  • Milky Americanos - there is no law against adding milk to your Americano. Add a dash of dairy or non-dairy milk (and sugar if you want) to tone down the bold coffee flavors.

What is the Difference Between Americanos and Other Black Coffees?

At first, an Americano might seem like the same thing as other types of black coffee. But that is not the case, let's clear up any confusion you may have.

The Difference Between Americano vs Drip Coffee

The main difference between an Americano and drip coffee is that drip coffee is what you get when you use a drip coffee maker to get brewed coffee. It is often what people have every morning at home or what they order at the local diner.

On the other hand, Americanos are made with espresso. Espresso is a type of coffee that is made by forcing hot high-pressure water through finely-ground coffee beans. This method produces a thicker, more concentrated drink.

Americano vs Drip Coffee

The Difference Between Americano vs Cold Brew

The first obvious difference is that cold brew is a cold drink whereas the Americano is served piping hot.

But Iced Americanos exist, so what's really the difference?

The fundamental difference is that Americanos are made with espresso (hot temperature, high pressure) and cold brew coffee is made from coarsely ground coffee steeped in cold water for over 24 hours.

Americano vs Cold Brew

The Difference Between Americano vs Espresso

It would make us really sad if you've made it this far and don't know the difference...

Espresso is an Americano without hot water, and an Americano is an espresso with hot water.

Are Americanos Healthy?

Yes, they are, provided you don’t have too many of them each day!

They only contain espresso and hot water, which means low calories, no sugars, and no carbs. Americano coffee is the perfect way to start the day without ruining your diet. They are great if you’re doing a keto diet or intermittent fasting.

And you’ll get all the benefits of coffee. Some benefits include a lower chance of heart and liver failure, a lower chance of developing Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, and many more. The list is long!

Frequently Asked Questions

Is an Americano stronger than regular brewed coffee?

No, an Americano usually contains less caffeine than a typical drip coffee.

But there are many variables to this such as the serving size, types of beans, and personal preferences. An Americano containing two espresso shots has about 130 to 140 mg of caffeine.  Drip coffee has 95 to 200 mg, depending on the preparation.

How much water is in an Americano?

There is no standard recipe for an Americano, but typically you're looking at a 1:1 espresso to water ratio to a 1:2 espresso to water ratio. You can adjust the ratios to your liking and see what works best for you!

What goes well with an Americano?

There are endless possibilities, but some simple sugar syrup with a dash of vanilla is a nice addition to an Americano. I love adding Iced Americanos; they're one of my favorite iced coffee drinks.

What is an Americano Misto?

An americano misto is basically a regular caffe misto, but instead of using brewed coffee, you use espresso and hot water till halfway then you are steamed milk for the other half of the drink!

Espresso Drink

Bottom Line

An Americano is a simple and delicious drink that can be enjoyed any time during the day (well, not too late unless you are a night owl).

Its simplicity makes it what it is, which also leaves room for your creativity and flavor customizations. You'll never get bored with this classic drink!

What do you think about Americanos? Do you like them? Will you give them a try?

Let us know in the comments below!

Nick loves coffee... Actually, he NEEDS coffee! So, he has dedicated his time to learning all he can about this magical bean. He can make a mean latte, is obsessed with flat whites, and is always up for a cup of java!

This article is intended for informational purposes only. It is not meant to replace professional medical advice, treatment or diagnosis. Do not consume any type of coffee, tea or herbal infusion if you are allergic to it. The information in this article is not intended to treat serious medical conditions. Please seek professional medical advice before using home remedies.



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