An americano is a type of coffee drink made from combining espresso and water in a certain way to create a diluted version of espresso that contains more water than espresso.
Americano coffee is what some people would term a long black coffee but it’s very different to a normal black coffee made with instant coffee granules due to the brewing method used.
All sorts of fancy names for coffee have been created over the last 50 years mainly as a result of the rise of the coffee shop culture that has now become a way of life across the world.
A lot of it has to do with the marketing of the large coffee chains like Starbucks and Costa because it would be no good if you went into a coffee shop and the only choice you had was a black coffee for you to add milk and sugar to.
If that was the only option available to you then you would likely be very reluctant to shell out £3 or more so you get this huge menu presented to you with all sorts of crazy options.
You can order a Venti vanilla latte with whipped cream with an extra shot at Starbucks so it’s perfectly reasonable to want to understand what an Americano coffee is.
As the name would suggest Americano as a coffee drink originated in America or to be more precise American soldiers in Italy during the second World War found espresso too strong so added water to it in order to reduce its strength and then brought the idea back to the United States and the Americano was officially born.
How do you make Americano?
You mix espresso with water and that turns it into an Americano. But what ratios should you use?
Should you put the espresso into the glass first or the water and what about the water temperature?
And what about milk and sugar. Should an Americano be drunk on its own or is it ok to add milk and sugar and if you do does it turn it into a different drink?
When you go into a coffee shop and order an americano you will get something different every time you go into a different shop and often something different in the same shop.
The amount of water that gets added makes a very big difference to the overall flavour so once you know how much water you like don’t be afraid to tell the Barista. You are after all paying £3 or more for your coffee so you are certainly entitled to have it just how you like it.
I use the word Barista lightly because most staff in Starbucks and Costa and Café Nero in and around London in my experience don’t really want to be there and are not that bothered about serving you up a crafted coffee so its even more important that you let them know how you want it done.
Start with half water and half espresso, that’s a strong Americano. Then just keep adding water until you get the strength that you like the most.
In a coffee shop you will probably get something around 30% espresso and 70% water and that can be too watery and weak for a lot of people and it could put you off and make you think that Americano is not for you when you haven’t even given it a proper go.
We recommend starting strong and working your way towards weak from there until you find the sweet spot.
Those are just some of the standard suggestions for making Americano but there are no rules!
Something that I do on a regular basis is change the amount of water depending on the time of day.
First thing in the morning I like to have a short sharp hit. Espresso is too intense for me so I go 50/50 espresso and water but after lunch when I want to savour my coffee a little more I tend to go 1/3 double espresso and 2/3 water which produces a milder coffee that I drink over a longer period of time than my coffee first thing in the morning.
Experiment with different amounts of water until you find the amount that works best for your taste.
Americano is traditionally only drunk black with sugar added to taste but who says you can’t add milk? You certainly don’t want to be adding as much milk as you do with a cappuccino or a latte but if you want to add a bit of milk go right ahead.
It doesn’t make much difference whether you add the water first or the espresso first. Most people will add the water on top of the espresso because that just seems the logical thing to do and that’s what they do in coffee shops.
If you do decide to add the espresso on top of the water you will find that you get a crema on top whereas if you do it the other way round you won’t. Either way, the flavour is going to be pretty much the same.
Make Americano at home yourself
The best way to make an Americano is at home with your own espresso machine. If you do then you will end up with an Americano that is far superior to anything you will pay £3 or more for in a coffee shop for three very good reasons.
Coffee quality. In a coffee shop they give you no choice. You accept the house blend because that’s all there is. Zero choice. What if you don’t like the dark roast coffee that you get in the high street coffee chains?
If you buy your own coffee beans then you can choose from a light roast, medium roast or dark roast and from a huge number of different coffee-producing countries. You get hundreds of different options rather than just one.
Consistency. An Americano is all about getting the right strength that suits your palette. It’s different for everyone and if you do it yourself then you can get it just right every time. At a coffee shop it is completely hit and miss and you will almost certainly get something different each time you order one.
If you are going to make an Americano at home then you will need an espresso machine. Nothing as high tech as the machines you see in coffee shops is required and it is possible to pick one up that will produce a decent espresso for under £100.
Here are a few articles explaining those options in detail:
Water temperature. Don’t pour boiling water over your Americano. Some of the better machines will regulate the temperature so that hot water is delivered at 92 degrees which is ideal. If you use the kettle then let it sit for a few minutes to let it come off the boil and your coffee will taste better.
What are the benefits of drinking Americano coffee?
Americano is a pure way to drink coffee and realise the full flavour potential that coffee has to offer. Once you start adding large amounts of milk and sugar to create cappuccino and latte then you start to dilute the coffee taste and with drinks like a large latte you end up almost removing the coffee taste altogether because the coffee shops add a pint of milk to a double espresso.
The reason we add milk and sugar in the first place is to get rid of the taste of the poor quality coffee we are drinking.
Buying some quality coffee and making it yourself instead of getting it at a coffee shop could easily swing you away from cappuccinos and latte’s and into enjoying the pure taste of black coffee.
I still add some sugar to my Americanos but I’m happy to drink it black if I make it myself at home but not at a coffee shop.
There are no calories in an Americano coffee so if you are on a calorie-controlled diet and you want to save your calories for food then an americano is one of the few things that actually tastes good that doesn’t have any calories in it!
Be careful though because as soon as you start to add milk and sugar then the calories will start to add up so it’s all about creating a tasty and flavoursome drink in the first place.
If you have never really enjoyed Americano in the past or you think that black coffee is not for you then follow some of the tips above and you could find yourself converted.