Updated: July 12, 2022 by Owen Richardson
If you drink coffee regularly you have surely heard of Americano coffee, but why is it called Americano?
Let’s talk about what Americano coffee is, where it came from, and how it’s made.
Although it’s a very simple and basic drink, you can make it in a few different ways to cater to your preferences. You just might find your new favorite coffee to make at home!
What Is Americano Coffee?
When you first heard the term Americano coffee, you might have thought it was something fancy that can only be made at coffee shops, only to realize that it is actually very simple — just an espresso topped off with hot water.
However, Americano coffee can be made in several different ways, including hot and iced, and you can also change up the order in which you add the water and coffee into the cup.
Why is It Called Americano?
It is believed that Americano coffee truly began during World War II when American soldiers were going through up to 32 pounds of coffee per person each year.
The American soldiers stationed in Italy didn’t like the taste of traditional espresso. In order to tone the coffee down, they added hot water to make it less bitter. This made it taste similar to an American drip coffee, hence it is called an Americano.
How Americano Coffee Is Made
Americano coffee is made by first making espresso and then adding hot water. After taking those steps, there are different ways to customize your Americano to your liking.
Make the Espresso
The difference between espresso drip coffee encompasses the process in which the coffee is brewed as well as the beans and grind size.
When a traditional drip coffee is made, hot water drips through the coffee grounds; however, when espresso is made, a small amount of very hot water is forced through the coffee grounds with a large amount of pressure by means of an espresso machine, like this Mr. Coffee One-Touch Machine. This process results in a thicker, darker, and stronger cup of coffee that takes a matter of seconds to make versus drip coffee which can take minutes.
The grind size for espresso is extremely important. Espresso coffee requires a fairly fine grind to create the perfect cup of coffee. If the grind is too coarse, you will get under-extracted coffee; if it’s too fine, it will be over-extracted. You will quickly be able to tell based on the taste. If it is under-extracted it will taste weak, but if it is over-extracted it will taste bitter.
It is widely debated what beans should be used for espresso. Some people believe the best espresso comes from just arabica beans, but it is common for espresso to be made from a combination of both arabica and robusta beans. Arabica beans tend to produce a sweeter taste with less acidity, whereas robusta beans produce coffee that is more bitter but has more caffeine.
Espresso is typically made from very dark roasted beans. They create a coffee that is very rich and full-bodied with not quite as much acidity. The most important aspect of a great espresso is the thick crema on top.
If you are wondering what creates the thick crema, it comes from the oil in the dark roast beans. The oil is forced out by the water and pressure when creating espresso, and this is what creates the thick, creamy foam on top of espressos.
Putting the Pieces Together
Once you have espresso and hot water, how do you assemble an Americano? The answer is fairly simple, but up to personal preference as well.
Some people believe that the water should be poured over the espresso, while others believe the espresso should be poured over the water. Pouring the espresso over the water supposedly will create more crema and avoids the risk of burning the espresso if the water is too hot, but there is not necessarily a right or wrong answer.
Adding the water to the espresso makes a traditional Americano; however, adding the espresso to the water is usually called a long black, a term coined by Australians.
The typical ratio of water to espresso when creating an Americano is 1-2 shots of espresso to 6 ounces of hot water. Some people will add more or less of either, depending on whether they want a stronger or weaker drink and how much they want to drink at the time.
If you want a very strong espresso you can use traditional espresso shots, but if you want something that is not quite as strong you can use lungo shots, which are a bit weaker.
Americano Coffee vs Other Espresso Drinks
Some people might find that a coffee Americano is too strong since it’s just made with espresso and hot water. There are several other drinks made with espresso that might pique your interest if you prefer something a little sweeter and more toned down.
A cappuccino is simply an espresso shot with steamed milk, so those who think an Americano is too strong may prefer a cappuccino. It is typically prepared with equal parts double shot espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam on top.
A latte is very similar to a cappuccino in that this drink also consists of espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam on top; however, the difference lies in the ratio of espresso, milk, and milk foam. A cappuccino has equal parts each, but a latte is ⅓ espresso, ⅔ steamed milk, and a very thin layer of milk foam on top.
A macchiato is very simple to make and consists of espresso topped with frothed milk. There is also a latte macchiato, in which espresso is added to the frothed milk to make a slightly different version of a regular macchiato.
Mocha is a great drink for those who prefer something much sweeter. To make a mocha you begin with an espresso base but add chocolate syrup or cocoa powder to the espresso to sweeten it. Frothed milk is then added and you can choose whether you want to use whole milk or a non-dairy alternative such as almond milk or oat milk. Some people also top off their mocha with whipped cream.
Does Americano coffee have sugar?
Americano coffee does not have sugar. It is made from black espresso and only water is added so you get a drink that is low in sugar and high in caffeine.
Can you make an iced coffee Americano?
Yes, iced Americanos consist of espresso shots over ice and topped with cold water instead of hot. You still get the typical crema that you get with a hot espresso.
Does Americano coffee have milk?
A traditional Americano will never have milk. If you order an Americano from any coffee shop, it will not have milk or any dairy alternative added to it. An Americano is known for simply being coffee and water; however, you can always add milk if you prefer.
Can you make an Americano with a Keurig?
You cannot make an actual espresso with a Keurig, but you can get pretty darn close; therefore, you can make a coffee that will be very close to an Americano. If you have a Keurig with a shot option, you can make a shot of coffee with a very dark roast and then add water to the shot and you will have something close to an Americano. You will not, however, get the crema that you typically get when you make espresso with an espresso machine.
Now You Know All About the Americano
We have now discussed what an Americano coffee is, where it comes from, and how it is made. Although it is simply espresso and water, you can make it a couple of different ways and if you find that an Americano is too strong for you, you now know that there are a few different alternatives.
Americano coffees can easily be made at home, especially if you have an espresso machine. The next time you are bored with your usual coffee, give an Americano a try and see if you enjoy this different way of getting your caffeine boost!