What Is an Americano? And How to Make One

When regular coffee drinkers are looking to cross over into the world of espresso, there is one drink I always recommend: the Americano.

What is an Americano? It’s the espresso equivalent of black coffee. It’s much less concentrated than a straight shot of espresso, but it still contains all of the deliciousness of quality espresso without the extra ingredients you’d find in drinks like lattes.

So, What Is an Americano Coffee?

An Americano, an espresso drink diluted with water

An Americano is espresso diluted with water. The ratio of water to espresso can vary, but it’s typically about 3:1. That’s really all there is to it, but that simplicity is what makes the Americano so great. It’s easy-to-make, low in calories, and mellow enough for any coffee lover to enjoy. 

Where did Americano come from?

Much like the long black coffee, Americanos were an Italian response to an influx of American travelers. These Americans weren’t used to espressos and cappuccinos, the main coffee drinks available in Italian cafes. They wanted something like the black coffee that they were used to drinking. 

Italian baristas responded by adding hot water to espresso, creating a drink — the Americano — that was based on espresso but had a similar strength to American coffee. That’s where the 3:1 ratio comes from, it’s the ratio you need to dilute espresso to match drip coffee.

Americano Calories

A shot of espresso has about three calories. Since water is the only other ingredient, that means that an Americano has three calories if made with a single shot and six calories if made with a double. Of course, any sweeteners or other additives will likely add quite a few more calories.

Caffeine in Americano

Coffee beans spelling out caffeine

Espresso shots have about 65 mg of caffeine each, so an Americano will have about 65 mg if made with a single and 130 mg if made with a double shot. The exact amount will depend on the type of coffee beans used, coffee-to-water ratio, and a few other factors, but these are at least reasonable estimates.

Other Names for an Americano

  • Americano
  • Americano coffee
  • Cafè Americano
  • Caffè Americano

Comparisons to Other Coffees

Let’s take a look at how Americanos compare to other coffee and espresso drinks to see if we can alleviate any remaining confusion.

Americano vs coffee

The difference between American and coffee is all about how it’s brewed. Americano is made with espresso, a beverage brewed using pressurized water pushed through fine-ground coffee. What we think of as regular coffee, on the other hand, is usually made by dripping water through medium-ground coffee without any added pressure. 

Espresso tends to have a richer, more intense flavor than drip coffee, so even after further dilution Americanos will be richer and more flavorful than drip coffee. 

Americano vs espresso

An Americano coffee and a shot of espresso, showing the size difference

An Americano is just an espresso with added hot water. Espresso has less volume — about 1 ounce for a single shot — and a more intense flavor than Americano. Espresso also has a rich crema, the layer of foam that sits atop the shot. Americanos lose most if not all of their crema when the water is poured in.

Americano vs long black

Americanos and long blacks are very similar — they are both drinks made with espresso and water. Often, the water-to-espresso ratio in a long black is 2:1 instead of the 3:1 ratio used in Americanos, so long blacks are somewhat more intensely flavored.

The bigger difference, though, is the order in which the ingredients are added. In the case of a long black, the espresso is added to the water instead of the other way around. I know that sounds minor, but it’s important because of the crema. The way a long black is poured preserves the crema, whereas an Americano’s crema ends up mixing into the drink.

As any espresso drinker will tell you, the presence of a thick crema has a huge impact on the experience. 

Americano vs cappuccino or latte

An Americano and a latte, showing the color difference from the milk

This one might be obvious to some of you, but here’s the difference between Americano and latte (or cappuccino): Lattes and cappuccinos have steamed milk, while Americanos have water. While Americanos are a replacement for regular drip coffee, lattes and cappuccinos are wholly different experience.

Lattes and cappuccinos are creamier, richer, and have more calories than Americanos.

Starbucks Americano

In case you aren’t looking to make your own Americano, here’s what you can expect from Americanos at Starbuck.

Starbuck’s Americano is made with the following ratios, depending on the drink size. Notice that these are more watery than a standard Americano, especially at the smaller sizes. These caffeine contents are based on the regular Starbucks Americano, if you want a stronger Starbucks drink, you can always go with the blonde Americano.

Total volume (ounces)Espresso shotsEspresso-to-water ratioCaffeine (mg)Calories
Short817:1755
Tall1225:115010
Grande1634:122515
Venti2044:130020

Your local (non-Starbucks) coffee shop might have their own spins on the drink. Most tend to be stronger than an Americano from Starbucks, and many use the traditional 3:1 ratio described earlier.

How to Make an Americano at Home

  1. Pull an espresso shot (or a double shot). If you don’t have an espresso machine, you can try AeroPress espresso as a budget alternative. You can also use Nespresso pods.
  2. Add 3 ounces (6 for a double) of filtered water. The water doesn’t need to be boiling or even near-boiling. Aim for about 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. Enjoy your cup of coffee!

What Is an Iced Americano?

An iced Americano coffee, made with cold water instead of hot water

An iced Americano is not exactly an Americano served over ice. You could make it that way, but it’s typically made by adding cold water instead of hot water to your espresso shot. You can still add ice, but using cold water stops the ice from melting as fast, preserving the flavor of the espresso.

Simplicity Itself

The Americano is undoubtedly one of the simplest espresso drinks you can make. It takes very little time and no additional ingredients — all you need are your shots of espresso and some water. If you don’t like drinking your espresso as shots, an Americano is the easiest alternative.

Because of its simplicity, the Americano is an ideal way to try out coffee beans from around the world to discover your new favorite. The lack of additives allows you to try out the pure form of different flavor profiles — easily distinguishing the fruitiness of Costa Rican coffee beans from the earthiness of Sumatran coffee and all the rest of the coffee flavor wheel.

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