A cup of americano coffee

What Is An Americano? History, Misconceptions & Brewing Guide

November 18, 2020

Have you been wondering ‘what is an Americano’ after spotting it on a coffee shop board? Isn’t it just a fancy hipster name for drip? Well, no.

While the finished cup can look almost the same, Americano coffee is its own thing, with a different brewing method and a memorable, amusing history dating back to World War II.

What we love the most about it is the fact that it combines American and Italian traditions, achieving an interesting compromise between drip coffee and espresso.

What exactly is an Americano?

A cup of Americano coffee, which is different from drip

An Americano is a black coffee made by adding hot water to a shot of espresso. 

The ratios can differ depending on which coffee shop you head to or, if you’re making it yourself, how concentrated you prefer it. In general, it’s either half and half for a stronger, more traditional Americano or one part espresso and two of water for a more diluted version.

The unique Americano origin

Americano is simply the Italian word for ‘American’ and that’s not a coincidence nor a random name.

It’s not a mystery that, in Italy, coffee means a shot of espresso. If you ask for ‘un caffè’, that’s what you’ll get.

Apparently, most of the American World War II soldiers stationed in Italy found it too strong as they were already used to larger pots of joe. So what did they do? 

They kept asking baristas to add some water to it in order to obtain something more similar to their usual drip coffee… and that’s how the ‘Americano’ was born.

Statue of World War II American soldiers

What is the difference between Americano and black coffee?

The difference between Americano vs black coffee is that an Americano is obtained by adding water to a shot of espresso pulled with an espresso machine, whereas black or drip coffee is brewed with another method. 

Whether you use an automatic dripper, a manual pour over or another coffee maker, the water is always used in order to extract the coffee, not added separately.

What is the difference between Americano and espresso?

The difference between Americano and espresso is that... the former wouldn’t exist without the latter! An espresso is simply a small shot of concentrated coffee brewed at high pressure, whereas an Americano is the longer black drink that you obtain by adding hot water to it.

How to make an Americano

An Americano coffee

Making an Americano is actually really easy, especially if you have an espresso machine with a hot-water spout. All you need is:

Start by making an espresso like you normally would, but, instead of a small espresso cup, use a larger one so that you have plenty of room to add water.

If your espresso machine has a hot-water on-demand option (like coffee shop models), all you need to do is top up your cup with it.

If it doesn’t, save yourself some time by heating up some water in a kettle or stovetop pot before you do anything else. 

We recommend avoiding actual boiling water as it would burn the espresso and spoil the final flavor of your cup. Aim for around 185 degrees Fahrenheit, instead. 

You can either remove the pot from the heat if it’s got a thermometer or let it sit for just under a minute after it’s boiled.

We hope this answers your initial ‘what is an Americano’ question. Are you going to give it a go?

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