Americano
December 15, 2023

What is Americano Coffee?

An Americano is a type of coffee made by diluting a shot of espresso with hot water. It's a popular beverage that offers a milder flavour than straight espresso while retaining some of the characteristics of espresso coffee.

To make an Americano, a shot of espresso is first brewed using an espresso machine. Then, hot water is added to the espresso in a larger cup, creating a coffee with a similar strength to regular brewed coffee but with a different flavour profile. 

The Americano is a versatile choice for those who enjoy the nuances of espresso but prefer a lighter and more volume of coffee. Adding water helps reduce the intensity and concentration of the espresso's flavours, resulting in a smoother and more diluted taste.

Where Does Americano Coffee Come From?

The story goes that American G.I.'s stationed in Italy at the end of WWII found espresso too intense to enjoy. And so they would request it be diluted with hot water to make it similar to what coffee was back home, more like brewed filter coffee. With a language barrier to navigate, the G.I.'s would ask for Caffè Americano and were understood to want a weak, American-style espresso. Peace and coffee flourished, and we all lived happily ever after. 

It's a nice story, but unfortunately, it's probably not true. The modern espresso machine wasn't invented until the late 1940s and didn't take off fully until the early 1950s. At that point, most of those G.I.'s were long home. But watering down more robust European coffees to make them more American is definitely where the term and idea came from. 

Today, Americano can be found in cafes and coffeehouses worldwide. Given its name, the Americano is naturally popular in the United States. But they are also widespread across Europe, Canada and parts of Asia. Australia and New Zealand tend to offer a variation called a Long Black.

Making the Perfect Americano Coffee

Making a genuine Americano requires an espresso machine. If you don't have access to one, I'll give some tips later on other brewers that you can use to make Americano-style coffees. But if you have an espresso machine, you'll also need the following.

  • Coffee Beans: Obviously! Any roast level will work. But generally speaking, medium to darker roast levels lend themselves best to Americanos, like FiXX Classic, Organic, Cubano or Lisbon.
  • Coffee Scales: Using exact measurements is crucial in brewing consistently good coffee!
  • Grinder: Freshly grinding coffee beans just before brewing will always give the best results.
  • Kettle: You'll want hot water, nearly boiling. Approximately 90°c. If you don't have a temperature control kettle, just bring a normal one to a boil and let it sit for a minute. 

Start by boiling your kettle and pouring water into your mug to preheat it. Freshly grind 18g of your favourite FiXX; this will be used to brew a 45ml shot of espresso. The best espresso-to-water ratio is 1:3-1:5, so pour 200ml of hot water into your preheated mug while your coffee grinds. Place your freshly ground coffee into a clean, dry portafilter and tamp down as evenly as possible. Lock your portafilter in place and brew your espresso directly onto the hot water. Enjoy!

Ideally, the water goes in the cup first, with the espresso poured on top to preserve the golden Crema. This will enhance the texture, aroma and taste of your Americano. Combining espresso and water this way creates an Americanos unique coffee experience of full, robust espresso flavour and mouth feel without the intensity some people find too much.

Can I Make an Americano at Home Without an Espresso Machine?

No. To make a genuine Americano requires an espresso. And unless you have an espresso machine, you can't reproduce an espresso. Much like you can't fry an egg if you've only got a microwave. You can cook an egg, sure. But you can't fry one. However, you can make Americano-style coffee, and I'll outline some ways below.

  • Moka Pot:

    Fill the bottom chamber with boiling water to the release valve. Add your coffee. Medium fine-ground coffee will work best. Screw your top section in place and place it onto your stove on high heat. Remove your moka pot from the heat source when you hear the sputtering sound. Pour your coffee into a mug and dilute it with hot water at a ratio of 1:1. 
  • AeroPress:

    Place your filter paper into the cap and screw in place onto the bottom of the AeroPress. Add 14g of fine-ground coffee and shake to level out the coffee bed. Put your AeroPress onto a sturdy mug and add hot water (approx 90°c) up to the number 1 mark. Stir for ten seconds, and then put the upper part of your AeroPress in place. Wait thirty seconds and then plunge downward. Finally, dilute your coffee with hot water to taste. A ratio of 1:3 will work well here.
  • French Press:

    Place 15g of coarsly ground coffee into your cafetiere. Pour 150g of freshly boiled water, ensuring all the coffee gets wet. Stir and leave to brew for two minutes. After this, stir again, place the lid on and wait one more minute for the coffee to settle on the bottom. Press down with the plunger, stopping before you reach the bed of coffee. Slowly pour your coffee into a mug and dilute it with hot water to taste. A ratio of 1:1 will work well here.

These methods will give you a smooth, enjoyable cup of coffee. Adding water helps reduce the intensity and concentration of the coffee's flavours, resulting in a smoother and more diluted taste. None will be able to recreate the mouthfeel of an authentic Americano, but the Moka will probably come closet.

What is the Difference Between an Americano and a Filter Coffee?

An Americano and filter coffee are both popular coffee beverages. Still, they differ in terms of their preparation methods, flavour profiles, and strengths. Here's an overview of their similarities and differences:

Similarities

  • Coffee Base: An Americano and filter coffee are made from coffee beans. The coffee beans used can vary in origin, roast level, and flavour characteristics.
  • Dilution: Both beverages involve dilution with hot water. This dilution process sets them apart from espresso, which is a more concentrated coffee shot.

Differences

Preparation Method:

  • Americano: An Americano is made by diluting a shot of espresso with hot water. The espresso shot is brewed using an espresso machine and then mixed with water to achieve the desired strength and flavour.
  • Filter Coffee: Filter coffee is made by allowing hot water to pass through a bed of coffee grounds, typically using methods like drip brewing or pour-over. The water slowly drips or pours over the coffee grounds, extracting flavours and oils as it filters through.

Strength and Concentration:

  • Americano: An Americano has a flavour profile that is similar to espresso but milder. The dilution with water reduces the intensity of the espresso's flavours, resulting in a smoother and less concentrated taste.
  • Filter Coffee: Filter coffee is generally less concentrated than espresso or Americano. The extraction process used in filter methods allows for a more balanced and nuanced flavour profile. It often has a lighter mouthfeel compared to espresso-based drinks.

Flavour Profile:

  • Americano: Due to its espresso base, an Americano can have distinct espresso-like characteristics, such as a rich and bold flavour, as well as a crema layer (if the espresso shot is extracted correctly). However, the water dilution also brings out more subtle flavours and reduces the bitterness.
  • Filter Coffee: Filter coffee tends to have a smoother and cleaner taste. The filter process removes more coffee oils and sediment, resulting in a lighter-bodied coffee with more clarity in flavour notes.

Does an Americano Have More Caffeine Than Espresso?

No. Because an Americano is made using espresso, it will have the exact same caffeine content that already exists in the espresso. Diluting it with water will not weaken or reduce the caffeine content. 

Are There Variations To Americano Recipes?

There are lots of different ways to enjoy an Americano. But here are some of the easiest to try at home or while out and about.

  • Iced Americano: Just like a typical Americano, except you pour your shot of espresso on top of a glass full of ice water. This flash chills the flavours of the espresso, turning your drink into a refreshing iced coffee. You can now add milk, cream or sugar if you like. 
  • White Americano: I'm not going to award any prizes for guessing this is just an Americano with milk. Traditionally, an Americano is served black.
  • Hazelnut/Carmel/Vanilla Americano: Just your average Americano with a shot of flavoured syrup to jazz it up. 

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