Americano is the diluted version of an Espresso.
While visiting Rome, I entered a crowded cafe and ordered an Americano. There was silence for a few seconds as people wondered what I had just called. The barista smiled and handed me my cuppa.
Interestingly, not many people know Americano and those who do confuse it with an espresso.
What is the difference between Americano vs Espresso coffee? In simple words, Americano coffee is just an espresso diluted with water. Check out our guide on what is an Americano coffee for a more thorough overview of this drink.
Now, let’s get to the complete comparison of Americano and espresso!
What Is An Americano?
American soldiers in Italy during World War II once stopped in a local coffee shop to get a good cup of Joe. They got a single shot of espresso, a concentrated brew enjoyed by the natives.
Now, espresso usually has a rich and bold flavor, and you will get it in a small cup. American generals were raised on drip coffee that came in standard-sized mugs. To compensate for that, they hit upon an idea and added hot water to espresso – thus, Americano was born.
The word spread, and soon enough, Americano became popular worldwide.
An Americano tastes like a richer and more robust black coffee.
The texture of espresso is thicker than a typical drip coffee. However, an Americano lacks viscosity because you add water to it. Despite the dilution, you can still feel a rich smoothness about an Americano that separates it from a drip coffee.
Another point of difference is the level of heat. As you add hot water to an already hot espresso, expect your Americano to be warmer than a regular cup of coffee.
What Is An Espresso?
Espresso means “pressed out” in Italian. And that’s what its inventor, Luigi Bezzera, had in mind when he patented the first pressurized espresso machine in 1901.
Espresso is a strong coffee with a full body and a layer of crema on the top. It’s more concentrated than regular coffee. The brewing method consists of pressurized water going through the tamped coffee grounds and extracting the coffee.
The amount of water you will use for the extraction depends on how much espresso you want.
Espresso is a base of different espresso-based drinks such as:
- flat white
Check out our guide on different types of espresso drinks to learn more about these coffees.
Americano Vs Espresso: The Difference
The difference between an espresso and an Americano is simple: Americano is a double espresso shot diluted with hot water, while espresso is just a single shot of espresso coffee.
However, more nuances make these coffee beverages completely different.
Caffè Americano, or American Coffee, is made with the same coffee beans and uses the same brewing method as an espresso.
To make an espresso, fill the portafilter with your favorite finely ground espresso beans, tamp them, put them into the machine, and pull your shot into a 1-ounce (30 ml) demitasse cup.
The only difference in the brewing method of Americano is the additional step of adding hot water.
Take a mug, pull one or two shots of espresso with the machine, pour them into a large cup, and add hot water in a 1:2 water-to-coffee ratio.
Espresso and Americano are different in volume. Espresso is usually about 1 oz; you get it in a demitasse cup. Since you will add water to Americano, you need a larger cup. Americano is about 5-6 oz; you get it in a typical coffee mug.
Just because espresso forms the base for an Americano does not mean it will taste like one. Many expect Americano to taste like a diluted espresso, but both beverages have distinct personalities.
Espresso has a concentrated, bold, and robust flavor. The exact flavor profile depends on the type of beans you use. To learn more about it, check out our article about types of coffee beans.
If you like espresso, but the strong coffee flavor leaves a bitter and burned taste in your mouth, you should try an Americano. Some people find the concentrated and intense flavors of an espresso overpowering. Similar to a shot of Scotch, you can unlock the natural flavors of espresso by adding hot water.
When you add water, the concentrated espresso releases a floral taste mixed with dark chocolate and citrus effects in the background. It helps in coaxing out the flavors from within an espresso, making you wonder what you were missing all this while!
When it comes to caffeine levels, there is a significant difference. Regular espresso coffee has less caffeine than an Americano – about 63 mg. Americano usually has two espresso shots, so the amount of caffeine doubles. The typical Americano has about 125 mg of caffeine. So, diluting your espresso with water will not decrease the caffeine amount. An Americano made with a single espresso shot will have the same caffeine level as espresso.
The high-quality beans that are carefully roasted and ground contain many flavorful coffee oils. When you brew an espresso, the high pressure forces the oils out of the finely ground coffee. You get a crema, the light-colored creamy substance floating over your dark coffee.
Coffee lovers often relate crema as a mark of expertise achieved perfectly only by highly experienced and versatile baristas. To earn the title of a home barista, you should concentrate on getting that layer of crema over your homemade espresso.
So, does the crema dissolve in an Americano since it’s diluted with water? The good news is that you will still get a layer of crema on your coffee drink, but it won’t be as thick as in a regular espresso.
Variations And Adaptations
Both drinks have a couple of variations.
Espresso comes either as a shot black which is a regular 1-ounce shot. Then we have a shorter version – ristretto, which has 0.5 ounces. A longer version of a regular espresso is called lungo, which has 1.75 to 2.25 ounces.
For making either of these variations, you must carefully track the amount of coffee poured into your cup. All three variations are served in a demitasse cup. Ristretto will fill 1/4 of the cup, short black will take a bit less than half, and lungo will take up to 2/3 of the cup.
Americano has two variations – Iced Americano and Long Black. Iced Americano is just, as the name suggests, and Americano is served over ice. It comes in a tall glass and is a perfect treat during long and hot summer days.
Long Black is an Australian adaptation of an Americano. They make it in reverse order by adding an espresso shot to a cup with hot water. We fully compared Americano vs Long Black, so check it out!
Espresso is never specially customized. If you like sweet coffee, you can add a bit of sugar. Anything else would ruin the point of an espresso – a shot, strong coffee that you drink in one sip.
On the other side, an Americano allows some customization. You can add milk, cream, or different kinds of flavored syrups. Iced Americano goes particularly well with flavored syrups, so feel free to experiment with that.
I recommend you try the best vanilla syrup for coffee in your Iced Americano!
Americano and espresso influence your health similarly since they are essentially the same thing – coffee.
Coffee can help you lose weight, boost your energy, and even help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and type 2 diabetes, as scientific studies showed. However, it’s only beneficial if you consume it in moderation – three or four cups daily.
Drinking too much coffee can be bad for you. It can increase anxiety and disrupt your sleep. Also, it can cause addiction and unpleasant withdrawal symptoms such as headache and exhaustion.
So, make sure to consume it in moderate amounts.
One of the main concerns regarding environmental considerations is where your coffee comes from, whether you are brewing Americano or espresso.
Coffee production impacts the environment in several ways. If it’s not grown sustainably, it can damage the ecosystem. Shade-grown coffee means farmers didn’t cut the trees but are growing the coffee plants under them.
On the other hand, coffee grown under the sun means it’s grown on plantations, which means the forest has been cut. Also, it requires using fertilizers, which is also not eco-friendly. Get shade-grown and organic coffee from small farms if you want sustainable coffee.
Another factor to consider is the brewing. Since Americano requires more water, it is less eco-friendly, considering the water scarcity.
The Final Word About Espresso and Americanos
If you are a pure espresso fan, you may not like its diluted cousin because Americano loses the kick you get from sipping on a rich cup of espresso. People like me who don’t like that bitter and sour taste an espresso leaves in the mouth will love an Americano. Adding hot water helps bring out the sweet flavors and makes your Java less bitter!
More than anything else, I love being able to sip on my favorite cup of coffee longer than usual on cold mornings. While espresso has an indelible champion, the Americano has carved its unique place in the coffee world. It’s worth trying!
Are you making Americano with your Nespresso machine? Check out the best Nespresso Vertuo pods for Americano coffee.