Americano vs Latte: Which Espresso-Based Wake-Up Call Is Best?

If you’ve been heading to your local coffee shop for many years and getting the same coffee, whether it’s a black coffee, cold brew, or drip coffee and you’re ready to shake things up, both the americano and the latte might be on your radar.

Each are an espresso based drink that any coffee lover will love, whether it’s made at home or in-store by a barista. So, what do you need to know about americano vs latte and how do you know which one you are going to enjoy more?

What's The Difference?

The simplest way to describe the difference between these two brewed coffee beverages is that the americano is just about as basic as they come when it comes to espresso. It’s at least two shots of espresso mixed with water.

Lattes, on the other hand, are more complex and feature espresso and hot milk or cream. You’ve probably already heard different takes on the latte, like a mocha latte, café latte, to name a few. Much of the drink is crema or frothed milk and it can be flavored in an endless number of ways.

When it comes to taste, most people would describe a latte as very mild. You can definitely taste the espresso in the drink – or at least you should be able to when it’s made properly and not overloaded with sweetener – but because of the high cream content, the brewed coffee taste is very mild.

An americano, on the other hand, is bold and big. If you normally drink a shot of espresso, an americano is not going to impress you all that much. But if you’re used to regular coffee or you’ve been partial to sugary coffee blends, an americano might just knock your socks off.

Americano – Facts and Figures

A cup of coffee, with Espresso and Latte

An americano is diluted espresso. It can be a decent way to introduce yourself to pure espresso, but it’s not always a good beverage for your first foray into espresso drinks. Most people prefer to start with something a little milder, which would be the latte.

Americanos are easy to make at home. All you’re really doing is making espresso. But what makes the perfect americano is how you introduce the water to the espresso, the temperature of the water when it’s combined, and the ratio of water to espresso.

Most people recommend a ratio of two parts espresso to one part water, but there are as many variations as there are coffee drinkers.

Some people prefer half water and half espresso. Others prefer a third espresso and 2/3 water. The best thing you can do is experiment and decide which suits your taste the most.

Also keep in mind, if you intend to make the drink cold and have an iced americano, you’ll need to adjust your ratio because the ice will dilute the espresso shot even more.

The next consideration when making an Americano is the introduction of the water. You need to heat the water to close to boiling (again, the exact temperature is a matter of personal preference, but most people aim between 160 and 170 degrees F).

Once the water is heated and your espresso shots are ready to go, you pour the water very slowly into the espresso. This protects the crema of the espresso and gives you the greatest amount of control over the water introduction.

That’s it. You’ve made an Americano.

Latte – The Low-Down

A cup of coffee on a table, with Espresso and Latte

Latte translates to “milk coffee” so you can expect that this drink is plenty creamy and high in dairy content.

With a latte, you combine espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam. No water at all. Most people use one to two espresso shots depending on how large of a beverage they want.

The important thing to remember about a latte is that in many cases, it’s going to have exactly the same caffeine content as an americano if you use the same amount of espresso shots.

So, although you are getting a bolder and seemingly more potent drink with the americano, it’s really no more powerful than a latte when it comes right down to it.

Americano vs Latte – The Nitty Gritty

What are the benefits and the drawbacks of drinking either of these beverages?

First and foremost, it comes down to personal preference and taste. An americano is a more pure espresso drink and for those who enjoy the bold taste of straight espresso, but want more than the few sips they get from a single espresso shot.

Lattes tend to be for those who like the milder taste of cream blended with espresso. You’re still getting an espresso drink, but it’s richer and creamier.

One of the biggest reasons people choose americanos over lattes is because of the calorie content in the beverages. If they don’t mind indulging a little bit, they go for the latte.

Lattes are popular dessert drinks or an occasional splurge, although some people do drink them every morning and there are ways to cut down on the calories and fat content depending on what type of milk you use.

An americano, on the other hand, hardly contains any calories unless you add them after the fact. Most americanos range from about 10 to 20 calories, which are negligent once you factor in the jolt you get from the caffeine and the amount of energy you burn drinking the drink.

Of course, if you add milk or cream or sweetener, it’s a whole new ballgame, but americanos are a great “diet” coffee drink. As a matter of fact, many people use them as a pre-workout option before heading to the gym.

A cup of coffee on a table, with Latte and Cream

Another great thing about both drinks is that they are delicious over ice. Iced americanos and iced lattes are both refreshing and delicious during the hot summer months.

Some people even prefer the drinks to be iced year-round. An iced americano with a shot of low-fat milk or blended with ice makes a great low-calorie alternative to many of the highly sweetened coffee drinks you find on the menus at modern coffee shops. The same is true for lattes if you choose a low-cal milk.

The Final Word on Americano vs Latte

Before choosing between an americano and a latte, consider if you want to add any flavor. Lattes can be livened up in a variety of ways, but this is rarely the case with americanos.

You can add flavoring to an americano, but because the espresso is diluted, it tends to pale in comparison to flavored espresso drinks without water.

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