The Americano and long black are espresso-based beverages. They are essentially the same thing; however, the preparation method, flavor, and texture all make them different. I spent years as a barista, so I can tell you everything you need to know about each coffee drink.
Today, I will explain:
- The difference between Americano and long black coffee
- Where do they originate from
- How to make them correctly
If you are still new to the coffee world, check out our article about different types of espresso drinks.
Let’s jump straight into the Americano vs long black showdown!
What Is Espresso?
We should first examine what espresso is since it’s a base for Americano and long black.
Origin of the Word
The origin of the word “espresso” is not confirmed, though there are many conjectures. People believe it has several meanings in Italian, French, and English. One meaning comes from “pressure,” as the flavor of the coffee is extracted by highly pressurized water.
The second meaning may be speed, like an “express train.” Some experts believe its name originates from the fact that it is made individually, expressly for each person.
The First Espresso Machine
Turin’s Angelo Moriondo created the first espresso machine in 1885 and marketed it as a steam-powered “economic and instantaneous” coffee maker. Unlike later variants, it could brew coffee in bulk for more customers. Different inventors improved the machine several times until we ended up with the modern espresso machines.
The Espresso Drink Itself
Contrary to popular belief, espresso is not a kind of coffee, although some coffee beans can be specially processed to produce better-quality espresso.
An espresso is a strong coffee drink made with an espresso machine. The brewing process requires tightly compacted, finely ground coffee beans. The machine shoots down the hot water at high pressure through this tightly packed coffee.
It results in the beverage that we call espresso. Unlike regular black coffee, espresso has crema — a thick creamy layer of foam that forms on top.
The flavor of your espresso beverage may differ depending on the café, the brand, or the roast. The flavors in espresso are pretty strong, bold, and simple, but if you add more water, the complex flavors may stand out more.
Espresso Coffee Beans
If the coffee beans are single-origin, it may give your espresso a richer taste, but in some cases, it can also turn a bit sour. You can try a blend of coffee beans for a more balanced flavor.
If you want to learn more about different types of coffee beans, check out our guide to the difference between coffee beans and espresso beans.
Arabica coffee beans tend to give your espresso a slightly sour taste, while the Robusta beans give it a more bitter flavor. A light roast may impart some sourness to your espresso, while dark roasted beans are more pungent and bitter.
Fine-grind coffee beans mix quickly and well with the water, giving your espresso a richer taste. Meanwhile, coarse-grind coffee beans may give you a weaker, watery espresso, as the water will pass too quickly through them without having enough time to brew the coffee.
Since espresso contains nothing but coffee and water, it tends to be bitter, so many people prefer to flavor it with cream, milk, chocolate, or other additives. However, if you have never had a simple espresso or are trying a new brand of coffee, we recommend you try it black first.
What Is An Americano?
Americano, or Caffe Americano or American coffee, is made by diluting two espresso shots by pouring hot water. It is a reverse version of the long black.
This espresso drink also has a strong and bold flavor, though not as strong as a straight-up espresso shot or a long black. Typically, Americano coffee has a 4:1 ratio of water and espresso, but depending on your preference, you can add more or less water.
Additionally, the crema on top of the coffee is light and thin compared to the richer crema in the long black or regular espresso.
The Americano is similar to regular black coffee, except it requires an espresso shot rather than brewed coffee. It is made by highly pressurized water passing through the coffee grounds, giving it different layers and making it more delicious than regular black coffee.
Origin Of The Americano
The Americano is a popular drink in the United States but has its origin in Italy during the time of World War II. The story goes that American soldiers in Italy, long used to the weaker flavor of drip coffee back home, could not handle the bold taste of the espresso coffee over there.
To make the drink more palatable, Italian coffee makers started diluting the espresso with water, which was more favorable to the Americans — and hence, the Americano was born.
Today, the Americano is one of the most basic coffee offerings in any coffee shop. Not only is it accessible, but it is also relatively inexpensive and does not cost much more than regular black coffee. It is undoubtedly less expensive than other espresso-based drinks like cappuccino, latte, macchiato, or other sweet and creamy options in a café.
What Is A Long Black?
This type of coffee is most famous in Australia and New Zealand. You make it by pouring a double shot of espresso into hot water. It helps the intense flavors of the coffee to stand out even more.
When making a long black coffee, pour water into the cup and then pour in the two espresso shots. Reversing the order will ruin your crema and turn your long black into an Americano.
The amount of water also impacts the flavor of long black. If you use a lot of water to make the beverage, it will be diluted and give you a weak taste. If you want to make the flavors stronger, you can use smaller amounts of water.
Is Long Black The Same as Lungo?
Although it may sound similar, a lungo differs from a long black. Lungo is a single shot of espresso that has been pulled longer than a short black. It has 1.75 to 2.25 ounces, and it’s also served in a demitasse cup (as short black).
A long black has more volume than a lungo (about 6 ounces) and higher caffeine content (since it’s a double shot).
Origin Of The Long Black
The long black is the reversed version of the Americano. It is popular in Australia and New Zealand.
The Down Under was mainly a tea-drinking area until the 1870s, but when Italians started settling in Australia, it influenced many of the beverage choices of the Australians. Long black was probably invented during this time.
What Is A Short Black?
You may have heard of a short black, which is nothing more than an espresso shot. The short black makes the basis of most espresso beverages. The coffee is named “short” black because it consists of a 1 oz espresso shot with no additional water, milk, or cream.
A good espresso shot will have a layer of thick, rich, golden crema on top. It also has a robust and bold flavor. The only drink shorter than short black is a ristretto, a 0.5-0.75 oz espresso shot. If you want to learn more about it, check out our article about ristretto.
Americano vs Long Black: The Showdown
So, what’s the difference between these quite similar espresso drinks? Let’s make a complete comparison.
What Do Americano And Long Black Have In Common?
Both start with a double espresso shot. Then, you dilute the shots with water. However, the similarities end here. The way you add water and its amount changes everything.
Flavor and Consistency
You make long black by pouring two espresso shots on top of hot water. It means the drink retains more crema, though it is not as thick as in a short black. It also has a very bold flavor.
To make an Americano, you pour hot water over one or two espresso shots. Because of this, it does not have much crema on top. Also, the taste won’t be as strong as a long black because of the greater amount of water.
Long black usually uses less water than Americano. That’s not to say you can’t use the same amount of water as in an Americano or vice versa. But usually, long black is made with 2 ounces of coffee and 4-6 ounces of water, while Americano is made with the same amount of coffee and 8 ounces of water (or sometimes even more).
Long black and Americano have the same amount of caffeine since both use the same amount of coffee – a double espresso shot. Double shot of espresso has about 58-185 mg of caffeine. You can make these drinks with a single shot if you prefer weaker coffee.
Who Should Get An Americano?
If you prefer mildly bold black coffee that you can sip for hours, Americano is your guy. Due to a larger amount of water, Americano is weaker in taste. However, you will still get a reasonably strong caffeine kick.
On the other hand, if you are choosing between espresso and Americano, check out our espresso vs Americano showdown and find out which one is for you.
Who Should Get A Long Black?
Long black is for fans of the crema and strong bitter taste of espresso. It’s still not as strong as short black, but it will give you that familiar punch you crave from an espresso drink.
How To Make The Perfect Espresso Shot For Americano And Long Black
Thanks to the multitude of espresso machines in the market, you don’t have to wait in endless lines in coffee shops to get your morning espresso fix. You can make your own espresso drink at home.
A perfectly made espresso drink will require a great shot of espresso. If the shot is well-extracted, it will bring out all the subtle nuances in your coffee blend. It would not be weak or sour but beautifully balanced.
The timing of an espresso shot must also be correct since if a shot is too long, it can be too bitter, and if it is too short, it creates a watered-down flavor.
So, if you have an espresso machine like this, here is how you can make your espresso shot flow out like honey:
1. Grind The Beans
If you have a good burr grinder, use it to grind coffee beans for your espresso shot. The burrs can help you get better textures and grounds for your coffee.
Ensure you set the burr grinder to the finer setting to end up with fine coffee grounds. If the grind is not fine, the water will run far too quickly through the coffee, and it will not be sufficient for the flavors to develop. If the grind is too fine, your shot will be slow and become too acidic.
You can grind about 7 grams of beans to make a single 30 ml espresso shot or grind 14 grams of beans to make a double shot.
If you don’t have a grinder, ask your neighbor or a local coffee shop to grind your beans to an espresso setting. Or, check out our list of the best coffee grinders for home and get yourself one.
2. Heat Your Espresso Machine
Turn your machine 15 minutes before you plan to run the coffee through it. This will allow it ample time to warm up. Fill up the water reservoir and make sure the portafilter is attached correctly.
Then, pull up a shot of espresso without placing the coffee grounds. This will result in a shot of hot water in your cup. You do this to ensure your coffee machine is at the optimum temperature.
3. Fill The Portafilter And Tamp The Grounds
Take your portafilter from the machine and carefully wipe it with a dry cloth. Be careful about handling the portafilter, as it could be hot from the machine. Take the amount of coffee needed (7 grams for a single shot, 14 grams for a double shot) and then use a tamp to pack the coffee grounds into the portafilter.
Make sure you pack the coffee grounds evenly, as this will allow the water to pass through the coffee uniformly. You can do this by placing your portafilter on an even surface and lightly tamping the grounds. Do not tap on the outside wall of the portafilter, as that can make tiny cracks in your coffee and prevent it from getting correctly extracted.
4. Pull The Espresso Shot
Place the portafilter into the brew head and turn on your espresso machine to pull the shot. Remember to place your cup beneath the spout. It will take several seconds for the espresso to begin dripping into your cup, but what is essential is that it should look rich and thick with a gorgeous crema.
When you place the portafilter into the brew head, you should immediately start to pull the shot. Leaving the portafilter with the coffee grounds in the heated machine could burn the coffee and give your espresso a bitter taste.
5. Stop The Shot
If you want a single shot, turn off the machine 20 seconds after the espresso starts to pour out. If you want a double shot, let it go on for an additional 20 seconds and then turn it off.
Most single espresso shots will be about 1 oz, and double shots will be approximately 2 oz. Once you finish brewing, dump out the coffee grounds, clean the portafilter, and wash the brew head by running water through it.
Making Your Own Americano
To make your Americano, place a cup and pull out espresso shots.
- Heat water for the beverage while waiting for the espresso to fill your cup.
- Once you have the required amount of espresso in your cup, pour about 8 ounces of hot water (not boiling).
You will get a light layer of crema, and the flavor will be stronger than your regular black coffee.
Making Your Own Long Black
If you want to make a long black:
- Heat hot water in your espresso machine, microwave, or kettle.
- Don’t use boiling water, but a little cooler – between 195-205°F.
- Fill the cup with 6 oz of hot water or less if you want your long black to be more robust.
Place the cup in your espresso machine, and then wait for it to start drizzling the espresso shot into your cup. The resulting beverage will have a nice layer of crema on top.
When it comes to Americano vs long black showdown, the difference is in the details. Both are made with double shots of espresso and diluted with water. However, long black requires pouring the shot into the (slightly less amount of) hot water, while Americano is made by adding hot water into espresso shots.
The result is thicker crema and stronger taste in long black. But, Americano still has its advantages for people who like longer sipping and milder flavor. Regardless, once you have tasted either of these two espresso beverages, you will probably agree that they are infinitely better than your average cup of coffee.
If you are looking for the best beans for your Americano or long black, check out our picks of the best coffee subscriptions for espresso.
FAQs About Americano vs Long Black
Is Americano Better Than Black Coffee?
Americano has a bolder taste and rich flavor, while regular brewed black coffee offers a milder, fruitier, and more acidic brew. The choice depends on your preferences, but coffee lovers usually agree that Americano is better since it’s espresso-based.
Is Long Black The Strongest Coffee?
The strength, in terms of taste, depends on various factors (roast, origin, etc.). Since long black is made with two espresso shots, it will have a bold flavor and be strong in terms of caffeine content. But it won’t be the strongest coffee since it’s diluted with water.
Why Is Americano Coffee So Strong?
If your Americano is exceptionally strong, it’s probably made with a double shot of espresso. If you prefer weaker coffee, you can make it with a single shot or dilute it with more water.