What Is the Difference Between Americano and Espresso?

Wondering what is the difference between Americano and Espresso? Read on to find out what makes them unique and tips to make a great cup of Americano!

A cup of Espresso coffee on a table - difference between americano and espresso
Americano is the diluted version of an Espresso

During my visit to Rome, I entered a crowded cafe and ordered an Americano. There was silence for a few seconds as people wondered what I had just ordered. 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 and Espresso coffee? An Americano or American Coffee is made with the same coffee beans and uses the same brewing method. The key difference lies in the consistency.

Take a mug, pour two shots of espresso, and add hot water to it. You get a large cup of weaker and diluted espresso that is called by a new name– Americano!

However, calling Americano a watered-down version of the espresso is certainly undervaluing its potential. Despite being weaker in strength, Americano retains an amazing flavor, which makes it one of my favorites. So, while espresso forms the base of Americano, the two have distinct personalities.

The difference between these two amazing concoctions traces their roots back in history. Apparently, when the US Generals were stationed in Italy during theWorld War II, they once stopped in a local coffee shop to get a good cup of Joe. What they got was a shot of espresso, a concentrated brew enjoyed by the natives.

Now, espressos are usually served in smaller cups and they have a richer flavor while the American generals were raised on drip coffee that came in standard sized mugs. To compensate that, they hit upon an idea and added hot water to espresso – thus, Americano was born.

Why You Should Try An Americano

If you like the Generals, you too love drip coffee then let me put it this way – an Americano is everything that you like about drip coffee, minus the bitter or sour taste you often get when you order coffee in a cheap fast food restaurant or rest area by the highway.

An Americano is cheap, tastes heavenly, and feels just like coffee was always meant to be without giving you any unpleasant surprises. What I like best about espressos and Americanos is their wide range in terms of flavor. Espresso grounds come from a variety of sources around the world and expert brewers have their own formulas.

If you like an espresso, but the strong flavor leaves a bitter and burned taste in your mouth, you should try an Americano. Some people find the concentrated and strong flavors of an espresso overpowering. Similar to a shot of Scotch, you can unlock the real flavors of espresso by adding hot water to it.

When you add water, just a little, not a lot, the concentrated espresso releases a floral taste mixed with dark chocolate and citrus effects in the background. It really helps in coaxing out the flavors from within an espresso and it will make you wonder what you were missing all this while!

Next time you are at the café, order an Americano to experience that rich flavor that translates into a lingering texture that haunts you long after you have finished your cuppa. You can even try making an Americano right at home and I have discussed the steps below.

There is something more elegant and immersive about the taste of an Americano that makes it different from espresso and other coffee styles. What’s more? You also get a higher level of caffeine in a cup of Java that tastes just so good.

What Happens To Crema In An Americano

The high-quality beans that are carefully roasted and ground contain a lot of flavorful coffee oils. When espresso is brewed, the high pressure forces the oils out of the fine grounds. This leaves you with a crema, which is the light-colored creamy substance floating over your dark coffee.

Coffee aficionados often relate crema as a mark of expertise achieved perfectly only by the highly experienced and versatile baristas. If you wish to earn the title of a home barista, you may want to concentrate on getting that layer of crema over your homemade espresso.

So, does the crema dissolved in an Americano? What happens to it? Well, an Americano as already mentioned is an espresso mixed with hot water. The good news is, the crema does not get affected by this. It only rises to the top and lets you enjoy the experience longer with all the rich coffee oils intact!

What About the Taste Of An Americano

Just because espresso forms the base for an Americano, does not mean it will taste like one. Many people confuse this and expect Americano to taste like a diluted espresso, but both the beverages actually have distinct personalities. An Americano tastes more like a richer and stronger version of black coffee.

The texture of espresso is thicker than a typical drip coffee, however, an Americano lacks viscosity because water is added 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 are adding hot water to an already hot espresso, expect your Americano to be hotter than a regular cup of coffee. 

How To Make An Americano At Home

I love making Americano at home every now and then when I am in the mood for a longer indulgence. If you are used to espresso to rise and shine, an Americano may not give you the same effect. However, it works great for those weekends when you love to binge on your coffee a little longer!

A close up of an Espresso machine.
Try to make Americano at home

Here is a step-by-step guide to prepare a homemade Americano:

Step 1: Get good espresso beans

The taste of a coffee depends upon the type of beans you use, so always get good quality espresso beans to make delicious Americano. I emphasize this more because when you dilute the espresso shot with water, it also highlights flaws in the quality of the beans so get the one that you know is really good.

Step 2: Measure the beans

Next, you need to measure your beans to hit the right ratio. It depends on whether you like a single shot or double shot espresso. I personally prefer a double shot (14-18 grams) and if you are a true Americano fan, you will too crave for more.

Step 3: Grind them

Now, you need to grind the beans (my favorite grinder) and the consistency will depend on three things – your espresso machine, coffee beans, and personal preference. The recommended grind consistency for a good Americanos fine.

If the grind comes out too fine, don’t worry. That’s how it is meant to be. If you try making an Americano with the coarse grind, you will lose the real essence and result in a fiasco. Your grinder is the first important tool to get a burr grinder and go fine!

Step 4: Tamp well

After grinding your beans, make sure you tamp it really well, which is another significant part of the process. Some espresso machines tamp coffee ground automatically while others don’t, so you will need to do that manually. A little bit of extra work can give you great coffee so don’t forget to tamp well.

So, whether you have an automatic espresso with all the bells and whistles or an old-school champ, you need to tamp in this step.

Step 5: Put in the portafilter

After you are done with tamping properly, now is the time to put the portafilter into the espresso machine.

Step 6: Get the espresso shots

You are done with the preparations and now you need to make an espresso. As every machine has a different mechanism, follow the instructions to get that flavorful concentrate of the rich brew. Smell the aroma of freshly brewed double espresso.

Nothing feels more heavenly, right? It works like a morning therapy for me.

Step 7: Heat water

Best temperature to brew coffee
Adding the hot water is the most crucial part of making an Americano

The step to add hot water is most crucial part of making an Americano. Different people have different opinions about how hot the water should be.

Too hot water may take longer to cool and impact the flavor too. Too cold also lowers the overall quality of espresso.

After several trials and experiments, I feel 160-170 degrees Fahrenheit works best. You may boil water in a kettle to reach that level or use hot water from the steam boiler tap.

Step 8: Mix hot water to espresso

Now, it depends on you whether you want to add hot water to espresso or pour your espresso into hot water. The typical ratio is to mix 1 part of espresso with 2 parts of water. While many Americano fans recommend adding water to espresso, I prefer the other way round (this helps in keeping the crema intact).

 I like adding my espresso to hot water because I feel the Americano blends better in this method. My personal experience says that pouring water into espresso may disrupt the flavor. Pour your espresso slowly into measure hot water and it blends beautifully. 

Remember not to rush because your patience will reward you with an amazing cup of coffee!

Step 9: Top up with sugar and cream

The typical Americano is black but there are no restrictions. If you like adding sugar and cream to your beverage, go ahead. Now sit back and enjoy your delicious Americano.

An extra tip:

If you wish to make cold Americano, there is just a tiny tweak in the process. Use iced water instead of hot water, in the ratio of 1.5 to 1 water to espresso (considering that ice will melt and water down further).

Difference Between Americano And Espresso FAQs

What is the correct ratio when making an Americano?

To brew a tasty Americano, work with a ratio of 1:2 which is one part espresso added to two parts of water.

Does it matter whether you pour hot water into espresso or vice-versa?

Yes, it does. Adding hot water does not give you a uniform mix. I recommend adding espresso to water to get a perfect blend. This also helps in preserving the crema, which may be spoiled if you add hot water over it.

Should I get a fine or coarse grind?

Always opt for a fine grind just like espresso because to make an Americano, you will first get double shots of espresso and then mix it with water.

What Is The Caffeine Content In Americano?

An average espresso contains 40 mg per serving so if you use two shots of espresso, it will be 80 mg in each Americano serving.

What should be the ideal water temperature?

The recommended water temperature is 160 to 170 F. Just make sure it is not too hot or too cold. This may depend upon your preference.

See Also:

5 Health Benefits of Americano Coffee

Now that you know how to make an energizing and delicious Americano at home, here are some more reasons to brew in this method. Americano coffee has some amazing health benefits that are worth checking out!

1. It promotes weight loss

If you are aiming to lose inches around your waist, an Americano can be a great addition to your diet plan. This type of coffee contains natural acid that is known to break down the food faster. Studies have shown that people who drink coffee daily lose more calories than non-drinkers…Yay!

Americano also works as an appetite suppressant that further aids in achieving your weight loss goals. The level of caffeine in an Americano also improves your performance while working out. So, if you are struggling to lose weight, you now know what to do.

2. It improves productivity

I prefer an Americano to perk me up in the afternoon when I feel the urge to snooze. As the drink contains a lot of caffeine, it makes the mind and body alert. It also boosts the energy levels to help you perform better at work.

3. It is great for digestion

An Americano coffee can help in breaking down food into smaller parts for easy digestion. I prefer a cup of Americano after a heavy meal to stimulate the body to work faster in breaking down food and lose extra calories. It also reduces the pressure on your digestion systems so it hurts less.

4. It works like a natural detox!

The health and wellness industry is going berserk over ways to detox the body. People use strange juices and even starve themselves to purge out toxins from the body. Why not relax and let coffee detox for you?

An Americano is weaker than espresso. It works like a cleaning agent to stimulate the liver to work better at breaking down things that enter the body. It also helps the colon to remove wastes accumulated inside the body. 

5. It has a ‘happy effect’

happy woman enjoying snow
Drinking Americano makes you happy

Caffeine is psychoactive in nature, hence it stimulates the production of neurotransmitters. Drinking Americano can boost your mood and have a positive effect on you. It can make you happy instantly. Harvard School of Public Health says 4 cups a day can make you positive about life.

The Final Words

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 in bringing out the sweet flavors and makes your Java less bitter!

More than anything else, I love the feeling of being able to sip on my favorite cup of the coffee longer than usual on cold mornings. While espresso has an indelible champion, the Americano has managed to carve its own special place in the world of coffee. It’s worth trying!