A Caffè Americano, or just Americano coffee, is a simple espresso based drink that can be served hot or cold. A basic Americano is nothing more than water and espresso, but many people choose to add steamed milk, cream, or flavoring.
Depending on the combination of extra ingredients, you might create a different beverage, but learning how to make Americano is a great start to enjoying a powerful, pure espresso beverage.
After a lot of practice, you can eventually make the perfect Americano to suit your taste buds.
1. The Caffè Americano
Although you might think all espresso beverages have their roots in Italy, that’s not true for an Americano.
Americanos, so far, are popular only in North America. As a matter of fact, if you order an Americano in Europe, you’re likely to get a shot or more of espresso and you’ll need to add your own water to get the final product you want.
Diluted espresso just isn’t what a European coffee drinker craves.
While you can head to the nearest coffee café to order an Americano, it’s also a relatively simple drink to make at home, as long as you have ground coffee (espresso grounds) and an espresso coffee machine.
It’s a bit different to make than regular coffee, and takes a bit of practice to make the perfect cup.
An Americano is the perfect beverage to “cut your teeth on” when it comes to espresso. This applies to making and drinking. It’s not as intense as drinking straight espresso. It’s also not complicated to make because it’s just espresso. If you master the short shot, you can master an Americano.
In their most basic form, they are nothing more than shots of espresso with water. You get a full-size coffee beverage comparable to what you’d get with drip coffee with the boldness of espresso. It’s not quite the flavor of an undiluted espresso, but it’s more intense than a regular drip coffee.
2. Step by Step Guide
Step-by-step, Americanos are easy to make. For example:
1. Measure enough beans for a double shot (14 to 18 g of espresso beans)
2. Tamp them and place the portafilter into the espresso machine
3. Make the espresso
4. Heat water (you can also do this before you begin making the espresso shot) to between 160 and 170 degree F
5. Mix the water and espresso using a 1:2 ratio (for every Tbs. of espresso you need 2 Tbs. of water)
That’s it. If you are starting with whole beans, you’ll need to grind them very finely, as you would for espresso. This is ideal because you’ll get the freshest drink possible with freshly ground beans.
There is some debate over whether the water should be just very hot or boiling. The truth is it comes down to personal preference and what you intend to do with the beverage.
If you plan to make an iced Americano, you might want to err on the side of not boiling, but your ice is going to melt regardless of whether you’re at full boiling point.
So the temperature to which you should heat the water really is a matter of what you prefer. Try a few different temperatures until you get one that seems to work for you.
There are also those who prefer to use a different ratio of water to espresso. The standard is one part espresso and two parts water, but this doesn’t work for everyone.
Some people prefer stronger and others prefer more diluted drinks. The best thing to do is to pour the espresso into the water (this prevents burning of the coffee) and ensures perfect blending of the two liquids.
Stop just shy of the recommended ratio and see how you like the taste. Also make sure you pour slowly. Your goal is to keep the espresso shot as unaltered as possible.
If you prefer more dilution, add more water. It’s also a good idea to alter the ratio just slightly until you find the perfect ratio for you.
3. Who Likes Americanos?
Just about anyone who enjoys espresso should like an Americano, although some people will prefer the richer, creamier test of a traditional espresso.
Many people find the Americano to be the perfect blend between a regular cup of coffee and an espresso shot. It’s something they are able to sip all morning or drink as they would a traditional cup of coffee, but it gives them the smooth flavor of espresso. They consider it the best of both worlds.
If you’ve had a hard time enjoying straight espresso or you are always disappointed in how little drink you get, or you are looking for something that’s a bolder choice than a regular cup of coffee, an Americano might be right for you.
4. Can an Americano Be Decaf?
Absolutely. You just need to make decaf espresso and blend it just as you would a regular Americano. Some people have the same criticisms of decaf Americanos as they do any other type of decaf coffee – too bitter or too acidic are just not right for them.
However if you are looking for the great taste of an Americano, and it’s too late in the day to go caffeinated, a decaf version of the drink is a great option. It’s also possible to do a half-caff Americano if you want to cut back without completely eliminating caffeine.
5. Can Americanos Be Fancy?
Yes and no. Most people would prefer to make their “fancier” espresso drinks with undiluted espresso.
The great thing about lattes and cappuccinos is their creamy, bold taste. This is something an Americano isn't gong to provide as the intensity of the espresso is already diluted.
Most coffee aficionados would tell you the drink you’ve created isn’t really what you think you’re making. A latte made with diluted espresso isn’t a latte.
However, if the usual sweet and creamy coffee drinks are too rich for you, adding water will cut through the richness and might even reduce the calories a bit.
You’ll get the same volume, but you might be drinking fewer calories (depending on how much sweetener you add).
How to Make An Americano: The Final Word
The bottom line? Play around with variations of a standard Americano until you find something you like. When all said and done it's about enjoying your beverage. As such there is no absolute wrong or right.
Who knows, it might even turn out your recipe is a hit with other people.