If you are an espresso aficionado, you may already know the difference between a long black, short black, or an Americano. However, if you are one of those who love coffee but get flustered at the amount of variety at a Starbucks, this guide is for you.
The short black, long black, and Americano are all espresso-based beverages. At their core, they are essentially the same thing; however, the amount of water, flavor, and texture all make them distinctly different from one another.
Here we will find out:
- The difference between short black, long black, and espresso
- Where they originated from
- How to make them correctly
However, before we jump to all that, we should first take a look at what espresso is.
What is Espresso?
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 fine grind of coffee that has been tightly compacted. Hot water is shot down at high pressure through this tightly-packed coffee, and it results in the beverage that we call espresso. This type of beverage has more caffeine per volume, but it is offered in a smaller amount, like a short black.
A lot of the time, darker roasts of coffee are used to make espresso, but that is not always the case since it isn’t a necessity for espresso. Unlike regular black coffee, espresso is characterized by the crema — a thick creamy layer of foam that forms on top.
Since espresso contains nothing but coffee and water, it tends to be quite 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.
The flavor of your espresso beverage may differ depending on the café, the brand, or the roast. The flavors in espresso are quite strong, bold, and simple, but if you add more water to it, the complex flavors may stand out more.
In addition, the way the espresso is made will also affect the flavor of your beverage.
If the coffee beans are sourced from a single source, it may give your espresso a richer taste, but in some cases, it can turn it a bit sour too. For a more balanced taste, you can try a blend of coffee beans.
Related Article: 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 will be stronger and more 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.
Now onto the differences between a short black, long black, and Americano.
What is a Short Black?
A short black is basically nothing more than an espresso shot. The short black makes the basis of all espresso beverages.
The coffee is named “short” black because all it consists of is an espresso shot. No additional water is added to the coffee, aside from what is required to brew it. There is also no milk or cream added to the coffee, which can lighten its color, so it remains its natural black color.
A good espresso shot will have a layer of thick, rich golden crema on top. It also has a very strong and bold flavor.
Origin of the Short Black
The origin of the word “espresso” is not confirmed, though there are many conjectures. People believe that the word 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 one by one, expressly for each person.
The first espresso machine was created by Turin’s Angelo Moriondo in 1884, who marketed it as a steam-powered “economic and instantaneous” coffee maker. Unlike later variants, it could brew coffee in bulk for more customers. The machine was improved several times until we ended up with the modern espresso machines.
What is a Long Black?
This type of coffee is most famous in Australia and New Zealand. This coffee is made from pouring two shots of espresso into hot water. This helps the strong flavors of the coffee to stand out even more.
A long black coffee is topped by a rich crema and is more strongly flavored than an Americano (explained below). The order of the components is important when making a long black. You need to pour water in the first cup and then pour the two shots of espresso. 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, though, you can use smaller amounts of water.
Origin of the Long Black
The long black is the reversed version of the Americano. It is most popularly consumed 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. It is believed that the long black was invented during this time.
What is an Americano?
Americano, also known as Caffe Americano, is made by diluting two shots of espresso by pouring hot water on top of them. Basically, it is a reverse version of the long black.
This type of 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 has a 4:1 ratio of water and espresso, but depending on your preference, you can increase or lessen the amount of water used.
Additionally, the crema on top of the coffee is light and thin as compared to the richer crema in the other two espressos.
The Americano is pretty similar to regular black coffee, except that it requires an espresso shot rather than brewed coffee. Additionally, it is made by highly pressurized water passing through the coffee grounds, giving it different layers, and therefore, 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 black coffee back home, could not handle the bold taste of the espresso over there.
In order 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 quite inexpensive and does not cost much more than regular black coffee brewed in a kettle. It is certainly less expensive than other espresso-based drinks like cappuccino, latte, macchiato, frappuccino, or other sweet and creamy options in a café.
Comparing the Three Espresso Beverages
The key difference between the short black, long black, and the Americano is the amount of water used in each type and the crema that is formed on top:
The short black is a simple espresso shot, and no extra water is added to the drink, except what was required to extract the coffee. Because it has not been diluted, an espresso shot has a very thick crema and has a very bold taste.
The long black is made by pouring two shots of espresso on top of hot water. This means more of the crema is retained, though it is not as thick as a short black. It also has a very bold flavor.
The Americano is made by pouring hot water over one or two espresso shots. Because of the dilution, it does not have much crema on top. It still has a stronger taste than black coffee, though not as strong as short black or long black coffee.
Related Article: WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AMERICANO AND ESPRESSO COFFEE?
How to Make the Perfect Espresso Shot for Long Black, Short Black, And Americano
Thanks to the multitude of espresso machines in the market, now you don’t have to wait in endless lines in coffee shops to get your morning fix of espresso. You can simply 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 in taste, 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 (see my favorite one), use it to select your coffee blend for a single shot. The burrs can help you get better textures and grounds for your coffee. Make sure you set the burr grinder to the finer setting so that you end up with fine coffee grounds. 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. 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 it will become too acidic.
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 properly attached. Then pull up a shot of espresso without placing the coffee grounds. This will result in a shot of hot water into your cup. This is done to ensure your coffee machine is at the optimum temperature.
3. Heat the Water
Your espresso machine should heat the water between 196 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit. If the water is not hot enough, it will not be able to extract all the flavor from the coffee. Make sure your water is filtered, as tap water contains mineral compounds that can clog your machine over time.
4. Measure the Coffee Grounds
Take your portafilter out of the machine and carefully wipe it with a dry cloth. Be careful about handling the portafilter, as it could be hot form 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 your coffee grounds are evenly packed 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 place steady pressure on the coffee. Do not tap on the outside wall of the portafilter as that can place tiny cracks in your coffee, and prevent it from getting properly extracted.
5. Pull the Espresso Shot
Place the portafilter into the brew head and then turn on your espresso machine to pull the shot. Do not forget to place your cup beneath the machine. It will take several seconds for the espresso to begin dripping into your cup, but what is important is that it should look rich and thick with a gorgeous crema.
When you place the portafilter into the brewhead, you should immediately start to pull the shot. If you leave the portafilter with the coffee grounds in the heated machine, it could burn the coffee and give your espresso a bitter taste.
6. Stop the Shot
If you just want a single shot, you should 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 about 2 oz.
Once you are done with the machine, make sure you dump out the coffee grounds, clean the portafilter, and wash out the brew head by running water through it.
Making Your Own Short Black
Since a short black is just a shot of espresso, you can simply drink it straight from the machine.
Making Your Own Long Black
If you want to make a long black, heat up hot water in your espresso machine, microwave, or kettle. Fill half the cup with the hot water or less if you want your long black to be stronger.
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.
Making Your Own Americano
To make your Americano, take a cup and place it in the espresso machine. Wait for it to pull out espresso shots. If you want a strong flavor, you can pour two espresso shots, otherwise one will work as well.
While you are waiting for the espresso to fill your cup, heat water for the beverage. Once you have the required amount of espresso in your cup, pour the hot water on top of it. You will get a light layer of crema, and the flavor will be stronger than your regular black coffee.
All these espresso drinks come with different types of perks. If you like your coffee strong and bold, a short black or a long black will be great for you. The big benefit of an espresso shot is that the crema is thick enough to eat with a spoon.
For people whose tastes run on the milder side, Americano is one of America’s favorite types of espresso.
Regardless, once you have had a taste of any one of these three types of espresso beverages, you will probably agree that they are infinitely better than your average cup of coffee.