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What is an Americano? Origin, Compared to 5 Other Coffee Drinks

Walking into any coffee shop can be a little confusing. There are so many different names for each drink and it seems like they all are made with the same ingredients. What is an Americano? Here’s your quick guide. Plus we compare Americano to five common coffee drinks.

Americano coffee is made with espresso and hot water. The espresso is mixed with hot water to dilute the strong taste of the espresso. The ratio for this drink is 2/3 water and 1/3 espresso (usually two espresso shots). The Americano was originally created in Italy by American soldiers.

what is an americano

Now you know the basics, but there’s more to this drink.

We’ll also look into the Americano compared to other coffee drinks and how they differ, as well as a bit of the history behind the Americano.

Americano Coffee

An Americano is made with two espresso shots and plenty of water to dilute the strong taste. The taste of an Americano will differ depending on the type of espresso it is made with.

If it is made with dark roast, it will taste stronger. You can also make an Americano with espresso made with medium-dark roasts. The espresso can have a range of flavors from citrus-y to earthy, and it all depends on what you prefer.

Americano’s Origin

The Americano was created during World War 2. As American soldiers were stationed in Italy, they drank the Italians’ stronger coffee, the espresso.

For the American soldiers, it was too strong, but they still liked the taste of it. As the story goes, they added water to the espresso to dilute the strong taste. Then they brought it back to America and began making it themselves.

It was an Americanized espresso, hence the name, Americano.

Since then, this espresso based drink has become popular around the world.

americano origin

5 Other Names for Americano

What we know as Americano, is known by a number of other names in other countries and langauges.

  • Caffè americano (Italian)
  • Un café allongé (French) This can refer to either an Americano or sometimes a long double espresso.
  • Café americano (Spanish), literally American coffee
  • Caffè all’americana (Italian) In Italy, this refers to filtered coffee.
  • Simply as “American

Americano can be spelled with varying diacritics (like accents over the “e” in café and caffè) and capitalizations.

When we first moved to Ecuador, a barista asked me if I wanted an Americano. Because of the number of American expats in that city, I thought she was assuming I wanted my coffee the same as other foreigners.

Back then, I knew two types of coffee: drip and moka pot. Thanks to that exchange 12 years ago, I had my mind opened to a whole world of amazing coffee.

Ecuador coffee is some of the best I’ve ever had.

How Many Espresso Shots in an Americano?

A typical Americano has two espresso shots.

And based on the ratio of 1/3 espresso and 2/3 water, a typical Americano will be 6 ounces. That consists of 2 ounces of expresso (double espresso) and 4 ounces of water.

But the rule of thirds isn’t law. Anywhere between 1 and 16 fluid ounces (28 and 455 ml) can be added to a double espresso.

Here’s more about how many ounces in a cup of coffee.

what is americano coffee

Crema Debate

Crema is an oily coffee foam that forms on top of the espresso when it is made.

There are some people who will remove the foam because they think it messes with the flavor of the espresso. On the other hand, some people will keep it because for them, it adds to the espresso. There are also some people who don’t care if it has it or not.

The next question is, do you need to keep the crema for the Americano? The answer is that it is entirely up to you.

When making the Americano at home, you can decide if you want to remove the crema before pouring the espresso into the hot water, or if you would rather keep it and mix it in. There is some debate about breaking the crema when adding it to the Americano.

Some people say you should pour the espresso into the water and others say you should pour the water into the espresso. If you do the latter, you are likely to break the crema and it will mix into your drink.

It’s up to your preference and you should prepare your Americano in the way you like it.

If you want to make Americano coffee at home, you’ll probably want an espresso machine. This espresso machine by De’Longhi has a built in grinder for the freshest ground coffee.

Here are some more options for coffee makers with grinders.

americano vs coffee drinks
9 Espresso based coffee drinks compared with Americano coffee

Americano Vs. Coffee Drinks: 5 Variations Compared

By now, you can decide whether you want to try the Americano and if you like it. But you may be wondering how the Americano compares to the other coffee drinks on the menu.

Most of them are pretty similar and involve an espresso as the base, but they all taste differently and fit different people’s preferences.

Americano Vs. Espresso

The main difference between the espresso and Americano is that the Americano is more diluted.

The espresso is the base of the Americano. It is made out of ground coffee beans and hot water. It is made to be rich and bold in flavor. Espresso absorbs more of the flavor from the coffee beans to give it that bolder taste.

An espresso machine is where the coffee magic happens because the water is pushed through a thick cake of coffee beans so it can absorb more flavor.

Americano Vs. Latte

A latte is basically an Americano but is mixed with foamed milk instead of water.

Lattes are made with one part espresso and instead of the other 2/3 being water, it is foamed milk.

This makes the drink creamier and sweeter than the Americano. Oftentimes the latte is made with the espresso on the bottom and the milk added on top. Then you can decide to mix them up immediately or let the flavors mix slowly.

Many prefer the latte because isn’t watered down and has a creamy taste that slowly mixes with the espresso.

Americano Vs. Cappuccino

The cappuccino is very similar to the latte, but it has a bit more to it. You are going to need two espresso shots for the cappuccino, and those take up just over half of the drink.

The espressos are also the first to go into the cup. You are also going to need some hot milk, which you will pour over the espressos. Finally, you add some foamy milk on top.

This drink is for people who like the stronger taste of espresso, but still want to keep it creamy and sweet.

Americano Vs. Macchiato

The macchiato is just half espresso and half hot milk. It is essentially a less creamy latte.

The latte’s milk is foamed, which gives it that creamy taste, while the macchiato is regular warmed milk. If we were to put it on a scale for how much espresso you would be tasting, the macchiato is in the middle.

The macchiato is in the middle because you get a more full range of both flavors that can mix really well together.

Americano Vs. Black Coffee

Black coffee is made more slowly. Typically you pour the hot water over the coffee grounds and let gravity do its job.

Brewed coffee just lets the water slowly fall into the cup, while the espresso has the coffee grounds forced into the water.

Its main difference from the Americano is how diluted it is. Black coffee is just a bit stronger than the Americano and macchiato.

Here’s more about the differences: Americano vs brewed coffee.

americano origin

Keep Reading: 3 Easy Methods to Make Americano Coffee at Home

Your Turn

Have you tried an Americano? How do you like your espresso-based coffee drinks? Let me know in the comments!


Here's how we make our coffee:

Here is the gear we use everyday as we make strong, rich coffee at home.

Depending on the day, we make our coffee in one of three methods.

  • Espresso Maker: Breville Cafe Roma. This is a (relatively) inexpensive espresso maker that makes a quality shot. It has a small footprint, taking up little space on our counter. This was a gift from Bryan's parents.
  • Drip Coffee Maker: Ninja Coffee Bar with Stainless Steel Carafe. This unit makes good drip coffee. It also has an insulated carafe, keeping coffee hot without making it gross - like those little burner plates on most coffee makers. Dena's go-to every morning.
  • Stovepot Moka Pot: Bialetti Stovetop Moka (Espresso) Pot. This is Bryan's favorite for first coffee of the day.
  • Coffee Grinder: Cuisinart Coffee Burr Grinder. We've been using this grinder for many years and it still grinds consistently. This was a gift from our daughter.

See all our favorite stuff here: Recommended Gear


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