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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 are all 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 1/3 espresso (usually two espresso shots) and 2/3 hot water. 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 languages.

  • 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 a bolder taste than other brewing methods.

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 steamed milk instead of water.

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

This makes the drink creamier and sweeter than the Americano. Oftentimes the latte is made by combining the espresso and steamed milk, it’s usually topped off with a small amount of milk foam.

Many prefer the latte because isn’t watered down and has a creamy taste.

Americano Vs. Cappuccino

The cappuccino is 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. Next, you add a layer of steamed milk, which you will pour over the espressos. Finally, add a layer of foamy milk on top.

This drink is for people who like the stronger taste of espresso than they’ll get in a latte, but still want to keep it creamy and sweet.

Americano Vs. Macchiato

The macchiato is just an espresso with a little foamed or steamed milk added.

The macchiato is usually a smaller drink than the americano because you add much less milk to it than the water that’s added to an americano.

The macchiato is a slightly creamier version of an espresso.

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.

With the americano, the espresso is made very quickly, hot water is forced through very finely ground coffee beans.

The main difference you’ll notice, apart from how it’s brewed, is that an americano usually tastes stronger than black coffee.

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!

Moises Chame

Thursday 13th of January 2022

As usual, Americans ruined a perfectly delicious beverage item. Same for many foreign cuisines that are ruined in the US by “adapting them to the American taste”: the best example are the so-called Mexican restaurants in the US. This is why Starbucks is so successful in the US. Their coffee based beverages were created for people who don’t like coffee. Countless added ingredients ruin the coffee by masking its flavor. In any case, Starbucks espresso is not drinkable by itself.