You surely know all about lattes and cappuccinos based on the number of photos you see of them on social media. But aside from these two milky beverages, one espresso-based drink continues to be a classic in the coffee world – the Americano.
In this article, we will be tackling all about that simple black coffee, its differences from the regular brewed coffee, and how to make just the perfect Americano at home.
What Is An Americano Coffee?
People who love their coffee plain and black may have ordered Americano several times in coffee shops. But for those who have not really encountered the drink before, they may assume that it's just a regular cup of joe with a fancier name.
Americano is more than just the thing you order with your toasts at your favorite local diner. Or that stuff in your household coffee maker waiting for you to get out of bed in the morning. An Americano is a beverage made with skillfully brewed espresso shots and hot water.
History Of Americano Coffee
Why is it called an Americano, then? We know that espresso is more of an Italian matter. Let's travel back to about 80 years.
The most credible story about the Americano coffee history dates back to World War II. Coffee was a necessity to American troops that each soldier takes about 32 pounds of coffee every year. However, it was a challenge to package and ship tons of coffee all the way to Europe.
With this, some American servicemen deployed in Italy needed to visit local coffeehouses to get their daily caffeine fix. Since they weren't really fond of the strong-tasting espresso Italians loved, they would dilute the concentrated espresso in hot water. The locals understandably came up with the term "caffè Americano" referring to what American soldiers would order at that time.
Americano Vs. Drip Coffee
Drip coffee and an American look very similar but do not be fooled. Both are very unalike in so many ways. Both types of coffee differ in the method of preparation, caffeine content, and overall taste.
Drip coffee is brewed using a pour-over or an automatic coffee maker. In this process, hot water is dropped down through a bed of grounds. Gravity becomes the force that manipulates the entire brewing as it pulls down the water through the coffee grounds and into the filter. The end result is a clean cup of black coffee.
Meanwhile, as discussed earlier, an Americano is an espresso-based beverage. Espresso is made with the use of an espresso machine. Finely ground coffee is compacted in a portafilter wherein water will pass through very slowly by means of pressure to extract the coffee. In this process, the end product is a concentrated shot of mahogany-colored coffee with a golden crema.
Both the Americano and drip coffee nearly have the same amount of caffeine. However, due to their very different brewing techniques and yield, there may be slight differences.
About 95 to 200 milligrams of caffeine can be found in an 8-ounce cup of brewed coffee. In comparison, each shot of espresso pulled contains around 47 to 75 milligrams of caffeine. Generally, an order of an Americano has about two to three shots making it have about 94 to 225 milligrams of caffeine.
Since both are prepared in very different ways, drip coffee and Americanos also differ in flavors. Even if we use the same kind of coffee in both methods, the discrepancies in proportions, water temperature, and brew time will hugely impact the flavors extracted.
Generally, espresso contributes to an Americano's fuller body and richer flavor. On the other hand, drip coffee tends to have a cleaner taste since we pass the coffee through a paper filter.
In addition, the beans used in brewing play a big part in the overall cup experience– roasting profile, growing region, and processing method. Often, a type of coffee that makes a delectable cup of Americano wouldn't be a good choice for the drip method. And vice versa.
Americano Vs. Long Black
In Australia and New Zealand, a different style of the popular Americano is made in a somewhat different way. It's called the "Long Black."
In making an americano, hot water is poured over espresso. With long black, we do the exact opposite. We pour in the espresso shots over hot water to retain more crema. In addition, a long black is prepared with less water, making its espresso flavor more concentrated and pronounced.
Components of an Americano
Americano seems to have a very simple recipe–espresso and water. However, ensuring that the two ingredients you have are high-quality is where all the challenge lies. Here are the basic elements that will determine whether or not an Americano is made perfectly.
A great espresso starts with great coffee beans. For brewing shots, we consider several factors, such as the roasting profile and varietal of the beans used and the technique and equipment.
Usually, dark-roasted beans are used to make espresso as it really highlights the richness and sweetness of its flavor. In addition, this profile possesses a fuller body and less acidity. Also, one of the most important contributions that dark-roasted beans have is producing thicker crema.
This brings us to another factor that will dictate if the espresso is perfectly made. The crema is the thin, golden layer of foam sitting on top of an espresso shot–a mark of quality. Crema gives the espresso better aromatics, fuller flavor, and a lingering aftertaste.
The next factor is the type or variety of coffee used. We are all well aware that Arabica beans are the best option to have when brewing espresso. They produce cleaner, softer and sweet flavors compared to other varieties.
On the other hand, Robusta beans may give more caffeine content, but it offers a harsher and more bitter cup. However, some espresso blends combine both varieties to get more caffeine and better flavor at the same time.
Water is one of the key fundamentals in brewing quality coffee. The quality and temperature of the brewing water should always be considered.
Clean, fresh water is important in making an Americano, especially since it's made with just espresso and water. Filtered water is the best option because it has just the right amount of minerals necessary to highlight the flavor of the coffee.
For the temperature, most experts believe that water should be between 185 degrees to 200 degrees Fahrenheit to make the best Americano coffee. However, if you prefer an iced version, just make sure you use cold water and add the right amount of ice.
How To Make The Perfect Americano?
Making Americano coffee is more than just pouring hot water over espresso shots. And so, it's time to teach you how to create the perfect Americano at home.
For this recipe, you will be needing:
- An espresso machine
- Espresso beans – We recommend you use beans intended for espresso-making as they will offer the most desirable taste.
- Coffee scale – This is for the precision of proportions
- Hot Water – Just off-the-boil water should be the best option
- A Tamper
- A Timer
Making An Americano
- Measure your beans. Using your scale, weigh about 14-18 grams of coffee beans which is ideal in brewing a double shot espresso.
- Grind the coffee fine. We use finer grind size as espresso machines utilize pressure in brewing. Too coarse, and the water will just quickly gush through the filter.
- Transfer and tamp. Place the ground coffee into a portafilter and tap to make sure it's leveled. Place the tamper on the grounds and push just hard enough to make the coffee more compact.
- Put the portafilter into the espresso machine. Make sure it's properly locked into the group head.
- Pull the shots. Use a timer to make sure the extraction time runs between 20 - 30 seconds. You can go less or more than the recommended time frame, but it may only produce espresso that's either too flat or bitter.
- Pour the shots and add hot water. Inside your serving vessel, carefully transfer the espresso shots and then pour in your off-the-boil filtered water right away. If you're planning to make a long black, fill in your cup with water first before adding the espresso.
- If you prefer an iced version, put the shots into the cup and add water half way. Then, fill your glass with ice cubes.
- Enjoy your Americano. You can have it as it is, plain and black. Otherwise, you can opt to add sugar or a little cream if that's your thing.
If you seek the best way to make your typical morning coffee a little less ordinary, maybe try an Americano. It's effortless to make and is less time-consuming than brewing using the drip method.
If you have the right tools and equipment, you can simply make your Americano at home. If not, ordering it in your local cafè wouldn't be such a bad idea as well since it would only take your barista a few short minutes to make. Either way, one thing is for sure–you will still enjoy this simple, classic beverage.