Diluting strong coffee has always been a way to lighten an espresso. But with more and more coffee recipes and brewing methods entering the world of coffee, our options have expanded considerably.
Today, I will be analyzing two of my favorite diluted coffees, the Americano and the cold brew.
Key takeaways: What’s the difference between Cold brew and Americano?
The Americano and cold brew both start as potent and concentrated coffees, then they’re diluted into smoother coffee drinks. The americano is a diluted espresso, while the cold brew is made by immersing coffee grinds into water for 12-24 hours. The Americano keeps some of the rich flavors of espresso and the cold brew has a distinct flavor profile from its unique brewing method.
Now let’s have a look at the details of each.
What is an Americano?
The Americano has an interesting origin story, tracing its roots to World War II. American soldiers stationed in Italy sought a milder coffee than the robust Italian espresso, so they mixed it with water to create a drink similar to their “cup of joe” at home. And the Americano was born, which is still a popular drink across Europe to this day. Interestingly, you don’t see it at US cafés often.
The Americano is made with 1 part espresso to 2 parts water. If we’re talking specifics, a traditional Italian espresso uses a 1:2 to 1:3 brew ratio with 7g of ground coffee per shot, while third-wave specialty coffee goes for 9g. After the espresso is pulled into a cup, you add the hot water to dilute the coffee.
You can easily turn it into an Iced Americano by adding 1.5 parts cold water to one part espresso, and then throwing in some ice cubes.
When served, it fills a 3 oz (90 ml) serving size in a coffee mug that usually has a capacity of 120-150 ml (4-5 oz). With each shot, you’re looking at 60-80 mg of caffeine and just about 2 calories.
Talking flavor, an Americano offers a mellow and nuanced profile. It strikes a balance between the boldness of an espresso and the subtleness of black coffee, resulting in a gentler yet still flavorful drink. Its texture? Smoother and more fluid than an espresso, making it an easy-to-drink choice for those who might find straight espresso too intense.
It’s worth noting though that there’s another variation of this called the Long Black, which pours the espresso over the hot water instead of the other way around, so you’ll get a more maintained crema. Either way, you need to pour slowly, otherwise the crema just dissipates.
Making an Americano is straightforward. Here’s how:
- Prepare an espresso as usual.
- Pull the espresso into a cup.
- Pour the hot water over the espresso shot.
If you’re interested in making a perfect Americano, I’ve written a detailed guide on how to make an Americano that you’ll find helpful.
Now let’s check out what a cold brew is.
What is Cold Brew?
The history of cold brew takes us back to Japan, where it developed from Kyoto-style coffee. It’s an immersion brewing method where coarse coffee grounds are steeped in cold or room-temperature water for 12 to 24 hours. The cold brew concentrate is then stored in the fridge and usually diluted before serving, though you could drink it without dilution as well.
I use a 1:5 coffee-to-water ratio for cold brew, so for 500ml water, I add 100g of coffee grounds. After making the concentrate, dilute 1 oz (30 ml) with water, ice, and/or milk depending on your taste, and serve it in a 180-300 ml tall or wide glass.
Each ounce of the concentrate has 60 to 80 mg of caffeine and 4 calories. For creaminess, my wife loves to dilute it with milk instead of just water and ice, although this also adds calories, which she doesn’t love that much 🙂
Cold brew is known for its smooth, mellow, slightly sweet taste. This immersion method also reduces the acidity and bitterness compared to brewing with water. It also has a smooth, velvety texture that makes it my favorite refreshing summer drink to beat the heat.
Here’s an overview of how to make a cold brew:
- Measure the coffee.
- Grind it coarsely.
- Measure the filtered water.
- Mix the coarse coffee grounds and water in a jar.
- Seal and steep at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours.
- Filter the coffee.
- Store in the fridge.
For more details, you can check out my comprehensive guide on how to make great cold brew coffee concentrate.
Americano vs Cold Brew: Let’s Compare!
Give the Americano and cold brew a closer look through this side-by-side comparison:
|Taste and Texture||Mellow, nuanced, smooth, and fluid||Smooth, mellow, slightly sweet, and velvety|
|Coffee-to-Water Ratio||Standard espresso||1:5|
|Ingredient Ratio||1 part espresso to 2 parts water||1 part cold brew concentrate, you can add 4-5 parts water, milk, ice|
|Typical Serving Size||3 oz (90 ml)||1 oz (30 ml) concentrate, 5-6 oz (150-180ml) diluted|
|Caffeine Content||60-80 mg per 1 oz shot of espresso||60-80 mg per oz (30 ml) of concentrate|
|Calories||2 calories per shot||4 calories per oz (30ml) of concentrate|
|Bean Roast||Light to medium roasts preferred; dark roasts optional||Dark roasts are ideal; release robust flavors more easily than light roasts|
Let’s get into the details with this breakdown of the comparison:
- Ground Coffee Weight & Ratios: Americano starts off with espresso, which has a 1:2 to 1:3 brew ratio and uses 7g of coffee grounds for a shot and 14g for a double shot (9g and 18g for third-wave coffee). An ounce of this potent espresso is then watered down with two parts water to make an Americano.
A cold brew concentrate is made with a 1:5 brew ratio, but your final yield will only be around 1:3.5. After the concentrate is made, it is diluted with water or milk and some ice to balance the taste.
- Taste: Cold brew stands out because of its smooth, naturally sweet profile without the bitterness of its hot counterparts. Americano isn’t as smooth, and is more intense with the notes of the espresso it is made from. I find that it maintains some of the intensity and complexities in the flavor of its coffee base.
- Volume, Calories, & Caffeine: Americanos are served in a 120-150 ml (4-5 oz) mug, with each shot having 60-80 mg of caffeine and 2 calories.
Cold brew starts with 1 ounce of concentrate, diluted and served in 180 to 300ml (6-10 oz) glasses. Each ounce has 60 to 80 mg of caffeine and 4 calories. Milk adds more calories.
- Bean Roast: For Americano, I prefer light to medium roasts to retain that vibrant acidity and complex flavors. For cold brew, it is best to go for a darker roast, as they work better.
Check out my top espresso beans in 2023 to help you make these coffees.
Which is better?
For me, cold brew wins over the Americano. Especially during summer when I’m writing this article, but if you ask me in January, I’ll probably have a change of heart. Although I love espresso-based drinks, cold brew’s clean, smooth feel, sweet, bitterness-free taste are appealing. Not to mention that a batch of cold brew also lasts days when refrigerated, making every cup super convenient 🙂
What do you think, which sounds better to you? Let me know in the comments below?