Americano and latte are two espresso-based drinks that are well-known around the globe. They are similar due to the espresso, but from there, their similarities end.
So how exactly are these two coffees different? Join me in this extensive look at these two drinks, including their ingredients, ratios, recipes, and more.
Once you’re done with this read, you’ll feel like an expert barista knowing full well the aspects of both the Americano and latte.
What is an Americano?
The story of the Americano takes us back to World War II. During that time, US soldiers stationed in Italy desired a milder version of the potent Italian espresso, so they diluted an espresso shot with hot water as a workaround.
An Americano starts with the usual espresso, which has a 1:2 to 1:3 ratio using 7g of coffee grounds (9g for third-wave coffee). Then, that one part espresso is combined with two parts hot water.
I sometimes like to shake things up by making another variant of this drink called the Long Black. Here, the espresso is added after the hot water, which retains more of the crema. But I’ve found that either way, if you pour slowly, the crema will stay somewhat intact.
Americano is served in either a glass or ceramic coffee mug of about 120 to 150 ml (4 to 5 oz) and each 3 oz serving has 60 to 80 mg of caffeine and 2 calories per shot of espresso used.
Now let’s talk about its taste. Americano offers a balance in your cup with the richness of the robust espresso toned down by the hot water. Its texture is also smoother and more watery than pure espresso, making it a great choice for fans of mild coffee.
These are the steps to making an Americano:
- Prepare the usual espresso.
- Pull your espresso shop into your mug.
- Add hot water over your mug of espresso.
To learn more, follow my detailed guide on how to make an Americano.
Let’s head on to the caffe latte.
What is a Latte?
The Caffé Latte, often just called a latte, is an espresso-based drink that’s been around since the ’80s. If you know how to speak Italian, its name is pretty straightforward because “Caffé a latte” literally translates to “coffee and milk.”
Making a latte requires blending one part espresso with 3 to 6 parts of steamed milk, topped with a slim layer of microfoam. You would typically use 7g of ground coffee for one shot of espresso and 14g for two shots in Italian cafés, but when I brew, I follow the amounts used for third-wave coffee which are 9g for a single shot and 18g for a double shot.
You serve this in a latte mug, which has a capacity of 240-300 ml (8-10 oz). Each serving has 60 to 80mg of caffeine per shot of espresso used, and 128 calories accounting for the added milk. Aside from whole milk though, you can also use alternatives like soy, almond, or oat milk.
A Café Latte is characterized by its creamy and mild flavor. The blend of espresso and steamed milk creates a harmonious mix where the espresso’s boldness is tempered by the milk’s sweetness and creaminess. The texture is smooth, velvety, and enriched by the frothy milk layer on top. Make no mistake though, the true taste of coffee is lost in the milk. You can still tell what roast beans were used, but that’s about it.
Here’s how you can make a latte:
- Prepare a single or double shot of espresso.
- Pour cold milk into a steaming pitcher until it reaches the bottom of the spout.
- Heat and steam the milk to around 160 degrees Fahrenheit, aerating it to achieve a silky texture with microfoam.
- Pour the steamed milk over your espresso.
- Craft your latte art.
Be adept at brewing this coffee by following my in-depth recipe on how to craft a perfect Caffé Latte.
Americano vs Latte: The Two Coffees Compared
To understand the nuances between an Americano and a Latte, let’s compare them side by side:
|Taste and Texture||Mellow and nuanced, smooth and fluid||Creamy and mild, smooth and velvety|
|Coffee-to-Water Ratio||Standard espresso ratio of 1:2 to 1:3||Standard espresso ratio of 1:2 to 1:3|
|Ingredient Ratio||2 parts water mixed with 1 part espresso||1 part espresso, 3-6 parts milk, & thin microfoam layer|
|Typical Serving Size||3 oz (90 ml)||5 to 16 oz (150 to 480 ml)|
|Caffeine Content||60-80 mg per 1 oz shot of espresso||60-80 mg per 1 oz shot of espresso used|
|Calories||2 calories per shot||2 calories per shot of espresso, plus 18 calories per 1 oz of whole milk|
|Acidity||Moderate acidity||Low to moderate acidity|
|Brewing Difficulty||Intermediate||Home barista|
|Bean Roast||Light to medium roasts||Medium roasts are best; dark roasts can also be used|
Now, let’s break down their differences in detail:
- Ground Coffee Weight & Ratios: Both the Americano and latte have an espresso that uses 7g of ground coffee for a single shot and 14g for a double shot (9g and 18g for third-wave coffee), achieving a 1:2 to 1:3 brew ratio.
Americano combines 1 part espresso with 2 to 3 parts water while latte is 1 part espresso, 3 to 6 parts milk, and a thin microfoam layer.
- Taste: Americano and latte are both milder versions of espresso. Americano uses water, making it smoother and more mellow while still letting the boldness of espresso shine through.
Latte uses milk so the intensity of espresso is blended with sweetness and creaminess, making a harmonious blend.
- Volume, Calories, & Caffeine: An Americano is served as a 3 oz (90 ml) drink with 2 calories and a caffeine content of 60-80 mg per 1 oz shot of espresso used.
While a latte has the same caffeine, it’s larger in volume at 5 to 16 oz (150 to 480 ml) per serving and the calorie count is 128 per 8 oz serving.
- Bean Roast: For Americanos, I prefer light to medium roasts because they showcase a vibrant acidity and intricate flavor, even when diluted. Lattes pair better with medium roasts for a well-rounded flavor. Sometimes, I use dark roasts when I want something stronger.
- Steamed Milk: Unlike the Americano, lattes use steamed milk with a thin microfoam layer. Aside from whole milk, you can use alternatives like soy, almond, and oat.
- Serving Suggestions: You go for Americano if you like a less intense espresso but still stronger than pour over. A latte is just a delicious creamy coffee, which you usually sweeten, and even add whipped cream. I really like the taste when I use soy milk on my latte, adding some brown sugar. Yummy 🙂
As you can see, Americano and latte are both espresso-based drinks, but they go different routes and result in very different drinks.
At their core though, both drinks use espresso, so it’s important that you get the base right. You can check out my list of the best espresso beans this 2023 to get started.
Between an Americano and a latte, I like the latter better. The creamy texture and the delicious harmony of espresso with milk are just perfect during slow weekend mornings when I want to take my time drinking something indulgent.
But that’s just my taste. How about you, do you have a favorite between the two or does it depend on your mood?