Americano and Lungo are two popular espresso-based drinks, especially for those who want their coffee a little bit on the milder side.
If you’ve landed here, chances are you’re curious about what really makes these two drinks different from each other.
Don’t worry, because coffee pros have been there and I’m here to help. I’ll share with you the intricacies of these beverages, from their ingredients and ratios to their recipes and taste.
What is an Americano?
The Americano finds its roots during World War II. It’s believed that American soldiers stationed in Italy came up with this milder coffee variant to suit their palates, as opposed to the stronger Italian espresso they encountered.
It is made using your usual espresso brewed with the 1:2 to 1:3 ratio. A traditional Italian espresso is made from 7g of ground coffee for a single shot, while third-wave coffee uses 9g. After that, each shot of espresso is diluted with 2 parts water.
Some add sweetener and creamer to this drink, while another variation that’s common in Australia called the Long Black switches the order where the espresso is poured into hot water. This allows the crema to be more pronounced, but you have to pour slowly to not pop those CO2 crema bubbles.
The Americano is served in a glass or ceramic coffee mug that holds 4-5 oz (120-150 ml), with the actual serving size being about 3 oz (90 ml). Each shot of espresso used will have 60 to 80mg of caffeine and 2 calories.
So what does an Americano taste like? It retains the notes of espresso but it’s more mellow than a pure shot, striking a balance between bold espresso and black coffee. Because of the added water, the texture is smooth and fluid but not as watery as your regular black.
Making an Americano is also pretty straightforward:
- Prepare an espresso as usual.
- Pull your espresso into your mug.
- Pour hot water over the espresso.
For a more detailed breakdown, check out my guide on how to make an Americano.
Let’s dive into Lungo next.
What is Lungo?
The Lungo, which translates to “long” in Italian, is another variation of espresso. The difference? More water passes through coarser ground coffee, resulting in a slightly larger and milder serving compared to a traditional espresso – a technique that’s quite popular in Europe.
When crafting a Lungo, you use the same amount of coffee grounds as espresso, which is 7g per shot (9g for third-wave coffee), but with a 1:4 to 1:5 brew ratio. To do this, you pull the espresso longer until you get around 2 oz (60 ml) of coffee in your 3 oz (90 ml) demitasse. Just like pure espresso, lungo has 60 to 80mg of caffeine and 2 calories.
Flavor-wise, a Lungo retains a strong, somewhat bitter profile while being less concentrated than a traditional espresso. Take note though, the longer extraction can allow more bitterness to get into your coffee, so be mindful of the grind size and brew time. You may have to grind coarser if this turns out to be an issue.
As for the texture, it sits between the velvety espresso and fluid Americano.
Here are the steps to whipping up a Lungo:
- Grind your coffee beans slightly coarser than for espresso.
- Be sure to use a timer and scale to measure as you brew.
- Stop the brewing process after roughly 35-40 seconds for a 1:4 to 1:5 brew ratio.
To pull off a great lungo, check out my full recipe on how to make Lungo coffee.
Americano vs Lungo – Let’s Compare
Here’s an overview of the comparisons between the Americano and Lungo:
|Taste and Texture||Mellow and nuanced; Smooth and fluid texture||Light to medium roasts are preferred; dark roasts may impart bitterness|
|Coffee-to-Water Ratio||1:2 to 1:3 for the espresso shot; more water to be added after||1:4 to 1:5|
|Ingredient Ratio||1 part espresso to 2 parts water||Just coffee with more water than an espresso|
|Typical Serving Size||3 oz (90 ml)||2 oz (60 ml)|
|Caffeine Content||60-80 mg per 1 oz shot of espresso||60-80 mg per single shot of lungo|
|Calories||2 calories per shot||2 calories per shot|
|Acidity||Moderate acidity||Moderate acidity|
|Bean Roast||Light to medium roasts||Light to medium roasts|
Now let’s get into detail in comparing these two espresso drinks:
- Ground Coffee Weight & Ratios: Both drinks use 7g of ground coffee (9g for third-wave coffee) but with more water. The difference is that a Lungo incorporates more water into the actual brewing process. Meanwhile, an Americano uses the same 1:2 to 1:3 brew ratio to pull an espresso, and for 1 part espresso, 2 parts water are added after brewing.
- Taste: Comparing the two drinks, Americano retains more robust flavors from the espresso while Lungo tends to be more bitter. As for the texture, both are more fluid than espresso but the Americano is more watery than the Lungo.
- Volume, Calories, & Caffeine: Both drinks have a serving size of around 2 oz (60 ml), with each shot containing about 2 calories and caffeine ranging from 60-80 mg per shot.
- Bean Roast: I like light to medium roasts both in my Americano and Lungo because they retain that vibrant acidity and complex flavor that I love in an espresso, even when it has been diluted.
- Serving Suggestions: The volume and general nature of these drinks are very similar, so you can serve them in a similar fashion.
The intent behind the Americano and Lungo is the same: to make a less potent espresso. But as you can see, using different methods can yield different results, as the flavor profile of each drink reveals.
To tell you the truth, I don’t drink Lungo at all because it’s easy to over-extract and end up with bitter coffee. Adjusting my perfectly dialed-in espresso grind size is not an option for me. Instead, I go for an Americano whenever I want something milder than espresso, but more intense than a pour-over.
Remember though, that brewing a delicious Americano or Lungo starts with the beans. So if you’re just getting started, you’d want to check out the list of my most recommended espresso beans this 2023.
As I’ve mentioned, I prefer the Americano over the Lungo. It’s not only better in taste for me, it’s also easier to just make my usual espresso and add water to make a milder drink. Still, that’s just me and I know people who really like the Lungo.
How about you, are you a fan of Americano or do you enjoy a Lungo? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.