In the vibrant world of coffee, espresso and americano are two titans that many aficionados swear by.
These drinks are very similar since the latter simply has more water, but this also makes them very different.
But by the end of this read, you’ll have a thorough understanding of the similarities and differences between espresso and americano, enough to help you decide which brew is for you.
What is an espresso?
In 1901, Luigi Bezzera patented the very first espresso machine, giving birth to a new way of brewing and consuming coffee. This method rapidly infused hot water with ground coffee beans under intense pressure, leading to a concentrated coffee topped with a luxurious crema. Coffee was never to be the same again.
A traditional Italian espresso usually uses 7g of ground coffee for a shot and 14g for a double shot, served in a demitasse cup that holds 2 to 3 oz (60-90 ml) of beverage. Third-wave coffee kicks it up a notch, using 9 g and 18 g respectively to brew espresso.
This drink boasts a robust flavor profile alongside a dense, syrup-like consistency, within servings of either 1 oz (30 ml) for a single shot, or 2 oz (60 ml) for a double shot (aka doppio).
Here’s how you can make an espresso:
- Weigh the coffee
- Adjust the grind setting
- Level your grinds in the portafilter
- Tamp consistently
- Extract the espresso
- Analyze taste
For a step-by-step guide, read my article on how to make the perfect espresso.
What is an Americano?
While positioned in Italy during World War II, a creative thought popped into American soldiers’ heads. They wanted a coffee that wasn’t as potent as the customary Italian espresso, and more like the American drip coffee that they were used to from the US.
Hence, the Americano was born – a diluted blend made by adding hot water to an espresso shot.
The Americano is prepared by mixing one portion of a single-shot espresso with two portions of water. Typically, this mixture is presented in a glass or ceramic coffee mug that can hold 120-150 ml (4-5 oz) of beverage, yielding a delicate and smooth flavor with medium-density consistency. The natural taste of the beans you brew with is very much present in this drink as well, only in a gentler way.
The usual serving size for this brewed delight is around 3 oz (90 ml), providing an enjoyable drink for those who appreciate a balance between the boldness of espresso and the subtleness of a drip coffee.
A variation of the Americano is the “long black” (commonly found in Australia), which is made by pouring a single shot (or double shot) of espresso into hot water. This order of preparing the Americano results in the crema being more pronounced. Just make sure to pour it slowly, so the crema stays intact. I’ve found that just pouring it quickly to keep the drops to a minimum result in the evaporation of most of the crema.
Here are the steps on how you make an Americano this way:
- Fill your mug with hot water
- Make your espresso
- Pour the espresso shot into the hot water-filled mug
To explore further, check out my guide on making the perfect Americano.
Espresso vs Americano Comparison: Where Do They Differ?
The strong, concentrated taste and viscous texture of the espresso create a striking contrast with the mellow, smooth sensation of Americano that offers a much lighter, medium-thickness texture.
In terms of composition, just know that one comes from the other. An espresso typically has a 1:2 to 1:3 coffee-to-water ratio, while the more watered-down Americano combines one shot of espresso with two or three parts water. They essentially taste the same, but the espresso is stronger.
But while both drinks originate from either single or double espresso shots, their final portions differ – the espresso generally comes in 1 to 2-oz servings while an Americano can stretch comfortably to a serving size of up to 3-4 oz due to the added water.
The two drinks are similar in their calorie and caffeine content though; both options offer around 60-80 mg of caffeine per shot while the calorie count is only 2 per shot, so basically calorie-free.
Here’s a comparative table that lays out the nuances between these two popular coffee drinks:
|Taste and Texture||Strong and intense flavor with a rich, syrupy texture||Mild and smooth taste with a medium-bodied texture|
|Coffee-to-Water Ratio||1:2 to 1:3||1:2 to 1:3 for the espresso; extra water to be added|
|Ingredient Ratio||Just coffee||1 part espresso & 2 parts water|
|Typical Serving Size||1 oz (30 ml) for a single shot, 2 oz (60 ml) for a double shot||3 oz (90 ml)|
|Caffeine Content||60-80 mg per 1 oz espresso||60-80 mg per 1 oz espresso|
|Calories||2 calories per shot||2 calories per shot|
|Acidity||Moderate acidity||Moderate acidity|
As someone who works with coffee every day, my suggestion would be to go for a light-medium roast for both espresso and Americano. This type of roast maintains a nice balance that brings out the chocolatey profile of espresso and the fine smoothness of Americano.
I also like to have some sparkling water next to my espresso in order to cleanse the palate and be able to taste the subtle nuances. But if you’re after something not quite as strong as an espresso but still more potent than a pour-over, the Americano fits the bill perfectly.
Remember that brewing a great espresso starts with choosing the right beans. So be sure to check out my top espresso beans for 2023.
Being a barista, I fix my own espresso and specialty coffee drinks whenever I crave them. When it comes to a pure shot and Americano, I have to say that I love them both. Sometimes I crave the dense enjoyment of the espresso, while at other times, usually when with company or when working, I’ll have an Americano that I can sip on for longer
How about you? Which one do you like better?