A caffè americano, usually shortened to americano, is a simple but delicious drink.
You use espresso as the base for your americano and then add some hot water.
As we’ll show you today, you’ll just need a double or triple shot of espresso along with some hot water.
The issue here is that the quality of the americano in your cup will mainly depend on the quality of the espresso you make.
Today, then, we’ll be showing you all stages of this process so you can whip up longer black coffees just like the Italians.
Before we get into the logistics of making americano like a barista, though, a few basics on the history of this growingly popular drink.
I. Americano 101
The term americano is taken from the Italian expression for American coffee.
Unfortunately, some confusion sets in because “caffé americano” in Italian can refer to either an espresso or filtered coffee that’s diluted with hot water.
For the purposes of the United States, though, the most widely recognized definition of americano exclusively refers to the beverage made with authentic espresso.
So, this distinction helps you to distinguish between the americano (espresso diluted with water served without added milk) and a regular black coffee (drip coffee served without added milk).
The origin of the americano is unsubstantiated. That said, the drink is believed to hail from the time of the second world war, with GIs based in Italy diluting their espresso to get a taste more reminiscent of coffee found in the US.
Aside from using a top-notch shot of espresso – more on that just below – the other crucial aspect of making americano concerns the water. The end result in your cup will be over 90% H20, so avoid using water from the faucet. Instead, opt for bottled or filtered water. You’ll get a crisper, cleaner taste.
The amount of water you use to dilute your espresso will determine how strong your americano tastes. If you’re using the recommended double shot of espresso, use about 8oz of high-quality water for a reasonably strong americano. Use more water if you want a weaker drink.
When you start making americano, it’s sound practice to record your results as you go, whether on paper or digitally. As you discover what works for you with various brewing methods, you can dial these in with ease.
II. Variations of Americano
The americano comes in different forms and goes by different names.
In Australia, for instance, a long black is very similar to an americano, contrasted with short black, the name Australians often use for a shot of espresso. With a long black, water is added to the cup first, and the espresso shot is added after extraction.
You may encounter the drink Italiano in the Western United States. This is a short americano made using equal parts espresso and water.
A lungo is similar to an americano. You use an espresso shot, but the shot is extracted for longer. This increases volume, while at the same time removing some of the bitterness that can taint espresso.
If you encounter a caffè crema, this also uses an espresso shot, but you extract this for even longer than when making a lungo.
A shot in the dark or red eye is an espresso with drip coffee added in place of water. This strengthens the coffee rather than diluting it, so this beverage is not for the faint-hearted!
If you use cold water in place of hot water, you can enjoy an iced americano.
OK, with those basics in place, let’s get down to business and show you how to make an americano like a barista.
III. Making an Espresso for Americano
While it is possible to make an americano without an Italian espresso machine, we don’t recommend this.
The quality of the americano will hinge on the quality of the espresso, and with so many great home espresso machines up for grabs, you don’t need to spend a fortune to achieve this.
What You Need
- Home espresso machine
- Coffee grinder
- Fresh, whole coffee beans
- Filtered or bottled water
What To Do
- You need 7g to 9g of coffee beans to make a single shot of espresso. Use 14g to 18g of beans for a double shot. For precise results, weigh your beans using a digital scale
- For the best quality espresso, you should use fresh beans and grind them directly before brewing. To make espresso, you need your beans ground finely to the consistency of table salt
- Make sure you fill the reservoir of your espresso machine with bottled water or filtered water
- Pop your ground coffee into the portafilter of your espresso machine. Tap the portafilter with your knuckles to ensure even distribution
- Use a tamping tool to compact your coffee grounds
- Lock the portafilter in and start your espresso machine
- 25 seconds is recognized as the optimum extraction time for espresso
- Pour yourself a double shot for the most delicious americano
And we’ll show you how to do that right now.
IV. Making Americano
Now for the easy part and finishing off your americano.
What You Need
- Espresso (double shot)
- Hot water
- Sugar to taste
What To Do
- Preheat your mug with some hot water
- Set aside the double espresso shot you prepared above in a separate glass
- Add some hot water to your mug, ideally heated to 185F, having first discarded the pre-heating water
- Pour the espresso shot on top of the hot water. Adding the espresso to the water gives you an improved crema
- Serve with sugar to taste
V. Can You Make an Americano Without an Espresso Machine
A moka pot can make an approximation of an espresso, but it lacks the steam required to produce espresso under pressure.
If you’re looking to make serviceable espresso without a complicated semi-automatic espresso machine, there is an alternative.
Single-serve capsule-based or pod-based espresso machines like those in the Nespresso line use the right amount of pressure to generate decent espresso. The primary drawback with these machines is that the coffee is not ground directly before brewing.
You could also consider a manual espresso maker. We review a couple of great examples right here.
For anyone serious about making authentic americano, though, it pays to invest in a suitable espresso machine.
If your only experience of drinking americano is in Starbucks – here, they use unsuitable beans for espresso – making your own at home may rekindle your love affair with this drink.
As you can see, all you need to do is master pulling a double shot of espresso. It should take you no time at all to dial in the right water to coffee ration for your palate, and you’ll be able to widen your coffee menu beyond short shots of espresso.
Make sure you grind your coffee beans directly before brewing and you’ll have no problem making first-class americano.
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