To put it simply, Espresso is a very concentrated way of brewing and drinking coffee. And an Americano is a simple beverage made with just espresso and water.
These are two of the best and simplest ways to enjoy the pure, unadulterated taste of your favorite coffee beans. But feel free to throw in cream and sugar if that’s how you roll.
Now, that’s the difference between the two in a nutshell. But if you’re still not sure which is right for you and how to make each, we’ve got you covered. Let’s dive into the characteristics of an Americano vs. Espresso so you can feel confident and excited about your new coffee order.
What is Espresso?
It only makes sense to start with Espresso in this comparison. Espresso is a very concentrated coffee. It’s brewed by forcing almost boiling water through a compressed puck of finely ground beans. The beans are ground so fine that it’s basically powder.
You do need a specialized machine to produce this kind of brew. Espresso machines use pressure to “pull” a shot of this concentrated coffee in about 30 seconds. That means no dripping, steeping, or waiting around for that caffeine boost.
There are variations to a classic espresso, like a “short” pull called a Ristretto or a “long” shot referred to as a Lungo. In addition, espresso beans are different from coffee beans but are still available in different roasts, like in a Blonde Espresso.
Traditionally, espresso is served by the 1-ounce “shot” in small demitasse cups. Or it can be used as the basis for countless craft coffees, from macchiatos to breves, flat whites, and beyond. In addition, you can enjoy espresso hot or iced as a Shaken Espresso.
What is an Americano?
If you’re usually a black coffee drinker or looking to try something that highlights the flavor of the bean itself, then you must try an Americano.
An Americano or Caffe Americano is an espresso-based drink. It uses 1 or 2 shots of espresso, as described in the previous section, and dilutes it with water. Like with a regular espresso, you can order an Americano hot or iced. You could sweeten or flavor your Americano with coffee syrup if you’d like, but traditionally, it’s just espresso and water.
Typically, an Americano follows a 2 to 1 ratio of water to espresso, so there will be double the amount of hot water as there is espresso in the drink. However, it depends on the barista or where you order it.
Often, Starbucks uses a 3:1 ratio. As a result, their Americano will taste more like a standard black drip coffee. Luckily, it’s so simple to make one at home, and it’ll taste even better than anything you’d receive if you ordered out.
Differences Between Americano vs Espresso
Espresso is coffee in its most concentrated form. The finely powdered grounds brew rich, full-bodied, strong, intensely flavored coffee. You’ll be able to taste every bitter, sweet, acidic, or toasty note that the beans have to offer.
An Americano isn’t as strong or intense as a plain shot of espresso since it’s diluted with water. However, the flavors are more pronounced than in other coffee drinks. There’s generally no dairy in an Americano to coat and disguise the more subtle flavors of the beans.
Espresso has a dark, golden brown color. Properly pulled espresso that uses fresh beans will have a thick layer of honey-blonde-colored crema crowning the shot.
In an Americano, the color of the coffee will still be dark brown but more translucent, with a thinner mouthfeel than a concentrated espresso. When the water is poured into the espresso, the crema mixes into the drink, so there won’t be a distinctive layer on top.
Per shot of espresso, there are about 64 mg of caffeine compared to the 11 mg in an ounce of standard coffee. So for a double shot of espresso, you’ll consume about 128 mg of caffeine.
When drinking an Americano, the water doesn’t change the caffeine content. So the number of shots of espresso you use in your drink will determine how much caffeine the Americano will contain.
A shot of espresso will be a small, 1-ounce portion. However, you could order a double shot, which will be 2 ounces. Both options are served in tiny demitasse cups, which you’ll usually see lined up on the top of the espresso machine at your local coffee shop.
An Americano will have more volume than espresso since it includes the standard shot, plus at least 2x the amount of water. In addition, you can order different size Americanos, whereas espresso will always be served in 1-ounce increments.
How To Make Espresso
- Grind the beans
You’ll need extremely fine, consistently ground beans to brew espresso. If you’re using an espresso machine, Aeropress, or Moka Pot, your best bet is to grind the beans yourself. That’ll get you the freshest and best flavor possible.
- Dose the filter
Next, you’ll want to dose the filter, which is coffee-term for putting the grounds into the portafilter. A standard 1-ounce shot of espresso uses 7g of finely ground beans.
- Level and tamp the grounds
It’s important to level out the coffee and tamp it with firm pressure to create an even puck in the filter. This way, the water will be forced through the grinds to extract the espresso evenly.
If you skip this step, the coffee could “channel.” This is when the water pressure hits a weak spot in the coffee puck and creates pockets where the water will run straight through the filter. When this happens, the result is a muddy mix of under and over-extracted coffee that tastes less than desirable.
Follow your espresso machine or device’s instructions to pull your shot!
If you’re brewing espresso with a Nespresso machine, the grinding and dosing will already be done for you. All you need to do is insert a pod and press the button!
How To Make an Americano
- Decide your ratio
You can make an Americano with 1 or 2 shots of espresso. First, you’ll need to decide how much caffeine you’d like. Then, you can make your drink with a 2:1 ratio of water to espresso or 3:1 if you’d like a larger cup to sip on throughout the morning.
- Brew the espresso
You can use an espresso machine, Nespresso, Aeropress, or Moka Pot to brew however many shots of espresso you decide on.
- Boil water
Double or triple the ounces of espresso that you brewed, and boil that much water either in the microwave, on the stovetop, or in a kettle.
- Combine and serve
Pour the espresso into your mug first, then top it with hot water. If you’d prefer an iced Americano, you can pour the espresso over ice and skip the boiling water step; just add cold filtered water to the cup.
An Americano can be made using 1 or 2 shots of espresso, so it’ll have the same caffeine content as those shots. The flavor will be weaker than espresso since an Americano includes hot water to thin the espresso into a sippable coffee drink.
An Americano will always be a combination of ultra-concentrated espresso and hot water. Whereas regular coffee utilizes different beans, a coarser grind, and different brewing methods. Methods like a drip machine, pour-over, french press, or percolator produce a thinner, less concentrated coffee.
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