Americano vs Latte – What the Difference?

I’m sure you’ve been there. Standing in line at the coffee shop, desperately wanting a bit of caffeine but not knowing which drink to choose.

Sure, you could go with your usual but what about trying something new? But what if you hate it? I get it. And I’ve been there. That’s why I’m here to help!

There are two very common espresso drinks you’ll see ordered at coffee shops and made at home with espresso machines – the Latte and the Americano.

You’ve likely wondered about the difference between these two popular coffee drinks? And while yes, they’re both an espresso drink, the taste itself is vastly different.

Today we’re going to take a deep dive into an Americano vs a Latte.

Americano vs Latte - What the Difference?

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Difference Between an Americano vs a Latte

I’ll go into a ton more fun details below, but the only difference between an Americano and a Latte is that an Americano is made with water and the a Latte is made with milk. The base of the drink is the same since both begin with espresso but the liquid added to them is the difference! An Americano is diluted with water and a Latte is diluted with milk!

Ready to impress your friends with more details or the barista you’ve become friends with? Keep reading!

First up, the base.

What is an Espresso Shot?

Both drinks begin with a shot of espresso. A shot of espresso is approximately one ounce of highly concentrated coffee, prepared by using high pressure, forcing boiling water through ground, dark roast coffee beans.

If you would to drink just a shot of espresso, you would call it a “short black.” It’s a 30ml shot of espresso with a thick golden crema on top (more on the crema and why that’s important for the Americano below!).

Espresso is the base for many of the following drinks including the 2 we’re talking about today!

What is a Latte

latte

A latte is one of the most simple of of espresso drinks and one of the most popular drinks around!. At its core, a latte is a single or double shot of espresso and steamed milk (typically 1/3 espresso and 2/3 steamed milk). It also has a layer of milk foam on top (unlike the flat white) where you’ll often find latte art. 

A latte is the perfect drink for those who like the taste of espresso but want it toned down to have a sweeter, creamier texture. You’ll still get the flavor of the espresso shot but it won’t be quite as strong as a straight shot of espresso or the Americano.

Lattes can be customized in a ton of different ways. It can be served as an iced latte or can be flavored with any type of flavoring. The amount of milk added to the espresso will also make it a big difference!

(Fun fact – a latte with a thick layer of milk foam on top is actually called a wet cappuccino.)

A latte is also often called a caffe latte or cafe au lait.

What is an Americano

americano

Coffee lovers – this is the drink for you! While yes, you can taste the espresso in the latte, you can taste it even more in an Americano.

An Americano is very similar to black coffee; it’s an espresso shot diluted with hot water.

An Americano is made with either one or two shots of espresso and is often called a Caffe Americano. It typically has a 2 to 1 ratio of water to espresso (so 2 parts water to 1 part espresso) however every coffee shop and every barista is different, making drinks in their own ways.

Taste and strength can vary, however, depending on how much water you add. It typically has a similar strength to a traditional drip coffee but the flavor oftentimes is different.

If you go to Starbucks and order an Americano, you’ll get something more like 3 parts water to 1 part coffee making it much more similar to a drip cup of coffee.

Unlike the latte, you will never see milk in an Americano. The true form of an Americano is simply espresso and water, nothing else.

However similar to the latte, you can also get an Americano served iced.

History of the Latte

Although people have been drinking a combination of milk and coffee since the 1600s, the first drink we might think as the founding ancestor to the latte comes from Vienna and Trieste in the late 1700s called Kapuziner. They say it comprised of coffee with cream, spices and sugar. 

Fun fact – caffè latte means milk coffee in Italian!

History of the Americano

It’s been said that the Americano came to be during World War II. American soldiers who were based in Italy would use water to dilute their shots of espresso before drinking it. This made it similar to the regular coffee they were used to. This has yet to be confirmed so don’t take my word for it! 😉

Fun fact – Americano means American in Italian

How to Make a Latte

A latte is made up of 1/3 espresso and 2/3 steamed milk with a thin layer of foam on top. In most lattes, this consists of 2 ounces of espresso with 4-6 ounces of milk.

latte in black mug

Here’s how to make a latte at home:

1. Make your espresso

Do this with either an espresso machine, espresso maker, Nespresso or Aeropress

2. Steam your milk

For the best latte, use whole milk. For one with less calories, use skim or 1% milk. If you have an espresso machine use that to steam your cold milk. Otherwise use a milk frother or heat it on the stove to about 150 degrees Fahrenheit.

3. Combine the two!

You can simply mix the espresso and hot milk, adding a thin layer of the microfoam on top or attempt to make latte art!

How to Make an Americano

americano in white mug on table

Here’s how to make an Americano coffee at home

1. Decide on your ratio

If you’re doing 2:1, you can use an espresso mug. If you want more like 3:1, you should choose a larger mug.

2. Make your espresso

Like the latte, do this with either an automated espresso machine, espresso maker, Nespresso or Aeropress

3. Boil your water

Bring cold water to a boil using a whatever method you choose.

4. Combine the two!

You can simply mix the two together! Pour the espresso in first, followed by the water.

The Order of Ingredients Matters!

A latte and an americano are similar drinks because they become different drinks simply by the order in which the ingredients are poured.

A latte becomes a latte macchiato when you pour the espresso into the frothed milk slowly to get 3 layers rather than pouring the milk into the espresso!

latte in white cup

The traditional way to make an Americano is pouring the espresso first followed by the water. Espresso creates a crema on top and when you pour the espresso in first followed by the water, the crema will disappear.

However, if you flip it and put the water in first followed by the espresso, it will keep the layer of crema on the top of the drink. This, however, is not called an Americano anymore! It’s called a long black. (Yes I know it can be confusing that the same drink just combined different is called a different thing! These are the kinds of things that will impress your friends!)

Pros Of a Latte

latte in white mug

What are the pros of a latte?

  • A sweeter version of coffee
  • Creamier texture and creamy taste
  • Less acidic

Pros of an Americano

americano

Like the Latte, there are some pros to the Americano.

  • Strong taste without being bitter
  • Easy to adjust the strength
  • Low calorie
  • Close to a regular drip coffee

Americano Vs Latte FAQ

Is an Americano stronger than a latte?

Yes, an Americano has a much stronger taste than a latte. A latte has a much creamier taste with the addition of the milk.

Does an Americano have more caffeine than a latte?

The amount of caffeine in each drink really depends on how you ordered it and who made it. If you have the same size drink with the same number of shots of espresso they will have the same amount of caffeine.

So the next time you go into your local coffee shop or pull out your espresso machine at home, remember these two similar coffee drinks and their differences! Try out one you’ve never tried before to experience the unique flavor as you become a true coffee aficionado.

Want to learn about more types of coffee? Here’s 19 different types of coffee to know! Or here’s the difference between a latte and a mocha and the difference between a latte and a frappe and the differences between a cappuccino and a mocha!

About bit of cream

Rishi and Jen are the creators behind Bit of Cream. They start each morning with a cup of coffee and are on the hunt to make that simple cup of caffeine better and brighter. Feel free to send them a message or follow along on Instagram!

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