Everyone loves coffee for a boost of energy in the morning or just a warm-up in the colder seasons. However, it can sometimes get a bit confusing trying to remember all the popular coffee drinks served to guests. Some utilize different syrups and sprinkles to prioritize fun, dessert-like flavors and visuals worthy of an Instagram post.

On the other side of the coffee spectrum, you've got cappuccinos, macchiatos, lattes, and classic drip coffees, which are easy to make. Nearly every restaurant, cafe, or bistro serves these drinks. The Americano is perhaps the most popular of those options since it has a solid flavor profile and caffeine content without excessive calories. Read on to learn more about the art of an Americano, its history, and how it compares to other espresso drinks.

What is an americano?

An Americano is an espresso-based drink. By pouring an espresso shot into a cup of hot water, you create a classic Italian beverage enjoyed for its low calories and bold taste. An Americano doesn't have milk foam or sugar.

A classic black Americano will always have a little crema, or foam, at its surface.

Origins of the americano

While there are multiple stories surrounding the origin of the Americano, most sources claim American troops in Italy helped pen the Americano name during World War II. When these Americans asked for their typical drip coffee, Italian cafes brewed an espresso and mixed it with hot water. To this day, if American tourists go to Italy and ask for an Americano or a caffe Americano, cafes will serve that mix of espresso and hot water.

How does an Americano taste?

An Americano tastes like an espresso with a smoother finish and softer mouthfeel thanks to the hot water. An Americano shouldn't taste exactly like a shot of espresso, nor should it taste like an imbalanced cup of drip coffee. The drink should offer balanced flavors.

Espresso pouring from machine into cup with an even flow.
An Americano can emphasize an espresso's bold and uniform taste.

An Americano's preparation method also changes its flavor, such as the type of coffee bean used to create the espresso and the quality of the espresso machine itself. Many coffee lovers have personal preferences regarding the milk ratio of the drink. Like most coffee, more milk will create a creamier taste, while less milk will change the flavor slightly.

Additionally, some patrons use a spoon to scoop off the crema, the small layer of foam, from the top of the Americano glass. Some people feel that the thin layer of crema isn't very appetizing, while other drinkers see that crema foam as a sign of a rich and authentic coffee flavor.

What is the point of an americano?

Most people drink an Americano thanks to the low calories that provide a decent caffeine boost, all while allowing slight adjustments to its overall taste. Even though an Americano is typically served hot, you can use cold water and add ice to create a refreshing drink for the summer heat. For some sweetness, add sugar, cinnamon, or even nutmeg.

Key differences between americano vs latte vs cappuccino

Woman at coffee shop mixing latte and latte milk foam with teaspoon.
Baristas know the significant difference between Americanos and other espresso-based drinks.

While menus typically feature a latte, cappuccino, and an Americano, one significant difference exists between these caffeinated drinks. The Americano is simply an espresso and hot water mixed into a glass or mug. Meanwhile, the other two beverages contain equal parts espresso with dairy-based ingredients.

The latte, also known as a caffe latte, is brewed by mixing espresso with steamed milk. The steamed milk flavor makes lattes great when served with a sweet treat. A cappuccino (named after the brown robes of Italian monks) also consists of espresso, steamed milk, and a thin layer of milk foam on top. Guests can always ask for a cappuccino with more or less milk foam.

Of the three espresso selections we've covered in the blog, lattes and cappuccinos contain milk. Baristas should remember to ask guests if they'd prefer a dairy alternative such as almond milk or oat milk.

Type of drink


Steamed milk

Milk foam













Drip coffee




How to make an americano coffee

Barista smiling and brewing coffee espresso for guests in the morning.
An Americano primarily consists of two simple ingredients: an espresso and hot water.

Compared to other drinks, creating an Americano is relatively easy as long as you have the right equipment on hand. Most importantly, you will need an espresso machine, a kettle to boil water, and a cup to pour and serve the drink. An Americano poured into 8 or 12 ounces of hot water serves one person.

  • Brew a single or double shot of espresso
  • Choose a glass size for your espresso shot
  • Boil 8 to 12 ounces of hot water
  • Pour the hot water into a cup already filled with espresso

Even if there are only two ingredients in an Americano, there are still plenty of variations that you can implement to get a new feel for the classic drink. Most baristas should also know these variations.

Long black

The long black is the identical twin to an Americano. It's the same ingredients but with a different preparation order. To make a long black, follow these steps:

  • Brew one or two shots of espresso
  • Pour the espresso into the hot water

Red Eye coffee

The Red Eye is a drink that brings a powerful burst of energy thanks to its high caffeine content. To make a Red Eye, follow these simple steps:

  • Brew a single cup of drip coffee
  • Alongside that coffee, brew a single shot of espresso
  • Pour into a single cup and mix thoroughly

Iced americano

An iced Americano is a simple variation on the classic recipe that uses cold water instead of hot water. To make an iced Americano, follow these steps:

  • Brew an espresso shot
  • Pour into a cup of cold water
  • Add ice for extra chill

How much water is an americano?

Coffee brewing equipment found in coffee shops and restaurants.
The amount of hot water can change the Americano's taste.

For a more robust coffee flavor, the espresso to hot water ratio should be 1:4. For every ounce, you should use four times the amount of water. For example, a strong Americano with 3 oz of espresso will need 12 oz of hot water.

The espresso to hot water ratio should be 1:6 for a milder coffee taste. If you brew 2 oz of espresso, adding 12 oz of hot water will create an Americano with a weaker flavor.

Can you make an americano without an espresso machine?

Catering coffee equipment with mugs and creamer for an event.
You can sometimes craft a faux Americano without an espresso machine.

Yes, you can still make the coffee drink without an espresso machine, even if a traditional Americano requires an espresso shot. One popular preparation method involves brewing a dense, small shot of regular coffee. Next, mix the strong coffee shot with hot water to create a similar drink to an Americano. You can use a traditional coffee brewing method or even instant coffee to make a strong shot of the drink.

Which has more caffeine: Americano or espresso?

Cup of Americano coffee with coffee shop ingredients surrounding it.
A shot of espresso can be enjoyed on its own or in an Americano.

Some coffee drinkers might claim that an espresso has more caffeine thanks to its strong flavor. However, if the Americano contains a single shot of espresso and hot water, it will have the same caffeine content as a shot of espresso. If you brew a drink with a double espresso shot, it would contain twice as much caffeine as a single espresso shot.

Is a mocha also an espresso-based drink?

Yes, a mocha is also an espresso-based drink. Instead of adding hot water, baristas brew a mocha by mixing a single shot of espresso with steamed milk, chocolate syrup or cocoa powder, and whipped cream. Plenty of variations and preparation methods for the mocha utilize different steamed milk alternatives and chocolate flavors to create a smoother texture and taste.

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