It’s not drip coffee and it’s not espresso, so what is Cafe Americano?

Essentially, Cafe Americano is nothing more than watered down espresso. The story goes that it was created by European baristas during World War II for U.S. servicemen who wanted a cup of coffee similar to what they drank at home. Americans had long had a taste (and still do) for a more watered down coffee, using either drip coffee or percolators (though the modern drip machine was not invented until the 1950’s). The Cafe Americano was the perfect way to bridge the gap between the two coffee cultures.

Cafe Americano with a splash of milk and a single shot of Espresso -
Cafe Americano with a splash of milk and a single shot of Espresso. – © Colleen Graham

How to Make a Cafe Americano:

It is created by combining a shot (or two) of espresso with hot water to bring it to the volume of drip coffee. Typically, a double shot (2 ounces) of espresso is used and hot water is added to create a 6-ounce drink, though you can play with this ratio to fit your own taste. Milk (often steamed) and sugar are common additions.

If you were to begin with hot water in your mug and top it with espresso, you would have a Long Black. The difference between the two is not significant, though there are subtleties and the Long Black tends to be thinner and it is a fun, quick experiment to try the two side-by-side.

Isn’t It the Same as Drip Coffee?

Yes and no. Yes, in the fact that the volume is similar. No, in that the drip coffee has a weaker flavor than Cafe Americano. It important here to distinguish volume from strength. Just because the coffee in your cup is equal in volume, does not mean the strength is the same and that is the primary difference between these two methods.

Drip coffee is run through a filter, which typically takes some of the bitterness and other natural flavors out of the brew and the water is run slowly through the grounds at a higher ratio. In this comparison, I would liken the average drip coffee to the strength of tea.

With Cafe Americano you are pressurizing a small amount of water through coffee quickly to bring out the full flavor of the beans, then adding water to soften and open up its flavors in a less concentrated form. It is much like adding water to whiskey to open up its flavor. The result is a rich, thick, and tall cup of coffee packed with flavor.

If you are a fan of espresso’s flavor, but want a longer lasting cup of coffee, give the Cafe Americano a try. It is just one extra step in your espresso routine and a definite improvement over drip coffee, particularly if you are using high-end beans. If you do not want to invest in an espresso machine, the moka pot is an excellent option.

What is Cafe Americano?
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