How to Make an Americano: Authentic Tips and Tricks Revealed

Hi! My name is Arne. Having spent years working as a barista I'm now on a mission to bring more good coffee to the people. To that end, my team and I provide you with a broad knowledge base on the subject of coffee.

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Despite its Italian name, the americano is much more popular elsewhere. What makes this coffee drink such a hit? And, more importantly, how do you make it the right way?

Despite its Italian name, the americano is much more popular elsewhere. What makes this coffee drink such a hit? And, more importantly, how do you make it the right way?

The americano proves that less is sometimes more in the world of coffee. But here’s the question: Do you know how to make an americano?

At its core, an americano is a single or double shot of espresso and hot water. But don’t let its apparent simplicity fool you. Crafting an authentic americano is a skillful balancing act between ingredients and method.

This article is your ticket to learning how to make an americano that’s nothing short of spectacular. Whether you’re an espresso aficionado or beginner barista, my tips and tricks to making the perfect americano coffee will elevate your espresso coffee game!

What’s an Americano?

An americano is an artisanal coffee with a freshly-brewed espresso shot and hot water. Nothing more, nothing less.

You may also find it listed on Starbucks and other café menus as:

  • Americano coffee

  • Caffè americano

  • Café americano

  • American coffee

Red Eye Coffee

The rich espresso base gives this coffee a distinct flavor that’s quite different from traditional brewed coffee. Why? It’s all in the espresso’s extraction.

Properly-extracted espresso shots taste sweet, chocolaty and slightly bitter, with a velvety smooth finish.

An espresso maker brews finely ground coffee under pressure, producing delectable results in around 25 seconds. In contrast, a drip coffee machine brews for as long as 10 minutes.

The result? Sweet, pure coffee goodness with a beautiful crema that you won’t find in a plain ol’ cup of joe.

You can still discern the sweet and nutty qualities of an americano’s espresso base in iced americano drinks. Cold water and ice may water down the espresso’s rich attributes, but they still shine through.

The same goes for the white americano, a black americano with a splash of milk or cream.

Why Is It Called Americano?

Americano coffee has quite a history going all the way back to World War II. It’s thought that American GIs in Italy would water down their espresso with hot water.

Maybe the drink suited their palates more, or perhaps it reminded them of the drip coffee they left back home. Whatever the reason, they changed coffee culture, and a new drink was born.

On noticing this trend, Italians dubbed the drink “americano” because so many American soldiers ordered and drank their espresso this way.

I imagine it must have amused the Italians and no less confused them. After all, why would anyone want to water down the rich and potent flavors of the mighty espresso?

DeLonghi EC685 BK Espressomaschin Americano

Whatever concerns the Italians may have had, they accommodated the American soldiers’ requests. This coffee drink stuck, and so we have the americano today.

Another opinion suggests that the use of the word “americano” can be traced back to Italy in the 1860s. However, this particular americano was a cocktail. It is equal measures of bitter Campari and red sweet vermouth topped with club soda over ice.

If you’re out for brunch with friends at a sophisticated cafe, remember to clarify to the wait staff which drink you mean. After all, you don’t want to create a scene!

The Evolution of the Americano

As we’ve already established, an americano coffee is espresso and hot water. But recently, an americano recipe has evolved from a simple caffeine-rich 1:1 ratio of espresso to hot water right up to 1:6 ratios, or more.

The americano recipe has evolved to cater to every taste due to mass-market coffee companies like Starbucks. They offer the caffè americano in a range of cup sizes, drastically changing the drink’s original form.

So, given all this change, how do you make an authentic americano?

I make a pretty mean americano, if I do say so myself. And this isn’t to say that I scoff at other recipes! In my experience, my 1:3 brewing technique gives me the most flavorful black coffee in the simplest way.

How to Make an Americano

Now we’ve come to the crux of this topic: How to make an americano! I think a 1:3 ratio of espresso to hot water makes the perfect americano.

Other coffee drinkers prefer a 1:1, 1:2 or even a 1:4 ratio. At the end of the day, how to make an americano perfect depends on you. Coffee is personal, so let your taste buds guide you.

Here’s how to make an americano coffee like a pro:

What You’ll Need: 

  • Freshly roasted coffee beans, a few days out from the roast date

  • Filtered water

  • Espresso machine

  • Espresso tamper

  • 8-10-ounce (237-296 milliliter) coffee cup or mug

  • Gooseneck kettle

You’ll notice I recommended coffee beans that aren’t super fresh. That’s because freshly roasted beans contain carbon dioxide from the roasting process. It’s best to let them “de-gas” for two or three days to avoid overly bright shots that gush from the portafilter.

Americano Recipe and Brewing Technique

Sage Oracle Touch Espresso Beziehen Nah
  • Preheat your coffee mug. This may seem insignificant, but it isn’t. A warm coffee mug keeps your drink at an optimal temperature, so you’ll enjoy it for longer.

  • Next, add filtered hot water to your cup. By hot water, I don’t mean boiling water straight from a kettle. Aim for a temperature of 194-201 degrees Fahrenheit (90-94 degrees Celsius).

  • If you’re brewing a single 1-ounce (30-milliliter) shot of espresso, you’ll need 3 ounces (90 milliliters) of hot water for this americano recipe. A 2-ounce (60-milliliter) double shot will need twice as much hot water.

  • Next, dose your portafilter with the appropriate amount of ground coffee for the basket size you’re using.

  • After grinding your espresso coffee, level it around the portafilter basket. Then, use your espresso tamper to tamp the coffee down.

  • Apply 20-30 pounds of pressure and twist upwards to polish the puck. The puck’s surface should be smooth.

  • Then, lock the portafilter onto your espresso machine, before placing your coffee cup right under the portafilter.

Be careful to apply the correct pressure as you tamp the coffee. Applying too much pressure with an espresso tamper will result in an over-extracted, bitter shot.

  • Now it’s time to start the espresso extraction. If you’re pulling a double shot, aim for an extraction time of 25-30 seconds with a yield of around 2 ounces.

  • As the espresso brews, gently lift your cup to meet the espresso shot. This allows the crema to sit beautifully on top of the drink.

And there you have it — you’re no longer a novice and have mastered how to make an americano!

How to Drink an Americano

I prefer to add hot water to the cup and then pour in my single or double shot of espresso. This way, I achieve an unblemished and beautiful crema with a delectable aroma.

I understand that many baristas may call this a long black and may do the opposite when making an americano. The only problem with their method is that the poured-in hot water breaks apart the crema, affecting the coffee’s flavor.

Oh, and I prefer to serve my americano black with no sugar. That way all its complex flavors shine through.

And another thing. Forget James Bond and the shaken, not stirred thing; I would suggest not shaking or stirring this drink, unlike with drip coffee. That way there’ll be an unblemished crema for you to taste in all its glory.

Making an Americano Without an Espresso Machine: Enter the Moka Pot 

Can you still make a caffè americano without a home espresso machine? In the past, I would have discouraged it. But I must admit, you can, though it isn’t what I’d call authentic.

You could use a moka pot (stovetop coffee maker) to make an americano. It makes a robust, caffeine-heavy coffee, which though not an espresso, has all the flavor and aroma you need for espresso-based coffee recipes.

Moka Pot (stovetop coffee maker)

Fill the lower chamber of your moka pot with cold water. Then, place your espresso roast coffee grounds inside the filter. Lock and place your moka pot on the stovetop.

As the water begins to boil, the vapor pressure from the lower chamber pushes hot water into the coffee grounds and collects in the upper chamber as coffee liquid. Pour this brew into a cup with hot water from a kettle.

Can we consider a moka pot-made “americano coffee” a genuine recipe for how to make an americano? After all, this “espresso” has no crema to speak of. The jury’s still out on this one.

Making an Americano With a Super Automatic Espresso Machine

Your other option would be to use a super automatic espresso machine to make an americano. These automated espresso coffee makers consistently provide good quality black coffee and are easy to use and easy to maintain.

The only potential problem with automatic espresso machines is whether they can regulate the hot water to espresso for an americano and other espresso drinks. This is important to avoid sacrificing the coffee’s aroma and flavor.

Still, if your bean-to-cup machine can adjust shot volumes while auto-dispensing an americano, I have no problem with it. 

Jura Z8 Super Automatic Espresso Machine Arne

Americano Variations

There are seemingly infinite variations on all espresso drinks, and the americano is no different. Which drink you prefer depends on your tastes and your country’s coffee culture.

Americano vs Lungo

Lungo means “long” in Italian. The drink got its name from a long-pulled espresso with almost twice the water content of a regular espresso.

When pulled for 25-30 seconds, a double shot of espresso uses 2 ounces (60 milliliters) of water. A lungo utilizes twice the water for the same amount of espresso coffee grounds. Because of the added water, pulling for a lungo can take up to 55 seconds.

The result is a larger espresso shot, even bigger than a doppio. However, size isn’t the only distinction. Lungo coffee is more bitter and less intense than espresso. Because of the bitterness, be careful not to over-extract your espresso when making these drinks.

Americano vs Long Black

A long black, like an americano, is espresso with hot water. In my opinion, there’s not much difference in these two drinks (I’m sure an Aussie barista would strongly disagree).

Long blacks typically have a 1:3 espresso-to-water ratio, comparable to my americano recipe above. Australian baristas often make this drink with 1:4 or even 1:5 espresso-to-water ratios.

You can adjust these drinks’ serving ratios with poured-in, just-boiling water and change cup sizes to get more volume. You may also add sugar or pour in milk to suit your tastes, but, in my opinion this drink is best savored as is.

Americano vs Caffè Crema

In the 1980s, the caffè crema gained popularity in Italy, before taking off worldwide. This espresso drink uses more coffee and water during extraction. As such, it needs coarser espresso grounds and lighter tamping. This technique changes the water’s flow through the coffee grounds, influencing the extraction.

Usually, when learning how to make an americano, one of the most important techniques is an espresso extraction time of 25-30 seconds. On the other hand, when making a caffè crema, you’ll want to stop pulling your double espresso shot anywhere from 20-30 seconds.

Ultimately, the sole distinction between an espresso and a caffè crema is the amount of coffee and water you use to extract your espresso from the coffee grounds. You could add milk foam to your caffé crema but I daresay we would be venturing into cortado territory here.

Iced Americano

Ice Cold Americano Caffee

Is the summer heat getting to you? One of the best drinks to have is an espresso over ice aka the iced americano, beloved of so many Starbucks-obsessed Instagrammers! This espresso coffee over ice is a chilled version of the americano and with good quality espresso roast beans, it’ll taste just as good!

You’ll need espresso, filtered cold water and plenty of ice to prepare an iced americano. After brewing your espresso, pour it over ice cubes in a glass or cup. Top with filtered water and voilà, you have iced americano coffee!

You can sweeten this iced coffee drink with sugar, but I’d recommend simple syrup, which dissolves better in cold water coffee drinks. Add milk or heavy cream to this drink recipe if you prefer an iced white americano.

Final Thoughts: The Americano and Good Coffee

Here’s to getting to grips with how to make an americano! You’ve now gotten into the soul of this classic coffee beverage and recipe. Hopefully, you’ll stop visiting Starbucks so often and save money by making it at home!

Armed with the knowledge of the ideal coffee-to-water ratios and the perfect brewing techniques, you should be able to craft the perfect hot or iced americano.

So go forth, brave coffee adventurer, and have your way with the americano, the perfect homage to espresso!

I hope you enjoyed reading about how to make an americano. Are there any tips and tricks you’d like to share with the Coffeeness community? I look forward to your comments!

Your coffee expert
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Arne Preuss

Hi! My name is Arne. Having spent years working as a barista I'm now on a mission to bring more good coffee to the people. To that end, my team and I provide you with a broad knowledge base on the subject of coffee.

More about Arne Preuss

Hi! My name is Arne. Having spent years working as a barista I'm now on a mission to bring more good coffee to the people. To that end, my team and I provide you with a broad knowledge base on the subject of coffee.

More about Arne Preuss

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