Americano Vs Espresso: Which One Should You Order?

Espresso is the way to go if you want to pack a powerful punch with your coffee fix. One option is to sip on a single or double shot of espresso, but this is much too potent and bitter for some.

That’s why many coffee aficionados opt for the classic Americano instead.

With an Americano, you get the same espresso taste and burst of caffeine, just without the intense bitterness of drinking straight espresso shots.

That still doesn't explain the difference between Americano and espresso, though. How does expresso compare to caffè Americano?

How is each one made? Do you need an espresso machine at home to create flavorful espresso drinks?

I've provided my coffee expertise to answer these questions and more in this complete guide to Americano vs espresso.

The difference between espresso and Americano all comes down to water. That’s right, water.

An Americano is simply a shot of espresso that has been diluted with hot water. Because of the added water, Americanos are much larger drinks.

Thanks to the dilution, they’re also a lot easier to sip than straight shots of espresso.

Due to its name, many people assume that an Americano is made with American coffee beans. This isn’t actually the case.

Traditionally, Americanos are made with the same Italian espresso beans that create a piping hot shot of espresso.

To better understand what you’re sipping on, here are a few more key differences between espresso vs Americano:

Caffeine Level

The amount of caffeine you’re consuming in espresso drinks depends entirely on the number of shots you’ve included in your order.

A study from Mayo Clinic found that the average 1-ounce shot of espresso contains 64 milligrams of caffeine.[1]

Since an Americano is usually made with 1 shot, it equals the same caffeine content as a single espresso shot.

If you opt for a double shot Americano with two espresso shots, that would obviously mean you're consuming more caffeine - 128 milligrams, to be exact.

Shot of Espresso Sitting Next to Coffee Beans

Size

Depending on the amount of water added, a typical Americano serving can range anywhere from 8 ounces to 20 ounces.

For a strong coffee flavor, adding less water will do the trick, but for a more diluted coffee, more water is necessary.

The perfect espresso shot is just 1 ounce in size, although many people order a double shot, which would be approximately 2 ounces.

Variety

Strong espresso-based drinks, like the Americano, have a lot of wiggle room when it comes to customization.

In your Americano, you can add steamed milk, milk foam, flavored syrups, sugar, non-dairy creamer, or even whipped cream with a dark chocolate drizzle… It’s entirely up to you.

While it's certainly possible to create your own version of an espresso with customization, it's not as common.

Instead, most espresso drinks simply add sugar or a small splash of milk to keep the strong concentrated coffee taste.

Taste

Compared to brewing coffee in a drip machine, both Americano and espresso have a more intense flavor profile.

That’s no surprise considering they’re both made with espresso beans rather than Arabica or Robusta beans which are typically used for the brewing process.

In terms of taste, you’ll notice similar flavor profiles between an espresso and Americano since they’re made with the same coffee beans.

However, that taste will be much stronger in espresso since it’s a more concentrated brew.

Calories

Without any additives, both drinks are extremely low in calories. There are a mere 3 calories in a single espresso shot or 6 calories in 2 shots of espresso.[2]

Since Americano is just espresso and water, you won't have to count calories if this is your drink of choice at your local coffee shop.

As is the case with all coffee-based beverages, adding sugar, milk, syrups, etc., will add extra calories, so be wary of this.

Cafe Americano Sitting on a Table

What Is Espresso?

Espresso is a straightforward coffee drink that’s highly concentrated and served in small shots. It’s essentially straight coffee in its purest form.

Because it’s so concentrated, some people prefer to add a teaspoon of sugar to espresso to cut its intensity or a dash of steamed milk.

While a single shot of concentrated espresso is usually enough to give you an energy boost, die-hard coffee drinkers often go for a double shot, also called a doppio, or even a triple shot for more caffeine.

For those trying to intake less caffeine, decaf espresso is also an option.

How Espresso Is Made

Espresso is made by forcing hot water through tightly-packed, finely-ground coffee.

The grounds are compressed with a tamper, allowing the hot water time to settle in. This brings out the intense flavor that espresso is loved for. 

Luckily, homemade espresso doesn’t necessarily require fancy espresso machines that you see in coffee shops.

Traditional espresso machines can cost thousands, but nowadays, a lot of coffee brands are manufacturing pod-style brewers for making great espresso, like Lavazza and Nespresso.

Shot of Espresso Sitting Next to a Camera and a Book

What Exactly Is An Americano?

An Americano, also called a caffè Americano, is just espresso mixed with hot water.

Just like espresso, making Americanos requires a fine grind and high pressure while brewing the espresso shots.

When a single shot is used, Americanos have a similar strength to brewed coffee, but the flavor is quite different from regular coffee.

It tastes similar to an espresso, just with less intensity, thanks to the hot water added.

How To Make An Americano Coffee At Home

There are so many options for making coffee at home, and making a homemade Americano is no exception.

Remember, Americanos are made by adding hot water to espresso, but that’s the only real must-follow rule.

To brew the coffee, you can make Moka pot espresso on a stovetop, use a fancy espresso machine, or opt for a convenient pod-style espresso machine.

For a stronger drink, use more espresso to make it a double Americano; for a weaker brew, use a single shot of espresso.

Once your espresso shot(s) is made, add hot water directly over the top. If you prefer black coffee, the job is done - just pour it into your favorite mug or cup and start sipping.

Americano Coffee in a White Mug

What Are The Health Benefits Of Americano Coffee?

Any cup of coffee comes with some health benefits, and that’s especially the case with an espresso drink like the Americano.

According to tons of research compiled over the decades, here are some of the most notable benefits:

  • Supports Weight Loss
  • Improves Productivity
  • Helps Digestion[3]
  • Natural Detoxification
  • Boosts Mood

Americano Compared To Other Coffee Drinks

Americano Vs Long Black

The long black is another espresso coffee beverage that’s made with water.

It’s very similar in taste and size, the only difference being that the water is poured before the shot of espresso in a long black (instead of after it).

Americano Vs Cappuccino Vs Latte

Cappuccinos and lattes are two espresso-based drinks that require milk.

Rather than using hot water to dilute the espresso as you would with an Americano, both a latte and cappuccino use steamed milk and foam. This gives them a foamy light colored head.


Frequently Asked Americano vs Espresso Questions

Is Americano just espresso with water?

Pretty much! Americano is simply 1 or 2 - even 3 if you’re feelin’ crazy - shots of espresso with hot water added. The water gives this drink a less concentrated flavor, which cuts the bitterness and intensity drastically.

What is the correct ratio when making an Americano?

The traditional rule is a 1:1 ratio of espresso to water, so use the same amount of water as espresso, although some sources say it’s a 1:2 ratio, or even 1:4. The amount of water you add to your Americano all comes down to personal preference.

What is the ideal water temperature for Americano coffee?

According to baristas, the ideal water temp is around 140℉, and you should never heat the water to more than 160℉. Even if you’re making an iced Americano or iced espresso, you should still follow this temperature recommendation while brewing. Just add ice to the final product.

Does an Americano taste the same as regular drip coffee?

If you've made your Americano the right way, it shouldn't taste the same as drip-brewed coffee, not even strong drip coffee. Because they’re made with espresso coffee grounds, a great Americano beverage tends to have a fuller body and richer flavor profile compared to drip coffee.

Should you add milk to an Americano?

Traditionally, Americanos are served without milk to keep true to the authentic espresso flavor. Still, if it tastes too bitter for your palate, you can of course add milk and sugar to reduce the bitterness.

Is it okay to drink Americano coffee on an empty stomach?

The myth of avoiding coffee consumption on an empty stomach has been debunked on many accounts.[4]

Here’s what the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia has to say about it:

“It is not hazardous to drink coffee on an empty stomach. Decades ago there was concern that coffee could be irritating to the lining of the stomach and intestine, but it was subsequently shown that this is not the case, and coffee consumption has not been linked to the development of ulcers.”

Final Verdict

The addition of water is the only real difference between espresso vs Americano.

Hot water is added to an Americano, making it less intense, smoother, and larger in size.

Because of the size and flavor, it’s much more common to customize Americanos with milk, sugar, and other additives.

Espresso, on the other hand, is the ideal option for die-hard coffee fans who value intensity and boldness.

It’s a quick-and-dirty way to drink your coffee beverage, especially if you buy a pod-style machine for your home kitchen, like the ones sold by Lavazza or Nespresso.[5]

References:

1. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/caffeine/art-20049372
2. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/coffee-calories
3. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/5-foods-to-improve-your-digestion
4. https://celiacdiseasecenter.columbia.edu/
5. https://www.nespresso.com/us/en/vertuo-coffee-machines 

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