What Is An Americano? (With Recipes to Make One At Home)

Kirkland Gee
January 9, 2024

What is an Americano?

The americano is a classic coffee drink, popularized in the early 20th century by soldiers stationed in Italy in World War II. In its traditional form, it is a shot of espresso that is diluted with hot water to the drinker’s liking. It provides a more intense flavor than a drip coffee, but is more palatable to some than drinking a straight espresso.

You can find an Americano at pretty much any cafe not just in America, but around the world. It’s a great way to experience a coffee, as it pulls out drastically different flavors than you’d find in a filter coffee brewed with the same beans.

While traditionally served black, you can add cream and sugar to the beverage, as well. It allows you to taste the flavor of the espresso without the sweetness of the steamed milk in a latte or cappuccino.

Where Did the Americano Come From?

The Caffe Americano was born out of World War II Europe. American soldiers stationed in Europe were not used to the intensity of traditional espresso, so they asked for a version of the drink that was more diluted and similar to the traditional brewed coffee they had back home.

In response, Italian baristi began to serve a version of espresso with added hot water, which was dubbed the "Americano" in reference to the American soldiers. (In reality, it was a bit of a dig at the “weak” Americans who couldn’t handle the stronger Italian espresso.)

The Americano was a hit with soldiers, quickly spreading throughout Europe, even taking the place of brewed coffee for many of them. The Americano was a welcome change for the soldiers, as it allowed them to enjoy a coffee drink that was much closer to the drip coffee they drank stateside.

The Americano has had a lasting impact on coffee culture and is now one of the most popular coffee drinks in the world. It is a staple of traditional and specialty cafes alike—a testament to the ingenuity of the Italian baristas who created the drink, and to the impact of the American soldiers who helped popularize it.

How To Make an Americano

The Americano is one of the simpler coffee drinks to make, only requiring espresso and hot water. The most difficult part of this drink is being able to make the espresso itself. As long as you have the ability to do that, it’s very simple.

Recommended Coffee for an Americano

Generally for Americanos, you want a coffee that you can really enjoy on its own rather than one designed to mix with milk. If you’re looking for something adventurous, try the Ethiopian Agaro from Passenger. It’s a beautifully sweet, floral coffee that hits just right as an Iced Americano on a summer day.

If you prefer something a little less adventurous, the Stereo Blend from Heart Coffee is always a reliable option, tasting great as an espresso, americano, or even a filter coffee. Some may prefer dark roast coffee for this drink, but we wouldn’t recommend it.

Americano Ingredients

There are only a couple of ingredients that you need to make a delicious americano:

  • Your espresso of choice
  • Some hot water/ice
  • Optional sweetener & cream

Step-by-Step Instructions to Make an Americano at Home

If you have an espresso machine, Americanos are super easy to make and only take a couple of minutes.

  1. Pull a shot of espresso (using our recommended espresso recipe, of course)
  2. Prepare a mug with 8-12 ounces of hot water, depending on your preferred strength
  3. Slowly pour your espresso into the mug of hot water.
  4. The slower you pour, the more crema you’ll retain on top of the beverage.

If you don’t have access to an espresso machine, you can use an Aeropress with a prismo attachment, but you can also just brew the coffee as a filter brew. This will get you pretty close, and will typically produce better results than the Aeropress americano route.

Different Versions of an Americano Coffee

Historically, there is really only one Americano, that being a double shot of espresso diluted with water. However, in more recent years, we can really expand that into three different drinks: The traditional, iced, and shaken americano.

Traditional Americano

The traditional americano coffee is what we discussed above—take your ground coffee, pull a basic shot of espresso diluted with hot water. It’s a timeless classic, and you really can’t go wrong with it.

Iced Americano

In the summertime, there’s not much better than a nice, iced americano. You can serve this black, but it’s lovely with a touch of cream and a little simple syrup—especially with a lighter-roasted espresso. It’s a great alternative to cold brew, as well.

Shaken Americano

If you want to level up your iced americano just a touch more, opt for a shaken variation. Rather than just pouring a shot of hot espresso over some ice water, you can add the shot to a cocktail shaker full of ice and shake it vigorously.

A lot of the ice will melt, and then you can just dilute that liquid with additional cold water to your preferred taste. The biggest benefit of this method is that it produces a thick, foamy head on top of the americano. Most specialty coffee shops will make the Iced Americano this way.

Benefits of Drinking an Americano

Americanos are an easy, delicious way to get a quick dose of caffeine, sure, but they also let you experience the joys of espresso without the intensity of a traditional shot.

They’re a great choice for those just getting into specialty coffee as a way to explore coffee in a new way. You don’t have to make a pour-over or get into lots of brew methods—you can just use high pressure and make an americano.

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