Americano coffees and espresso coffees are both popular drinks at most coffee shops.
If you are a coffee enthusiast, you already know the argument.
Which is better – americano or espresso? Can they even be compared? How exactly are they different?
Let’s dive in
Americano vs. Espresso
It turns out that americano and espresso are two very similar yet very different kinds of coffee.
While they brew precisely the same way, they are served very differently. Their similarities almost equal their differences.
Because Americano and espresso coffees are both brewed the same way, they have the same health benefits.
Americano is essentially a diluted espresso, and an espresso is the more concentrated version of the americano.
The brewing process is different from a regular drip coffee, and therefore there is less acid, more natural nutrients, and more of the actual coffee bean oils in an espresso brew.
However, an espresso machine is a luxury for many home coffee drinkers.
Of course, both Americano and espresso coffees are high in caffeine.
They are more concentrated brews of a coffee bean to provide the drinker with more caffeine than a regular brew, in a smaller package.
It’s important to be careful when consuming caffeine – while a small amount is healthy for you, too much of it can be addictive and damaging to your body and brain.
Espresso is the original intense and robust coffee.
It’s brewed quickly and served as a shot, and many people (Italian or otherwise) take it as a daily ritual. Some people add a shot to their regular coffee or specialty drinks, and others drink it straight.
Coffee is flavorful, but espresso takes it to a new level.
Because of the brewing method, espresso can capture way more tiny, subtle differences in coffee beans. Every espresso cup has many flavors and is unique, which makes it a craft beverage no matter where you buy it.
As is expected, espresso originated in Italy.
It comes from the word meaning “to press out,” which refers to the firmly pressed bed of coffee grounds that water is forced through to make the coffee.
It’s said to have originated in the early 1900s with the invention of the machine that pushed water through the coffee.
Nowadays, espresso machines are much easier to find (although you don’t technically need one for an espresso – a French coffee press will do just as well).
Espressos are much less of a luxury item since the wide-spread use of the espresso machine.
They are sold in coffee shops, added to regular coffees, and enhance many coffee experiences.
To brew espresso, you need a good espresso machine.
A regular coffee machine won’t work because it is meant for drip coffee, but you can use a pour-over French press for similar results.
Espresso is made with very finely ground coffee beans packed tightly together. This coffee “cake” or “bed” releases more of the oils when it’s brewed and makes for a more robust coffee.
The actual brewing is different from regular coffee.
Instead of pouring water over filtered coffee grounds, a brewer shoots water quickly through the coffee bed. An espresso machine is what gets the almost-boiling water over coffee grounds and into a cup.
Espresso brewing requires a particular machine but doesn’t need specific beans.
Any coffee beans will make good espresso – the darker the roast, the better. However, there are beans specifically sold for espresso.
These beans, sold as “espresso beans,” are generally just regular coffee beans that have been set to roast a little longer than light or medium roast whole beans.
Espresso is generally served in a tiny, one-ounce coffee cup.
It’s consumed about as quickly as it’s made – in under thirty seconds. Because of the intensity of the flavor and caffeine, one ounce is considered a whole serving of espresso.
A one-ounce cup of espresso has about the same amount of caffeine as a full-sized coffee and is usually served with water to cleanse the palate (although coffee fanatics often request a double shot for extra caffeine).
It also has a foam on top called the crema.
A quality crema is an essential indicator of a good espresso. The crema is usually stirred into the coffee because it has a bitter, acidic taste best mixed with the coffee itself.
Popularity and Taste
Espresso is incredibly rich and intense, as one would expect from a strongly concentrated cup of dark brewed coffee.
However, the subtlety of flavors in espresso is much more widely varied than pour-over coffee.
Because the beans are more finely ground and not poured through a filter, the coffee oils come through more strongly and provide a full array of flavors.
This amount of flavor can’t be found in pour-over coffees in general.
Of course, espresso is essentially a national drink in Italy, its birthplace, but it’s gathered fans worldwide for the intensity of its flavor and the quickness of the brew.
Many hard-core coffee drinkers only drink espresso or its diluted cousin, americano.
If there’s one common misunderstanding about Americano coffee, it’s that it’s not the same as drip coffee!
People assume because americano is an American style of coffee, it’s brewed slowly with a filter, like most other American coffees.
However, americano has much more in common with its Italian counterpart than with traditional American coffee.
An americano is just an espresso shot with water added to make it the same size as a regular cup of coffee.
Americano coffee comes in a larger cup than espresso and is popular among people who like the richness of espresso but not the intensity.
It has the same taste and health benefits as an espresso with more coffee to drink!
The legend of the Americano coffee is that it was invented in World War Two.
American soldiers stationed in Italy found the coffee to be too strong. They didn’t want to drink the espresso shots offered to them.
The soldiers added water to take down the taste slightly and make it more similar to their coffees back home.
Of course, coffee shops would have picked up on this and started to make coffees for the “Americano” soldiers.
The name stuck, and the americano was born.
After the war, many soldiers missed the more complex taste of the espresso brew, and the popularity of the americano spread throughout Europe and America.
Espresso and americano coffee have the same brewing process.
Near-boiling water is shot through a cake of finely-ground coffee beans to create a powerful shot of coffee. To make it americano (like the soldiers did), you add more hot water.
Usually, the ratio is half and half or one-thirds coffee to two-thirds water.
However, the most significant controversy around brewing americanos is when to pour the water. Some baristas insist that running the water on top of the coffee will mix the oils and keep the coffee strong.
Other coffee makers say that if you pour the coffee on top, you will get the famous crema and taste the coffee more.
However, if you’re making an americano at home, you can pour in whichever order you want.
Unlike an espresso cup, the americano comes in a regular-sized coffee cup. Because of the extreme dilution of the coffee, you get the same coffee as an espresso, just in a larger cup.
This size is ideal if you want to get coffee with breakfast or sip in the mornings.
Depending on the order of the pour, you will see the crema from the espresso.
The light froth tastes bitter but is usually mixed into the coffee (unless the water is on top). Americano coffees are also served cold by pouring cold water instead of hot water on top of the coffee.
Popularity and Taste
This style of coffee is famous all over the world.
To no one’s surprise, Americans are especially fond of americano coffee. It’s sold in most coffee shops with espresso machines and made at home often.
Anyone with an espresso machine or French press can make a good americano – they only need to know how much water to add.
You can make a personalized coffee americano by experimenting with the amount of water and strength of coffee.
Americano coffee has the same dark, rich taste as espresso, just a little bit more mild. It has a much more complex flavor than a regular drip coffee because it doesn’t use the filter and has a finer grind.
However, it doesn’t have the deep intensity or bitterness of the espresso.
Conclusion: Which is Better?
Although espresso and Americano coffees have a similar brewing process, there is no comparing the two.
It depends on whether you like a smaller, more powerful shot or want to sip on a more diluted version.
In one aspect, however, most coffee drinkers agree: they both are better than regular drip coffee.
The deeper, richer taste of espresso brewed coffee changes most people’s minds about drip coffee.
Now that you know the technical differences between Americano and espresso coffees, you’ve got to decide which you like better for yourself!
Whether or not you have an espresso machine, you can try these popular Italian brews in coffee shops or at home!
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