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Americano vs. Espresso: What’s the difference?

An espresso being poured

We continue our series of coffee comparisons with Americano vs Espresso.  

What is an Americano? What is an espresso? How are the two coffees similar and how can you tell them apart?

Let’s find out.

What is an Americano?

An Americano is simply a diluted espresso.

Americanos were initially made to resemble ‘regular coffee’ (i.e., black coffee) for American soldiers stationed in Italy during World War II.

It’s this origin that gives the Americano its name. Essentially, it’s an “American” (more diluted) espresso.

How is an Americano made?

To make an Americano, place one or two espresso shots into the coffee cup, then pour water, heated to 195°F, over the shots.

The amount of water you put in will determine the overall dilution of the espresso shots and affect the taste.

If you prefer a stronger coffee, use less hot water.

What is an Espresso?

An espresso is a concentrated shot of coffee created using an espresso machine to push hot water through finely-ground coffee beans. This process produces a high level of soluble oils that make intense flavors.

Espressos originated in Italy at the start of the 20th century. The term ‘espresso’ translates as ‘pressed coffee’.

How is an espresso made?

The specific steps to make an espresso may differ slightly depending on the espresso machine, but you will always start with finely ground coffee.

Next, fill the portafilter’s basket with the coffee. The coffee should be evenly distributed around the portafilter to ensure an even water flow.

The espresso group head should then be purged. This allows the barista to ensure no residue remains from previous espressos and that the water runs smoothly and cleanly.

The next stage is to pull the shot. This is when the water starts to pass through the coffee.

It should take around 20 to 30 seconds for the espresso process to complete. The espresso machine should then be cleaned to ensure it is ready to go again next time.

The Difference Between an Americano and Espresso

The main difference you will find between an Americano and espresso is that the Americano is an espresso with extra hot water added after diluting it. This turns it into a more regular drink rather than a shot.


An espresso and Americano will taste similar, but the Americano will not be as strong as it has been watered down.

The difference in flavor between an espresso and Americano can essentially be put down to the crema. The crema is the creamy top of the espresso, which contains the oils and notes of the beans.

Pouring hot water into espresso to create an Americano breaks down the crema and alters the taste, making the coffee slightly more bitter.

Caffeine content

Despite an Espresso being a concentrated shot and an Americano being diluted, both still contain the same amount of caffeine. The espresso is simply more concentrated.

You can even have an Americano that is higher in caffeine than an espresso. It depends on how many espresso shots are used to make the Americano.

Because an Americano is a diluted espresso, you will have the option of changing the amount of water to alter the taste.

The caffeine content will always be determined by the number of espresso shots placed in it in the first place.

Americano vs. Espresso

Comparing coffee can be challenging because it depends on your personal preference. With espresso and Americano, it’s a bit easier, as they are very similar drinks.

The big difference between these options is the size.

A shot of espresso is just that, a small shot that can be drunk quickly.

An Americano coffee uses a shot of espresso that is then watered down, making it more like a regular strong black coffee.

Americano vs Espresso: Final Thoughts

Coffee lovers tend to learn about coffee through experience; the only way you will find the type of coffee you like best is by trying it.

However, understanding a bit more about how different coffee is made and how that affects the taste can help you explore new avenues.

If you are looking for a small, quick, strong shot, espresso might be for you. On the other hand, the Americano might suit you if you prefer a large cup of coffee to savor.

FAQs – Americano vs. Espresso

Can you add anything to an Americano?

An Americano tastes similar to a regular strong black coffee. It is possible to add milk, cream, sugar, or natural sweeteners like honey.

Can you add anything to an espresso?

An espresso is a condensed shot, but you can add milk, cream, or sweeteners to alter the taste.

Can you make an Americano stronger?

An Americano can be made stronger by adding less hot water. The less water used, the closer it will be in concentration to an espresso shot.

Alternatively, you can add another espresso shot to the coffee cup, introducing more caffeine and creating a stronger brew.

Can you make an espresso stronger?

You can increase the strength of espresso by adding more coffee grounds and allowing them to soak for longer. You can also use stronger coffee beans to increase the strength of the espresso. Alternatively, you could have a double espresso, consisting of two shots.

Can you make Americanos and espresso at home?

To make and drink espresso-based coffees, you will have to invest in an espresso machine rather than a drip coffee maker. Espresso machines can be expensive, but smaller models that suit the home are available.

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