A barista's advice on how to make an Americano at home

 How to make an Americano: an Americano on a wooden table in a cup and saucer.
How to make an Americano: an Americano on a wooden table in a cup and saucer.

Americanos have a long and lustrous history. If you believe the rumors, this delicious coffee drink is named 'Americano' because they were invented by American soldiers stationed in Europe during The Second World War. These men diluted the traditional Italian espresso with hot water to make their drinks taste more like American filter coffee.

Today, Americanos are one of the most popular coffee styles, especially because they're easy to make at home. There are plenty of different ways to perfect this specialty coffee drink. As a former barista and a coffee writer, I'm here to tell you all about how to make the perfect Americano at home.

The base of a proper Americano is in espresso, so ideally, you'll have one of the best espresso machines on the market. If you don't have one and don't plan on budgeting for one of these expensive machines either, as long as you have one of the best grinders and either a good moka pot or French press, you'll be able to make a delicious cup of coffee.

How to make an Americano with an espresso machine

Smeg espresso machine making an americano
Smeg espresso machine making an americano

A proper Americano coffee is made with a double shot of coffee. Jennifer Stone, Licensed Coffee Quality Grader, says 'simply put, an Americano is watered-down espresso. They vary in size, and as you can imagine, the dilution and flavor of the coffee changes depending on who makes your Americano'. Although, traditionally, a barista will add twice as much water as coffee. That's how I was taught anyway.

Given that you need an espresso to make an Americano, you'll also need an espresso machine. I have some recommendations for the best models, which I've included below, but they all follow a similar process.

To start off making an Americano in an espresso machine, you'll need to know how to make an espresso. Once you know how to do that, you'll need to pwarm a 6-8 ounce cup (I have plenty of recommendations for the best coffee mugs). I run mine under hot water and dry it. Then, if you're making your Americano with a double shot (which should be about 2 oz), you'll need to put 4 oz of hot (about 200 degrees) water into the cup before your espresso shot. Then, brew your double shot straight into the water.

Brewing your coffee second might seem counter-intuitive, but there's method in the madness. If you put your hot water in on top of your espresso, you could scald it, making it taste bitter or sour. You'll also preserve the crema of your coffee by brewing the shot second.

Different baristas will give you different advice. Technically, putting espresso on top makes this a 'long black'. However, almost everyone I spoke with prefers this way. The only difference between an Americano and a Long Black is in the flavors and Alex Spampinato, barista trainer, has some extra insight into how to keep your espresso quality whilst enjoying Americano flavors. He recommends scooping the crema off the top (this is known as cupping). 'I wouldn't do this if I were serving customers, but if you use two spoons to skim off as much as you can, it will give your coffee a whole new flavor profile. The crema can add depth and body to an Americano, but sometimes it can be overpowering and make the whole brew taste bitter. By removing the crema you'll be able to taste the more subtle flavor notes'.

Breville The Barista Pro
Breville The Barista Pro

Best overall

1. Breville The Barista Pro Machine

This is at the top of our buying guide for the best espresso machines, because it's incredibly capable. There's enough technicalities to please any barista, but could be too complicated and expensive for some.

De
De

Best luxury machine

2. De'Longhi La Specialista Maestro

La Specialista Maestro has all the technicalities of the best espresso machines in our buying guides with some added controls (including auto-tamping). It's easy to make delicious coffee, but you'll have to pay a premium for it.

KitchenAid Espresso Machine - candy apple red
KitchenAid Espresso Machine - candy apple red

Best for beginners

3. KitchenAid Artisan Machine

If you just want a simple, durable, inexpensive machine, the KitchenAid is the best on the market. It doesn't have an integrated grinder, so you'll need to buy one separately to make the best Americanos around.

How to make an Americano without a machine

Nespresso Vertuo Plus brewing capsules
Nespresso Vertuo Plus brewing capsules

Obviously an espresso, single-serve, or automatic machine is the easiest way to make an Americano. The latter two are incredibly straightforward to use. You just pop a pod or push a button to brew a delicious Americano. However, these three, expert machines are all expensive coffee makers. There are other, cheaper methods which you can follow to brew Americano-esque coffee. As long as you have one of the best grinders on the market, you'll be able to enjoy fresh coffee flavors, reminiscent of Americano, without splurging on a big, technical machine.

How to make an Americano with a moka pot

D&G moka pot on a gas range
D&G moka pot on a gas range

Moka pot coffee is popular amongst speciality coffee drinkers because it offers full, rich, intense flavors, which you can only find in espresso coffee, but for a smaller price tag. Kayla Stavridis, former barista, said that 'a stove-top Moka pot can be a great alternative for creating the espresso base. While not a true espresso, the Moka pot brews a concentrated coffee that can mimic the espresso's intensity'.

To make an 'Americano' in a moka pot, you'll need medium ground coffee and then can follow the normal ratios of a moka pot coffee, which will depend on which size you use: I add 6 oz of filtered water per person.

Once the bottom chamber has enough water in it, I screw my brewing basket on top. Depending on how many servings you want to make, add 15 g (11/2 tablespoons of ground coffee) per person. Next, very gently tap the filter basket so that the coffee sits flat on it. I screw the top onto the filter, making sure it's securely sealed, but not too tight to unscrew.

Sit the moka pot on a medium heat and wait for the bottom to boil. This pushes water up, through the coffee and into the upper section of the pot. You'll hear it boiling (it's a soft bubbling sound), but can also - carefully - lift the lid to check on your coffee inside.

Once the upper chamber has filled with as many cups as you are expecting, take it off the heat and pour. Moka pot coffee can be quite rich, so if you want the lighter flavors of an Americano, dilute your coffee with hot water accordingly.

How to make an Americano with a French press

Zwilling Sorrento Plus French Press from the side
Zwilling Sorrento Plus French Press from the side

French press coffee tastes a little more acidic than an Americano, but it comes close to the flavor profile in the bold, intense flavors. Again, French presses are much cheaper than espresso machines, although they tend to take about four to five minutes to make an 'Americano', as opposed to more expensive machines which can have your drink ready in just four minutes.

To make an Americano-style coffee in a French press, I wouldn't change any part of the brewing process. We have a whole page dedicated to how to make a French press coffee. Essentially, you need to grind your coffee coarsely (the Fellow Ode grinder, which you can buy on Amazon does a great job of this) and brew it in a 1:12 part coffee to water ratio.

Let your coffee grounds steep for four minutes, with the lid off, and then plunge and pour. The beauty of French press is just how responsive to different changes it is. If you want a stronger cup of coffee, switch up the ratio and add more coffee. If you want it weaker, you know what to do.

Bodum Chambord French Press | View at Amazon
This is one of the best French press coffee makers. It's the most beautiful one in our roundup and it makes delicious coffee too. It's crafted from glass, which isn't the best insulator and can smash if you're not careful.View Deal

FAQs

Can I make Americano with filter coffee?

Technically, no. However, Americanos were originally (according to folklore) brewed to emulate the taste of filter coffee. If you are making filter coffee from freshly ground coffee beans, using filter water, to a similar dilution, the flavors will be very similar. Your filter coffee might be lighter and smoother, but you'll be able to enjoy a cup of simple coffee, whichever way you choose to brew.

Is an Americano black coffee?

Ask ten baristas this and you'll get ten different answers. Black coffee covers instant, filter, French press, pour-over and Americanos. They're all made using different coffee makers. Americanos are traditionally made with espressos from espresso machines. If you asked a barista for black coffee, they'd probably serve you an Americano. However, they might ask you what you want if they also offer filter coffee, since there is a slight difference between the two.

What is the coffee ratio for an Americano?

You should drink your Americano in whatever ratio best suits your taste preferences. However, the traditional brewing ratio is two parts hot water to one part espresso. Baristas will normally make a double shot (2 oz) of coffee and add 4 oz of water to that.

Is an Americano just watered down coffee (espresso and water)?

Lots of people ask me this question. As a precious (and slightly pretentious) coffee drinker, I would say that an Americano isn't just watered down espresso: it's a subtle, balanced way of enjoying espresso flavors for longer in a more delicate drink. However, if you look at the facts, it is 'just a watered down coffee'.

However, the order in which you add your espresso and water can change whether people call it a 'long black' or an Americano. Technically, a long black is brewed by pouring an espresso over hot water and an Americano is brewed pouring hot water over an espresso. I'd recommend following the long black method, even if you want an Americano because it will give your coffee a stronger aroma and taste.