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Long Black vs Americano: What’s the difference?

These days, coffee shops serve a large variety of drinks on their menu, and some of them can be very similar in flavor and appearance.

It can be hard to distinguish the differences at first, especially if it’s black coffee like a Caffè Americano or a Long Black.

Both drinks share the same ingredients, with both made by pouring water and espresso shots.

Which brings us to questions like why do some people prefer one beverage to another? Is there a stark difference in how they’re made and what they taste like?

Let’s find out below.

What is a Long Black coffee?

First popularized in New Zealand and Australia, a long black is made with one or two shots of espresso diluted with either cold or hot water. This helps mellow the intense flavors of espresso, allowing you to taste the subtleties of your coffee.

What’s special about a long black is its layer of crema found on top of the coffee. The crema is a flavorful and creamy froth that can only be found from brewing espresso. Forming when soluble oils found in coffee beans combine with air bubbles resulting from the brewing process.

This foamy layer is what differentiates a long black vs Americano. The crema gives the drink a creamier texture, and it also enhances the flavors compared to other black coffee beverages.

How to make a Long Black coffee

Making a long black is as simple as pouring but what’s important is the order of components you’ll pour in first. Here is a list below on how to make a delicious cup just like your favorite coffee shop.

  • Grind fresh coffee beans or use ground coffee
  • Pull your shot(s) of espresso
  • Heat your preferred amount of (ideally spring) water to about 195F
  • Pour it into your coffee cup
  • Gently pour in your espresso shots on top

Ensure that you pour your espresso as close as possible to the surface to prevent agitation. Your hot water needs to have the same temperature as your espresso shot. Introducing too many temperature changes can harm the taste of your coffee.

You’ll have to consider how much hot water you’ll use on your long black as it can impact its flavor. Using too much hot water will weaken the taste while using smaller amounts will result in a stronger long black. 

A good baseline for your long black is to go for a 1:10 ratio of espresso and water and adjust accordingly to your taste.

What is an Americano coffee?

Dating back to the second world war, the Caffè Americano is a more popular choice for coffee drinkers who want a strong black coffee. The difference between an Americano and a long black coffee is the order of ingredients you pour in.

The Americano is similar to a regular black coffee made from a drip or pour-over, except it uses espresso shots instead of brewed coffee. The brewing process from an espresso machine gives a stronger taste making an Americano a well-rounded drink compared to other brewing methods.

It has a bold flavor depending on your coffee beans, but it is not as intense – especially as say a long black or a fresh shot from your espresso machine. An Americano is also a thinner beverage as the espresso’s crema is immediately diluted with the hot water.

How to make an Americano

One of the first lessons I learned as a barista was how to make a proper Americano. Like a long black, an Americano is made by pouring hot water first, then espresso, and it follows almost the same steps.

  • Heat your preferred amount of water to 195 F
  • Pour your espresso shot into your favorite cup
  • And simply pour your hot water on top of your coffee

Voila! It’s as simple as that to make an Americano.

Note that differences in temperature and liquid ratios also play a factor in making your cup of Americano coffee. Letting your water boil too hot can also burn your espresso leading to a more bitter-tasting cup.

Typically, an Americano uses a lower volume of water to make up for its thinner body. A good ratio to start with is 1:6, and you can feel free to use more water or even 2 shots of espresso for more intense flavors.

Some Quick History

The Americano has a long history compared to the more recent long black coffee. 

The story goes that during World War II, American soldiers stationed in Italy didn’t prefer the way the Italians make coffee as pure espresso was the preference. 

American soldiers were accustomed to drip and percolator style coffees, so when they ordered a serving of espresso, they’d request for a cup of hot water as a way to dilute their coffee. As such, the Italian people named the black coffee, Americano after the Americans.

Like Italy, espresso is the drink of choice in Australia, and New Zealand, and the long black became a popular choice because of its crema.

Long Black vs Americano: What’s better?

We’ve gone through the differences between both coffee drinks and how to make them, but which is best? A long black or an Americano?

There is no one answer. Like everything coffee-related, it will depend on what you’ll like. Both black coffee drinks are delicious in their own way.

While people might prefer an Americano due to its popularity, you might favor a long black because of its intensity and thicker mouthfeel. You can think of a long black as a less intense shot of espresso, and if you’re a fan of its bold flavor, it might be the black coffee for you.

Not a fan of top filled crema? Maybe an Americano might be right up your alley. It’s more mellowed down than a long black, and it is a reliable cup whether it’s brewed from home or a coffee shop.

Whether you prefer to pour espresso or hot water first, feel free to experiment with different beverages and enjoy your Americano or long black just the way you like it.