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What’s the Difference Between an Americano and a Cup of Drip Coffee?

By 02/16/2016Coffeecademy, Tasting

Of the many ways coffee can be made, drip-brewing is the most popular method used in the United States. Ever since Mr. Coffee produced the first auto-drip coffee maker in 1972, many Americans have been making coffee drip coffee at home. Even today, as enthusiasts sacrifice the convenience of auto-drip machines for the flavor of manual pour-overs, drip brewing still predominates in the U.S. After all, pour-overs still let water drip down through the coffee grounds. An americano is an imitation of the popular American-style drip coffee that’s made using espresso. While an imitation, and americano is not inferior. Here’s a look at the two drinks’ brewing methods, caffeine content and — most importantly — taste.

Americanos Are Made Differently Than Drip Coffee

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While drip coffee and an americano might look similar, they’re prepared in very different ways.

Drip coffee, whether made using an auto-drip machine or manual pour-over, is brewed by letting hot water drip down through grounds. Gravity provides the force that drives the brewing, as it pulls the water down through the grounds. The end result is a typical cup of coffee.

The base of an americano is espresso, which is made by forcing steam at high pressure through coffee grounds. Compared to drip brewing, pulling a shot of espresso uses hotter water (steam), much more finely ground coffee and much less time. At the end of the process, one or two shots of espresso are produced. (One shot of espresso is approximately 1 ounce.)

To make an americano, hot water is then added to the espresso, thus transforming the small, strong shot of espresso into a weaker, larger cup of coffee that is more similar to drip coffee.

An Americano Has About as Much Caffeine as Drip Coffee

An americano has approximately as much caffeine as drip coffee, although the specific amount of caffeine might vary slightly. According to the Mayo Clinic, an 8-ounce cup of coffee has between 95 and 200 milligrams of caffeine. A single shot of espresso, in comparison has between 47 and 75 milligrams. Most cafes use two shots of espresso in an americano, thus making the total caffeine content of an americano between 94 and 150 milligrams.

Americanos Don’t Taste Like Drip Coffee

Americanos and drip coffee have distinct tastes, because they’re prepared differently. The discrepancies in water temperature, water-to-grounds ratio, grind setting and brew time will extract flavors differently from the same coffee. In general, americanos have fuller bodies and richer tastes, but whether any individual coffee tastes better as an americano or drip coffee depends on that coffee’s origin characteristics and roast level. Some coffees make excellent espressos that create delectable americanos. Other coffees fare much better as drip brews.

Try It At Home and Tell Us What You Think

To see just how different an americano and drip coffee taste, make each beverage with one or more of our coffees. Each month, we offer four different coffees with four different roast profiles. If you try each as an americano and as a drip coffee, you’ll likely find some that make better americanos and others that make better cups of drip coffee. Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Author Scott

Scott is a professional writer for Driftaway Coffee. He worked as a barista for eight years, but today prefers to enjoy his beverages from the other side of the counter. When not drinking Driftaway Coffee, Scott usually has a mug of his own roasted coffee nearby.

More posts by Scott
  • Richelle Swert

    in case anyone is interested, there are Drip Coffee Makers on sale at bargaincat.com/coupons/drip-coffee-makers-collection-20-off/

  • Mjolz

    Whenever a barista serves me americano as a “black coffee”, I pay, look at the barista and tell her to keep it before I leave the coffee shop and never return.

    • http://HotBlub.com/ Hot Blubber

      The Americano is a superior Beveridge.

  • mperez247

    This is misleading because espresso is NOT an extraction method that uses steam.

    There are multiple boilers in an espresso machine for the pressurized group heads and steam wand(s). Since the boiling point of water changes with pressure and the group head uses pressure to force water through the portafilter, the author may have seen a temp higher than 212° but it was water, and definitely not steam.

    Not a point to lose sleep over but if someone buys a new espresso machine and sees water coming out of the group head, they might think a perfectly good machine is busted!

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