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.
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 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 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.
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.