Certain coffee drinks are cafe classics. They never really change too much and everybody loves them. Always delicious and rarely disappointing, both the Americano and the cafe latte are two drinks with a loyal following.
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But how do the two differ? For those just venturing into the world of coffee, what can you expect when you order either of these at your local cafe? Let’s take a look and compare the Americano and the latte!
What Is an Americano
As with all espresso-based drinks, an Americano is a little different everywhere you go. Usually, it is a shot or two of espresso, in a mug or cup, topped with hot water. The story of how the Americano came to be is quite a cute one. But like many interesting origin stories, we’re not sure of exactly how true this story is. It does make sense when you think about it!
During World War II, the story goes like this: American soldiers based in Italy would order espresso coffee in the local coffee shops. Because Americans at the time weren’t accustomed to drinking the strong and rich Italian espresso, these soldiers would add hot water to their coffee. The hot water diluted the espresso down to a similar strength as a standard American style filter coffee. The name ‘cafe Americano’ actually means American coffee— the Italians’ name gave to this style of coffee!
Benefits of Drinking an Americano
It’s the best of both worlds. The flavors of espresso with the strength of filter coffee. What’s not to love?
Low in Calories
An Americano is just espresso coffee and hot water. That means that the drink has zero sugar and only around 15 calories!
Good for People on a Vegan Diet
Because an Americano contains no milk, it is the perfect drink for those avoiding dairy.
Usually the Cheapest Espresso Based Drink on the Menu
Thanks to its simple ingredients list, the humble Americano is usually the least expensive espresso option on most cafe menus. It is a fast drink to prepare and only contains a couple of espresso shots and some hot water.
How Does Americano Work
The key to a good Americano is using good coffee. Sure, this is the case with all coffee drinks, but because the Americano has no other flavors added, like milk or chocolate, you’ll really taste it if the coffee is bad.
Finding the best beans for cold brew will be a little different from finding what’s best for an Americano. Ethiopian coffees are a popular choice, as are fruity Kenyan coffees. They provide a nice floral, fruity flavor to the drink.
Pros and Cons of Drinking an Americano
- Has the flavors of espresso but has the strength of filter coffee.
- Inexpensive to buy and to make.
- Good options for anyone avoiding dairy.
- Has no sugar and meager calories.
- Can be harsh and quite acidic— not great for people with stomach issues.
- If the espresso isn’t prepared well, the drink won’t taste delicious.
How to Make an Americano
To make an Americano, we need some espresso. We can brew espresso in a few different ways— using an espresso machine, using a Nespresso machine, using an automatic espresso maker, or going the DIY approach. The Nespresso machine is a super easy option, as is the automatic espresso maker. But because making espresso with an espresso machine is the most legitimate way of doing it, that’s what we’re going to do today. As with the world’s best cold brew coffee maker, a purpose-made device will usually produce the best results.
To make an Americano at home, you’ll not only need an espresso maker, but you’ll also need a grinder. There are different tools to grind your coffee at home, but for espresso, we really need an adjustable burr grinder. We need to be able to grind the coffee very fine, and we need to make small adjustments to the size of our grind. Let’s get started!
- Espresso machine
- 18 grams of specialty grade coffee beans
- Hot water
- Scales (optional, but recommended)
Step 1 – Prepare
First, we need to prepare a few things. Turn on your espresso machine and let it heat up. Once the machine is ready, run a shot of hot water through the portafilter. This will heat it and get it ready for brewing.
Step 2 – Grind the coffee
Next, we’ll grind our coffee. Grinding coffee for espresso will take a bit of trial and error. There is really no way of avoiding it. Grind the coffee powder-fine, even finer than table salt.
Weigh out 18 grams of good coffee and grind it. Either grind directly into the portafilter if your grinder allows, or grind then dose into the portafilter.
Step 3 – Tamp
Give the portafilter a tap with your palm to level out the coffee bed. Try to make sure the coffee is evenly distributed in the portafilter before tamping. Now, using the tamper, press firmly down onto the coffee.
Step 4 – Brew
Insert the portafilter into the espresso machine. If you are using a scale, place it under the portafilter with the mug on top—Press tare on the scale. Press start on your timer and begin running the shot.
Because we used 18 grams of coffee, we want to pull an approximately 40 gram shot of espresso. Let the espresso run until the scale reads 40g. Once the shot has finished, press stop on the timer.
The shot should take around 30 seconds to complete, but always use taste as your guide. If the shot is finished within 20 seconds and tastes thin and weak, grind finer. If the shot ran through at 40 seconds and tastes bitter, grind coarser. Always taste your espresso before making any changes to the grind.
Step 5 – Add hot water
Now, all we need to do is fill up our mug with hot water. And there we have it— a delicious Americano!
What Is a Cafe Latte
Ah, the cafe latte— an absolute classic. If there were one espresso-based drink that almost everyone knows, it’s the latte.
A cafe latte is a beautiful combination of rich espresso and creamy steamed milk. While the espresso amount will vary from one cafe to the next, the ingredient list is always the same. The cafe latte has become something of an art— and that’s not just because it tastes delicious. There are many excellent baristas worldwide who pour intricate latte art into each drink they serve. Using the light color of the velvety steamed milk, painting patterns against the dark crema heavy espresso.
Benefits of Drinking a Cafe Latte
They Look Beautiful
Swans, rosettas, tulips, and much more! There are some incredibly talented baristas out there. Order a cafe latte and see what pattern they pour for you. Or, if you want to make a latte yourself, learn how to pour some of these patterns at home.
A cafe latte is the perfect combination of creamy steamed milk and rich espresso. It is almost like a dessert! Even without added sugar, the warm milk is sweet, adding to the flavor of the espresso.
Much Gentler Drink
Espresso coffee can sometimes be pretty harsh. The addition of warm milk means that lattes are usually gentle. They usually have very little bitterness and not much perceivable acidity.
How Does Latte Work
The cafe latte is a little harder to get right than the Americano. With the Americano, we need to pull a tasty shot of espresso. That means all we really need is good coffee and a decent quality espresso maker.
A latte, on the other hand, we also need to steam some tasty milk. We need to start with some nice, good quality milk, as well as some good coffee. The coffee portion of the latte isn’t quite as important as it is with the Americano— the steamed milk will cover up many of the extraction mistakes, or a subpar bag of coffee beans. But we really need to get the milk part right for a latte.
If you are used to starting the day with cold-brew or iced coffee and you add milk, then you will already be aware of how important high-quality milk is when adding it to coffee.
Pros and Cons of Drinking a Latte
- Looks beautiful.
- Has a creamy and gentle taste.
- You can use any milk that you want, including non-dairy milk.
- Doesn’t taste as acidic as an Americano.
- Contains more calories than an Americano.
- A cafe latte uses more ingredients and is, therefore, more expensive to buy and to make.
How to Make a Latte
Having a cup of homemade latte is a beautiful thing. Not only do you get to control the brewing process, but you can also try your hand at pouring some latte art!
To make a delicious cafe latte, we need to do two things— brew some espresso and steam some milk. There are many different techniques of steaming milk, but today we are going to go through a fairly standard method using an espresso machine.
- Espresso machine with a steam wand
- 18 grams of quality coffee beans
- Milk pitcher
- Milk frothing thermometer
- Scales (optional, but recommended)
Step 1 – Prepare the machine
Turn on the espresso machine and allow it to heat up. Run some hot water through the portafilter, so it is nice and warm and ready to brew some espresso.
Step 2 – Grind the coffee
Weigh out 18 grams of good coffee and grind it at an excellent setting. Espresso grinding is tricky and will take some trial and error. But that’s all part of the fun!
Either grind the coffee directly into the portafilter if your grinder allows, or dose into the portafilter. Give the portafilter a tap to level out the coffee bed.
Step 3 – Tamp
Using the tamper, press down firmly on the coffee.
Step 4 – Brew
Fix the portafilter into the espresso machine, then place the scale and a mug onto the drip tray underneath the portafilter—Press tare on the scales. Simultaneously press start on the timer and engage the espresso shot.
We want to pull a nearly 1:2 ratio. That will mean we’ll brew a 40 gram shot of espresso. So let the espresso run until the scale reads 40g, then press stop. This 40-gram shot should take around 30 seconds to finish. If your shot takes much longer, or runs too fast, taste it. If it tastes weak and thin, grind finer. If it tastes bitter and dry, grind coarser.
Step 5 – Steam the milk
Fix your thermometer onto the edge of the pitcher and pour 150 grams of milk into the pitcher. Hold the milk pitcher in your left hand and raise it, so the tip of the steam wand is just submerged in the milk. You want to spin the milk in a clockwise direction while adding small amounts of air as you go. Steaming really smooth milk will take some practice, but it is a lot of fun, so enjoy it!
Engage the steam wand and get the milk spinning. Add small amounts of air by very slightly lowering the milk pitcher. As the nozzle raises above the milk’s surface, you will hear small ‘kissing’ sounds. Try to keep these sounds very small but constant. Once the milk has reached 40°C, don’t allow any more air to enter the milk. Just keep the milk spinning until it reaches between 50 and 60°C. Then disengage the steam wand.
Step 6 – Pour your cafe latte
Slowly pour the milk into the espresso. Try to pour some latte art and enjoy your homemade cafe latte!
Coffees Similar to Caffe Americano
If you are an Americano drinker choosing between a Nespresso or Keurig machine, go with the Nespresso. An Americano and a long black are almost identical. Often, the only difference is that a long black has its espresso pulled over a mug of water, rather than the water being added last.
Black Filter Coffee
As the story goes, the Americano was originally made to replicate black filter coffee. If that’s what you’re after, a grind and brew coffee maker has many different features and is perfect for brewing black filter coffee.
A lungo espresso is essentially a long shot of espresso. The barista will allow the shot to run for longer than usual, increasing the shot size from 40ml to 60ml or more. You can replicate the flavor of a lungo espresso using a stovetop espresso maker.
Coffees Similar to Caffe Latte
Add some chocolate to a latte, and you’ve got yourself a mocha! Creamy, rich, and oh so tasty. Almost as good as grabbing chocolate espresso beans!
The cappuccino is the thicker, foamier version of the latte. While each cafe does the cappuccino differently, they are prepared in a very similar way. A cappuccino will usually have a sprinkling of chocolate powder on top, too!
A breve is another espresso-based drink that is very similar to a latte. Only with a breve, we replace the milk with half and half cream.
In many countries across the globe, a cafe latte and a flat white are almost interchangeable. Depending on the cafe, a latte may have slightly more foam than a flat white, but they have more or less become the same drink. Both creamy and so tasty!
Americano vs Latte Comparison
An Americano uses hot water, while a cafe latte uses steamed milk. Both drinks use espresso coffee.
A cafe latte is velvety with a fairly thick, creamy texture. An Americano will still have some nice texture, but it is much thinner with its lack of milk.
While an Americano will often taste stronger than a latte, if the same amount of espresso is used, they will have the same amount of caffeine.
An Americano is simply water and espresso. Any of the nutrients that come from an Americano is coming from the espresso. This makes an Americano an excellent pre-workout drink, as well as great for anyone wanting to cut out fat or sugar from their diet.
A cafe latte is much more delicate than an Americano. The combination of coffee and milk creates a drink with an almost vanilla-like sweetness. The flavor of an Americano depends entirely on the espresso that is used.
FAQ About Americano vs Latte
Is Caffe Americano stronger than a latte?
An Americano certainly has a stronger coffee flavor than does a latte. Because a latte uses milk rather than water, much of the coffee taste is hidden.
Does a latte or an Americano have more caffeine?
The amount of caffeine in a drink depends entirely on how much espresso goes into it. If both drinks have a double shot, they will have the same amount of caffeine.
Does a latte or a macchiato have more calories?
A macchiato is essentially a shot of espresso, with a small stain of milk foam on top. Because a latte uses much more milk than a macchiato, it will have more calories.
Can I order an Americano with milk?
Absolutely! An Americano with milk is a prevalent order. Many people also love adding syrup for better flavor in their Americanos. If you are brewing at home, you can add the milkiest homemade coffee creamer instead of regular milk!
The Americano and the cafe latte are both staples at any coffee shop. If you love brewing at home, why not give both a go? With some practice, you’ll be pulling shots and frothing milk like a professional!