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New Coffee Drinkers Guide: Americano vs Espresso – What’s The Difference?

If you’ve spent some time staring at the coffee shop menu, then you might be wondering if there’s really any difference between an Americano and an espresso drink.

The answer is: Yes, the is a difference!

The basic difference is that an espresso is made by forcing hot water through the coffee grounds at a high pressure. Nothing is added to an espresso. But an Americano is one shot of espresso with hot water added on top. 

So basically, an espresso is part of an Americano, but they are still different. To learn a bit more about these caffeinated drinks, then keep reading.

What Is An Americano?

Often when I’m at a Starbucks, I will order an Americano because I don’t really like the taste of their drip coffee but I can enjoy their espresso. For me, an Americano is basically just a like a large drip coffee.


You see, an Americano only has two ingredients: espresso and hot water. So, basically it’s like a watered down shot of espresso.

If you’re wondering how many shots are in an Americano, then the answer is usually one shot of espresso. Of course, that amount varies depending on where you’re getting your coffee.

An Americano has a 1:2 ratio of espresso to hot water.

For instance, at Starbucks a grande Americano has three shots of espresso. What’s important, and in order for the drink to be a true Americano, is that the ratio of espresso to water remains a 1:2 ratio.

There’s always more water than espresso in the drink. And expect the temperature to be hot, like fires of hell level hot. Seriously, sip slowly because it will burn those lips.

And since there’s no milk in the Americano, it has a strong coffee flavor. Though, I like to get them to heat up some half and half for mine at Starbucks!

What Is An Espresso?

It seems like everyone and their brother knows what an espresso is, right? But if not, let’s cover the basics so that we can show you how if differs from the Americano.

cup of espresso

The espresso comes from Italy, of course. And it’s not uncommon to see large manly men sipping their espresso out of those dainty little cups across the country, as well as the rest of Europe.

Sometimes you see espresso drinkers empty a packet of sugar into the cup, but other times they just drink it black. Traditionally, of course, it should be black with no sugar, but sweeten it to your taste if you prefer (I do!).

The espresso is a small, simple, serious no-nonsense sort of drink. You get what you get with it, and that’s what makes it so great.

An espresso is like coffee; it’s just the result of hot water forced through the espresso grounds.

A single shot of espresso measures in at on ounce of hot liquid, so this is a very small drink. But it’s a hell of a strong one, so you probably won’t be complaining about the size after you finish it.

Of course, you can order an espresso as a double shot or triple shot.

There is no milk in an espresso, though your drink will have some air bubbles on top in the lighter crema. And it will have a bold coffee flavor when you sip it.

Tip: If you enjoy espresso, then you may also like to try a long black the next time you’re at a coffee shop.

The Takeaway

As you can see, these two drinks are very similar and you cannot have an Americano without the espresso.

If you want a quick glance at how they compare, here are the highlights:

  • An espresso has a smaller serving size of one fl oz.
  • An espresso has a bolder, stronger coffee taste than an Americano.
  • The caffeine level is the same since each drink has a single shot of espresso, but on a per-ounce basis there is more caffeine in the espresso

Personally, I find that an Americano has a hotter temperature than an espresso, but I think that’s just due to the extra hot water in the cup.

Not sure which of these drinks is for you? Why order up both and see which one tastes better to you!

image: Deposit Photos (top)

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