Caffè Americano, or Americano (Italian: "American coffee") is a style of coffee prepared by adding hot water to espresso, giving a similar strength but different flavor from regular drip coffee. The strength of an Americano varies with the number of shots of espresso and the amount of water added.
In the United States, "Americano" is used broadly to mean combining hot water and espresso in either order, but in a narrower definition it refers adding water to espresso (espresso on the bottom), while adding espresso to water (espresso on the top) is instead referred to as a long black.
The name is also spelled with varying capitalization and use of diacritics: e.g. Café Américano – a hyperforeignism using the French word for coffee and the Italian word for American, plus an additional incorrect accent, café Americano, cafe americano, etc.
The name derives its origins from WW2 when American GI's used to pour hot water onto their coffee. It was then adapted in the United States by large chains who sought to create a marketable fusion of drip coffee and espresso to sell to a mass market.
The drink consists of a single or double-shot of espresso combined with between 1 and 16 fluid ounces (30 - 470ml) of hot water.
An alternative of the same ingredients is encountered with the Long Black. The Long Black is the same as an Americano but prepared almost oppositely. An Americano is created specifically by adding the water to an already extracted espresso. This process destroys the crema. The Long Black is an espresso shot pulled over hot water thus preserving the crema.
Due to the wide variation in volume, it is prudent to inquire before ordering one; a term sometimes heard in the Western United States, but not common elsewhere, is an Italiano for a short Americano, specifically a 1:1 espresso/water ratio.
The hot water can be drawn directly from the same espresso machine that is used to brew the espresso, or from a separate water heater or kettle. Using the same heater is convenient, particularly at home, not needing a separate heater, and the water can in fact be drawn directly into the glass, either before or after pulling the shot of espresso. Some espresso machines have a separate hot water spout for this purpose, while others allow the use of the steam wand for dispensing hot water. Using a separate water heater is more practical in a commercial setting, as it reduces the demands on the espresso machine, both not disrupting the temperature of the brew water and allowing an inexpensive water heater to be used for hot water, rather than the substantially more complicated espresso machine.
Most commonly, an Americano is used when one wishes a conventional brew-coffee sized drink from an espresso bar, as the name indicates: espresso for Americans.
Americanos – particularly short, long black style Americanos – are also used within artisanal espresso preparation for beans that produce strong espresso. This is particularly used for single origin espresso, where many find that undiluted espresso shots can prove overpowering. This is particularly used of lighter coffees and roasts not generally associated with espresso, such as beans of Ethiopian or Sumatran origins. For this preparation, generally a ratio of 1:1 espresso to water is used, to prevent excess dilution, with the espresso pulled directly into a cup with existing water to minimize disruption to the crema.