What is an Americano? How does it differ from a Pour-over?

Espresso at Home

Americanos, you may have heard of them in cafes.

You may just think they are “normal” coffee, depending on where you are. But what are they exactly?

An Americano is s coffee drink make from diluting espresso with some hot water. It is similar in strength to a pour-over.

(By the way, an espresso is a very concentrated coffee, extracted by applying high pressures)

Its pretty simple drink really. But the questions I would like to answer are; How is it different from other coffees? Is it good? Why do people make it?

How is Americano different?

As I mentioned earlier, an Americano is similar in strength to a pour over coffee.
In Japan, where I live, the “standard” coffee tends to be pour overs, so I would like to compare these two. (This of course depends where you are)

Although an Americano and a pour over are similar in strength, they are quite different in their tastes.

I brewed each one. The left is an Americano, the right is a paper filtered pour over.

To compare the extraction methods, I used the same 12g of coffee beans to produce a 170g cup for both.

As you can see, they look significantly different. The pour over looks clear and dark, the Americano is opaque and red-ish.




The key reason for this is how the coffee is filtered.

The pour over is paper filtered. Paper is a very effective filter, it has very tiny holes and pretty much only lets liquid thorough.

So fine grounds of coffee get completely removed, as well as any coffee oils.

An Americano on the other hand is made from espresso, which use a form of metal filter.

The metal filters used for espresso, called baskets, have visible holes and will let though a lot more than a paper filter.

So some fine ground particles and coffee oils end up in the cup.

In this picture you can clearly see the oil on the surface of the Americano.

Wether you like this look is up to personal preference, but I kind of think it makes the cup look a bit more interesting.

Does it taste good?

This is a difficult question.
It can taste good, but it could also be terrible. Its up to the beans you use and the brew parameters.

The more relevant thing is how the taste differs, or what kinds of properties of the coffee each brew method emphasizes.

This is how I feel but, the pour over feels more clear and sharp. Its easier to taste the characteristics of the coffee beans.

On the other hand an Americano has a more rounded mellow feel to it. I feel like the aromas are stronger from the Americano, possibly due to the oils it contains. Also for the same reason, the Americano has a fuller body.

They both have their merits.

I personally prefer the pour overs for their clarity.

(Keep in mind that, I still have a lot to learn about espresso extraction, so it may be that the imperfections of my espresso are limited the potential of my Americano.)

Why make it?

You may be wondering, if an Americano is similar to a pour over, why bother making it?

I did cover how they differ in taste, so that is one good reason to make it. However if you use a metal filter for your pour over or if you use a french press, you could make a similar cup to an Americano.

There is a very practical reason why Americanos are made, its speed.

Pour overs and french presses need a few minutes to prepare.

But espressos were originally invented as a means to prepare coffee fast. Extraction for espresso usually is in the range of 30sec. Espresso uses pressure as a force to accelerate the process.

So in situations where you need to make a lot of drinks, like in a cafe, this speed of preparation is very important.

Does this mean that Americanos have no place is home brewing? of course, no.

If you have used a metal filter or a french press, you know that difficult they are to clean.

You need to get rid of the grounds stuck in the filter. Especially for a french press since the grounds end up in a very wet state, you may end up needing a paper filter to just get rid of your grounds.

For an espresso, you just knock the portafilter a couple of times, rinse and wipe. Thats it. Far less hassle.

So with an Americano, you can get a ‘metal filter’ type of coffee much more easily than the other methods.

The big caveat is that you need an espresso machine to make Americanos.

Espresso machines are expensive, so if the only thing you are looking for are Americanos, I suggest you stick with metal filters even if they are more work to use.