The Key Differences Between An Americano and a Latte

Last Updated on May 16, 2023 by Barry Gray

I think it’s reasonable to state that both an Americano and Latte are popular ways to enjoy coffee. However, both options offer a completely different way of getting your caffeine hit, even though they include one identical component: espresso.

Personally, I move between both options depending on whether or not I’m in the mood for milk.

An Americano and Latte are two completely different ways to drink coffee. An Americano is a black coffee with a shot of espresso and hot water, while a Latte is also an espresso but with a milk base. It means an Americano has a dark, intense flavor. In contrast, a Latte has more of a sweet and milky taste thanks to the difference in ingredients.

But while the differences between an Americano and a Latte are apparent, there are more differences than most people realize. So, that’s what I will focus on over the next few minutes.

americano vs latte coffee

My Own Personal Preference

But before I go into the differences, let me tell you about my own personal preference.

I’m sure you already know how I love coffee. It’s something I’ve spoken about time and time again.

Still, my experimentation with coffee has allowed me to narrow down my own likes and dislikes, which applies to both the Americano and a Latte.

For example, a Latte can be highly versatile in how the coffee is delivered, thanks to the milk.

I’m sure you have heard of people having a skinny Latte, where they use skimmed milk, while others use alternatives to dairy milk by using soy milk or even oat milk. The options are endless.

While I get that these milk alternatives have their place, I admit I don’t enjoy them.

I prefer just your regular milk to get that full-on creamy taste that I feel really works well with a quality Latte.

For an Americano, using African beans to make the espresso is better. Again, this is because I prefer a floral or fruity taste to my coffee instead of the nuttier flavor you get from Asian coffee beans.

But as I said, this is my own preference.

So, let me tell you more about the key differences between the two types of coffee to help you decide which one you prefer.

The Espresso Aspect

I know I started by mentioning the differences between an Americano and a Latte, but let me get the espresso part out of the way.

Both drinks use espresso as a base, and this part is produced in the same manner, no matter the drink you intend to make after that.

It involves using steam and pressure being pushed through the coffee to get that intense espresso at the end. What you then do with that espresso is the part that differentiates between an Americano and a Latte.

If you were simply making either an espresso or a Latte, then some would argue you should use special coffee beans for the espresso part.

However, as you are adding some liquid to the espresso shot to make either the Americano or Latte, then that’s no longer such an issue.

So, you can easily use the same beans for the espresso shot if you go ahead and make either the Latte or Americano.

One Key Difference Between an Americano and Latte – The Liquid

latte caffe nero

I’m going to just jump right in here with the obvious difference between an Americano and a Latte: the liquid.

An Americano has hot water added to it, while a Latte uses milk.

Clearly, water and milk have entirely different taste profiles, so they will drastically alter the taste of the coffee. 

But even here, there’s one similarity.

The Quantity of Liquid is the Same

The general rule of thumb regarding the quantity of liquid is the same, no matter if you are producing an Americano or a Latte.

Most people ascribe to the ratio of one shot of espresso to two shots of liquid. 

Basically, think of the drink as having one part coffee to two parts liquid, no matter if that liquid is milk or hot water.

What Milk Should You Use in a Latte?

milk for latte options

A Latte does offer you more options when it comes to making the finished drink. With an Americano, it’s obviously just some hot water, and there’s no scope for changing that to still end up with an Americano.

However, a Latte is different.

With a Latte, you can play around with the milk aspect, and it does change the overall taste and flavor of the coffee.

If you are looking for more of a creamy Latte, then whole milk is best.

It gives a natural smoothness and completely changes the flavor profile of the Latte. However, if you don’t feel as if you want to experience that cream taste, you can dial back from whole milk.

Also, don’t forget plant-based milk if you are trying to remove dairy. At least there’s no need to miss out on a Latte just because of eliminating dairy from your diet.

You Can Add One Extra Step

But here’s another thing: you can take your Latte one extra step, which you cannot really do with an Americano.

People now love adding another flavor to their Latte, which they do via different syrups.

The likes of hazelnut, caramel, or vanilla are popular, but many others are out there. A shot of the syrup added to your Latte will completely change the finished drink.

Yet, keep in mind that adding this syrup will also manage to remove some of the flavor from the coffee, so while it may be nice to have something different at times, it’s not something I personally do.

After all, I’m all about the coffee and experiencing the different flavors that come with beans from around the world, so anything that masks that is not a good idea, in my opinion.

How Does the Preparation of an Americano and Latte Change?

coffee grains for espresso

I’ve already mentioned how the liquid you use to make the drink differs between an Americano and a Latte, but what about the entire preparation of both?

Will you notice a difference between them?

Honestly, the way you prepare both drinks is entirely different. It has to be since you are clearly aiming for a coffee that tastes and looks poles apart.

Preparing an Americano

I’m going to jump past the espresso part apart from saying you can use either a single shot or a double when making your Americano.

That’s up to you, and I tend to move between the two depending on how much of a caffeine hit I feel like having.

But after that, you need to pour the espresso into your mug and then add at least two parts of hot water to the coffee. It’s also best to add the hot water as quickly as possible rather than delaying. 

Preparing a Latte

Preparing a Latte is different, aside from making a shot of espresso at the start.

The key to producing a fantastic Latte is how you prepare the milk. You need to steam the milk to get it up to temperature and then add it to the espresso in a mug.

Also, the steaming of the milk should produce a foam that sits on top, so as long as you can create that foam, then it should be perfect.

But these different ways to prepare the drink lead to something else that’s different: the appearance.

How Do the Appearances of an Americano and Latte Compare?

finished americano

The difference in appearance between an Americano and Latte is very obvious.

First, an Americano is black. There’s no milk or cream added to change the color. All you have is the color of a slightly less intense espresso.

If you make it correctly, you may have some crema on top of the Americano, but that doesn’t always happen, so it just looks like a regular black coffee with a darker color included.

A Latte is different.

Before you stir it all up, a Latte has a distinctive appearance if made correctly.

First, you will notice a layer of microfoam on top. It should be easily visible, but you need to change your approach if it takes up too much of the glass. 

Next, a Latte will also have something of a light brown layer.

That’s the milk being added to the espresso, and you may even notice this section changing from white, thanks to the milk, to this pale brown. 

Of course, this all changes when you stir your Latte, but it does have those different layers before you dive into enjoying your coffee.

How Does the Taste of an Americano and Latte Differ?

making espresso for americano

As you would expect from something with different ingredients, the taste of an Americano and Latte will be very different. 

How Does an Americano Taste?

While the exact taste of an Americano does depend on the beans used, you will find it to be quite intense, and it can vary from being quite bitter to more of a sweet taste, according to the beans.

That’s because even though the hot water dilutes the espresso part, it just lessens the intensity, allowing more flavors to burst through the beans.

It has nothing to effectively mask the taste of the espresso, which is where the Latte can change things.

But I do love my Americano. It allows you to experience that range of flavors from the beans.

Also, I only use the ratio of one part espresso to two parts water. Adding a third part of water dilutes it too far for me, and it loses some of its appeal.

How Does a Latte Taste?

A Latte is different. It is creamy and milky, while the coffee aspect is certainly diluted and masked because of the milk.

I see a Latte as being the better drink for people who enjoy coffee but hate the idea of that more intense explosion of flavor that you would get with an espresso or Americano.

My Recap of the Key Differences Between an Americano and Latte

There are few similarities between an Americano and Latte. With so many differences, I think it’s a good idea to give you a recap of the key points.

  • An Americano has water added, and a Latte includes steamed milk
  • An Americano is black, and a Latte is pale brown
  • You have more options with a Latte, thanks to the milk
  • The quality of coffee beans plays a significant role in an Americano
  • The milk in a Latte masks the taste of the espresso
  • An Americano is more intense in flavor than a Latte
  • A Latte is the better option for people that prefer a milder coffee
  • The preparation with both is different

But here’s the point I want you to remember. Both an Americano and a Latte will provide you with an entirely different coffee-drinking experience.

They both have a role to play with coffee, and I think it’s cool to enjoy coffee made using espresso in these different ways.

To Conclude

An Americano and a Latte only really share one thing in common, they both include a shot of espresso. Apart from that, the differences are apparent.

But don’t allow the differences to put you off exploring both options. Instead, I suggest messing around with different beans that denote different flavors thanks to their origin and seeing which one you prefer. That’s the beauty of coffee.