What are the Differences Between an Americano and a Long Black?

Last Updated on May 16, 2023 by Barry Gray

I’m sure if you have spent any time reading posts on this website, you will have noticed I love coffee. It’s just my thing, and one of the reasons why I love it so much is the variety of drinks you can produce from those coffee beans.

Also, I think it’s cool exploring those drinks and the differences, so that’s what I plan to do as I look at an Americano and a long black coffee.

An Americano incorporates a shot of espresso along with hot water in a ratio of one part coffee to two parts water. A long black is crafted from a ristretto shot and some hot water. Making it from a shot of ristretto changes the flavor profile along with increasing the intensity of the flavor you will then experience.

But while that’s a short summary of the differences between an Americano and a long black, I think most people reading this will know that coffee is way more complex than just that simple explanation.

Instead, coffee comes with so many layers to it that I need to dive deeper into these two drinks to really explain those key differences.

My Personal Opinion On the Americano and Long Black

americano vs long black

Now, I will be honest. I’m way more of an Americano kind of guy than a long black.

While I appreciate the intense flavor that comes with a long black, I just feel it’s a bit too much for me to then be able to grasp the different flavors that come from the coffee beans.

However, that’s not to say I don’t enjoy the occasional long black. It certainly has its place in my coffee menu at home, but it’s not my “go-to” coffee.

But to really understand the difference between these two coffees, I need to walk you through the concept of the espresso.

I doubt I could drink either an Americano or a long black without a good espresso. 

The Different Types of Espresso

If you thought an espresso was always the same, think again.

Instead, you have different options here, and this is where you get the first difference between an Americano and a long black.

Earlier, I mentioned how a long black is made from a ristretto, and this is crucial. A ristretto shot is the most concentrated and intense form of espresso.

That’s because the water and coffee ratio is 1:1.

This ratio is different from your standard espresso as that ratio is 1:2, which means one part coffee to two parts liquid.

If that’s too intense, you have another option called lungo, where the ratio is 1:3.

But these ratios when it comes to your espresso do play a role in the intensity of the flavor you then experience with your coffee. 

With that in mind, let me dive back to the Americano as I explain how it’s made.

How is an Americano Made?

I make an Americano by producing a standard shot of espresso and adding hot water.

I admit that I do sometimes add in a double shot of espresso if I want that extra burst of intensity regarding the flavor, but that’s not always necessary for an Americano.

I see an espresso as being one of the easiest types of coffee to make. As long as you know how to produce an espresso, you can also produce an Americano.

It really is so simple.

How is a Long Black Made?

ristretto for long black coffee

A long black is slightly different in how it’s made.

Instead of the standard espresso, you make a ristretto, and that makes a massive difference in the flavor, taste, and intensity you will experience with your coffee.

Also, your typical long black comes with two shots before adding hot water.

I know that sounds very similar to the Americano. Still, I want to talk about the coffee used as that’s another key area where there’s a difference.

What Coffee is Used for an Americano and Long Black?

coffee grains for americano and long black

When I first heard of a long black, I thought the only difference from an Americano would be that intensity, thanks to the type of espresso shot. 

But I was wrong.

I’ve explored how the long black is made, and I see there’s a major difference when it comes to this coffee. Also, I must say that the difference in how it tastes is something you cannot miss.

A long black, typically found in both New Zealand and Australia, tends to use coffee beans that are significantly finer when ground than you would typically have with an Americano. 

However, aside from how fine the ground coffee beans are when you produce a long black, you can easily use the same coffee beans for either a long black or an Americano. 

Is An Americano or a Long Black Stronger?

Of the two, I do not doubt the long black is significantly stronger and provides a more intense taste explosion than you get with an Americano.

I’m not surprised by this when you consider I’d be using that more potent form of espresso, the ristretto.

Now, I know a long black also has water added to it to produce the drink. However, what I tend to find is that most people making a long black will use at least two shots of ristretto.

When I first tried a long black with a double shot, I could notice the difference in intensity. I must warn this is not for the faint-hearted.

Actually, if you have never ventured into the world of espresso, then I would start with the Americano. You simply increase the chances of being able to enjoy the whole coffee-drinking experience. 

Is There a Flavor Difference Between an Americano and a Long Black?

coffee options for americano and long black

Now, considering I just stated that the long black offers a more intense taste explosion, it makes sense that there would then be a flavor difference as well. 

I see myself as something of an expert when it comes to coffee and the different flavors you can get from various beans. I’ve certainly tried enough coffee over the years to pick out certain aspects from the beans and when that flavor is dialed up via the intensity.

If I were to produce both an Americano and a long black using the same beans, I would still notice a difference in the flavor.

Again, it’s because of the concentration of coffee that appears in the long black, especially when you have two shots included in the drink.

The Typical Taste of an Americano

An Americano is full of flavor, and I find I can enjoy the taste a bit more with an Americano than I can with an espresso. That’s due to the intensity being dialed back a bit, thanks to the added hot water.

I always feel as if an Americano allows me to explore the flavor of the coffee. I also get the feeling that an Americano is well-balanced as a drink, and it makes it easier to identify different flavors that come through the beans. 

The flavor of an Americano is quite robust, and I do love how you can play around with beans from different locations and see how some will be bitter while others are sweet and fruity. 

The Typical Taste of a Long Black

If I look at the long black, it’s completely different when it comes to taste and flavor. The intensity is something you cannot avoid, and I know it always hits me hard when I take that first sip.

I’m an experienced coffee drinker, but even I find the long black overwhelming. Also, it makes it harder to really identify the different flavors that should burst through the coffee. 

And yet, if you take your time sipping a long black and pay attention, you can start to pick up that this coffee comes with a number of layers regarding the flavor.

I know I just mentioned how I can, at times, find it tough to identify the flavors, but I also see it as a bit of a challenge.

Also, if you feel the flavor is a bit too much, you can dilute it even more by adding another part of hot water.

This can change the typical taste, and I tend to do this if the beans used are more bitter in taste. I feel it just unlocks the flavor allowing me to explore everything the coffee has to offer. 

I see a long black as having the shock factor. Well, that’s how I feel with it, and you certainly get that feeling of caffeine entering your system.

However, I also see a long black as giving you more to think about when drinking it as you seek to identify exactly what it is you are tasting with every sip.

Any Similarities Between an Americano and Long Black?

I will provide you with a short recap of the differences shortly, so don’t stress about missing something. Yet, before I do that, let me take you through the similarities.

Clearly, both options include adding hot water to tone down the concentration of the coffee. Also, most people will stick with the same ratio of one part coffee to two parts water.

But that’s not the only similarity.

Neither coffee includes milk or cream. Instead, both are served black and with the focus on allowing you to explore that coffee taste rather than it being masked with other things.

Finally, the preparation is pretty similar, with the only difference being the strength of the espresso made at the outset. You still produce the espresso using the same method, just the quantity is different. 

My Recap of the Differences Between an Americano and Long Black

I find that people look at an Americano and a long black and believe that as they look the same, they are then the same drink. Well, I’ve shown that’s not the case, but here’s my list of the main differences between the two drinks.

  • An Americano uses a standard espresso
  • A long black includes a ristretto shot
  • The intensity is increased in the long black
  • The long black can be overwhelming with the taste and flavor
  • You can identify more flavors in an Americano

The most significant difference is the strength and how that influences the flavor and intensity.

Yet, as I see taste and flavor as a major component of drinking coffee, I think it’s reasonable to say that it’s a huge deciding factor as to whether or not you would enjoy your experience.

To Conclude

An Americano and long black are two completely different ways to enjoy your coffee. I recommend the long black if you prefer a more intense coffee experience. 

That’s not to say the Americano is weak. It still packs a punch, and both require exceptional coffee beans to get the best experience. However, if you don’t enjoy a strong coffee, then I would never recommend to then sit down and have a long black. If you did, I doubt you would enjoy the experience.