Ordering a black coffee these days can be a challenge. There are so many variations of coffee that even a simple black coffee can land you an Americano, a Long Black, or some pour-over-style coffee that you have never heard of. To help eliminate some of the confusion, let’s examine the Americano and the Long Black.
The Americano is prepared using standard espresso shots diluted with hot water. The Long Black originates in Australia and New Zealand. It is prepared with strong ristretto shots and hot water. The Long Black is more intense and textured. The Americano is lighter, less intense, and easier to drink.
The reason why focusing on these two types of black coffee is important and why they are comparable is because they are both brewed using some form of espresso. This is why these drinks are often confused with one another and why many coffee lovers do not realize that there is actually a difference between these two drinks.
Let’s Talk Espresso
For a brief moment, before we discuss the similarities and differences between the Long Black and the Americano, it is important to understand some espresso terms that are required to entirely understand these drinks.
There are three types of espresso.
- The standard espresso that we know is typically brewed with a ratio of one-part coffee, two parts water, or 1:2.
- Ristretto is another style that is brewed with a 1:1 ratio, meaning that there is less liquid, and the coffee is stronger.
- Lungo is the weakest of the three with a ratio of 1:3, but it is also the largest variation.
These distinctions are important because preparing a drink with an espresso versus a ristretto produced a different drink regarding strength, coffee, flavor, intensity, and the texture of the drink, as the ristretto is more in more intense and textured than traditional espresso.
With that distinction made, let’s move on to the Americano and the Long Black.
The Americano is a classic espresso-based drink that has a somewhat contested origin. This drink has been around for a very long time and is enjoyed all over the world. The Americano is a staple in coffee shops, cafes, and espresso bars everywhere.
This drink is simple, elegant, and full of flavor. The Americano is prepared by diluting espresso with hot water. It really is that simple.
Modern variations of the Americano can vary, never regarding ingredients, but rather regarding ratios. Modern Americano variations are prepared with more espresso depending on the size of the drink.
Smaller versions of the drink will be prepared with a single shot of espresso, while very large versions may contain up to three shots of espresso. This is to maintain the same strength and intensity of flavor with more or less dilution.
The Americano may also be prepared with additives such as milk, cream, or sugar, but there are not usually any flavorings such as flavored syrups added to this simple drink.
The Long Black
The Long Black is commonly mistaken for the Americano, but the truth is that there is a key difference that makes these drinks very different when experienced side-by-side.
This drink comes from Australia and New Zealand, where coffee lovers prepare their espresso a little differently compared to everywhere else. In these countries, the standard espresso shot is a ristretto shot, and the ristretto is up-dosed and more finely ground than usual.
This means that a ristretto in Australia or New Zealand is very strong, very textured, and very full-bodied compared to standard espresso shots.
These up-dosed ristretto shots are what are typically used to prepare a Long Black. This makes a Long Black a stronger, more intense, more textured drink than an Americano.
The strength of a Long Black means that it is typically served in a larger mug or glass, but this drink is not usually served with less than two ristretto shots. There are almost no variations of the Long Black, except that some are prepared with more coffee than others.
This drink is not typically prepared with any additives such as milk or sugar, as the name of Long Black calls for a large, black coffee.
The resultant drink is a very textured, thick, full-bodied black coffee that is full of flavor and highlights the natural qualities of the coffee used to brew the drink.
The Americano Vs. The Long Black
Comparing these two drinks is challenging, and they are very similar, but the main differences lie in the type of coffee used to prepare them.
The standard espresso shots used for the Americano are warm, well-rounded, sweet, strong shots of espresso that dilute very well. This makes the Americano a very well-rounded, easy-to-drink cup of coffee that is rich and full of flavor but not overwhelming.
The Long Black is prepared with much stronger shots of coffee, which makes the drink more intense. A strong Long Black is sometimes hard to drink unless you prefer exceptionally strong coffee, and all of the very intense, acidic, or bold flavors from the espresso are very present in the drink.
This drink tastes less diluted than the Americano, making it taste harsher, but it does have more flavor and more kick than its less-intense counterpart.
The Americano is an overall easier drink to consume, but the Long Black is richer, fuller, and highlights the flavor notes of the coffee more effectively.
At the end of it, if you prefer your coffee extra strong and intense, rich and full of flavor, then the Long Black is for you. If you prefer coffee to be less textured, smoother, less intense, slightly lighter, sweeter, and easier to taste, then the Americano is the black espresso drink for you.
The Americano and the Long Black are not vastly different, but they are different enough to be noted. These two drinks are both strong, typically served black, both prepared with espresso, and are both a staple in modern coffee shops, but if you taste them side-by-side, the difference becomes clear.
The only way to clearly know which you prefer is to try them for yourself. If you have the ability to make espresso-based drinks yourself, then pull some shorted, stronger shots for a Long Black and pull some standard shots for an Americano and try them together.
Otherwise, visit a café and ask the barista to prepare both drinks for you. The difference is clear in the drinking, and every coffee lover has their own preference regarding these two boldly simple espresso-based drinks.