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Long Black vs. Americano

While they both contain espresso and water, there are some distinct differences in a long black vs. Americano. These coffee drinks are a prime example of how you can take the same ingredients and with a simple change in preparation achieve completely different results.

These two beverages may sometimes be confused for one another. Admittedly, the water/coffee ratio may differ slightly from one kitchen to another, but the order of ingredients is what sets these drinks apart — the secret lies in where the espresso layer sits.

Topics we’ll cover in the debate of long black vs. Americano coffee include:


What Is a Long Black?

A long black is rumored to have originated in Australia and New Zealand, after Italians settled into those regions. Espresso may be a favorite drink in Italy, but it’s pretty strong for people who have never tasted it before.

This drink is created by pouring hot water into the cup first, then pulling the espresso shot or shots over that water. The main characteristic distinguishing a long black is that crema remains on top of your drink — thanks to espresso being poured into the cup last.

Typically, a long black is roughly three-quarters hot water and one-quarter espresso. It’s meant to be savored, with the most intense flavors being in your first few sips. These layers don’t mix very much, but the intensity will lessen as you reach the water layer. And, as the espresso sits on the top, a long black has a slightly stronger flavor profile than an Americano.

While it can be made with one shot of espresso, it’s more commonly made with two, keeping a proper ratio of espresso to water in mind. A long black can also be made with ristretto, which is a short espresso shot. More on that shortly.

Difference Between Long Black and Americano

What Is an Americano?

Not surprisingly, the name ‘Americano’ stems from American preferences for coffee — according to legend. Like the long black’s history, there’s no real confirmation of the tale. As it goes, during World War II, American troops stationed in Italy found traditional espresso too strong. Consequently, cafés reportedly began serving shots of espresso and filled the rest of the cup with water to dilute it.

Hence, an Americano is essentially the opposite of a long black, with espresso being its bottom layer and a water layer on top. Although, unlike a long black, the layers of an Americano mix more, with a little crema in between.

This beverage is typically made with two espresso shots and uses a one-to-one or one-to-two ratio of espresso to water. As with the long black, an Americano can also be made with ristretto.

Since its layers mix, the drink’s intensity is more consistent from start to finish. An Americano’s flavor profile makes a middle ground between drip coffee and espresso. Water dilutes some of the espresso’s bitterness, leaving sweet notes along with a full body to enjoy.

If you want to learn more, why not check out our Americano 101 and how to make the perfect cup. 

Long Black/Americano Differences and Similarities

Since they use the same ingredients, you’d expect to find some similarities between an Americano and a long black. Obviously, they both use espresso and water, plus both beverages can be made with ristretto instead of regular espresso shots. Traditionally, no milk or sweetener is added to either drink.

However, there are also some noticeable differences between these coffee drinks. The most significant difference between long black and Americano is how the drinks are prepared and the order of their ingredients. Crema is also a big difference between Americano and long black, as it’s a top layer of a long black, but mixed in with the two layers in an Americano.

Of course, other factors can affect long black vs. Americano taste. Choice in coffee beans, type of espresso brewer used, and even the water’s temperature can affect the flavor of either drink.

How Ristretto Fits In

As previously mentioned, ristretto can be used as an alternative to espresso in both a long black or an Americano.

But what exactly is ristretto?

It’s what’s known as a short shot of espresso. Finely ground coffee is used with less water than you would use for brewing regular espresso, and the shot is stopped before bitterness can develop.

As a result, you get the sweetness plus richness from a full espresso shot — in a concentrated version. While a typical espresso shot is approximately one ounce, one ristretto shot is just over half an ounce. This changes the flavor profile of an Americano or long black to make it richer and sweeter.

What is a Ristretto

Long Black vs. Americano — Which Is Better?

So is one beverage better than the other?

When referring to long black vs. Americano, this isn’t a win-or-lose situation, it’s more like a win-win scenario. After all, you can’t go wrong with either of these drinks.

If you enjoy espresso, particularly tasting that rich crema first, we suggest sipping a long black. The crema remains resting on top, without much mixing of layers, and it offers a more intense flavor than an Americano.

On the other hand, if you’re more of a drip coffee drinker, you’ll probably appreciate an Americano. As the espresso sits at the bottom, pouring hot water into it will blend them together, and it won’t be as intense as a long black.

Haven’t tasted either? What are you waiting for? Find your nearest coffee shop and consider — long black vs. Americano — which one to try first!

Long Black vs. Americano FAQs

Is Black Coffee Stronger than Americano?

No, black coffee is not usually stronger than an Americano, at least with caffeine content. According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), the amount of caffeine in 6 ounces of brewed coffee is around 71 mg. In a double shot of espresso (2 ounces), it’s approximately 125 mg.

However, if you’re only using a single (1-ounce) espresso shot to make an Americano, it would have about 63 mg of caffeine, less than black coffee.

What Is the Difference Between Long Black and Espresso?

The main difference between a long black and espresso is that a long black also contains water. An espresso shot is just that — espresso and nothing else. The long black is made by pouring hot water into the cup first, then pulling a single or double espresso shot over that water.

Is Long Black Stronger than Americano?

No, a long black isn’t stronger than an Americano. Both drinks are typically made with two espresso shots, with water. While there is usually more water used in an Americano, they each have about the same amount of caffeine. Caffeine content isn’t one of the Americano and long black differences. 

Does Americano Taste Like Black Coffee?

An Americano resembles black coffee in its appearance, but they usually don’t taste similar. This is because an Americano is made with espresso and regular drip coffee. 

How Many Shots are in Americano?

There are usually two shots of espresso in an Americano. However, if you prefer to venture away from tradition — it can be made with just a single espresso shot or ristretto.

Do You Add Anything to a Long Black?

The classic long black is served without milk or sugar. That said, if your palate prefers, you can certainly add sugar, milk or cream, or even a flavored syrup. Feel free to experiment!

Is Long Black and Americano the Same?

No, a long black and Americano are not the same drink. They are made with the same ingredients, espresso, and water, but the order of ingredients is reversed. With a long black, the espresso is the top layer. With an Americano, the espresso is the bottom layer.

Why Is It Called a Long Black?

The drink is called a long black because the volume of the drink is increased by adding water to the espresso. For comparison, a short black is simply a single shot of espresso, with nothing added.