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Espresso vs Americano: What’s the Difference?

Espresso VS Americano Espresso is a mainstay of the coffee world, forming the basis for over 20 major coffee drinks. But what is an Americano? Whatever your level of coffee expertise, we’re here to help you order your ideal beverage — and impress your friends. Keep reading to learn the subtle difference between espresso and Americano drinks.

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What is espresso?

hot espresso shot
Image Credit: Vassamon Anansukkasem, Shutterstock

Espresso is straight coffee concentrate, usually enjoyed straight or with a sprinkle of sugar. It has a full, strong coffee flavor and is known for its intensity. A shot of espresso is, on average, one ounce. Some people prefer more espresso and drink a doppio (double shot) or even a triple shot.
There are three parts to an espresso shot: the “body” is the darker bottom, the “heart” is the lighter middle, and the foamy light-colored head on top is known as the “crema.” The air bubbles in the crema give espresso its distinctive aftertaste.

What is an Americano?

caffe americano
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Americanos are espresso shots combined with hot water. This process results in a less concentrated flavor and can dissipate some of the bitterness found in straight espressos. Americanos also have more liquid, so they’re better to sip on than espresso. A typical Americano may range from eight ounces up to 20.

Because they’re larger and less concentrated, Americanos approximate regular drip or pour-over coffee. They may be served with sugar or cream.

Caffeine level

Because they’re made with the same amount of espresso, espresso shots, and single-shot Americanos usually have the same total amount of caffeine. Per ounce, a shot of espresso will have more caffeine because it’s more concentrated.


In terms of flavor, Americanos are easier to customize. They can have cream or milk added, as well as flavors like caramel or cinnamon. Americanos can also come iced, offering a refreshing choice on a hot day. Espresso shots are almost always served hot and without added flavors.

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Difference Between Espresso vs Americano

Americanos and espressos are pretty similar, the only difference being the hot water added to an Americano. This changes the taste and size of the drink, making Americanos larger, less intense, and smoother. If you are looking for an intense, straightforward beverage, order an espresso shot (or two). If you prefer an espresso drink that approximates regular coffee and can be customized with milk, syrup, or ice, try an Americano.
More comparisons:


Kate MacDonnell

Kate is a lifelong coffee enthusiast and homebrewer who enjoys writing for coffee websites and sampling every kind of coffee known to man. She’s tried unusual coffees from all over the world and owns an unhealthy amount of coffee gear.

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