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What is a Long Black Coffee? Recipe & Tips For the Best Flavor

Long black coffee

Have you ever ordered a long black coffee thinking you would be getting a typical large black? Chances are you were surprised by what you received as this beverage doesn’t coincide with the name. A long black, which is similar to an Americano, is only now hitting the mainstream US coffee shops.

Unlike the Americano, the Long Black has a unique flavor and aroma because of its brewing process. That, plus why this might be the perfect brew for you, is what we want to talk about today. In the article below, we will outline why a long black is different from an Americano, why it’s unique on its own, and some different ways to enjoy it. Long black coffee is a double shot of espresso poured over hot water.

If you have been curious about this new brew, keep scrolling.

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What is a Long Black Coffee?

Like most espresso drinks, the long black comes from Italy. Traditionally, espresso and cappuccino were the only two coffee drinks available. When American tourists started frequenting Italian coffee shops, the baristas were at a loss when asked for a large black coffee.

At the time, US coffee drinkers were used to drip coffee makers, and a large black was a common order. This is essentially how the long black came to be. It was the answer to the barista’s dilemma and gave them a beverage to satisfy their out-of-town guests.

The long black is now a popular drink in Australia and New Zealand, but it is beginning to take hold in other parts of the world.

How a Long Black Is Made

A long back is made with two simple ingredients: water and espresso. What makes it unique is not what it is made of but how it is made. In this case, a double shot of espresso is brewed. The coffee is then poured over the water.

making long black
Image Credit: Hazel Liem, Flickr

Pouring the espresso over the water gives this hot beverage a sweeter yet still robust mouthfeel. The crema is large, as more of it is retained than it would be in an Americano.

You can make a long black with either Robusta or Arabica beans depending on your taste. Typically, most baristas use 70% Robusta and 30% Arabica. This covers the bolder flavors with the more subtle notes.

The Difference Between an Americano and a Long Black

When you read anything about an Americano or a long black, you will often hear them compared to one another. This is because they are made with the same ingredients. They use the same amount of coffee and the same water temperature. The main difference is how they are prepared.

double espresso
Image credit: Unsplash

As we mentioned, the long black is prepared by pulling a double shot and adding it to the water. An Americano, on the other hand, is made oppositely when a double espresso is pulled into the water.

Why this makes a difference is the crema. Alone, crema is a bitter-tasting by-product of the water pressure used to make espresso. It also dissipates quickly when added to water, but maintaining it for a short time gives it a heavier body with a naturally sweet taste.

Another difference is the amount of water that is used. A long black uses less water which makes the espresso more concentrated. This will also give the drink a more vibrant taste with a full body.

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How to Enjoy a Long Black Coffee

The long black is meant to be enjoyed as is without milk or other adornments. You also want to sip at it slowly to savor the flavors. This is why the quality of the coffee beans is so important in this drink.

long black
Image Credit: Katherine Lim, Flickr

There are other variations of the long black, however.

  • Ristretto: Some people prefer to enjoy their long black with a double ristretto instead of espresso. The smaller more concentrated shot makes the flavor more pronounced in the body and aroma.
  • Milk: Milk is another ingredient often added in variations of this drink. While milk is naturally sweet, it will add to the sweetness of the brew. It also gives it a creamier, less bitter taste.
  • Single Shot: For the most part, a long black is made with a double shot of espresso or ristretto, though it can be made with a single. This will make it less strong. Usually, the long black is made with between 5 and 6.5 ounces of water. Using 6.5 ounces with a single shot will bring down the bold flavor.
  • Coffee Beans: Typically, a long black uses either Robusta or Arabica beans. Robusta has more caffeine with a stronger flavor. Arabica is lighter. A light to medium roast is also usually preferred.
  • On Ice: Another variation of the traditional recipe is to serve the long black over ice. In this case, the espresso is poured over ice water instead of hot.
  • Sweetener: Although it’s not widely done, you can add sugar or other sweeteners to your long black. Most people like to add it to the water before the espresso to cut the amount of stirring. This will allow the crema to sit on top longer, and do its magic with the flavor.

Simple Long Black Coffee Recipe

If you want to make one of these popular coffee drinks at home, you will only need a few items…and an espresso machine.

  • Light to medium roast coffee beans
  • Milk (optional)
  • Sweetener (optional)
  • Ice (optional)
  • Grinder
  • Espresso machine


As we mentioned above, picking quality coffee is one of the most important steps. Pick flavorful beans. From there, brew two shots of espresso with water that is precisely 94 degrees.

coffee_long black
Image Credit: Katherine Lim, Flickr

In a separate tall glass, add 5 to 6.6 ounces of hot water that is the same temperature as above. Using the heated water from your espresso machine is the best to ensure the correct temp. The reason this is important is to let you sip the brew right away without it being too hot.

Pour the espresso into the hot water. Let the crema sit on top and dissolve. At this point, you can also add milk, ice, or any other ingredient. When poured over ice water, many people like whipped cream as a topper.

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We hope this has answered all of your questions about the long black. If you like a large black coffee, this could be a new way of enjoying your favorite drink. Next time you are in a coffee shop, try ordering this beverage to see what you think!


Featured Image Credit: Katherine Lim, Flickr


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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