Americano vs. Latte: Taste, Quality, How to Make
An espresso is by far one of the best types of coffee-based beverages, and what makes it even better is that there are many other beverages that you can make with it.
Two of the most common espresso-based beverages are Americano and latte. They are quite different beverages given that one is milk based and the other is watered down.
But, as distinct as Americano and latte might be, an uninformed coffee drinker, and this is more so the occasional ones can still have a hard time deciding which one to order.
Also, even those that drink both might still not understand how exactly the two differ. But, this is what this piece is all about as we clearly highlight the points of departure between the two popular espresso-based brews.
1/3 Espresso, 2/3 hot or cold water
1/6 Espresso, 4/6 steamed milk, 1/6 foamed milk
How it is Made
Pull 1-2 shots of espresso and add 6-8 oz hot/cold water
Extract 1-2 shots of espresso, add steamed milk then foamed milk at the top and finish with latte art
Typical Brew Sizes
6, 8, 10 oz
8, 10, 12 oz
Ideal Serving Method
In a larger mug
Rich and stronger
Balanced and creamy
Americano vs. Latte
Americano and latte are two of the espresso-based beverages that most coffee drinkers are likely to order in a coffee shop. But, given that they are quite different drinks, they will be ideal for different kinds of people.
1. Overview and Origin
Both latte and Americano are Italian names, but the similarity between the two beverages probably also ends there. Their huge difference mostly stems from the fact that one contains lots of milk and the other lots of water.
Cafe Americano is both an Italian and Spanish word that translates literally to American coffee. Although there are many stories as to where the coffee came from, it is widely believed that Italians would dilute espresso to make them more drinkable for American tourists.
Italians love strong coffee but many visiting Americans could not handle it, and so in many coffee shops, they added hot water for them which led to the development of Americano.
Another theory is that Americano was coined by Latin Americans in the 1970s given that the strength of the coffee is typically what many Americans prefer.
But, regardless of the origins, the beverage is still the same, and making it will entail adding hot or cold water to one or two shots of espresso to create a beverage with similar strength as brewed coffee but with a different flavor.
It is indisputable that cafe lattes originate from Italy where they have been brewed for many centuries now. The term cafe latte translates to coffee with milk.
Unlike the modern-day lattes made with espresso, the traditional ones were made by brewing coffee over a stove with Moka pot and then adding hot milk to it.
While the word first appeared in the English language around 1867, the coffee-based beverage has been in existence for way longer than that. And it is now one of the most widely consumed coffee-based beverage across the globe.
2. How it is Made
Knowing how to make different coffee-based beverages at home is a great idea as it ensures you will not always have to pay for expensive coffee at your local cafe. The good news is that both Americano and latte are quite straightforward to mix up.
How to Make Americano
Americano is probably the easiest espresso-based beverage to prepare, and you will not need any special skills or equipment besides an espresso maker. Here are the simple steps to follow.
Step 1: Extract 1 or 2 espresso shots into a mug
Step 2: Add 6 to 8 ounces of hot water
Step 3: Alternatively you can add cold water and ice cubes (if you prefer a cold brew)
Step 4: Add sweetener (optional)
How to Make Latte
Given that the cafe latte will generally have more ingredients than Americano and will also require you to steam and froth milk, it might seem a little complicated to make.
Read More: 12 Best Milk Frothers
But, it is also quite easy and here are the steps to follow.
Step 1: Pull 1 or two shots of espresso into a glass
Step 2: Add 6 to 8 ounces of steamed milk
Step 3: Add 1 cm of foamed milk at the top
Step 4: Finish with latte art
Read More: 10 Best Latte Machines
3. Ideal Ratio of Ingredients
With all coffee-based beverages, the ratio of the ingredients that you use is as important as knowing how to make the brew perfectly. If you get the ratios wrong, you can easily end up making something totally different.
With Americano the ideal ratio for you will depend on how strong you like your coffee. But, typically, you should keep it at around 1/3 espresso and 2/3 hot water.
But, if you want to make a cold Americano brew with ice, you should also take into account that the ice will melt at some point and further dilute the brew as you are drinking.
A latte will be characterized by having more steamed milk than everything else, and the ideal ratio should be 1/6 espresso, 4/6 steamed milk and 1/6 foamed milk at the top, but you can also add other things like syrup.
4. Typical Brew Sizes
For the heavy coffee drinkers, the larger the brew size the better as it means you can get the caffeine fix you need from just one cup.
But, like with most other beverages, the size of the brew will vary from one cafe or restaurant to the other as most prefer to come up with their own distinct menus and also use different machines and methods to make their coffee.
With the Americano, the typical brew size should be around 6 ounces, but in places like UK and Italy, you can get some that are up to 20 oz given that they add anywhere from 1 to 16 oz of hot water to a double shot of espresso. In the USA, the common Americano brew sizes are between 6 and 10 oz.
Traditionally a latte was served in an 8-ounce glass meaning that the brew size would not be larger than this, but this has since changed given that in places like the USA it is hard to get one that is less than 12 oz.
5. Versatility of the Beverages
Versatility defines how else you can drink your Americano or latte besides how they are traditionally prepared. It is an important element to consider because many coffee lovers are always looking to try out new coffee recipes.
The good news is that both Americano and Latte are quite versatile, but this versatility will come from different variables.
Traditionally, both Americano and latte are served hot but it is also possible to get cold versions of both. For the Americano, you only need to switch hot for cold water and add ice to make it cool enough. With a latte, making a cold beverage involves allowing the espresso to cool a little and then using cold milk instead.
Besides altering the temperature, there are still other easy ways of customizing these beverages. If you are an Americano drinker, you can sweeten it to enhance the flavor but real coffee lovers seem to despise this as it mutes the distinctive taste. Also, you can get more experimental with the grounds you use.
With lattes, customization is a lot easy as there are many things that you can do, but many people will prefer to add flavored or chocolate syrup.
6. Beverage Appearance and Taste
True coffee aficionados and regular drinkers will consider everything including the appearance of the beverage when deciding which drink to go for, and for most, the taste will be the ultimate deciding factor.
Given that there is nothing more you will be adding to espresso to make an Americano, you can expect to end up with a dark and bold looking beverage, and if your lucky enough there will still be a little crema at the top.
When it comes to the taste, an Americano will still be a stronger and richer beverage despite being watered down, and you can still tell that you are drinking an espresso-based beverage.
For a latte, the beverage is creamier, and if it is made by an experienced barista, the most distinctive element of its appearance will be the latte art at the top.
Which One is Better?
Either Americano or latte will be a great beverage in the morning when you want something to give you a caffeine-fix that is more than just a regular cup of coffee.
However, given their different ingredients and different brew strengths, they will be ideal in different situations and for different kinds of coffee drinkers.
For those that are looking for something straightforward to make that still maintains a strong and rich coffee taste and flavor, Americano is it.
But, for the coffee lovers that want something milder, the dairy junkies that cannot take coffee without milk, those that have a sweet tooth and all the others that hate strong coffee, a latte is the beverage for you.