Long Black vs Short Black vs Americano: What’s The Real Difference?

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The rise of coffee culture is exciting for some coffee enthusiasts. But many of my friends who are new to the different kinds of coffee beverages, find navigating the menus of specialty coffee shops quite overwhelming.

So to make life a bit easier, today I am going to shed some light on the differences between a long black coffee, short black, and an Americano. 

Key Takeaways:
  • An Americano is an espresso drink made with hot water and espresso, also called a Caffe Americano.
  • A long black is traditionally made by pouring a double shot of espresso or ristretto over hot water.
  • Short black coffee is a regular shot of espresso. It doesn’t have any extra water beyond the water needed to pull the shot.
  • Long black, Americano, and short black are all categorized as strong coffees.

Long Black vs Americano

An Americano is made by pouring hot water over espresso which dissipates most of the crema, whereas a long black is made by pouring espresso over hot water. As a result, long black coffee has a thicker layer of crema on top, and it’s typically stronger and bolder in flavor than an Americano.

Americano vs Short Black

An Americano is made by diluting two shots of espresso by pouring hot water on top of them. It has a thin layer of crema on top and a strong and bold flavor, though not as strong as an undiluted espresso shot. A short black coffee is simply a regular shot of espresso with no added water or milk.

In the rest of this article, I will compare Long Black, Short Black, and Americano in terms of their preparation method, how they originated, their taste, texture caffeine content, and more.

Long Black, Short Black, Americano: What’s the Difference?

The short black, long black, and Americano are all quite similar as they all have espresso as their base. However, they are quite different in taste, texture, and flavor because of the varying ratios of espresso to water.

  • Preparation: Hot water poured over 1-2 shots of espresso.
  • Taste: Strong, bold, Intense, deep coffee notes and nutty, earthy flavors.
  • Strength: Strong.
  • Crema: Thin layer on top.
  • Caffeine: 136mg from 2 shots of espresso. (1 shot of espresso = 68mg caffeine)
Long Black vs Short Black vs Americano
  • Preparation: 1-2 shots of espresso poured over hot water
  • Taste: Strong, bold, robust.
  • Strength: Stronger than Americano because less water is used to make a long black.
  • Crema: Thick layer on top.
  • Caffeine: 136mg from 2 shots of espresso. (1 shot of espresso = 68mg caffeine)
  • Preparation: Exactly as a regular shot of espresso.
  • Taste: Strong, rich, creamy robust.
  • Strength: Very strong.
  • Crema: Thick layer on top.
  • Caffeine: 68mg from 1 shot of espresso. 
Long Black vs Short Black vs Americano

What is an Americano?

An Americano is an espresso drink made with hot water and espresso, also called a Caffe Americano. 

The drink can be made with either one or two shots of espresso, and varying ratios of water. Diluting the strong dark espresso roast brings the flavor closer to a drip coffee

The ratio of water and espresso is typically either 1/2 and 1/2 or 1/3 espresso (1-2 shots) and 2/3 water.

You can customize the water in an Americano to taste. Every barista and coffee shop makes an Americano differently.

An Americano is simply an espresso that has been poured over or been diluted with hot water. 

The crema, although diluted, rises to the top forming a thin layer, giving you a longer coffee drink, with the oily richness preserved.

The Americano tends to stand out among other espresso-based beverages because it doesn’t have milk in it. 

While some people do add milk, you will likely never receive an Americano with any form of dairy or dairy alternative in it unless you specifically ask the barista to add it.

Where Did the Americano Come From?

The story goes that when American soldiers that were stationed in Italy during World War II, weren’t exactly fond of the startlingly strong espresso that Italians tended to drink. 

Thus, in an effort to replicate their drip coffee back home, soldiers added water to the iconic Italian espresso shot. 

Voila! The Americano was born. 

By the way, Italians aren’t that keen on drinking coffee in any other way besides espresso (they call diluted espressos ‘dirty water’). 

An espresso (meaning ‘quick’) is made by forcing water at high pressure through finely-ground coffee. 

It creates a small amount of richly flavored coffee with a thick layer of rich golden crema on top.

What is a Long Black Coffee?

A long black is traditionally made by pouring a double shot of espresso or ristretto over 100 to 120ml of hot water directly from the espresso machine

This will create two separate layers, with the frothy thick espresso crema staying mostly on top. 

With a long black, the espresso must be pulled directly over a cup of hot water. This results in a creamy, full-flavored cup where the crema is undisturbed.

If it’s done in the opposite order, it’s not considered a long black, it becomes an Americano. 

You can also make a long black with ristretto.

How is a Long Black different from an Americano?

The main difference between an americano and a long black is in how the hot water is mixed with the espresso. 

While an Americano is made by pouring hot water over espresso, the opposite is true for a long black. 

By pouring the espresso over hot water, the drink retains more crema, more than it usually would for an Americano.

Typically, a long black is also prepared with less water than an americano. It is therefore more concentrated, meaning that the flavor of the espresso is more pronounced.

A long black is traditionally served without milk, meaning that the flavors of the underlying espresso blend are more noticeable

Where Did the Long Black Coffee Come From?

When the Americano concept reached Australia & New Zealand, the specialty coffee drink took two key forms of customization, resulting in a stronger final beverage called a ‘Long Black’. 

The long black highlights the nuances of the espresso compared to the popular Americano.

Americanos are typically made with 6 -12 ounces of water, whereas a long black will be made with three to four ounces of water.

Long Black vs Short Black vs Americano

What is a Short Black Coffee?

Short black coffee is a regular shot of espresso. It doesn’t have any extra water beyond the water needed to pull the shot.

If you order a short black coffee at a coffee shop, you’ll enjoy a simple shot of espresso. Short black coffees contain roughly 30 milliliters, or 1 ounce, of water and about 7 grams of coffee.

We call it ‘short’ because we don’t add any extra water; the name ‘black’ comes from the color of the coffee since there is no milk added. 

Since short black coffee is not diluted, it has a very thick golden crema on top and a very bold flavor.

Since a short black is really a shot of espresso, you can drink it straight from the machine. They are usually served in a demitasse cup (a half-cup that holds up to 60 – 90ml) or small ceramic cups with handles.

Long Black vs Short Black vs Americano; Taste

An Americano has a strong bold taste and aroma of espresso.

The taste and flavor of Americano is the middle ground between espresso and drip-brewed coffee. 

It has the sweet notes and body of an espresso drink, but the water dilutes the bitterness that espresso often has. 

A Long Black has a similar flavor profile and taste to the Americano, but it is slightly stronger because of two reasons.

First, less water is used to make a long black as compared to an Americano.

Secondly, since espresso is poured directly over hot water, espresso forms a layer that sits on top of the water. 

It will also taste different because the two layers aren’t mixed up as much as the Americano, which is more mixed because of the water being poured after the espresso. 

Moreover, the rich, thick layer of crema is completely retained in a long black.

Some people prefer the stronger taste of the long black, without the bite that a full espresso shot has.

A Short Black, as I said before, is a regular shot of espresso. So short blacks have rich, complex flavors that vary depending on the coffee beans you use. 

If you love intense espressos, you’ll also enjoy the short blacks. 

Long Black, Short Black, Americano; Caffeine

Long black and an Americano will have the same amount of caffeine as they both are typically made with 2 shots of espresso.

The caffeine content of any espresso-based beverage is dependent on the number of shots of espresso that has been used to make that beverage.

All you have to remember is that 1 shot of espresso has 68mg of caffeine.

So a double-shot long black or Americano will have:

2 x 68mg = 136mg of caffeine per serving.

Since short black coffee is a simple shot of espresso, it will typically have around 68mg of caffeine.

Long Black, Short Black, Americano; Which is Stronger?

Quite frankly, long black, Americano, and short black are all categorized as strong coffees.

They all have a rich, bold taste and strong flavor espresso.

However, long black is stronger than an Americano because long black is a smaller drink where much less water is used to dilute the espresso. 

As a result, a long black retains most of the strong espresso flavor along with a thick layer of crema on top.

Since short black is a shot of espresso without any water or milk, it is obviously the strongest among the three coffee drinks.

How To Make a Short Black / Espresso  

As I mentioned before, to make either of the coffees we discussed in this article, you’ll need to make espresso or a short black first. 

A short black or an espresso is the base of all espresso-based beverages such as Americano, long black, cappuccino, cafe latte, macchiato, and more.

So, let’s learn how to make the perfect espresso shot for long black, short black, and Americano.

What you’ll need:

  • Espresso machine
  • Espresso cup
  • Coffee grinder
  • 7 grams fresh coffee beans
  • 30 milliliters filtered water about 1 ounce

Instructions:

  • Grind your coffee beans finely. Use approximately one part coffee for every two parts of water, or about 7 grams of coffee per shot. 
  • Tamp the grounds tightly into your espresso machine’s portafilter.
  • Put the portafilter into your espresso machine and place an espresso cup beneath the brew head. 
  • Start pulling the shot and start a timer at the same time.
  • Allow 30 milliliters of water to flow through your grounds for 25 to 30 seconds. 
  • Stop brewing once you hit the water amount and time frame.

Your short black coffee/espresso shot is ready to be served!

Here’s a step-by-step video tutorial that will guide you in making your best shot of espresso in no time.

How To Make an Americano

An Americano is a great option for those who aren’t fans of making their coffee with milk and need something a little stronger to help give them that extra caffeine kick. An Americano is made of only espresso and hot water.

Instructions: 

  • Extract 1-2 shots of espresso into an espresso glass.
  • Pour hot water into a cup from the espresso machine.
  • Pour extracted espresso on top of hot water. Enjoy!

The traditional way to make a Caffè Americano is with 1-2 shots of espresso, and up to six ounces of hot water. Of course, there’s no law against adding another espresso shot (or two), and many people do.

Check out this video that can help you in making your first glass of Americano coffee.

How To Make a Long Black Coffee

To create this delicious drink, all you’ll need is two ingredients: espresso and hot water. 

Instructions:

Pour hot water, typically around 195-205 degrees Fahrenheit (or 91-96 degrees celsius), into your cup of choice.

Extract 1-2 shots of espresso on top of it. 

And that’s it

Since the long black’s espresso is poured after the water is added to the cup, the crema is better protected. In the Americano’s case, pouring hot water in after the espresso destroys the crema.

Check out this video for more useful tips to make a glass of strong, bold long black coffee.

Conclusion 

If you’re looking for a way to class up your typical morning drip coffee routine but aren’t interested in a bunch of milk and sugar, an Americano, long black, or a short black are a great drink to add to your go-to’s. 

You can order them at a coffee shop or brew them at home. Either way, any of these simple, classic drinks are not going to let you down.

If you want to learn more about the differences between other coffee drinks, then go ahead and read any of my following articles.

Written by:
Amit Gupta
Amit Gupta

Hi, my name is Amit Gupta, and I am the owner and contributor at Cafeish. My obsession with coffee started when I received my first French press as a gift almost ten years ago. Since then, my love of coffee – and the number of coffee gadgets I own – has grown considerably.

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