I have a fixed coffee order that I rattle off at the café counter. However, there are so many varieties of coffee to explore and sample. Two of them are Lungo and Americano, which are two popular tall, black coffees. Allow me to elaborate on these hot beverages in my comparison of Lungo vs. Americano.
Lungo vs Americano General Overview
In the world of coffee, Lungo and Americano occupy the premise known as “black coffee.” They are both made from espresso and look about the same, which can cause a bit of confusion for people who have never tried these hot beverages. So, what is a Lungo, and what is an Americano? Let’s find out.
Lungo is an Italian coffee, which is prevalent in the European region and is becoming increasingly popular amongst Americans. The word “lungo” means long in Italian and that is exactly what it is: a long shot espresso. The beverage has a distinct aroma and an acquired taste.
Basically, Lungo is prepared in an espresso machine. However, unlike the traditional espresso, Lungo uses a much larger quantity of water for the same amount of coffee grounds. Consequently, it takes far longer to brew a Lungo than an espresso but it has the same caffeine content as an espresso.
Taste of Lungo
The flavor and aroma of a Lungo are attributed to its extended period in the espresso machine that draws out additional goodness and undiscovered aromas from the beans. The taste is similar to an intense espresso, yet still very diverse and surprising for the drinker.
The longer extraction time and additional water quantity set Lungo apart from other black coffees. Moreover, it is also characterized by its beautiful, shiny crema, which is a bitter, hazelnut layer on top of the coffee.
How to Make a Lungo
Lungo is brewed in an espresso machine using the manual mode, so you can control the length of extraction. Here is what you need to do:
- Grind the coffee a bit coarse as compared to the grind used for espresso. Since the coffee has a long extraction time, a fine grind will make the coffee extremely bitter and unpleasant.
- Heap the coffee grounds in the portafilter (espresso basket) and use the tamper to press the grounds evenly and firmly into the portafilter, until it is fully compressed.
- Place the portafilter back in the espresso machine and press the button to pull the shot.
- Here is where the Lungo differs from espresso; while the espresso shot takes 18 to 30 seconds to brew, the shot for Lungo should last for about 45 to 60 seconds.
- The extended brewing process uses about double the quantity of water as compared to an espresso.
- Enjoy your Lungo!
The name Americano suggests that the coffee originated in America and Caffe Americano also translates to American coffee in Italian. However, that is not the case. Americano is also an Italian coffee that emerged during the World War II era.
The American soldiers based in Italy would dilute the espresso coffee with hot water. This was done to cut down the strong espresso taste and to create a beverage that was something similar to how they drank their coffee back home.
Thus, Americano is simply espresso with added hot water. The coffee has a more homogenous taste, which is similar to black coffee but slightly sweeter. It also has an intense espresso aroma, despite the somewhat milder flavor.
Caffeine Content in Americano
The caffeine content of an Americano depends on the number of shots of espresso beans used. Usually, one to three shots of espresso is used to make an Americano. Finally, Americano does not have the crema on top, as it is dissolved when hot water is poured on it. The dissolved crema helps reduce the bitterness of the overall coffee.
How to Make an Americano
As I discussed above, Americano is basically an espresso shot diluted with hot water to make a less concentrated beverage. To get it right, the espresso shot should be perfect as any lacking in flavor tends to be exaggerated by adding water. Here is what you need to do:
- Grind the dark roast beans finely.
- Use your espresso machine to brew one to two shots of espresso, depending on how strong you like your coffee.
- Boil the water on the stovetop or in an electric kettle. The recommended water temperature is between 165 to 170 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Measure the amount of water you need to use. The standard ratio of the espresso shot to water for an Americano is 1:2. However, you can also use a ratio of 1:3, if you want a milder coffee.
- Pour the hot water over your espresso shot and enjoy!
Lungo vs Americano
Following are the major similarities and differences between Lungo and Americano that gives them their distinct taste:
Both Lungo and Americano share some obvious similarities that are as follows:
- Both coffee beverages are made with coffee grounds, brewed in an espresso machine, and water.
- Both coffees are classified as black coffees, as they do not have any dairy content, unlike a Cortado.
Fun Fact: The trend of adding milk and sugar started in coffee started in 1529 in Europe.
Following are some of the characteristics that set Lungo and Americano apart from each other:
While both Lungo and Americano are watered down espressos, the process of adding water gives each coffee a distinct flavor profile.
To make Lungo, water is added during the preparation process. Therefore, all the water comes in contact with the coffee grounds during the long extraction time. This makes the coffee more bitter and watery.
Whereas, Americano is made by adding hot water to an already prepared espresso shot. This gives it a milder yet richer taste, which is consistent throughout the cup.
Comparing the time taken to prepare both coffees, Lungo takes longer to brew as compared to an Americano. A Lungo typically has an extraction time of up to a minute. On the other hand, espresso for Americano is brewed within 18 to 30 minutes and hot water is added promptly to the cup.
A Lungo has a lower caffeine content than an Americano, made with two shots of espresso.
The caffeine levels of a Lungo depend on how long the shot was pulled. A longer shot will have slightly more caffeine. However, the difference is not very significant.
In general, a Lungo has around 60 to 65 milligrams of caffeine, while Americano has about 94 to 150 milligrams, depending on the caffeine content of one espresso shot.
Should You Order a Lungo or an Americano?
Black coffee has bare minimum calories, along with other health benefits, which makes them an attractive beverage for many people. Your next long, black coffee order will depend on the kind of flavor profile you are craving.
- Lungo has a stronger taste, which can be quite bitter for someone who is not used to it. This is because the lengthy process extracts a lot more than salts, sugars, and acids from the coffee grounds.
- Americano has a uniform taste, which is a milder version of the original espresso. You can also customize the intensity of the coffee according to your taste by adding more shots or more water.
Black coffee is an acquired taste, which can be quite overwhelming for novel coffee drinkers. Therefore, if you want to start drinking black coffee, start with an Americano and adjust the flavors as per your liking. If you are looking for something more bitter and robust, try a Lungo.