Difference Between Americano and Cafe Crema

August 19, 2016

Espresso Based Alternatives to Drip Coffee

You might not have known it, but you can actually use your espresso machine to prepare a couple of drinks that similar to drip coffee: Americanos and Cafe Cremas. Both of these drinks use the espresso brewing process which forces hot water under pressure through finely ground coffee. The resulting beverages have similar yet slightly different flavor profiles when compared to traditional drip coffee. While an Americano is a diluted shot of espresso, a Caffe Crema is a long brewed espresso where all the water is passed thru the coffee using the espresso brewing process.

An Americano is a very straightforward drink. Espresso is prepared normally in a mug with hot water added to it. There’s no standard as to how much espresso or how much water but a 3 to 1 water to espresso ratio is a good place to start. In Australia, an inverted version of the Americano exists called the Long Black. Unlike the Americano, a Long Black has the water added to your mug first with a shot of espresso brewed over it. This helps to preserve the layer of crema produced by the espresso brewing process.

Cafe Crema became popular in Southern Switzerland and Northern Italy in the 1980’s. It’s a 6 to 8 ounce drink. To make a cafe crema, the coffee used is ground coarser than would be for a standard espresso and/or tamped lighter, to alter the flow of water through the coffee and influence the extraction. Typically, you’d be looking for the same total extraction time of 20 to 30 seconds as when pulling a double shot - and stopping when the shot blondes. There are variants to this like a caffe lungo where the coffee is extracted longer out, for 35 to 40 seconds.

The next time you've got a guest who prefers a drink closer in size to a standard American coffee, give an americano or cafe crema a try. You likely find they produce a richer and more complex cup than if you prepared the same coffee with a drip brewer.