An Americano is an espresso-based coffee drink made by adding hot water to a shot of espresso. Typically the drink is prepared at a ratio of 2:1 hot water to espresso. It presents in the cup similarly to a drip, or filter-brewed coffee, but retains the more intense flavor notes of espresso along with a sheen of the espresso’s crema on the surface.

Was the Americano invented in America?

No. According to lore, the Americano was invented to please the tastes of American GIs stationed abroad during World War II. American soldiers in Italy wanted a coffee that more closely resembled an American-style (drip) coffee, but the dominant style of coffee in Italy is espresso. The resulting coffee compromise was thus named after its audience.

Why wouldn’t I just drink a filter coffee?

Great question! Many people prefer to enjoy espresso in this form. Americanos are said to “open up” an espresso, allowing for a more nuanced and aromatic expression of its flavor characteristics. Also, there are some circumstances (like if you are overseas during a war) where a filter coffee simply isn’t available, but espresso and water are.

Do I have to capitalize it?

Yes, you should capitalize Americano. You capitalize “Polish sausage,” don’t you?

Can I add milk or milk substitutes?

Absolutely! Adding regular milk, cream, or a milk substitute can be a delicious addition to your Americano. Note that while cappuccinos and lattes are based on espresso as well, they typically include only steamed milk and espresso, and no additional water. If a thicker, creamier texture that includes a base of espresso is what you seek, then you should just order a cappuccino or latte.

Are there any other drinks in the Americano family?

Yes!

Allongé — This French-named variant is popular in Quebec, and while closer in volume to an Americano than espresso, is not prepared with plain hot water, but is rather the result of pulling the shot for an extra-long time, so the additional liquid volume comes through the espresso machine. Also known as the Lungo.

Long Black — Prepared like a reverse Americano, the Long Black is an espresso shot added to hot water. It has enjoyed popularity particularly in Australia and New Zealand. Adding the espresso shot over top of the hot water, rather than breaking up the espresso with water, is said to preserve crema. The drink is also prepared with less water than an Americano.

Little Buddy — Spiritually similar to a Long Black, this is made with an equal parts ratio of two ounces of hot water to two ounces of espresso. It goes by many, many names—”Italiano”, “Two and Two”, even “Danny DeVito”—as outlined in our loving tribute to this undersung drink published in 2018. The drink inspires regional variants and endless riffs, with “Little Buddy” being the long-favored parlance.

Liz Clayton is the associate editor at Sprudge Media Network. Read more Liz Clayton on Sprudge