If you're new to the wonderful world of craft coffee or want to order a speciality drink like a pro - you're in the right place!
The Hoxton Coffee team loves nothing more than experimenting with blends and trying out new combinations, but come back to classic americanos and sultry long blacks time and again for the simplicity and great flavour profiles.
Here's the thing - take a sip of each coffee, and they taste pretty different, so how can you choose between a long black and a latte or an americano and an affogato if you don't know how they're made?
Let's reveal the secrets behind the art of the barista and how americanos and long blacks differ!
The Distinctive Make-Up of an Americano
We'll start with americanos, not, as you might guess, first made in America!
Rather, Italians created this universal coffee to cater to the tastes of American tourists, hence the name.
If you've drank coffee in Italy, you'll know that the go-to is an espresso, which is a powerful, rich brew that many people find too strong.
An americano is a softer variant a bit closer to the filter coffee visitors were familiar with.
How is an Americano Made?
Ask any barista, and they will tell you - the order you pour water, espresso (and milk, where applicable) is crucial to preparing a quality coffee.
To try your hand at an americano, you'll need to pour in the espresso first, followed by the water.
Those two layers have a paler crema layer in the middle, which is essential.
What Does an Americano Coffee Taste Like?
An americano is a perfect coffee if you'd like a more decadent flavour profile than a filter cup, but something a little gentler than a robust espresso.
You get all the sweetness and full-bodied taste of trademark espresso, but with the bitterness scaled back.
Of course, choose an awesome quality coffee like our East End Blend, and you won't need to worry about sugar to mask the bitterness - a great cup should always be silky smooth, no matter how strong!
Unique Characteristics of a Long Black
Now, our rival coffee is a long black, first made in Australia or New Zealand (depending on who you ask!).
It may, perhaps, have been made the same way, to appeal to travellers, but it's popular everywhere, so that could be a myth.
We need to be clear - an americano and a long black may look similar and have the same ingredients, but they're not interchangeable!
A long black might be a close relative, but to mix and match is a bit of a discredit to the art that goes into making these exquisite coffees.
How is a Long Black Made?
As we alluded to earlier, it's all about the order you mix your hot water and espresso.
Long blacks are made with the hot water first and the espresso added on top.
Rather than that crema layer in the middle (we'll get onto this shortly!), you have the two layers with most of the crema from the espresso delicately balanced on the top.
What Does a Long Black Coffee Taste Like?
Americanos and long blacks taste a little different, and if you've got a refined pallet, you'll notice that the long black always feels a little stronger - even though we're using the exact same volume of espresso.
The flavour profile changes because the two layers are more separate, so the long black is bolder.
Espresso Coffee Composition Explained
Espresso is the game-changer in either of these great coffees and if you want to dive into the complexities and nuance of craft coffee making, you need to understand this core ingredient.
Although many people assume espresso is made from espresso beans, that isn't always the case. For example, Robusta beans are specially made for espresso.
Whatever the bean, espresso is ground into a really fine powder and stored in bricks or cakes of compressed coffee.
You can make espresso from pretty much any coffee bean you like, although a darker roast tends to work best.
How is an Espresso Coffee Made?
The reason espresso tastes so strong is that it's made with pressurised water at near-boiling temperatures.
Therefore, you get a higher concentration of coffee per cup, which isn't diluted down with water.
Ristretto, as an alternative, is a slightly shorter espresso brewed with extremely fine coffee grounds and less water.
The greater flavour concentration makes a ristretto a touch sweeter than espresso, and it has a gutsier taste, although with the same amount of caffeine.
Both americanos and long blacks are fine to make with ristretto rather than espresso, and you'll get a reduction in bitterness for your troubles.
Why is Crema a Defining Difference Between an Americano and a Long Black?
The crema is the golden foam you'll see on the top of a fresh cup of espresso - it's got nothing whatsoever to do with cream!
Crema is sometimes considered hugely important to the coffee drinking experience, but some feel that it's not that big a deal (we'll let you make your mind up!).
The crema forms because of the speed and heat at which espresso is made - if there isn't a crema, you could be drinking stale espresso that won't have as creamy a taste.
It's worth understanding because it's a telltale sign that you've been served an americano rather than a long black - or vice versa.
Should I Drink Americanos or Long Blacks?
Choose an exceptional bean, and any coffee you make from it will taste divine, whichever camp you're in!
An americano is an espresso with added water, so it tastes more like a strong coffee, simple, assertive and full of flavour.
Long backs are narrowly different - it's water with espresso, so you get a bolder flavour, with a better-rounded taste.
They might sound the same, but if you're a coffee connoisseur, you'll know those notes and tones can make a world of difference - and the devil, as always, is in the detail!