The Long Black vs Americano

Next to the Flat White, the Long Black must be the most confusing drink on many cafes’ menu. What exactly is a long black? Is it the Americano? Is it the Italian Lungo? Is it merely espresso + hot water? Of is it espresso over hot water?

What the heck is a Short Black then? The opposite of Long black?

I always believe that words should have its appropriate meaning. As words are used for communications,  it should have a defined meaning.

Allow me to propose that the Long Black be the opposite of the Ristretto. Ristretto with the meaning “Restrict” attached to it… we literally restrict the flow. Either tamp a bit harder, dose a bit more, grind a bit finer OR/AND pulled a bit SHORTER (in volume).

Hence, the Long Black should be tamp a bit lighter, dose a bit lesser, grind a bit coarser OR/AND pulled a bit LONGER. And you have the word LONG black.

Americano on the other hand, let it be Espresso with water. Does not matter whether the espresso is on TOP or Bottom.

There are some slight difference whether you pull the espresso on top OR add hot water to the espresso.

The former will give a better visual presentation, aroma a bit stronger and the first sip a bit bitter (due to the floating crema).

But once you stirred, both of them tasted the same to me.


6 thoughts on “The Long Black vs Americano

  1. aileenG

    good post I went to a local cafe, asked for a long black but was served with americano. When it was served, I knew it wasn’t what I was looking for so I spoke to barista. You are right about the confusing terminology or rather definition for the sake of it..

    The barista told me that he added water to the espresso rather than pulling it through, he figured that it was similar. The taste may not vary a lot, lesser crema on americano but coffee would be something personal, the barista decided on my behalf instead.

    After the dissapointing experience today, now forth, I have decided to describe what I like to the barista before more confusing terms..

  2. Steve

    If you order a long black in New Zealand (where I’m from and where the coffee is excellent) you will be served a double-shot espresso poured into a cup that already contains a little hot water. As an alternative, you will get the espresso and a small jug of hot water on the side to add your own water. It varies but the quantity of water can be from about half up to as much as the espresso itself (a bit weak for me). There should still be a generous crema. If you see on the menu “Long black – small or large” keep walking!!

    To answer your other question – you wouldn’t normally see short black on the menu. It’s an espresso. The ristretto is a “restricted” espresso as you point out above.

    As far as I’m concerned Starbucks invented the Americano and they can keep it. It seems to be a mug of whatever size happens to be closest to the barista with an espresso and then filled with hot water. Designed by people who consider that quality and quantity are the same thing.

  3. Mark

    Hi Chan, happen to drop by your blog, bravo your good work, so many information on coffee!!
    Do you sell and fresh coffee bean?
    do you know where can buy a Bialetti Brikka Moka Pot in KL?
    Thank you..

  4. El Seraga

    Hi there. I just want to highlight the 2 videos in your post that are not correct. Americano is made with water over espresso, whereas Long Black the other way round. The Long Black retains the crema on the top layer and ‘locks’ the aroma within. Americano spoils the coffee experience in my opinion.

  5. KF Chan Post author

    The video is correct. Regardless whether you pour espresso on top or water on top, once you stirred, it will taste the same. Even if you don’t stir, within a min or two, the crema will dissipate.

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