Drinking your coffee just black is the most niche way of consuming the drink.
This isn’t mere conjecture, either. It’s something I noticed working at cafes for a few years, as well as a trend supported by several recent coffee studies. Americans, and coffee drinkers at large, generally prefer a little milk or sugar to help it go down.
If Americanos and drip coffee are pretty much the same thing, why do people still choose one over the other? It’s time to dive headfirst into subtlety and learn about the differences between americano vs coffee.
How Drip Coffee Is Made?
Dump the water, pour the grounds, and go. Drip is the go-to brewing method for the tired, huddled masses and the most simple way of making coffee. Does that mean it’s without complexity?
I’m a firm believer that simple isn’t automatically bland. A medium-fine grind with some hot water is an ancient method of extracting all the lovely, subtle flavors from your hard-earned coffee. The type of filter you use also plays a large part in how effectively your grounds are steeped and pulled. Standard pourovers come in bleached and non-bleached paper varieties. Reusable pourovers, on the other hand, are made out of thin layers of cotton, able to be washed and dried without the need for soap (unless you’re bothered about stains).
The coffeemaker uses a very similar method, heating up the water and dribbling it in to fill up your morning pot. In fact, here’s a quick tip so you can avoid some heartache: make sure your pourover and coffeemaker filters are actually labeled for a specific use. I made the mistake of buying the standard Melitta filters for my pourover and found out the hard way they’re not designed to hold up to the traditional pour-and-wait method. I had to double-bag the filters and use a teabag method to salvage my hard work…
Drip coffee is smooth, hot, and still capable of developing a rich variety of flavors as any other method. Before we look into Americano vs coffee, let’s see how the coffeemaker and the pourover compare.
The Coffeemaker Vs Pourover Debate
These brewing methods essentially make the same kind of coffee. …Essentially being the keyword here.
The immediate appeal of the pourover is your level of control. Believe it or not, you can actually get more complex than ‘pour and go’. Some coffee fans like to use a continuous pour method, slowly and carefully filling in the grounds without stopping. I prefer to do the ‘pour and wait’, which is exactly what it says on the tin. In-between rounds I’ll take a small spoon and gently agitate, or scrape, the grounds to ensure they’re pulling accurately.
This more methodical process comes with a downside, however, and the coffeemaker is all too happy to fill in the gap with its convenient design. Whether you use Mr. Coffee or a Keurig, all you need to do is dump in some water, grab your pre-ground coffee of choice, and hit a button. No steeping, waiting or agitating involved. Half a pot of coffee won’t take more than ten or fifteen minutes and today’s coffeemakers come with warming pads to ensure it doesn’t get frigid while you multitask.
There’s no shame in prioritizing speed. We’re all tired and busy! If you want to give the more conscientious pourover a go, though, you may want to invest in a few more supplies to get the very most out of your coffee.
The Popularity Of The Gooseneck Kettle
The pourover’s surrounding equipment can make or break your final cup. Some don’t really care about the fine details, while others swear by them. A good metric for judging this attitude is the gooseneck kettle.
Named for its very thin and long spout, the gooseneck kettle is explicitly designed for slower methods of brewing coffee and tea. Classic kettles can dump too much water too quickly, affecting your ability to pull flavor from your grounds. The slow pouring method is a response to the science behind chemical extraction. This is the most essential advice for those getting started in the pourover field: faster is not better! As you watch your coffee it should drip slowly like a very leaky faucet, not dribble in a continuous stream.
You should pair your gooseneck kettle with some filtered water. It’s estimated a majority of 85% of American households have to deal with hard water, which is a term for minerals that build up in tap water and contribute to bitter or oddly sweet flavors. As you can imagine, this will affect your final cup of coffee significantly. I use a simple Brita water filter, though I’m considering attaching one to my sink. For those who like to travel, you can now buy water thermoses with built-in filters.
Is this the only way to improve the flavor? Not by a long shot. The tip below is proof that good things come to those who wait…
The Function Of Blooming In The Coffee World
You can’t talk about good coffee without talking about science. ‘Blooming’ is a term you’ll hear again and again as you navigate your new pourover.
Out of my three brewing methods, I use my pourover the most. I find the process of swirling in the water and agitating the grounds incredibly relaxing (and it helps that I have more easygoing mornings due to my remote work schedule). Here’s where the science part of the equation comes in: blooming is a term used to refer to the release of chemicals once your hot water comes in contact with the grounds. Waiting isn’t just for show, but to make sure you’re trapping in the right flavor.
Another term for this method is ‘degassing’ (though, as you can already see, it isn’t nearly as flattering). The minute your coffee is roasted it starts cooking up all sorts of delicious — and not so delicious — chemicals. Letting your coffee bloom is how you sort out the good from the bad. Next time you take out your pourover or your French Press, pour in a little hot water and wait for thirty to forty seconds. That’s enough time to sift out some of that carbon dioxide and leave those tasty nougat, raisin, or chocolate notes behind.
Blooming doesn’t apply to every method of making coffee. Espresso needs to be hot and fresh, with even a few spare seconds sitting on the counter affecting the result.
Breaking Down The Americano
With drip coffee so convenient and fast to make, why would anyone turn to the relatively more complicated Americano? You can’t even make one without an espresso machine, right?
Not quite. Americano vs coffee hinges on one essential difference: espresso vs drip. Espresso is a highly concentrated form of coffee that uses not solely hot water, but pressure and steam to extract powerful flavor. Mix espresso with hot water and you have the robust, sharp Americano. This was the drink of choice during the morning rush hour back at the cafes I worked at, particularly among the suit-and-ties crowd. It’s an interesting contrast with the latte, which was more beloved during lunch hour.
If you’re in need of a bigger pick-me-up, you’ll need to add a few extra shots to the standard two. Drip coffee served in its usual mug has more caffeine than the little espresso shot glasses you see behind the counter. Espresso, however, has a much higher concentration. Even those with a love of caffeine would feel ill drinking an entire cup of the stuff. Watch your sugar intake, too!
The Americano is often seen as a drink for people who don’t mind a little bite to their coffee. Does that mean you can only expect the strongest flavors from this particular brew?
The Best Origins For Sweet, Fruity Coffee
The coffee origin conversation is a multifaceted one. So much so it can scare people off before the conversation has really started.
Where your coffee comes from plays a major part in how it tastes. The climate of the country, for example, contributes to the soil quality and temperature that help coffee plants grow healthy and plentiful. Farmers bring their own unique touch to the plant and use harvesting methods ranging from old-fashioned to highly modern. Origin is further whittled down into regions, of which each country has several to its name. The same coffee bean grown in two different regions in the same country can boast entirely different flavor notes, aromas, and mouthfeels.
When I want a complex coffee bean that shifts through flavor notes like a kaleidoscope, I look no further than Colombia. It’s the third-largest exporter of coffee around the globe and has earned a reputation for spectacular, nuanced specialty and non-specialty bags. Onyx Coffee Lab, Counter Culture Coffee, and Olympia Coffee are a few roasters I’ve tried who source their stock from Colombia and I’ve been consistently impressed. Colombian coffee tends to skew toward sweet and syrupy, with some leaning harder toward a sugary kick and others adding in a sprinkle of tart fruit.
If you’re someone who doesn’t care much for bitter or chocolatey notes, the Colombian origin (and the roasters named above) are a great place to start on your Americano vs coffee journey. To date, it remains my absolute favorite origin and one I’ll never get finished exploring.
The Best Origins For Mellow, Tea-Like Coffee
Perhaps sweet and fruity is still too much for you. You like coffee’s unique flavor, yes, but you’re also a fan of tea’s mellow softness.
Coffee’s flavor can be shifted in one direction or the other with a little further nudging outside its origin. Once soil quality, elevation, and climate have finished their work, processing and roasting are the next steps before you purchase the final bag. The latter is an especially important detail if you’re sensitive to certain flavors: light and medium roasts are reliably balanced, while dark roasts are very robust. Read each specialty coffee bag’s details carefully so you’re not accidentally buying a bag that’ll disagree with you.
As for origins that lean toward tea-like flavors, Mexico and Ethiopia are safe bets. Mexico is very well-known for having milder coffee, though that’s not to say it doesn’t come with its own complexity: my decaf bag from PT’s Coffee Roasting Co. blended barley and light chocolate flavor notes with a surprisingly smoky aftertaste. It was almost herb-like in its character and is a bag I’ll never forget. Not to be outdone, Ethiopian coffee is generally a nutty, smooth affair. I’ve only had it once, but I’m eager to see more of what this country has to offer.
The Americano vs coffee debate can seem like splitting hairs. To me, it’s perfectly sensible.
Not everyone has the same set of tastebuds. Not everyone has the same budget. One way or another, our individuality shows itself in our coffee cup. I much prefer drip coffee myself, while some view the Americano as the only thing standing between them and morning insanity.
If you know someone confused about the difference between Americano vs coffee, link them to this article. In the meantime: what’s your favorite coffee for the morning rush?