As the story goes, when the American fighting forces were in France in WWII, they complained that the coffee was too strong. The cafes added water to the espresso thus creating an Americano, made for the Americans who didn’t like that strong taste of straight espresso. Whether that is myth or not, it makes for an appealing story to add to the legends and myths of coffee history.
Whether fact or fiction, at that time espresso had not made any strong inroads in America, and the young men fighting “over there” were accustomed to either stove-top percolator coffee at home (if they had started drinking coffee at all before being sent overseas) or the instant coffee packets in their rations. While the instant was fast, easy, supplied the much-needed caffeine boost, and was something hot to drink, compared to an espresso, it was quite weak.
But the Americano is not just for those who can’t handle strong coffee. It is also a great way to test your espresso. “Watering” it down a bit can allow you to get a better idea as to the quality of your espresso. It avoids having your palate overwhelmed by the strong flavors of a straight espresso. It is also a great way to enjoy a richer beverage than drip coffee can normally supply.
HOW TO MAKE AN AMERICANO
Pull your espresso as always, either a single or a double, but pull the shot into a cup (coffee cup, cappuccino cup, etc.). Then top off with the desired amount of hot water. You can also do it the other way round- pour the espresso into the desired amount of water (aka: a Long Black). This will tend to retain just a bit more of the crema. The taste will be about the same overall, but the presentation may be more pleasing to the eye.
What you may very well find is that your espresso is not quite a good as you thought. A hot, straight espresso can be so dynamic on the palate that it can be difficult to discern the flavors. This makes the Americano an excellent tool for evaluating your espresso.
On the positive side, when done right, it gives you a beverage to be sipped and enjoyed, and it makes for a nice change of pace.
Give it a shot (or two)!