Americano vs Iced Americano header image

Americano is a coffee beverage consisting of espresso shots and water. It can also have milk, but as with most wonderful things in the coffee world, it’s entirely up to you to decide.

The amount of water can vary, and significantly so. While making an iced americano seems straightforward enough – simply drop a few cubes of ice in a regular americano – there is more to it if one is to achieve the best possible taste, subject to individual preferences.

What is Americano and where it originated

Americano is probably conceived of as the original coffee consumed by most Americans. While that might be true today, many believe americano first appeared during World War II, long after the widely drunk drip coffee became a household staple in the states.

Apparently, groups of American soldiers stationed in Italy couldn’t cope with the strength of a traditional espresso, so they simply diluted the Italian staple with hot water. However, americano’s roots actually go back all the way to World War I when a British secret service agent ordered a drink of the same name in Naples, Italy.

A standard Americano has just two parts – espresso and hot water – with an option to add milk or any of its popular substitutes. It is generally accepted that the espresso-hot water ratio should hover around 1:5. Though as we all know, oftentimes it can shoot up all the way to 1:20 or can go as low as 1:2. Few should be surprised that an Italian will view the former option with contempt. It is also the reason americano is informally called “soup” or “swimming pool” in most of Europe.

Iced americano isn’t much different, of course. However, it is a bit more than just a standard americano with ice. Depending on whether you’re having your coffee with milk or just black, iced americanos will often be made out of slightly different coffee beans. For iced americano with milk, baristas will usually opt for darker roasts, pure Arabica beans.

These beans present a higher degree of intensity that can cut through the milky taste. On the other hand, a good barista will choose lighter roasts for a black iced americano. These beans are often mixes of Arabica and Robusta beans, and have a little more sweetness as well as sourness in their taste. 

Besides varying degrees of coffee bean roasting, specialty coffee shops and coffee enthusiasts alike try to experiment by tweaking iced americanos on a few other fronts. One of them is water. Even Starbucks is seeking the best possible formula, clearly demonstrated by their practice of using cold water instead of hot water in making americanos in the first place.

Why? Because “Espresso shots topped with cold water produce a light layer of crema” and that results in “a wonderfully rich cup with depth and nuance.”

Another trend for both iced and hot americanos stems from their very composition. Because americanos are espresso-based drinks, they carry a corresponding caffeine content. That is, if you order a single-shot americano, you will get roughly 68-75 mg of caffeine content. In a double-shot version, then, you will see 136-150 mg of caffeine. That’s a decent kick, while Starbucks recommends adding one more shot to achieve the best possible taste, bringing the caffeine content up to 225 mg.

For comparison, a regular cup of drip coffee will possess around 170 mg of caffeine, roughly an equivalent of two espresso shots. See below for a detailed comparison.

Caffeine content of different coffee beverages infographic
Source:, Starbucks

Over time, americanos have become increasingly popular even in Europe. Nonetheless, American coffee drinkers, most of whom sip between 2-5 cups of coffee every day, will certainly retain its primacy in americano consumption.

Looking for ideas on how to spice up your next americano? Check out this Pinterest board for loads of inspiring combinations.

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