Why You Should Consider Pouring Water First For An Americano

As Sheik Abd-al-Kabir put it, "No one can understand the truth until he drinks of coffee's frothy goodness," and here's the truth: A froth-less Americano might not be worth the paper cup it's served in. Not to be confused with Cocchi Americano (a fortified wine) or the Americano cocktail, an Americano is just espresso and hot water. Sometimes it's 8 ounces of hot water and a single espresso shot. Other times, it's 16 ounces of hot water and three espresso shots. Either way, the ingredients remain constant and uncomplicated.

Indeed, the humble Americano got its start in the name of uncomplicated functionality. American soldiers stationed in Europe during WWII didn't take a liking to the strong, full-bodied espresso shots that Italian soldiers enjoyed. To adapt, they would dilute their espresso with a hefty amount of hot water. This inventive evolution was, at its core, utilitarian. But, today, the Americano doesn't have to be a workhorse that just gets the job done. It can be a delicious treat – that is, if it's made right.

When you pull a fresh espresso shot (at least, if it's pulled well), the shot will be capped with a little tan microfoam. This is called the crema, and as many coffee lovers might gladly, enthusiastically, or even violently tell you, it's critically important. Pour your espresso on top of the water to keep the crema intact and avoid cheating yourself out of experiencing a bubbly beverage.

Americano vs plain old espresso-water

Scientifically speaking, crema is a layer of tightly-compressed carbon dioxide bubbles. Not only does it provide a pleasant, frothy mouthfeel, but crema also impacts the aroma and taste of an espresso shot by stabilizing the balance of flavors and helping prevent bitterness. This becomes especially important in Americanos, in which the only other ingredient is water. In other words, there's nothing to hide behind. You might be able to get away with it in a latte or a cappuccino, but lousy crema will undoubtedly make for a lousy Americano.

When you pour your espresso shot into the cup first, then dump a bunch of steaming hot water on top, you totally obliterate that delicate crema. Sure, it's technically an Americano. But, it's an Americano in the same way that Smirnoff Smash Ice is technically a cocktail. Pour the water first when you make your Americanos, and leave a short inch of room from the rim of the cup. (Leave more if you plan to stir in cream and sugar.) Then, gently pour your fresh espresso shot on top. The crema will spread across the surface of the water and maintain a balanced texture and flavor for your beverage until the last drop.