“What’s the strongest thing you have?”
“What has more/less caffeine?”
“Do you guys have coffee?”
There’s lots of fun aspects to working the mobile cafe, one of them is the chance to answer questions in person or on the spot and have that opportunity for all sorts of discussions. I’ll answer one right away here, and that’s yes, we have coffee! Only dabble in it a little bit though, a side project if you will. (just kidding).
One of the more common ones I get is “What is the difference between a brew/drip/batch coffee and an Americano?” and there’s a lot of different ways one could ask this, including the two up top, and fair! They look alike, but are prepared almost completely opposite which will create a different taste, smell, and experience!
Big picture, both preparation methods include hot water over roasted and ground coffee beans enclosed in some sort of filter. Check.
They both rely on quality of water. All methods will, a good balance of minerals in filtered water, without being completely stripped in distilled or fully present in tap, will show a more enjoyable flavour of the coffee without it tasting flat or impacted by the chlorine and other compounds. Check.
The temperature of water, again important for proper extraction, are both around that 195-205 degree Fahrenheit range. (Camping? Water to a boil and then a minute or two of rest will be a close approximate depending on the weather and the material of the kettle etc., but you do what you can!)
Keeping the brewer basket and the equipment clean for both espresso and brew will make a huge difference in the taste of your coffee as previous grinds and oils can build up and impart some bitterness or staleness to your fresh brew.
Here’s where they begin to split off.
Americano’s are made up of an espresso shot over hot water. Over will keep the crema intact, and if the shot is put in first and then diluted by hot water it will look much more like a cup of drip coffee.
The grind for drip coffee is much coarser to that of espresso. Drip coffee sits pretty central at a medium grind between the polar opposites, Cold Brew (extra course) or French Press (coarse) and Espresso (fine) or Turkish (very fine). The grounds for drip or for an espresso shot will present best if ground right before brewing, however grounds for drip coffee will withstand being ground and saved longer than grounds for espresso will as espresso has a small window of a few minutes before losing a lot of their flavour and aroma before being brewed.
Ratio and Time
For most methods, 1:16 (for every gram of coffee use 16 grams of water) is the magical starting point and from there you can move from points like 1:15 to 1:17 or two tablespoons of coffee to six ounce of water. Pour-over is a form of manual drip coffee, and my go to starting point is usually 17 grams of coffee to 255 grams of water (a 1:15 ratio). This varies with the origin though. Stronger coffee? You can add more grinds to the same amount of water, and less for something a bit more diluted. It comes down to whether you’re using an automated brewer and if you can choose how many cups of coffee would result.
Most automatic brewers should brew coffee for around a five minute mark, too fast and the grinds may have been too coarse, too slow and the grinds may have been too fine. The final check in would be taste, too fast might result in a tasteless or diluted cup of coffee that carries the higher and brighter notes without much body. Too slow and you might result in something like an over-steeped tea bag, just a bit bitter and lacking some pizzaz.
Espresso follows more of a 1:2 or 1:3 sort of ratio. If we were to use 15 grams of ground coffee then we would aim for about 30 grams of espresso with a bit of adapting to the time which can range from 28-32 seconds, significantly shorter than drip coffee.
Americano’s share the same qualities in taste found in espresso, just diluted a bit from the hot water. You will typically find a bolder taste, especially if you’re more inclined to drink darker roasted coffee. Espresso is brewed through a metal filter which allows for more oils from the coffee to be included in the final product, maybe even a bit of a shimmer in your cup. Drip coffee typically uses paper filters which allows for flavour* that is lighter in body and spotlight the origin flavours*.
To wrap that up, an Americano can be perceived as ‘stronger’ or bolder in flavour* because of the shared characteristics of that found in espresso.
Technically speaking, a cup of coffee has around 90mg of caffeine, while espresso sits on that 120mg line. These vary when it comes down to ratio of coffee to water, that and keeping in mind that the espresso is then diluted in an Americano. After all that, they really stay around the same when it comes to caffeine content. If it’s the caffeine you’re looking for, opt for that shot of espresso! Or something called a ‘Red Eye’ or ‘Shot in the Dark’ which is brewed coffee with a shot of espresso. That should do the trick, although not my first recommendation as you might get some conflicting flavour.
brewed under pressure
92-150mg of caffeine
bolder and earthier flavour*
brewed under the works of gravity
95-200mg of caffeine
delicate and brighter flavours*
*- when I mention ‘flavour’ it’s due to the interaction of water. You can have bolder and earthier tastes due to the origin of the bean and roast (like our Nicaragua) as a drip coffee, they just might reign more apparent and include the higher tasting notes such as more chocolate where the Nicaragua as an espresso would focus on the heavier tasting notes and focus on the body of the flavour.