Stars and stripes (in red, white and green): Americano coffee, Italian flavor
An Americano coffee, if prepared in the correct way, is a quality drink with a refined taste. A well grounded alternative to the national espresso.
- The Americano coffee in Italy carries a prejudice dating back to World War II.
- The perfect blend for Americano coffee? Arabica variety, washed, light roasted and coarse grained.
- Filtered coffee is obtained by passing hot water from above through the blend with a special machine or French press.
- Less caffeine, more aroma and lightness: discovering the Arabica variety.
- The coffee bean is extracted from the drupes either with the "dry" method (drying) or the washed/wet method (fermentation).
- The process of roasting the bean serves to make it ready for consumption. The different levels of roasting affect the final taste of the coffee.
- The peculiar traits of the raw material and its processing contribute to obtaining a high quality Americano.
The origin of Americano coffee, between legend and prejudice
In Italy, American coffee is a rather divisive drink. There are those who snub their nose at the mere mention of it and those, instead, that prefer it to the classic espresso. What is certain is that, by now, the Americano coffee is part of the habits of many Italians, both at home and at a cafe. Legend has it that the so-called "Americano coffee" was born in Italy during the Second World War. It seems, in fact, that U.S. soldiers stationed in Italy "lengthened" the espresso with hot water. By doing this, they made the taste more similar to that of the coffee they drank at home. It is from here, perhaps, that the prejudice around Americano coffee originated - a prejudice that compares this type of coffee to an undrinkable slop. In reality, nothing could be more wrong. A real Americano coffee has nothing to do with its ancestor.
The perfect blend
No comparison is possible between an espresso and an Americano. In fact, they essentially have different organoleptic properties. This difference is due first of all to the blend. An Americano coffee is a lighter and more delicate drink than the espresso. It favors aroma over body, with acidulous, fresh and sweetish notes. To obtain this fragrant brew, the chosen blend should have specific characteristics:
- be 100% Arabica or a combination of 80% Arabica and 20% Robusta, processed with the "washed" or "wet" method¹;
- present a light roasting;
- have a coarse grain to allow deeper filtration.
The filtration method
Americano coffee is also called filter/filtered coffee or drip coffee. It can be easily prepared at home with a specific coffee machine. On the market there are many different versions, some that drip hot water from the top and others that filter it through the mixture.
A more famous alternative is the French press. It is a carafe equipped with a pressure filter, also used for tea and herbal teas. It is filled with specific ground coffee, such as the Perfetto Moka Bialetti. You just need to add hot (but not boiling) water, and leave it to infuse for at least 4 minutes. At this point, holding the handle of the coffee maker firmly, exert light pressure on the knob to lower the plunger. Finally, turn the lid, so that the slots are facing the side of the spout, and pour the coffee. With both methods, you only need 5-7 grams of coffee per 100 ml of water, at a temperature between 92 and 96°C in order to not affect the aroma.
Coffee varieties, Arabica peculiarities
In order to understand what is behind an Americano coffee, it is appropriate to dig a little deeper. There are about one hundred varieties of coffee in the world. However, only a small part of it is cultivated for commercial purposes. Arabica and Robusta are the main varieties. The remaining part of coffee cultivation is represented by rarer and niche varieties, such as Liberica and Excelsa¹.
Arabica has a reduced caffeine content, equal to half or even one third of that of Robusta. This is the reason why American coffee is lighter than espresso, which typically uses a higher quantity of the Robusta variety. The bitterness of Robusta gives way to the fragrance of Arabica and to the fragrant trait which distinguishes a respectable Americano coffee.
La tostatura del caffè
La tostatura è il processo che modifica le proprietà chimico-fisiche del chicco di caffè per renderlo pronto al consumo. I chicchi vengono sottoposti a una temperatura compresa tra 215 e 230°C per 10-16 minuti. Al termine della tostatura e del conseguente raffreddamento, avranno perso acqua e quindi peso, ma aumentato di un terzo il volume. Grazie al calore, gli oli essenziali e gli aromi vengono sprigionati. Il grado di tostatura varia a seconda delle richieste dei consumatori, dell’area geografica e del tipo di utilizzo del caffè. Più il caffè è tostato o torrefatto, e quindi scuro, più il suo gusto sarà amaro e consistente. Al contrario, una tostatura media manterrà di più la profumazione e il sentore della materia prima. Con il caffè americano si predilige una tostatura chiara, poco comune in Italia, in grado di esaltare al massimo le note fresche, dolci e floreali.
Processing the bean
Regardless of the variety, the coffee plant blooms into white flowers which turn into red berries called drupes. Inside each drupe, there are usually two beans. After harvesting, processing begins, using one of two different methods:
- “dry”, in which the grains are extracted from the drupes previously dried in the sun;
- washed or wet, in which drupes are stripped with special machines and grains, still covered by a gelatinous membrane called "parchment", are immersed in water. They are left to soak for about three days, then washed and finally dried in the sun.
The fermentation of the coffee bean immersed in water is fundamental in order to enhance its aromatic notes. These specific characteristics will then define our cup of caffé Americano.
Americano coffee: a matter of taste and quality
The peculiar traits of the raw material and its processing are fundamental elements to obtain a high quality product. The filtration method, moreover, serves to elevate the blend, giving filtered coffee the lightness that distinguishes it. Not an elongated espresso, therefore, but a potentially refined beverage, with its own character and unmistakable taste. Who knows, maybe with time, the anti and pro-Americano coffee factions will come together. Without a doubt, however, a true Americano coffee today is no longer the unfortunate cousin of the espresso, but an alternative and tasty proposal.
¹ Source: ICO, International Coffee Organization
Caffè a perdere: incipit vincente
Si arriva, quindi, al terzo passaggio essenziale con una Moka nuova: cosa fare per farle “assaggiare” l’odore del caffè? Il classico consiglio della nonna è quello che, effettivamente, fa la differenza. Si tratta, in sintesi, di preparare tre caffè a perdere:
- si riempie la caldaia di acqua, a temperatura ambiente, fino al bordo inferiore della valvola;
- si mette un po’ di macinato nel filtro;
- a questo punto si assembla la caffettiera, ponendola sul fuoco.
Gli infusi ottenuti non vanno versati in tazzina né consumati. Questa operazione fa sì che gli oli e le cere naturalmente presenti nel macinato creino una lieve patina isolante e protettiva all’interno della Moka. Un elemento invisibile, ma di grande rilevanza per proteggere le preparazioni future. Se non per sempre, per un lungo segmento di vita.