Americanos: what they good for?

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Americanos: what they good for?

Postby Jim Saborio on Mon Apr 05, 2010 6:28 pm

I've had the "americano is dead" footer for a while. I couldn't remember the last time I actually had one, so I tried it. Didn't like it. I brought the staff together:

brewed the shot then added the water & vice versa
added cooler (140F - 160F) water to shots
brewed shots on cooler water
skimmed crema
said hail marys

At best, we got something that tasted a touch better than diner coffee. Perhaps it's the blend we're using, and we will try again and again the next time we run a guest espresso. We mused that the prevalence of americano drinkers in the Pacific Northwest had something to do with the (oftentimes) sad / neglected state of drip there.

A few friends went into a random (bad) shop and pitted their bad americano vs. their bad airpot drip. The americano won. I've been considering striking it from our menu.

Any americano fans out there?
-JIm

...aaannndd the Starbucks down the street just got a Clover
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Re: Americanos: what they good for?

Postby nick on Mon Apr 05, 2010 7:49 pm

If you don't like America, you can just LEAVE!!!
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Re: Americanos: what they good for?

Postby Jim Saborio on Tue Apr 06, 2010 3:20 am

All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.
-Thomas Jefferson
-JIm

...aaannndd the Starbucks down the street just got a Clover
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Re: Americanos: what they good for?

Postby phaelon56 on Tue Apr 06, 2010 6:29 am

What are they good for? Decaf on demand for shops that don't do brew-by-the-cup coffee as a practice. I also know of places that do airpots of decaf for the morning rush and then switch to decaf Americano's for the balance of the day.

Oddly enough - I had never tried one until a few weeks ago when I was traveling in China. Although I did have a pretty good cup of Sumatran drip at a Beijing coffeehouse (for $4.50 US per 8 oz cup it ought to be good!) but everywhere else it was Americano's or rotten espresso drinks.

There's yet another backhanded compliment: an Americano makes it easier to drink mediocre espresso (but not by much).
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Re: Americanos: what they good for?

Postby Sandy on Tue Apr 06, 2010 7:50 am

give me a a great double over five ounces of hot water any day! i love Americanos, and no, i'm not racist.
my typical day begins with a home roasted pour-over brew at home.
off to work for a single shot - or two.
then an americano around mid day.

why an americano?
because i can hang on to it a little bit longer and some days i prefer the strength of an americano over a regular brew.

short and strong. like my men.
(j/k)

serve me a shitty-mediocre espresso with water- and well.....you can just keep it, thank you.


perhaps your water to brew ratio is (way) off?
i can imagine that a single served with anything more than 3-5 ounces of water would taste pretty mediocre...read: weak.

also- 140-160 degree water is not, in my opinion, hot enough.
poor espresso.
i'd suggest to meet the degree of the coffee. (and definitely dont use hot water from the espresso machine!)
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Re: Americanos: what they good for?

Postby amber fox on Tue Apr 06, 2010 8:01 am

It's all about ratio of water to espresso!

Try adding a small amount of hot water to the bottom of a 3oz demi, or fill a capp cup a third with hot water. Then pull the espresso on top.
Maybe you don't consider this an americano, due to the high ratio of espresso to hot water... but personally, I quite enjoy this drink every now and again. It can be a fantastic way to give the espresso 'a little room to breathe', accentuate different flavours in the shot.

As for 8-12oz americanos, those are much more difficult to perfect. I have had quite nice americanos with these ratios... but it necessitates a truly fantastic, washed, well-roasted and well-pulled espresso.
But don't all truly tasty espresso drinks need to begin with these parameters?
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Re: Americanos: what they good for?

Postby Jim Saborio on Wed Apr 07, 2010 12:15 am

Sandy wrote:perhaps your water to brew ratio is (way) off?
i can imagine that a single served with anything more than 3-5 ounces of water would taste pretty mediocre...read: weak.


We currently offer a "double shot" (if that still means anything) in the guest's choice of a 10 or 6.5oz cup (8 or 12oz to-go). For our re-evaluation, we stuck to the 6.5oz cups. It wasn't just that it was weak (it was), but it was devoid of some of the mediocre flavors we are able to get out of the crumby shots we pull.

It seems that, if we were able to pull decent shots, an Americano should be an espresso opened-up in water. Isn't it just like adding a bit of water to a high-proof bourbon? (note lack of dialectic mark) That sounds like what Amber is achieving with her mini-version... I will try one tomorrow and pretend it was made with a proper shot.

Sandy wrote:also- 140-160 degree water is not, in my opinion, hot enough.
poor espresso.
i'd suggest to meet the degree of the coffee. (and definitely dont use hot water from the espresso machine!)


To our surprise we found we enjoyed the cooler water Americanos over the ones made with water straight from the tower (203ish). They seemed to be slightly truer to the lackluster flavors in our espresso... a bit closer to the outskirts of the blah spectrum. If one good thing came from the Americano re-evaluation, it was deciding to use cooler water.
-JIm

...aaannndd the Starbucks down the street just got a Clover
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Re: Americanos: what they good for?

Postby lukeharris on Wed Apr 07, 2010 11:18 am

I should say first of all that I'd rather have an espresso than an americano any day, and I've often made the diluted booze comparison, too. I do sometimes add some water to my single malt, but only after I've familiarized myself extensively with the malt poured neat. However, a properly prepared americano can open up latent, difficult to detect flavours for palates as unpracticed as mine.

I first got interested in americanos before I knew anything about coffee because I noticed that the "good" barista at my local shop (where the coffee was bad) made an americano I could drink without cream and/or sugar by pulling the shot into the water. I experimented with this a bit on a friend's home machine and the results were consistent. This marked the beginning of my life as a drinker of black coffee, so obviously I feel a bit of attachment to the notion of the americano.

Fast forward to the 2007 SCAA expo. A friend and I got one of the Intelli baristas to run a blind tasting on the trade show floor, comparing americanos prepared using the espresso-into-water and water-into-espresso methods. Again, the results were consistent. Espresso-into-water won. I've never worked behind the bar, so I have a bad memory for these things, but I think the ratio that really worked was 1:1, espresso:water, pulling doubles.

Chemically speaking, some of you may be familiar with the concept, "Add acid to water, don't add water to acid." Strictly speaking, an espresso shot is not a sufficiently concentrated chemical solution to be compared directly to the sort of acid solutions we usually use in the lab. Even so, I remain convinced that the basis for the better flavour of the espresso-into-water version can be found in acid-base chemistry, which involves the release of a lot of heat energy when the components of an acid or base chemically dissociate (i.e., separate from each other). This heat energy is called the "heat of dissociation." Heats of dissociation are generated when more concentrated media, like concentrated salt solutions, suddenly become diluted. If the diluting medium--water in this case--is very hot to begin with, then the heat of dissociation will actually mean that the new solution should transiently become even hotter. In the case of an americano this further increase in heat should, in principle, mean that the beverage chemistry changes, resulting in flavour and aroma deterioration.

In other words, based on pure speculation regarding acid-base chemistry, and no substantiating data whatsoever, using slightly cooler water to make an americano should, in fact, improve the flavour. This has also been my experience. To summarize, I think that an americano made using an optimal espresso-to-water ratio, and using water that has been allowed to cool by approximately 10 degrees, will produce a good "entry-level" espresso beverage that will help novices get into it. Again, that was certainly my experience.

For those who think I oversimplified the above a little too much, my apologies.

L
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Re: Americanos: what they good for?

Postby Jim Saborio on Wed Apr 07, 2010 1:56 pm

I decided to leave the Americano on my menu, but I'm changing its name to:
"A good entry-level espresso beverage that will help novices get into it"
-JIm

...aaannndd the Starbucks down the street just got a Clover
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Re: Americanos: what they good for?

Postby phaelon56 on Wed Apr 07, 2010 2:55 pm

Jim Saborio wrote:I decided to leave the Americano on my menu, but I'm changing its name to:
"A good entry-level espresso beverage that will help novices get into it"


That drink name cries out for a catchy acronym, but I only get as far as "GELEB..." and my brain freezes.
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Re: Americanos: what they good for?

Postby drew johnson on Wed Apr 07, 2010 3:01 pm

amber fox wrote:It's all about ratio of water to espresso!

As for 8-12oz americanos, those are much more difficult to perfect. I have had quite nice americanos with these ratios... but it necessitates a truly fantastic, washed, well-roasted and well-pulled espresso.
But don't all truly tasty espresso drinks need to begin with these parameters?


i'd say "no" to your rhetorical question. i know i'm linked to an old school natural lover, but it's just too simplistic to say "all truly tasty espresso drinks need to begin with..." . it's too problematic for me to abide by it...

but you know me. i like the fight.
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Re: Americanos: what they good for?

Postby scottlucey on Mon Apr 12, 2010 12:36 pm

Jim,
More than once you've referenced your shop pulling crummy shots. I can't tell if you're kidding! For the sake of clarity, please admit here, publicly that you and your staff can pull great shots... if you're not kidding and you can't pull great shots - then that's your problem, not the americano.

I will vote for the americano. Although they're not my favorite beverage of choice, I would opt for one if there weren't the greatest brewed drip options. For me the americano is a drink choice of strategy.

I have had customers admit they physically enjoy americanos more than they do drip, describing drip as too acidic in their system. These few customers say americanos are more friendly to their digestive system, "smooth" if you will.

sL
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Re: Americanos: what they good for?

Postby zak on Wed Apr 14, 2010 12:30 am

i dig a well made americano as much as i dig whiskey and soda, which is a whole bunch.
personal opinion aside, if i started taking drinks that i don't like off of my menu, i'd be left with a very slim, very needlessly hip, and very anti-customer menu.

if you want to rock a strictly purest menu, you could maybe just offer one size? 7oz cup w/ 5oz water? the libby gibraltar cups are pretty rad for in house americanos, (whiskey/sodas), and they're super cheap.

http://www.restaurantsource.com/libbey- ... -8226.aspx

at the same time, if a customer really likes a 16oz decaf americano with a flavor shot and 5oz of soy, why deny them? it's like going to a record store and being told you can't buy the stuff you picked out because the owner doesn't like it.
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Re: Americanos: what they good for?

Postby phaelon56 on Wed Apr 14, 2010 5:09 pm

zak wrote:at the same time, if a customer really likes a 16oz decaf americano with a flavor shot and 5oz of soy, why deny them? it's like going to a record store and being told you can't buy the stuff you picked out because the owner doesn't like it.


Having a long history of non-coffee related retail background and customer service experience in another arena - I happen to agree with you. Your comment may well stir up a spirited discussion that will need a thread of its own as it heads off in a new direction. There are those who will insist that if you build it the way you like it, by strict purist standards, the customers you seek will eventually find you and success is assured on your own terms (assuming you run the business correctly). Others may say you have to deal with the realities of creating enough revenue to keep the doors open, pay your employees, and grow the business by re-investing.

I think both sides are right within their own context. Markets like Syracuse NY and Ypsilanti MI are fundamentally different than upscale, progressive major metro area markets. Therein lies the explanation for what looks like a contradiction on the surface.

There is a business model that addresses both needs but I have neither the money, time or energy at this point in my life to pursue it. Given the money I could make the time and the energy would come naturally. But even in this depressed area (economically speaking) the only viable location would be about $4,000 to $5,000 per month in rent. That's a lot of coffee to sell, but then again, Starbucks on that block is said to do about $2 million annually. The market is there.
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Re: Americanos: what they good for?

Postby Jim Saborio on Thu Apr 15, 2010 7:43 pm

Nick was right... I'm out.

It's off the menu as soon as I have time to do a re-print. You want an Americano at Comet? Well, "we really believe our brewed coffee offerings are much better". You still want an Americano? Ok. Not going to fight you on it. Got the cups here and the hot water over there. It'll be just like the flat white, Gibralter and cortado: not on the menu but we still make 'em.

But why should I offer an item on my menu that I don't stand behind? To avoid being a 'purist'? Naw, I'm in it for the people. I think they want the best coffee I can make, right? Why offer a pitfall as the third item on our menu? Why let it pop into their minds, even subliminally, as they peruse the board in search of something good?

Scott, please stop by for a shot if you're ever in town... tell us what you think.
-JIm

...aaannndd the Starbucks down the street just got a Clover
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Re: Americanos: what they good for?

Postby zak on Mon Apr 19, 2010 12:41 am

hey, there's nothin wrong with being a purist. and with no offense intended, i'd say Comet is one of the more purist shops i've been to, and i think that's awesome.
but...
in the defense of the americano, do you think that it could maybe just be the espresso you guys are using? you know as well as anyone, some espressos are awesome straight but no good in milk, some vise versa, some good in an iced drink, some not, etc. i think the same is true for americanos. did you guys try it with any of your single origins? a five once biloya americano is nothing to shake a stick at. admittedly, i've never had an americano at Comet, but i've had amazing shots and machs from you guys time and time again. maybe Epic and water just don't mix?
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Re: Americanos: what they good for?

Postby Jesse Crouse on Tue Apr 20, 2010 11:16 am

Jim,

taking it off the menu will probably do nothing. Menus do nothing. For the majority of customers, they know what they want before they order. We did an event where we made screen printed, wood panel, beautiful menus with three drinks listed. The following could be described as nothing short of a huge failure for the menu. Sure they were gorgeous, but they worked as well as Owen's acronym. Now, a menu for a shop that allows for a more intimate meeting would work. Something like a beer menu, or something you have time to go over with with the customer, one-on-one.

People will still order them, and if you up for the fight, or if you think it is worth it, then you should reprint without the Americano listed. Maybe it is more the principle for you.

Personally, an SO Kenya or Ethiopia Americano sounds lovely to me. Anything acidic. I prefer something not so "smooth" :wink:
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