What is a Long Coffee? A Guide to Understanding this Popular Espresso Drink

Long coffee is a term that can be ambiguous in the coffee world. Depending on where you are, it can refer to different types of coffee drinks. However, at its core, a long coffee is simply a coffee that is made with more water than usual, resulting in a larger volume of coffee.

The two most common interpretations of a long coffee are the Americano and the Long Black. An Americano is made by adding hot water to a shot of espresso, while a Long Black is made by pouring a shot of espresso over hot water. The main difference between the two is the order in which the water and espresso are combined, which affects the flavor and strength of the coffee.

An Americano tends to be milder and less intense than a Long Black, which has a stronger and more robust flavor. This is because the espresso in a Long Black is poured on top of the hot water, which creates a layer of crema on top that helps to preserve the flavor and aroma of the coffee. Overall, a long coffee is a great option for those who want a larger, more flavorful cup of coffee.

Unpacking the Confusion: Two Distinct ‘Long Coffees’

If you’ve ever heard the term “long coffee” used in a cafe, you may have been left wondering what exactly it means. The truth is, the term is used to describe two different coffee beverages, each with its own unique brewing method and flavor profile. In this section, we’ll break down the differences between the Americano and the Long Black, two popular interpretations of the “long coffee” concept.

The Americano: Espresso Meets Hot Water

The Americano is perhaps the most common interpretation of “long coffee” in many regions, including the United States. This beverage has its foundation in espresso, the concentrated coffee shot that is the base for many espresso-based drinks. To make an Americano, a shot of espresso is pulled and then diluted with hot water to create a milder and larger beverage compared to straight espresso. The water-to-espresso ratio can be adjusted to achieve the desired strength, often starting with a 1:1 ratio.

Here are some key points to keep in mind when ordering or making an Americano:

  • Foundation in espresso – uses a shot of espresso as the base.
  • Dilution with hot water – espresso is diluted with hot water to create a milder and larger beverage compared to straight espresso.
  • Customizable strength – water-to-espresso ratio can be adjusted to achieve the desired strength, often starting with a 1:1 ratio.

The Long Black: Hot Water First, Espresso Second

The Long Black is a popular “long coffee” in Oceania, particularly in Australia and New Zealand. This beverage has a unique brewing method that differs from the Americano. To make a Long Black, hot water is poured first, followed by an espresso shot on top, allowing the crema to rise. This method preserves the espresso’s strength while still creating a larger, milder beverage.

Here are some key points to keep in mind when ordering or making a Long Black:

  • Brewing method – hot water is poured first, followed by an espresso shot on top (allowing crema to rise).
  • Espresso strength – Long Blacks may use a slightly stronger espresso compared to some Americanos.
  • Potential for regional variations – cup size and water-to-espresso ratio can vary slightly across coffee cultures.

Whether you prefer the Americano or the Long Black, both are great options for those looking for a larger, milder coffee beverage that still retains the signature flavor of espresso. Keep these differences in mind the next time you’re ordering a “long coffee” at your favorite cafe.

Beyond the Label: When Size Isn’t Everything

When you hear the term “long coffee,” you might assume it simply refers to a larger volume of coffee than a standard espresso shot. However, there’s more to it than that. In this section, we’ll explore the nuances of long coffee, including its strength and flavor profile.

More Than Just Volume: Understanding Coffee Strength

Long coffee isn’t just about size – it’s also about strength. Here are a few factors that can impact the strength of a long coffee:

  • Espresso’s Intensity: Espresso naturally packs a bolder flavor profile compared to drip coffee. This means that a long coffee made with espresso will generally have a stronger taste than a standard drip coffee.
  • Dilution Impact: The amount of hot water used in both Americanos and Long Blacks significantly affects their strength. Americanos are made by adding hot water to a shot of espresso, while Long Blacks involve adding hot water to a cup and then pouring the espresso on top. The more water added, the weaker the coffee will be.
  • Customization is Key: Both beverages offer the ability to control strength through water-to-espresso ratio adjustments. This means that you can customize your long coffee to your personal taste preferences.

A Spectrum of Flavors: Nuances Beyond Strength

While strength is an important aspect of long coffee, it’s not the only factor that contributes to its flavor profile. Here are a few other things to keep in mind:

  • Crema Influence: Long Black’s crema can contribute to a richer mouthfeel and potentially a touch of sweetness. The crema is the frothy layer that forms on top of the espresso shot.
  • Acidity and Bitterness: Dilution can influence the perception of both, with Long Blacks potentially having a slightly brighter acidity depending on the espresso. This means that the flavor profile of a long coffee can vary depending on the specific type of espresso used.
  • Bean Selection and Roast: The type of coffee beans and roast profile used in the espresso base can impact the final flavor of both beverages. This means that long coffee made with different types of beans or roasts can have subtle taste profile variations.

Choosing Your “Long Coffee”: A Guide for Coffee Enthusiasts

If you’re a coffee enthusiast and want to try out Long Coffee, there are a few things to consider before choosing the perfect one for you. Here are some tips to help you select the ideal Long Coffee based on your preferences.

Consider Your Preferences: Strength Spectrum Explored

When it comes to Long Coffee, you can choose from a range of strengths, from mild to strong. Here are some suggestions based on your preferred strength:

  • Enjoy strong coffee? A Long Black with a slightly higher espresso content might be ideal.
  • Prefer a milder experience? An Americano with a lower water-to-espresso ratio (more water) can provide a gentler coffee experience.
  • Experimentation is key – try both Americanos and Long Blacks with different water-to-espresso ratios to discover your sweet spot.

Beyond the Basics: Advanced Considerations

If you’re ready to take your Long Coffee experience to the next level, here are some advanced considerations to keep in mind:

  • Espresso quality – freshly ground coffee and proper espresso machine settings are crucial for a well-extracted espresso base in both drinks.
  • Water quality – consider filtered or bottled water for optimal taste, especially if tap water has a strong mineral content.


Now that you know what a long coffee is, it’s important to note that it can encompass both Americanos and Long Blacks, each with distinct brewing methods and taste profiles. Americanos are made by adding hot water to espresso shots, while Long Blacks are made by adding espresso shots to hot water.

When choosing your ideal long coffee, it’s important to consider your strength and flavor preferences, as well as customization options. For example, you can experiment with brewing methods, water-to-espresso ratios, and bean selection to create your perfect cup.

Long coffee is a unique and delicious coffee creation that offers a balanced flavor profile and versatility. Its brewing process and flavor make it an excellent alternative for those who find traditional coffee too strong or too weak for their taste. So, don’t be afraid to explore and experiment to find your perfect cup of long coffee.

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