My wife and I took a short trip to Paris not long ago, and spent the better part of a day hitting up some of the coffee shops some friends and family recommended.

 

After sipping my way through 5 cappuccinos, we hit up this place called La Cafeotheque of Paris. They had dozens of estate SO coffees from around the world. I asked for a drip coffee and a cappuccino. The owner explained to me that they do not serve drip coffee, only Americanos.

 

That got me thinking. Why not just serve Americanos? Has anyone given serious thought to or attempted to tackle this while explaining to difference to customers?

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Why not?

 

For me because I usually prefer a drip to an Americano.  I think Americanos definitely have their place, and sometimes I even prefer an Americano over a drip, but usually not.

 

The cleanliness and clarity of a drip is familiar, comfortable and desired by most coffee drinkers in America.

 

-bry

That seems to be what most of the drive threws do in Washington state do(at least the ones near Bremerton). I guess they figure its cheaper and doesn't take up any more of there limited space. But brew coffee and Americanos are very different drinks, so saying you only have Americanos doesn't cut it my book.

My partner and I have been discussing this topic all month. We're opening a cafe, and are deciding what would be most appropriate for us, our mission, and for the customers. At the moment, we'll be serving americanos as a default. We intend to brew a locally roasted coffee for drip, as it will be a feature coffee that changes regularly based on the roasters bean choice. Seeing as these beans are usually single origin, brewing it as drip coffee will better allow the specific characteristics of the bean to be appreciated (as opposed to relinquishing it to the adulteration of milk and sugars). For a consistent product we will have an unchanging espresso roast and decaf espresso for all our espresso-based drinks; americanos being our "house coffee" if you will. 

 

We're unsure how this will go over, so only time will tell. We will be encouraging feedback on the subject. One pro of serving americanos by default, is that each cup will be as fresh as possible. The customer will see the beans go through their process and will have the satisfaction of knowing it was made solely for them, and therefore substantially reducing waste. At the coffee house where I honed my skills, we would throw out cups and cups of coffee. Either the brew sat in the airpots too long, or towards the end of the day, the coffee wasn't completely consumed. And the amount of brewed decaf we threw out!? EXPONENTIALLY Worse. 

 

One thing that concerns me is impatient guests, either due to a time crunch, or just the epidemic of "I want it now!" mentality. There will be people who want to walk in, pay, pump their own joe, and go. Pulling an espresso should take less than a minute, beginning to end, and about that length of time to make an americano. I think it's possible to make this known to coffee consumers by every day education where eventually the appreciate of craft and quality will reign. 

Don't know what kind of clientele you're figuring on, but will suggest that for us - in a business district in an inner suburb - it's two different audiences (and a third on weekends that's much more relaxed).  The weekday morning people are the only ones who seem to have a sensitive for how much time it'll take to get the cup in their hands.  We wouldn't worry too much about brew time on the weekends or afternoon dayparts.

For us, doing decaf Americanos in the afternoon was a no-brainer.  We stop brewing airpots of decaf around 11am. It's been a problem once in the 2+ years since we started doing that. 

However, since we roast our own and specialize in upper-specialty grade beans for drip (albeit still doing airpots in the mornings), the difference in any given coffee in our lineup brewed as drip vs. Americano is huge.  The SO Americanos never win out on taste. If we were using coffees that were a bit sketchier or more darkly roasted, the comparisons might be more favorable toward Americanos. So in our opinion, it depends on what kind of coffees you're planning on offering.


Katie Jo said:

At the coffee house where I honed my skills, we would throw out cups and cups of coffee. Either the brew sat in the airpots too long, or towards the end of the day, the coffee wasn't completely consumed. And the amount of brewed decaf we threw out!? EXPONENTIALLY Worse. 

My first thought would be, "Whatever you do, do it well."

 

Of course you're thinking... "Duh!" But as I'm sure you have experienced, the places with something worth drinking are few and far between... that even includes many of the "known" places, who are sometimes (thankfully) better than advertised, and quite a few who are all glitz and glitter without the substance.

 

For us it was a no-brainer. We've never entertained doing drip. As Schomer, and several others, we started out as espresso based only. So for us, it's always been Americano over drip. Now the easy part is honestly, most drip coffee out there is horrendous... the more difficult part is most Americanos are worse. But the easiest way to win over the customer is to deliver something that is decidedly better than what they have had from both camps. For our market it was about having a clear differentiation from day one. We were different, we were better, and what we serve speaks for itself.

 

So our Americano quickly became our go to "coffee" and when we did introduce a coffee offering, it was about elevating the experience entirely. 

 

Your offerings will dictate, and (over time) create, your market. Only you know what's best for you. In the end it IS as simple as doing whatever you choose well. Now get to work.

Thanks for the feedback. There is a bookstore adjacent to our gallery/cafe, my partner being long time neighbors and friends of the owners. The owner of the bookstore roasts coffee as a hobby business, experimenting with different roasts and bean origins; definitely a small batch roaster. We intend on brewing his beans as our drip offering, which will change based on what he's roasting currently. Since he does such small quantities we can't rely on him for the amount we propose to sell, so we are seeking out a roaster that can fulfill our needs. This larger coffee roaster will be the beans we intend to brew only as americanos. However, like I said, we're not sure how this will go over. Our location is in a very small town, at the end reaches of the North where "latte" is pronounced "lah-tee" quite often.

 

Thanks again for the feedback, and I will definitely return as we carry this idea along and share what we find.


Rich Westerfield said:

Don't know what kind of clientele you're figuring on, but will suggest that for us - in a business district in an inner suburb - it's two different audiences (and a third on weekends that's much more relaxed).  The weekday morning people are the only ones who seem to have a sensitive for how much time it'll take to get the cup in their hands.  We wouldn't worry too much about brew time on the weekends or afternoon dayparts.

For us, doing decaf Americanos in the afternoon was a no-brainer.  We stop brewing airpots of decaf around 11am. It's been a problem once in the 2+ years since we started doing that. 

However, since we roast our own and specialize in upper-specialty grade beans for drip (albeit still doing airpots in the mornings), the difference in any given coffee in our lineup brewed as drip vs. Americano is huge.  The SO Americanos never win out on taste. If we were using coffees that were a bit sketchier or more darkly roasted, the comparisons might be more favorable toward Americanos. So in our opinion, it depends on what kind of coffees you're planning on offering.


Katie Jo said:

At the coffee house where I honed my skills, we would throw out cups and cups of coffee. Either the brew sat in the airpots too long, or towards the end of the day, the coffee wasn't completely consumed. And the amount of brewed decaf we threw out!? EXPONENTIALLY Worse. 

We have experimented with americanos vs drip at Caffe Mocias. We use the same beans and make a cup of each. They tasted different.

 

If you have limited space, and coffee is not your core business, then you might try using americano instead of drip. The advantage of drip, is that you get to have a variety of single origins with only one grinder.

Great discussion! Thank you everyone for the responses.


It's interesting to see the variety of opinions. As a Massachusetts native (where Dunkin Donuts was the standard growing up), I had always thought of drop coffee as the primary offering in any coffee shop. I guess I just wouldn't allow myself to conceptualize a shop going with an Americano and forgoing the drip option.

 

I was reading Scott Rao's 'Professional Barista Handbook' today and came across a note about Americanos being more bitter than espresso because the hot water dilutes the oils that normally coat the tongue and prevent the bitter notes from being tasted.

 

So I understand now why Americanos are more bitter than espresso, but are they bitterer than traditional drip coffee? (Not using a chemex or other manual brewing techniques)

Rich, you said you have airpots available in the morning then only americanos in the afternoons?

 

If that's the case, do you ever get customers who come in in the morning looking for drip, french press, etc. and then come in in the afternoon looking for the sake offering and refuse the americano? Taking the example a step further, do you get customers who try the americano for the first time and then continue purchasing americanos all the time (instead of drip)?

 

Rich Westerfield said:

Don't know what kind of clientele you're figuring on, but will suggest that for us - in a business district in an inner suburb - it's two different audiences (and a third on weekends that's much more relaxed).  The weekday morning people are the only ones who seem to have a sensitive for how much time it'll take to get the cup in their hands.  We wouldn't worry too much about brew time on the weekends or afternoon dayparts.

For us, doing decaf Americanos in the afternoon was a no-brainer.  We stop brewing airpots of decaf around 11am. It's been a problem once in the 2+ years since we started doing that. 

However, since we roast our own and specialize in upper-specialty grade beans for drip (albeit still doing airpots in the mornings), the difference in any given coffee in our lineup brewed as drip vs. Americano is huge.  The SO Americanos never win out on taste. If we were using coffees that were a bit sketchier or more darkly roasted, the comparisons might be more favorable toward Americanos. So in our opinion, it depends on what kind of coffees you're planning on offering.

Mike,

A properly brewed Americano will not be bitter, and will be more flavorful than the majority of drip coffee that you will find.  The main problem is that many places brew Americanos into too hot of water and then it is both too hot AND bitter. In my experience, It's often more difficult to find a good Americano than it is to find good espresso. Even some of the great shops do a poor Americano because it's really not their priority and so they don't seek to test what they're doing. They assume "great espresso... great Americano" Not always the case. As anything else, follow the flavor, adjust temp and technique accordingly.

@ John - great point. Does the temperature recommendation vary by the coffee/espresso? My understanding has always been that to make an americano, the barista should pull the water directly from the espresso machine. Where do you get the water from?

 

Also, I was wondering if anyone changes anything different with their espresso shots before mixing with water and serving?

These drinks can be so great, and are very much worth the time to perfect.  Also agreed that they need not be bitter.  However, your shots must be GREAT for them to work... just like you were serving a straight espresso, I suppose.  No place to hide - garbage in, garbage out...

 

The best one I've had was the "long black" at Octane in ATL during SERBC.  They were pulling CCC's Peru SO, and served the shots on top in a 5.5oz tulip capp.  Saw one served on my second visit of the week and proceeded to start every morning with at least one for the rest of the week.  But I digress.

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