Coffee Debate #1: Usefulness of the Americano/Long Black [revisiting the revisitation]

As Mike has alluded to in earlier posts, we have disagreed on the place of Americanos in cafes, or maybe more specifically, in the menu’s of hardcore coffee geeks.  While I will not change my original position in that I do not care much for Americanos, perhaps some thought has to be put into the potential or role of Americanos, and maybe we should start looking more creatively as to what Americanos can offer.

To me, the success and vitality of Americanos most likely arose from the fact that there was no good brewed coffee available in cafe’s, especially those in caught in the tides of the 2nd Wave.  Not wanting a milky, espresso based drink, I believe people started ordering Americanos as a replacement for terrible brewed coffee.  This makes sense as often, there is slightly more care taken into how the espresso is brewed over the neglected drip.  As a result, Americanos propagated… I think there’s an image characteristic to this as well.  How many ‘hipsters’ do you see go to cafe’s to get Americanos?  It’s like the drink for those too sissy to get an espresso/macchiato, but too hardcore to get a latte.  Amongst indie rockers and artists alike, it’s the safe drink of choice!  And I suppose you can’t blame them for coming down this path.

But now that the 2nd Wave has washed out, brewed coffee is now sharing (if not stealing) the spotlight from espresso.  This is evidenced by the amount of syphon vac pots, Clovers, Chemex’s, French Presses and pour overs being used as a highlight feature of many cafes.  With the absolutely delicious (and very representative) characteristic of brewed coffee being enjoyed, is there any place for Americanos in a quality cafe?  I think the Americano could potentially be a ‘bridging drink’ to the better ways of brewing.  While I still uphold the contention that the Americano is only diluting (and potentially losing) many of the delicious aspects of espresso, it presents a great potential.  If care is taken into the espresso, I do not see why an Americano couldn’t have some very interesting origin characteristics to it.  Using this popular drink as a springboard for education, a barista could taste the Americano and talk about its tasting notes to the customer, who would most likely enjoy this experience.  Then, they could be converted into a brewed coffee drinker by other methods which bring out better flavor from the coffee.  I also appreciate how James Hoffmann & the crew at the Coffee Collective have put some thought into this and have found out that skimming off the crema on top of the Americano actually improves its taste considerably.  Perhaps that is yet another reason why hardcore coffee peeps have always found disdain within the drink.

To close, I think that Americanos are an inferior way of experiencing coffee… yet have great potential (if much care is taken) to be a ‘bridging drink’ to getting others to either go the route of ESPRESSO, or BREWED… or hopefully, BOTH!

This reminds me that I still need to make shirts that say “I Hate Crema” on them… who’s with me?  Traditional Italians would probably stop coming to the cafe, haha!

Jer

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