What Is a White Americano Coffee & How Do I Make One?

They say you can judge a person by their coffee order, but there seems to be one caffeinated cup that appeals to a large variety of people. The understated, never outdated, humble Americano. Frothier beverages have come and gone and while black coffee may not be to everyone’s taste, the white Americano has held sway over the masses for nearly 100 years. Yet, it can also be one of the most misunderstood of coffees. So here is our take on the mighty Americano. Here we seek to answer the oft-asked question: what is a white Americano and how do I make one?

History of the White Americano

As with most popular coffee items of recent years, the story of the Americano starts in Italy. It began its life in the 1940s when American GIs stationed in Italy wanted a good old cup of Joe but found that they did not much like the powerful caffeine jolt and bitter taste of the espresso shots that everyone drank there.

In order to make the espresso more palatable for their US clientele, coffee shops began adding hot water to the espresso and calling it the Americano. This caught on, as it reminded the soldiers of their good old drip coffees back home.

Why are white Americanos popular?

One of the reasons why the white Americano is so frequently the most ordered coffee is that it is the beverage that most allows the coffee taste to sing. Even when milk is added, it is in vastly smaller quantities than a latte or cappuccino, which is nearly 90% milk in some instances.

With an Americano you get a nice long drink while being able to taste the nuances and tones of the coffee itself - making it the perfect vector for trying out different blends or single-origin varieties.

As well as this, by dialling down on the milk gives the illusion of a stronger coffee itself. While the caffeine content is the same as in a milky coffee made with the same amount of espresso shots (which most like for like size drinks in a cafe are), the coffee flavour comes across as cleaner and more robust in water than when it has to cut through the sweet, fat texture of milk, dairy or otherwise.

For those of us watching our weight, sugar or fat intake or who are avoiding dairy, Americanos allow us to control what goes into our coffees. As a black Americano only contains water and espresso, the calories are pretty much negligible, and it is up to us entirely if we want to add sugar, extra calories or dairy/non-dairy milk to the mix.

Another reason for opting for an Americano is that you like your hot coffee drinks actually really quite hot. While some may order their cappuccino or lattes extra hot, they are doing themselves a disservice, as this scalds the milk (and the coffee) and makes it taste burnt and bitter, usually necessitating the need to add sugar to be more palatable. Water can be heated a lot hotter than milk and how much milk (warm, cold or frothed) you add is entirely up to you, as it is served on the side (sometimes in a cute miniature milk bottle). 

The popularity continues to this day, especially for those who seek out a beverage when out and about that most resembles the instant brew they make at home. Go to any coffee shop and you are bound to hear the order of ‘just a plain old coffee please,’ being met with ‘An Americano then. Did you want it black or with milk?’ Which brings us nicely on to the question at hand: What is a white Americano coffee?

So, what is a white Americano coffee?

Thanks to campaigns to demystify coffee types, there has been something lost in translation when someone orders a white coffee in a cafe. Technically, any of the more popular milk-based espresso drinks could be classed as white coffee. In fact, some less in-the-know establishments even describe a flat white as a white coffee. This could stem from a misunderstanding about what the term flat signifies: some mistake it to mean ‘ordinary’ as in ‘an ordinary white coffee.

However, generally when someone asks for a white coffee, they are looking for an Americano with milk on the side. This is made up of simply espresso, hot water and either cold or slightly warmed milk. 

How to make a white Americano at home

Making a white Americano at home couldn’t be easier.  Here’s how:

You will need:

- 1-2 shots of espresso

- Hot water

- Steamed milk (optional)


  1. Brew 1-2 shots of espresso using an espresso machine or something similar  (moka pots and Aeropress make good, strong coffees that can imitate espresso
  2. Pour the espresso shots into a cup.
  3. Heat some water but stop just before it reaches boiling. Boiling water will scald the coffee and make it taste unnecessarily bitter.
  4. Add the water to the cup, filling it up about 3/4 of the way.
  5. If desired, add a small amount of steamed milk to the top of the coffee. 
  6. Enjoy your homemade white Americano coffee!

You can adjust the ratios of espresso, hot water, and steamed milk to your liking, depending on how strong, watery or milky you prefer your coffee.

Variations of a white americano

As the iced and blended cold drinks have grown in popularity, so has the Americano altered to keep up with demand. Simply replace the hot water with cold and add at least half a cup of ice for an excellent, refreshing summer version of the ever-popular Americano.

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When you are making coffee at home, the quality of the beans used is of paramount importance, especially when you are making a drink as understated as a white Americano. 

Make use of the blank canvas in an Americano by making it a means to try out different single-origin beans, as you’ll really get a sense of the complex tones within each, something that is sadly lost or distorted when making a milk-based drink. 

Here at the coffee bean shop, we source the very best coffee beans in the UK and roast them daily in our Kent-based roastery to ensure that they are always fresh. 

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