What is a Long Black Coffee?

Last Updated on January 24, 2024

Long black remains a phenomenon in the coffee world with its hybrid origin and deep roots in Australia and New Zealand. 

Most coffee lovers savor its strong taste and aroma but mistake it for Americano. They erroneously think a long black is no more than hot water diluted espresso or an extra-long pulled espresso. So, what is a long black coffee, you wonder?

what is a long black coffee

A long black is traditionally made with about 3.5 to 4 ounces of water (about half a cup). The barista pours a double shot of espresso or ristretto over the hot water. It shares a lot with Americano – ingredients, quantity of coffee, and water temperature.

Sequence, not ingredients, differentiates a long black from an Americano. For a long black, it is hot water first in a cup, and then you pour the two espresso shots. A reversal of this order will change your crema and make you an Americano instead.   

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The History of the Long Black

coffee served in Italy

Though Italy is certainly not the origin of coffee, (that feat is credited to Ethiopia) it is arguably the modern-day headquarters of coffee. The history of coffee in Italy is long; today, coffee is part of the Italian national identity. However, there are limited options for Italians when it comes to coffee. It is typically either an espresso drink or a cappuccino. Having visited Naples, Italy recently, those were the options offered to me. Delicious options, but one or the other.

History says some Italian baristas fashioned out long black from the Caffe Americano. The American coffee was significantly milder compared to the espresso.

The implication was that American tourists in Italy were left unsatisfied by being served espresso – thus, the emergence of the long black. 

Therefore, it was an Italian barista’s answer to the predicament of American tourist customers who were lovers of large cups of black coffee.

So, the world has the American-Italian relationship to thank for the blessing of this unique taste. However, though it started in Italy, the long black became popular in Australia and New Zealand.

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In other parts of the world, coffee shops advertise long black under different names. For instance, Indonesia calls it kopi hitam, meaning black coffee. 

What Makes the Long Black Different

The varieties in café served coffee are becoming almost infinite. The list is unending, from espresso and ristretto to long macchiato and short macchiato. There’s cappuccino and the crema-topped latte. It’s enough to keep even the most proficient of baristas on their toes!

Oh, and don’t forget there’s also the short black coffee which is basically just a shot of espresso without adding water.

Despite the variety of coffee blends, the long black coffee still stands out. It is uniquely different. Below are the three main differences of the drink.

Flavor: The long black has a unique flavor. This coffee blend owes this special flavor to the ingredients and preparation method.  

Aroma: Like with flavor, the long black has a special aroma that coffee connoisseurs can tell from afar. 

Crema: The long black coffee has a heavier body because pouring espresso shots over hot water makes it retain lots of crema.

Long Black Compared to an Americano

You might wonder why people compare the Long black to the Americano. Long black shares a lot with Americano. 

The long black matched to the Americano fundamentally highlights one main difference – their preparation process.

Similarities Between a Long Black and an Americano

Ingredients: Every coffee shop uses the same ingredients for their espresso and long black. Those are espresso shots and hot water.

Water temperature: A long black coffee and an Americano use hot water. For a long black coffee, your water should be about 195 degrees Fahrenheit, equivalent to 91 degrees Celsius. That is the same level of temperature you need for Americano.

What Differentiates a long Black from an Americano

Preparation order: This is the major difference between a long black and an Americano. This secret of attaining the long black coffee is pouring hot water into one cup and two espresso shots in another. If it were Americano, the next step is pouring hot water over espresso. However, to make a long black, it is the espresso that you will pour over hot water.

Crema: Because you pour water over Americano, most of the crema thins into the coffee. In long black, you have thicker crema atop your coffee because it is espresso poured on hot water.

Flavor: By every standard, long black has a more robust flavor than the Americano. The little quantity of water you use to prepare a long black coffee intensifies its flavor over the Americano’s.

Quantity of Water Used: Coffee making involves getting the right water and coffee blend ratio and the correct preparation technique. Talking about the water and coffee blend ratio, you typically use less water to prepare a long black than the quantity of water you use to prepare an Americano.  Note that when making a long black, you should not have more espresso than water in your cup.

How to Make a Long Black Coffee

how to make a long black coffee

It is worth mentioning that you’ll see different ratios of water to espresso when making a long black coffee. Some recommend a 50/50 ratio of espresso to water, and others state that 1/4 espresso and 3/4 water is the way to prepare it. Ultimately, you’ll experiment and find the perfect ratio for your long black.

Making a long black coffee that will satisfy your taste buds and offer your nose a tantalizing aroma requires a level of finesse, but is actually quite simple if you have an espresso machine. Here’s what you need:

The typical ratio for a long black coffee is 1/4 espresso to 3/4 water, although you will most likely tweak that to find your perfect long black! Start with about 3 1/2 to 4 ounces of water for one espresso shot. That will give you 30 to 50 mg of caffeine, if you’re wondering.

First, grind fresh coffee and prepare it for brewing per your espresso machine instructions.

Then, heat your water to about 195 degrees Fahrenheit. Your espresso machine may have the feature to do this for you. If not, it’s helpful to use an electric kettle with temperature settings for accuracy.

Pour the heated water into your coffee cup if the machine hasn’t already dispensed it for you.

Provided you have an espresso machine, pull your shot(s) of espresso and dispense them over the hot water.

If you’re going to do it yourself, pour the hot water into the coffee cup and steadily pour the espresso shot(s) over the hot water. It would help if you lowered your hand such that the espresso does not hit the water too hard. This is essential because once the espresso disturbs the water, you will lose most of the crema.

Here is a helpful video if you prefer to watch and learn how to create your own long black coffee:

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How to Drink a Long Black Coffee

Traditionally, you should drink a cup of long black without milk or sugar. That is what keeps the full Maybeflavor of the espresso blend alive.

Unlike a cappuccino, you’ll notice the flavors of the shots of espresso that form one of the main ingredients of a long black coffee.

As for all other espresso-based drinks, a lot depends on the coffee beans you choose. Arabica beans are always a good choice!

Health Benefits of Drinking Black Coffee

Black coffee, in general, benefits the human body in several ways. If consumed in moderation, black coffee can bring lots of health benefits.

  • Research results have shown that coffee is most Americans’ only significant source of diet-based antioxidants. Meanwhile, antioxidants can combat cell damage. By doing so, it can reduce consumers’ predisposition to serious ailments like cancer and heart disease.
  • Drinking black coffee might reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease by keeping the nerves active and improving brain function. Caffeine is actually considered a nootropic.
  • Black coffee can also work as an anti-depressant. This is because it gives a boost of energy and helps you focus. That boost of energy and increase in metabolism also ensures that you maintain a healthy weight. 
  • Because of its diuretic properties, drinking black coffee helps remove toxins and harmful bacteria as you eliminate them.

Conclusion: What is a Long Black Coffee?

Long black coffee is one of the three main brewed coffee drinks with an underlying espresso blend. While these coffee types are similar in what ingredients are used, their preparation methods fundamentally separate them.

The long black needs two espresso shots without whipped cream, milk, or sugar. The short black and Americano include an espresso shot, but use more water. That is perfect for Americans, but Italians see it as a watered-down coffee.

All the same, it is great black coffee. 

learn what a long black coffee is and how to make one at home