What Is A Long Black Coffee?

Even if you’re not a fan of milky espresso drinks, there are still different options for you to explore beyond the humble shot.

One of the more popular options in this regard is something known as the long black. What is a long black coffee though, where did it originate, and how can you make one at home?

In this short but sweet article, I’ve gathered together everything you need to know about brewing this luxurious espresso drink.

(My guide to brewing coffee at home contains plenty more tutorials and buying tips!)

What Is A Long Black Coffee?

You can trace the origins of the long black coffee to Italy, which is perhaps not surprising given the country’s love of all things coffee.

Until quite recently, the Italians were mainly interested in two types of espresso drinks: plain shots and cappuccinos.

That changed with the increasing popularity of the country as a destination for American tourists, however.

Thirsty for a drink that was at least somewhat similar to the larger filter coffee servings they enjoyed back home, the Italians soon responded.

By adding extra water, Italian baristas were able to reduce the intensity of the espresso. The flavor was more palatable for their guests, and it created a larger drink in the process.

The drink traveled both ways though, and the end result is the even more popular Americano drink.

Long Black v Americano

Both the Americano and the long black consist of two simple ingredients: espresso and hot water.

They’re both rich, supremely flavorful drinks, although the long black has a stronger flavor and aroma overall.

Even taking that into account, you might still be wondering what the actual difference between the two drinks is.

The answer to that is simple. It’s all about the order of pouring.

When you make an Americano, you first pull the espresso shot, then add additional water on top.

When you make a long black, however, you add the water to the cup, then dispense the espresso on top.

The reason this results in a different drink is due to the crema that’s preserved by performing things in this order.

Crema is that delicate layer of brown froth that sits just on top of a great espresso shot. You can tell a lot about the skills of your barista and the freshness of the beans being used by the quality of the crema.

There’s no hiding place if you leave this fine part of the extraction on top of the drink!

You get a much reduced crema on an Americano, because you disturb it by pouring water on top.

Of course, if you’re the kind to actually mix the espresso and the water together then you won’t notice the difference.

Leave the drink undisturbed though and you end up with a coffee experience that’s quite distinct and deserving of a name in its own right.

Long Black Coffee Recipe

Making a long black is an absolute cinch, and should be well within the capabilities of even the greenest home barista.

To get started you’re going to need access to an espresso maker. I’ve recently put together a guide for this year’s best semi-automatic espresso machines if you want a starting point.

Handily enough, pretty much every espresso machine can operate as a hot water dispenser. That takes care of the second ingredient!

In terms of the ratio of espresso to hot water in a long black, I recommend starting with ¾ water and ¼ espresso to make a 6 oz drink.

The long black recipe is not a complicated one! Here are the simple steps you need to take.

  • Add the hot water to your favorite espresso cup
  • Dispense the espresso directly onto the water. You’ll achieve a higher quality crema if you hold the cup closer to the nozzle.

Other Names For The Long Black

If you visit New Zealand or Australia, you’ll have no trouble getting exactly what you want if you ask for a long black. They’ll know exactly what you want and will serve them all day long.

In these countries, and to help you customize the strength of your drink just so, you’ll often be given an additional glass of hot water. That way you can top the drink up and enjoy it just the way you like it.

In the United States, if you specifically want a long black – rather than an Americano – ask for a short Americano instead. Any respectable barista will know what you’re after.

Wrapping Up

Now you know everything you need to get started making your own long black coffees at home.

Don’t forget to tweak the espresso and hot water ratios to get the drink just the way you like it. There’s no right or wrong way to make this one, just as long as you’re enjoying it!