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What Is A Long Black Coffee? (An Upside Down Americano)

Ordering a cup of coffee can be a bit of a guessing game with all the weird and wonderful names it goes by. From mochas to macchiatos and Caffe lattes to cold brew, the coffee language is very diverse. This is not helped of course, by Starbucks and their extensive menu, and it can feel like you’ve just got to grips with all the coffee options when another rises up to confuse you yet again.

If this sounds like you, then you may be either pleased or horrified to learn about the Long black coffee. With so many options out there you may be asking, what even is a long black coffee, why should I consider ordering one, and where did it come from?

A long black coffee is simply espresso and hot water. You brew a shot of espresso on top of the water and it’s as simple as that!

Now we have the confusing part aside, let’s dive deeper and look at everything you need to know about this delicious cup of java.

A Long Black Coffee From Above

What is a Long Black Coffee

A long black coffee starts off life as a cup of hot water. It becomes coffee when a shot of espresso is layered on top and the two gradually combine as the coffee diffuses. The drink retains the rich flavor of an espresso shot but is diluted down a bit so it’s more similar to filter coffee or french press. The long black can be made with a single or double shot of espresso or even a ristretto.

Long Black Origins

The basis of a long black coffee starts out with the Americano. In Italy, coffee was traditionally prepared in one of two ways. Espresso or cappuccino. When American tourists started to visit the country, they would ask for black coffee, being more familiar with drip coffee kinds of brew methods. Italian coffee shops took to adding hot water to the espresso and the drink was coined ‘Americano’.

The long black coffee is a slightly different style of coffee with a different order of layering and less water used to create a stronger brewed coffee. The drink is popular in Australia and New Zealand where espresso machines are the most common coffee makers found in cafes and restaurants.

Long Black vs Short Black

A lovely espresso shot

It may come as no surprise that if the coffee shop you’re at offers a long black, you can also order a short black coffee from the barista. These terms are common in the countries of Australia and New Zealand and now we understand the long black, let’s compare it to the short black. A short black coffee drink simply refers to a single shot of espresso, with no extra water added. The amount of water in the cup is simply the volume it takes to brew the espresso.

Long Black vs Caffe Americano

To the average coffee drinker, these two brew methods produce a cup of coffee that’s very similar. The main differences are the order in which you layer the coffee as well as the volume of hot water used.

A long black typically starts with 120-180ml of hot water. A single or double shot of espresso is brewed on top. This method ensures a thick, intact crema and bold coffee flavor. It’s a drink that is intended to be savored so no milk or sugar is added to keep the layering intact.

An americano starts off with an empty cup and the espresso is brewed first. This is then topped up with hot water. The standard size cup for an Americano is around 8oz (roughly 240ml) so water is added to fill the cup. Added the water second mixes the drink well but can disrupt the crema. The coffee flavours are still pronounced but it’s a milder drink and fine to top up with any creamer or sweetener you prefer.

Long Black vs Caffe Lungo

Another coffee recipe that can be confused for a long black is the Caffe lungo. This also appears very similar once brewed but the method is slightly different. A Lungo coffee is brewed by allowing more water to pass through the portafilter when the espresso is brewing. This gives a bolder, intense coffee that’s around 5 oz (roughly 150ml).

The Espresso

a cup of espresso surrounded by coffee beans

To make any of these coffee drinks you need an espresso machine to create the coffee base. Let’s look at the things we need to understand to create the perfect long black coffee.

The Coffee Beans

All baristas know that the best-tasting coffee comes from the freshest coffee beans. Fresh coffee remains fresher for longer if it remains in bean form. Ground coffee starts to lose flavors and aromas as soon as it hits the grinder so it’s best to use whole beans and only grind up the amount you need for each batch.

Espresso beans are typically a blend of coffee that’s suitable for this brew method and roasted to a medium or dark roast to bring out the oils. Natural coffee oils make for a better crema.

Arabica beans are best for their flavor profile but some good quality robusta beans can add some darker notes (like wood and tobacco) as well as a caffeine boost.

The beans should be ground up to a fine grind, not as powdery as Turkish coffee but finer than drip coffee. The exact grind setting varies between different coffee beans used, different grinders, as well as different espresso machines. Practice makes perfect here.

The Brew Method

To brew true espresso the coffee grounds need to be exposed to high water temperatures between 195-205F as well as high pressure of around 9 bars. This can be done using manual, semi-automatic, or automatic espresso machines.

The exact stages you need to do really depend on the kind of coffee machine you have and how automated it is. Here’s a quick summary of the espresso-making process.

The coffee maker is switched on to warm up.

The coffee is ground up and added to the portafilter basket. It is tamped down to pack it in place and form a smooth top. The portafilter is fixed in place to the brew head.

You start to expose the coffee puck to low pressure and gradually increase this to the maximum over 25 to 30 seconds. This is called low-pressure pre-infusion and helps avoid uneven coffee extraction.

The coffee should be extracted in 25-30 seconds and gives 1 ounce (25ml) for a single or 2 ounces (50ml) for a double shot. It should have a thick crema on top that covers the whole surface of the drink and re-forms itself if broken with a spoon.

A ristretto shot being pulled

Other Espresso Drinks

Ristretto/Double Ristretto

A ristretto (think restricted espresso) is made with the same amount of coffee as an espresso but half the amount of water. The coffee is often ground up finer than espresso brewing and the resulting coffee is thicker and more concentrated.

A ristretto can be used to brew any specialty coffee and is especially useful if you want a smaller volume of coffee without compromising on flavor.


A latte is a popular coffee made from espresso and steamed milk. It’s typically served in a tall glass and is composed of one-third espresso, two-thirds steamed milk and topped with 1 cm of milk foam. It’s rich and creamy and delicious as is or with flavored syrup and toppings for a decadent treat.


An Italian classic, the cappuccino is very similar to a latte but with a few key differences. It’s made up of a third espresso coffee, one-third steamed milk, and topped with a third of milk foam. It’s occasionally served with cinnamon or chocolate shavings on top and has a bolder coffee taste due to the lighter texture of the milk allowing the coffee flavors to shine through.

Flat White

A flat white is very similar to a latte in that it’s a combination of espresso coffee and steamed milk. The difference comes from the fact that the drink is topped with a very small layer of milk foam, hence the term ‘flat’. It’s served in cups of around 5-6 ounces so the drink itself is smaller than your average latte.

Final Thoughts

A long black coffee is pretty much just an Americano turned upsidedown. It showcases all the wonderful elements that come with espresso brewing but you get more coffee to enjoy. An Aussie classic, this drink is well worth a try if you get the opportunity to.

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