How To Make the Perfect Long Black Coffee
What is a long black coffee?
A long black coffee is, in its most basic definition, is a double shot of espresso with extra hot water added. The ratios of espresso shot to hot water depend on the size of coffee you’re ordering. The average coffee drinker will order the small or medium cup, which is the double shot of espresso.
What is an Americano coffee?
Perhaps you’ve over heard someone order an “Americano” or, you’ve stumbled across “Americano” on a foreign menu.
Not to worry, the only real difference between long blacks and an Americano, is that for a long black, the water is poured into the cup first. For an Americano, the water is poured onto the espresso in the cup.
A long black is more common in Australia whereas you will find an Americano in many other foreign countries.
Why is my long black bitter?
We often hear black coffee getting a bit of a bad rap, described as too bitter, too harsh or too strong. The truth is that, the majority of the time, the shots have not been made correctly. If you follow our recommendations, you will be well on your way to making a long black that retains the sweetness and flavour naturally present in the coffee.
Which coffee beans to choose:
You can make a delish long black coffee using any good quality, carefully roasted Arabica coffee beans. However, single origin coffee beans are growing in popularity as the go-to for many black coffee drinkers, and for good reason. Single origin coffee refers to beans that are from one farm only (as opposed to a blend of beans from different origins). When prepared as a long black, single origin beans impart all of the characteristics from that particular growing area.
Life-changing recommendations for making the best cup of long black coffee:
In search for the secrets? Here we spill the (coffee) beans on how to get the tastiest long black (or, Americano for the American tourists).
Stick to the recipe
Use a recipe for your espresso.
A long black is just espresso and water, so make sure you have your espresso recipe perfected. If you don’t, it will be obvious to the individual drinking the coffee.
If the espresso is under-extracted the long black’s flavor will taste thin and sour. Under-extracted essentially means that when the hot water is pulling through the ground espresso, little flavor has made it into the cup of coffee. There has been little contact time with the water and your coffee grounds.
If it is over-extracted, you will notice harsh and astringent flavours. An over-extracted espresso is the opposite of an under-extracted espresso shot. Too many soluble flavours have been pulled from the coffee grounds. Leaving you with a bitter flavour in your espresso based drinks.
A correctly extracted espresso will bring sweetness, balance and clarity to your long black coffee. Highlighting the glorious and complex taste all in a single shot of espresso.
The espresso recipe we use at the roastery consists of a 1:2.5 ratio and an extraction time of 27-33 seconds for our Single Origin beans. If using one of our blends we use a 1:2 ratio and the same extraction time.
It’s important to note that the espresso recipe will change depending on the coffee beans you’re using and whether you’re using an espresso machine or you’re doing a manual brew. You might need to alter the ratios or make your coffee ground fine/course. Check out our YouTube channel for how-tos for the different espresso recipes.
Keep it clean.
Whether this is at home or in a commercial situation, the espresso machine itself, the handles and the baskets need to be clean.
Clean coffee machine = clean cup of coffee.
When making coffee, oils and spent coffee grinds build up. If they are not removed this will negatively affect the flavour of your coffee. No one wants to drink that in their coffee!
Quite often coffee lovers attribute those metallic and bitter flavours to the coffee bean, when they are actually caused by dirty equipment.
Before making a long black coffee, we suggest you do a quick back-flush of the group head using the blind/cleaning filter. It is also important to make sure the group- handles and baskets are regularly cleaned during service using hot soapy water.
For manual brewing, ensure all parts of your equipment are rinsed and clean. From the cup, to the gadget and to the kettled you’re using. This will create a delicious long black/Americano.
Keep it cool.
This is the most important step you can take, and it will change the way you think about long black coffees.
In most cases, the hot water that comes from the coffee machine is going to be around 95 degrees Celsius. If you use water close to boiling for your espresso, it will lose its sweetness and end up tasting harsh, even if extracted properly to begin with. It will also make that beautiful crema dissipate very quickly, again adding to loss of sweetness and texture.
At the Karvan Coffee roastery, we use and recommend water at approximately 75 degrees Celsius. This way, espresso maintains its sweetness and can be enjoyed immediately, without the risk of burning your tongue and ruining your day. Next time you make your long black, measure the temp. of the hot water.
The easiest way to ensure the correct hot water temperature is to fill your cup half way with hot water, then add in more water that is a little chilled so the cup ends up being two thirds full. Fill the cup with the correct amount of water and make sure there’s enough room in the cup for the shot/s of espresso.
Pour the espresso directly on top of the water and see your long black come to life. Long blacks will have a layer of rich crema form on the top of the hot water.
Using a separate kettle or urn set for 75 degrees Celsius is another great way to achieve the desired water temperature.
The bottom line is: make sure the water temp is cooled BEFORE pouring the espresso. You’ll never look back, trust us. Our usual practice is adding hot water to the cup before the espresso is poured. If you’re wanting to improve your barista skills, this is essential.
Stir your beverage.
We all love the look of that thick rich crema covering the surface of the coffee but in reality, crema is a bit misunderstood.
The crema on top of your black coffee is simply an emulsified mixture of carbon dioxide microbubbles and oils that are naturally present in coffee. It is an important part of the texture and flavour of the espresso, but when tasted alone is actually very intensely bitter.
We recommend that crema is stirred and well combined with the rest of the espresso and water in your long black.
This way you will end up with a much more rounded and balanced cup of coffee. Provided we follow all of the above steps prior to stirring, we will still end up with a beautiful creamy looking long black.
Before serving your long black (if you’re a barista) or, drinking the long black yourself make sure you give the brew a stir spoon before serving. It makes all the difference!
For home coffee lovers
For those making coffee at home, the steps as mentioned are just as important as if you’re a barista. Regardless of whether you’re using an espresso machine or a filter brewing gadget to make your long blacks – following the steps are essential.
The same is true for all milk based drinks with espresso. Flat white coffee, cappuccino, long macchiato drink, short macchiato and so on… if you focus on steps 1-2, the quality of your brew is going to be outstanding.
Consistency is everything when it comes to making a good cuppa for a customer.
It’s the barista’s job to get a great coffee every time they jump on the machine to make a drink. Whether it be as simple as an espresso or a milk-based beverage such as a cappuccino – every shot matters! Failure to deliver perfection, can lead to customer complaints… or even worse – the customer never coming back to the cafe.
As a customer, there can be nothing worse than craving a delicious caffeine beverage only to take a sip and it tastes sour or dirty!
To be a coffee professional, it’s vital that every barista that works at the cafe knows the difference between a good and bad long black. It can sound complicated at first, but there’s lots of tricks of the trade to make it easier for the baristas.
Our number one tip for baristas: scales. Use scales when you dial in the machine at the beginning of the shift. For every dose you grind and every yield you pull. Scales are essential and will be your saviour in solving a lot of issues if they arise.
Talk with your team members and test their knowledge. If your team needs help, we recommend booking in a barista training session as soon as possible. Even better, if you’re located in Perth, Australia – book in your session with us!
Make the perfect cup of black coffee
When made properly, long black coffees are delicious, and they are the drink style of choice for most of the team here at Leaf Bean Machine.
Just remember to maintain nice clean equipment and get your water ready first and at the correct temperature. Don’t forget to pour your espresso using the correct recipe. Finally, give your expertly-made black coffee a stir before you enjoy it with a slightly smug expression. You are now the epitome of class and refinement.
Karvan Keep Cup
Written by Summah Grant
Barista Trainer at Leaf Bean Machine