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Deep Dive: What Is a Long Black?

Meet the Americano's cousin from down under.

by Kayla Baird | September 09, 2020

Grab your wetsuits, we're taking a deep dive into some of our favorite café drinks. This time out, the Americano's down under cousin, the long black coffee.

Key Facts

Definition: While the exact date is unknown, the long black originated in a coffee shop and then cafes across New Zealand and Australia

First known usage: Espresso diluted with three to four ounces of hot water

What Is a Long Black?

So, what is long black coffee? A long black isn’t simply an espresso that’s been diluted with hot water, or an espresso that has been pulled extra-long. It’s a cup of hot water — no more than four ounces — with an espresso pulled directly over that hot water.

There must not be any transfer from a shot glass or another vessel, in order to preserve the crema atop the beverage. In essence, the result is a long, extra-diluted espresso without any of the over extraction, and all of the pleasant bitterness and sweetness.

History of the Long Black

Like most espresso-related origin stories, this one begins in Italy. We all know the tale of World War II American soldiers' palates being put off by the strong espresso coffee that shops were serving. Instead, the baristas would serve them a mug of hot water and espresso (aka an americano coffee or a café americano) to more closely resemble filter coffee made in a coffee maker that was only popular in the states. Thus, the Americano was born and popularized: a diluted, more palatable caffeine jolt for the American palate.

When the Americano concept reached Australia, the specialty coffee drink took two key forms of customization with our friends down under, resulting in a stronger final beverage called a long black. The Long Black highlights the nuances of the espresso compared to the popular Americano.

Americanos are typically made with six to 12 ounces of water, where a long black will be made with three to four ounces of water.

Secondly, a café americano is made by either pouring the espresso into the hot water via a shot glass or by pulling the shot directly over the water. With a long black, the espresso must be pulled directly over a cup of hot water. This results in a creamy, full-flavored cup where the crema is undisturbed.

How it’s Made

There are only two ingredients for a proper long black, but it’s all in the details for a coffee lover. The first component is a cup of water that’s about 160 degrees Fahrenheit. The water should not be too hot, so that the final cup is readily drinkable.

An espresso shot is then made and pulled directly atop the hot water. The final drink has a thick, undisturbed crema and resembles a large shot of espresso.

Flavor Profile

A double shot of espresso is diluted from about two ounces to five to six ounces, resulting in a tight ratio of coffee to water in this gently diluted drink. The resulting cup is one with all of the pleasant components of espresso with just enough dilution to provide more clarity.

Similar Coffee Drinks

Coined in Australia and New Zealand, the opposite of a long black is a short black. A short black is just a whimsical term to describe an espresso.

A Lungo is a shot of espresso that is extracted until the desired volume has been reached. It’s similar in size to a long black, but the Lungo results in overly bitter flavors due to over extraction, something that the long black lacks.

How to Make it At Home

Heat three to four ounces of water to a drinkable temperature (about 160 to 180 degrees Fahrenheit) and fill your favorite cup. Make a double espresso using your regular recipe, placing the water-filled mug under the portafilter to preserve the crema.

Coffee Recommendations

For a light roast long black

Panther’s East Coast Espresso is creamy with a round, long-lasting sweetness that makes an ideal espresso.

For a traditional long black

Let’s go back to Italy with Klatch’s Old World Vienna. This rich, robust, and earthy roast is in the style of classic Italian espresso.

For a surprising long black

What better way to taste a wildly special coffee than through espresso? Flavors of juicy kiwi, florals, and concord grapes are dialed all the way up in Passenger's Hacienda la Esmeralda 2020 Dry Processed, with the addition of water allowing each flavor to become even more articulated.

For a versatile long black

Joe’s The Waverly makes a bright and balanced cup of filter coffee, or a nostalgic chocolaty cup with sweet caramel and stone fruit acidity for a deeply satisfying espresso.

For a decaf long black

Equator’s Decaf Eye of the Tiger tastes like the juiciest plum, with a coating of candy bar sweetness that will have even the most trained palettes convinced it’s not decaf.