Campanilismo: noun. An Italian concept denoting extreme pride in one’s heritage, nation, or region.
Italy is home to many great inventions, artists, cuisines, and cultures; the European virtuoso practically groans under the weight of its cultural cachet. If you were to scour the dictionary searching for a term synonymous with the passion Italians express through campanilismo, it might just be coffee.
No one can say for sure exactly when coffee was introduced to Europe from Constantinople, but it seems possible that the Venetians brought it back with them from the Levant, an area with which they carried out a great deal of trade. Today, black coffee (as it was originally drunk) is as much a staple of the Italian diet as pasta, or any other type of food for that matter. The two more recognised varieties of this coffee type are: the lungo and (perhaps ironically) the Americano. We’ll let you find out why.
To this day, the origins of the Americano (otherwise known as Caffè Americano in Italy), are still largely unknown. If popular history is to be believed, we can credit American soldiers with its invention during the Second World War. Having been particularly accustomed to the comforts of black brewed coffee in the United States, the soldiers weren’t used to the strength of an Italian espresso, and so diluted it with extra hot water in order to more closely match the coffee that they drank at home.
Years after its birth on the battlefield, the Americano has also found itself a subject of political weaponisation: In 2016, the Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev called for the Americano to be renamed Russiano following the deterioration of relations with the United States.The proposal, though in jest, resulted in the coffee’s popularisation in Moscow cafes. A bit of a backfired political ploy...
Preparation of the Americano
Although similar in appearance, the Americano is not your run of the mill filter coffee. The differences between it and its classic black coffee counterpart lie in the type of grounds used, as well as in their different brewing methods. House brewed coffee is traditionally made in a drip machine, while an Americano is more meticulously crafted, requiring the maker to carefully combine a shot of espresso with the right ratio of hot water. An Americano is also made with espresso beans; due to their long roasting period, these beans permeate the brew with a deep, rich flavour which cannot be achieved through traditional brewing methods.
The proper method of making an Americano is still much disputed; while some prefer to add the hot water to the espresso, others prefer to add the espresso to the hot water which retains the crema, or foam, on the top of the coffee. It is due to the global popularity of the Americano that now most coffee machines include a hot water spout for adding water before or after the shot of espresso.
In Italian, the word lungo means 'long' which, in theory, should provide a good hint of the size of this coffee. For those who like to spend their mornings slowly lingering over a hot drink, this is the perfect brew to do it with. The idea of a ‘lungo’ is however a multifaceted one; the length of this coffee also indicates the amount of time takes to pull.
Preparation of the Lungo
A normal espresso is pulled using about 30ml of water, over a short time period of 18 to 30 seconds. The lungo however uses double the amount of water during its brewing process, which means that it can take up to a minute to pull. As a result of the significant increase in water content, the shot of espresso is also larger than you’d find in other coffees, equivalent to about the size of a doppio, or double shot.
The extra water means that a lungo’s taste profile is more subdued than that of a regular espresso. It is however more bitter. As most of the components which cause bitterness in a coffee are normally dissolved later in the extraction process, extending the amount of time needed to pull the shot requires that these are incorporated into the final brew.
But isn’t this just an Americano? Not quite. The Americano is made with a single shot of espresso and water is added to the coffee after it is brewed, meaning that it has a weaker flavour and altogether different taste.
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