What is a Long Black Coffee and How to Make it?

 Last Updated January 15, 2023

A long black is a coffee that has become very popular around the world.  In this article I explain what a long black is, it's history, and how to make one. 

What is a long black?

A long black is a coffee that first came to life in cafes around Australia.

It's very simple to make.  

All you do is fill two thirds of a cup with hot water, then pour a shot of espresso over the top of it. 

That's it!

No need for very long guides to explain a very simple topic. 

However, as a barista I can offer you some tips to make a great tasting long black. 

making long black coffee

A long black coffee.

How to make a great tasting long black coffee?

So the basics of a long black are very straight forward.

For your coffee nerds out there, this is the detailed method of how I go about making long blacks in my café:

  1. Firstly back-wash your coffee machine's portafilter before pouring your shot. This ensures that any old coffee grinds are flushed out before extracting your espresso.

    Since the long black is basically a watered down espresso, old and bitter grinds are very easy to taste and will ruin the taste of the coffee.

    So always backwash!
  2. Next, pour hot water from your espresso machine into your cup.

    If you're doing a normal long black fill it up two thirds of the way.

    If you are doing a strong long black, fill it up half way. 

    Basically your goal is to let the espresso shot fill up the rest of the coffee cup.  
  3. Extract your espresso! I've written a good guide here on how to extract espresso.

    All the basic principles apply: grind your coffee, tamp your coffee in, and watch your extraction time. 
  4. Here's my hot tip: lift your coffee cup so the espresso extraction pours directly on top the surface of the hot water so there is no back splash!

    This ensures that the crema of the espresso does not break and makes the coffee look like the nectar of the gods!

    Most coffee shops will use a coffee stand or simply another coffee cup to use as a stand for the long black so you can keep making other coffees while the extraction is going on. 
  5. Once the shot ends you're done! Simple as that. Now go enjoy  your long black coffee. 
Long black coffee crema

You can see how close the shot is to the cup, this helps prevent the crema from breaking. I sometimes hold the cup even closer. 

How does a long black taste?

A long black tastes like an espresso with the edge taken off. When done right it is a smooth and enjoyable drink.

I find long black coffees are best paired with fruity coffee beans as it allows you to taste the nuances of the bean with out the acidity that some espresso has. 

Also, if milk doesn't sit well with you a long black is a god send. Coffee with out the stomach aches. Yes please!

Long black vs Americano - what's the difference?

What is the difference between an americano and a long black coffee? In my opinion not much.

People will tell you that in an Americano the espresso goes in first and then the water, but in a long black the water goes first and then the espresso.

In the end they taste the same. However, a long black has a more enjoyable first taste if extracted correctly thanks to the crema on top of it. 

If I was going to pick what method to use, I would always go with the long black method. Your taste buds will thank me. 

The history of the long black

Look, there's no text book out there about how the long black came to be. However as an Australian barista I can see how it developed. Most likely it was an evolution from the Americano.

Americans in the past were not used to espresso based drinks, so when they went to Italy and asked for a black coffee, the baristas there created the Americano.

Now on the other side of the world in Australia, there is a capital city called Melbourne that has a large Italian community and a even bigger coffee culture.

Aussies understood that to elevate the Americano even further there is a better way to layer it -  water first and then espresso. And so the long black was born. Or I would like to think it went down something like that. 

Can you make a long black at home?

Yes you can! All you need is a espresso machine. You can even use your Nespresso pods to get something very similar (although not as tasty).

And that's all you need to know about the long black coffee. If you have any questions please get in touch!

About The Author 

Ivan Bez

Ivan is the founder of Latte Art Guide and a barista with 10 years of experience. He loves coffee and aims to help people improve their coffee making skills.

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