They’re all what you’d call a “black coffee” and in some way a watered down espresso. Same same but different.
The Long Black and the Americano are pretty much the same thing, water and (a single or double) espresso. It’s called a “Long Black” when the espresso comes after the water during the preparation process. It’s called an “Americano” when the water comes after the espresso.
Lungo stands for “Long” in Italian - it’s a long espresso. While espressos are extracted for 25 to 35 seconds, Lungos keep going...and going...and going; they stop anywhere from 45 seconds to a minute.
The biggest differences (assuming that everything is the same) are aesthetics and flavour. The Long black and a Lungo will have that beautiful crema (brown, hazelnut layer) on top. The Americano? It’ll look like plain ol' black coffee. You’ll know it when you see it.
In a Long Black, strength and intensity start high and reduce as you slowly finish the cup. That’s because the crema is the most intense part of the drink. What an adventure!
Americanos will taste homogenous, because the water coming after the espresso mixes everything together. So your overall drink is more intense and your flavours are more consistent through the cup. Like the soldiers that invented it, this is a uniform drink
Lungos usually watery and bitter. Why? Well espressos are usually calibrated to extract just the tasty stuff like salts, acids and sugars. The Lungo takes it way beyond and begins to extract all the not so tasty compounds that are just bitter which normally go undissolved in an espresso. It’s like you’re going out with your friends and your mother tells you to bring your younger sibling with you, not ideal.
Speciality cafes often calibrate their espressos to taste good. So if you’re looking for something delicious, it might be better to order a Long Black, instead of a longer espresso or Lungo.
Words by Jit Weng Kok (@si_tiger)