The Ugly Americano, The Bane of So-called “Coffee Shops”

Image by Julius Schorzman - Own workBy Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

There are times when one can justifiably take advantage of a host’s generosity and access to an international audience for the selfish purpose of venting one’s frustrations. This is just such a time.

It is increasingly a problem: Whenever I elect to try out a new coffee shop, especially when out of town on business, they do not serve brewed or drip coffee. Just about every foo-foo flavor or coffee containing drink imaginable fills their menu, yet not even a simple, regular cup of coffee can be had. It’s un-American I tell you.

In these “coffee shops” wanting coffee means receiving a cheap substitute: A watered-down misfit of a beverage–the Americano.

For those unfamiliar with the name, an “Americano” is a shot or two of espresso mixed with a sufficient amount of hot water to raise it to the volume of a cup of coffee. Mind you I have nothing against a shot of espresso by itself as it offers a quick bolt of strong, flavorful coffee. But it is not something that is improved by diluting it to the point of weakness in order to make another drink.

While travelling on business the past couple weeks I’ve found it is becoming increasingly difficult to find brewed coffee at so called “coffee shops”.

In one case recently I drove past a Dutch Brothers chain coffee house. The implication in the name was that I could perhaps find a cup of actual Dutch Coffee. Recently I was in Europe visiting family who are Dutch citizens and I greatly enjoyed the coffee they served. Hoping to savor again this pleasant experience I decided to give Dutch Brothers a try.

For some strange and unknown reason all the employees were dressed in animal costumes. I tried to discern exactly the equation between animal costumes and Dutch coffee. (Were these animals to be found on Sumatra when Indonesia was a Dutch colony?) I could not find the reason but it did not matter. I just wanted a cup of Dutch Coffee.

Foul deceivers! Of all the money spent to create a large coffee shop, complete with drive-in lanes and numerous employees, they could not summon the decency to serve brewed coffee. The staff, while friendly, could only offer a poor substitute–the ugly Americano. Whether their coffee was actually Dutch or not I could not say but not having a traditional cup of coffee available was a disappointment.

While I tend to be more nostalgic than I should, there are certain aspects of life that should remain as they were. Today’s trendy coffee houses serving hipster approved confections lead to an erosion of strong coffee traditions. The “Americano” is un-American in every way. It is a bland hybrid and a sissy-concoction; unmanly and unfit for consumption by any respectable coffee drinker. No Coffee Shop should serve it. Either offer at least brewed coffee or stay out of the coffee industry. The Americano is definitely worse than the sum of its parts.

On a practical note I’ve seen how some espresso machine centered coffee shops make brewed coffee. They heat water to just below boiling temperature then slowly pour the water over a basket containing fresh grounds. This makes a great cup of coffee but this process is labor and time intensive as the barista must stand over the device for a couple of minutes to prevent overspill of the basket. And, maybe having a coffee machine lures customers away from more expensive items that can be up-marketed by the barista. Still, how hard can it be to simply make a regular cup of coffee in a coffee shop?

We in the United States have a cultural tradition in both restaurants and coffee shops. That tradition is brewed coffee. Coffee is a drink made for the Average Joe who wants a strong and flavorful cup of coffee to help him through the day, and even more so when working the night shift. Beyond that a cup of good brewed coffee can be appreciated in an assortment of origins or blends and varied as much as the imagination can derive by varying the roast or the bean. All of this is lost and debased via the diminishment of the Americano making process. We owe it to ourselves to never settle for less. Black Coffee or none at all.

Just say No to Americanos.

By Darren Smith

Photo Credit: By Julius Schorzman – Own work

The views expressed in this posting are the authorโ€™s alone and not those of the blog, the host, or other weekend bloggers. As an open forum, weekend bloggers post independently without pre-approval or review. Content and any displays or art are solely their decision and responsibility.

65 thoughts on “The Ugly Americano, The Bane of So-called “Coffee Shops””

  1. First of all has anyone stopped to question the origins of the term “Ugly American?”

    Did you know that it is a classic false premise?

    The story made into a film covered the life of an agriculturist better yet a ‘steward of the land. His career was doing exactly that and covering all aspects. One day he was encouraged to assist a small island country. He was successful to the point he made many enemies .

    On the island the budding socialist revolutionary movement, In his own government the movers and shakers of he State Department. As things escalated he refused to take sides’To the point some of the opposition such as those just mentioned worked together to destroy what he represented.

    The press becamei involved with the usual resuts.

    The President seeing the loss to the free world of another country vowed to stop the revolution.

    The military enters the picture and asked for time (and money) to deveop some new wonder weapons.

    Eventually no one could remember why The Ugly American was sent out to begin with.

    Nothing was done or ready on time and the inevitable happened.

    Having done only good he became knoen as The Ugly American with no facts to back up the statement except one.

    He was a very homely individual. That was the seed.

    And hasn’t that seed grown and multiplied.

    The majority of the onlookers (who did not take part in anything subsetantial) can be called impotent but enraged losers.

    Talk about predicting the future? Read the book by Burdick and Lederer. I said READ not watch the movie. Same thing goes for Starship Troopers by Heinlein,

    Why? Because movies like that were made for one purpose. In our society if you see the movie it’s thought you did not need to read the book.

    The authors were exactly correct. in recognizing that false premise. But it got worse. Why read a book or see a movie when it would cut so drastially into I-Pad and Facebook Time. Why horrors! One might actually have to act like a human and think and after all why work that hard when one will bet a social promotion and a bunch of free college money anyway?.

    1. Known, substantial, get drastically, ?

      Gafe Turkos and kafe Greco are the same thing but don’t mention it in opposing countries.

      Is their a difference?

      Sure. Same as the difference between Southern Barbecue and Texas Barbecue. One is burnt the other is not.

      1. Michael Aarethun – we forgot my favorite coffee shop, which I got to go to today, Caribou Coffee. I first ran into it in Minneapolis and then they took over some Einstein Bagel’s in this area. I really love their coffee.

    2. Michael Aarethun – Starship Troopers makes excellent points on voting rights. And it is a much better book than a movie.

  2. Mr. Kurtz…..thank you for the video. My “briki” (Greek coffee pot) has “Made in Egypt” stamped on it…LOL
    My parents brought a brass Greek coffee tray back from Greece….They said coffee vendors carry these by the hook or loop at the top and the briki, and demi tasse cups rest on the tray as it is swung back and forth down the street.
    I read that Greek coffee was really Turkish coffee but the name was changed to Greek after the Turks fought them. Tabarrok probably knows the history better than I.
    Anyone who has spent time in the Greek community in Tarpon Springs Fla. will have experienced some of the best Greek coffee ever…however, I seem to break the rules by wanting my sludge stirred in with the entire cup, and not left alone at bottom of cup.
    Love dat sludge!

    1. Turks ruled Greece from like 1453 or earlier in some places through 1829. Ruled it forcefully. Ottoman Empire. etc.

      to say nothing of other parts of Eastern Europe. Greek culture shows the impact in various ways including coffee. Would that the impacts were all as benign as coffee.

      reminds me of another inspiring figures, Vlad Tepes

      1. Mr Kurtz…..Thank you…..I knew the Turks had occupied Greece, but thought the coffee thing was more recent, like 20th c.
        Yes, if only all other impacts were as benign as coffee!
        Thank you for the link..

  3. How to order an Americano: order a regular coffee or espresso. Leave room for cream. Add hot water instead of cream. Ta-dah! I was once a barrista and that is literally all they are, generally speaking. I concur, too, I outgrew being a coffee snob right along with my high school backpack.

  4. I went to a Starbucks for the first time last weekend, no other choice available. I wanted plain black coffee. Not sure that it was a coffee drink but it sure was a sugar drink. Won’t do that again.

  5. I just about fell out of my chair when you transitioned from Dutch Brothers to, they all wore animal costumes. Not what I was expecting.

    I am a tea drinker, myself, and never realized that simple coffee pots are absent from coffee shops. Come to think of it, the espresso machines do hold court there. How can a coffee shop not brew coffee? A coffee less coffee shop is an oxymoron. Those complex flavored drinks are usually unhealthy.

    1. Karen S – we have a Dutch Bros here but they don’t wear animal costumes. Must be a Northwest thingie.

    2. Karen,
      I used to drink more tea than I do now, and ordered from McNulty’s on Christopher in the village…NYC. Ever been there? It’s a wonderful place. And also I ordered from Simpson and Vail. They had a Victorian Earl Grey that is out of this world!

    3. Don’t get me started on the difficulty of finding a decent cup of tea in some parts of the country. I swear, in some places they think “tea” is what you get by passing hot water through used coffee grounds a second time.

      1. one can learn to drink tea the way chinese do. but mostly just by socializing with them. then you will like tea a lot more. not the stuff in the restaurants, but whatever they drink at home. pu’er cha, hong cha, nothing fancy just good

  6. Darren……Love your post, but as a native Louisianan, and in the spirit of fairness, I must recuse myself from the discussion because my people and I consider coffee weak if the spoon does not stand upright, without assistance, in a cup of chicory coffee.

    1. lol! how very true. Living here in Thailand I miss the, I believe it was Community Dark with chicory. My part of Texass might have well been Louisiana, only the Sabine stood in the way and we crossed that regularly to hit the bars and dances on the Cajun side. Laisser le bon temps rouler! My first wife was Cajun, great granparents didn’t speak English. I’m getting old now but I can still Cajun waltz pretty good.

          1. Great song, I didn’t recognize the title until I heard the first chords. Oh yea what I gonna’ tell you 3 or 1 time Opelousas was one party town back in the 60’s. I hit the dances there and saw my first Super Stocker lift the front wheels off the drag strip there. Similar to Bossier City, wide open back then. Gee Gee Shin, Jerry LaCoix and many others, Swamp Pop, what days, Big Oaks. Those guys are all gone, Gee Gee just a few months ago. I’ve managed to download some good ‘ol Cajun music here and a friend sent me many of the Boogie Kings recordings. Yea, good coffee, good times, we were innocent.

            My momma is very dead and many of the corporate elite Democrats are try to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Go Beto, Go Stacey Abrams!!!! Thank you Heidie, it may cost you an election but you have your honor intact, more than I can say for the repugthuglicans in the Senate. In case you are wondering, I’m no pantie waist liberal, I’m a left wing radical militant with a fighting redneck background. Semper Fi!

            1. Sgtsabai……..I was born in Shreveport so I know Bossier well!
              And as far as coffee…I’ll bet you could get get some Community Coffee sent to you. It is excellent coffee.

  7. I never drank coffee until I was 17 yrs. old and left home. I shared an apt. with twins that were in the same class in high school. Their dad was in Saudi Arabia working the oil and sent the money. Aside from a 24 hr. party that stopped when he and his wife come home it was a good life that led to bad grades…lol. He was the one that introduced me to coffee. A Cajun he drank nothing but Seaport Dark Roast made the way coffee is supposed to made. Suffice it to say it was strong, although the spoon didn’t really float on top. I was “fired” from my duty at the coffee mess for my platoon when I first reported to Camp Pendleton even after cutting the amount of coffee in half. When they realized I was telling the truth that they way they wanted coffee wasn’t drinkable and I wasn’t trying to poison them, no more coffee mess. Damn yankees….lol. I’ve never entered Starbucks or any of those fancy dancy places.

    1. sgtsabai – I didn’t start drinking coffee until I was 25 and working for a company that printed paper back books. I worked for a while in the plate room where the temperature was 55 degrees and we drank coffee just for warmth. ๐Ÿ™‚ Never turned back.

    2. sgtsabai—–wow! I haven’t thought about Seaport Dark in years!! It’s like sweet mud! Wonderful coffee. We only drank the slow drip….and would leave the same pot out all day….That’s why I don’t like hot coffee….I like it room temp… can really taste the flavor that way. LOL about yankees.
      BTW Seattle’s Best is a very nice roasted coffee esp dark roasts….and Texas Trader’s Coffee Roasters in Texas. Also, Indigo Coffee Roasters in Northampton Mass.. Yes, believe it or not, Mass! I used to have their Italian Roast delivered every week. Very good!

    3. P.S. sgtsabai………Almost forgot this story. When we lived in Austin, sometimes I’d go to the grocery store early in the morning to avoid crowds…..and of course take a hug cup of my own strong brew with chicory. One morning I accidentally spilled half of my cup, and as the young clerk wiped it up, he noticed it had taken the wax off of the floor! “What in the hell IS that?” he asked……LOL
      My hand to god that is a true story.

      1. Cindy Bragg – I know some drugs have an off market use, evidently your chicory brew is also a floor stripper. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I know Coca-Cola, in the 8 oz bottles had all sorts of off market uses including emergency contraception device.

          1. Cindy Bragg – I have it on good authority (two anecdotal reports) of girls who used it at the drive-in at my hometown. You evidently hold your thumb over the top, shake vigorously, insert and remove your thumb. They said it was effective. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I do know that it has the potential to be effective.

              1. Cindy Bragg – the little bottles are back, so I could see that federal grant money would be available. ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. There is a polite, tactful way of getting out of a bad date.
    You order your coffee, then order “The Ugly Americano” for your date.
    It seems to be 100% effective, but at times there can be unpleasant ๐Ÿ˜ฆbacklash.

  9. I’m just curious. Does anyone else think coffees like Folgers and Maxwell House and other store-bought coffee brands are mixed with something grainy or something? Is it chicory? I used to love Folgers but when I make it at home, it tastes weak no matter the strength indicated on the container. Maybe I’m just spoiled by Wawa, Dunkin Donuts, McDonald’s and BK.

    1. Diana…..I would try a darker Folgers roast….however I don’t think the traditional regular American coffees are. what they once were. I would try Seattle’s Best if I were you……it offers several roasts…..#5 is really good IMO. Walk Mart usually carries it.

  10. “I take my coffee black. Like my men.”

    Name the movie where this line was uttered by a 12 year old girl. On an airplane. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  11. Exactly why I avoid “coffee shops” they don’t actually serve coffee, just expensive flavored junk. Both Burger King and McDonald’s actually beat out Starbucks in blind taste tests of coffee. Burger King usually has very good coffee and for a whole lot less money. Admittedly, it doesn’t have the snob appeal of the so called coffee shops, but then I’ve never put much value on snob appeal.

    1. I buy my coffee from Starbucks dark roast tall in my bubba mug for$2.26 Canadian. I also buy dark roast at Tim Hortons in my trusty bubba mug for $1.77. Four or five times a week.

    2. You’re right, SierraRose, and if you live near a Wawa, they also make great regular coffee (and some flavored ones) that are usually made fresh all day. I like Dunkin Donuts coffee also.

    3. Sierra rose… are so right. Starbucks does not have a clue how to roast coffee…’s so bitter with a bad aftertaste.
      I only go there for the pastries and clean rest rooms. And they have Tazo tea.

  12. Iโ€™ve been to Dutch Bros and itโ€™s okay; about the same as Starbucks. My bro-in-law always goes there because heโ€™s a cop and the company is a big supporter of law enforcement and donates to LEO causes. I live on the East Coast so Iโ€™m partisan to Dunkin Donuts coffee.

  13. There is always McDonalds for drip coffee. It is actually not bad and if you burn yourself, go sue them!

  14. I do not have trouble finding regular drip coffee at most coffee shots (a lot of places have it but its not always on the board). But given the choice of no drip coffee, I will go with a double espresso or French press. Or alternatively go to a McDonalds (which generally has decent drip coffee).

  15. I try not to drink coffee out in public since I am usually disappointed. However, yesterday I did have Turkish coffee at a Greek place and it was very good. And most places like Village Inn, IHOP, etc. make good coffee and leave the carafe on the table.

      1. Oh, my, that’s strong stuff.

        So is the tea. The way I was taught to properly serve Turkish tea is to dilute it.

        1. Now that brings back a fond memory, Turkish tea.

          When in Istanbul around the Hagia Sofia and Hippodrome you will find vendors wearing a traditional costume and carrying on their backs a silver colored vessel that resembles the “Nomad” robot from Star Trek. They are tea vendors. When dining at a restaurant typically you will receive complimentary tea that is served in a thin glass cup. I certainly missed that upon returning to the states.

          1. Darren Smith – what is the difference between Turkish tea and Chinese tea?

            1. Turks like mint tea i am told.

              Chinese have many kinds. You can look it up. Better yet just go to local Chinese market and buy some. Pu’er cha is commonly available variety unknown to Americans but easily obtained

    1. it was Greek coffee if it was a Greek place. most Greek places have cheap coffee. Cheap but strong.

      what you call the Turkish coffee and I call the Greek coffee is brewed what I call mud style. the sludge is in it.

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