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The Long Black, where it came from and how to make it well

by Dom Majdandzic 10 Jan 2018
To be a great home barista it is important to know how to make many styles of coffee, not just the one or two types you regularly make for you and your family. You and your partner may like flat whites and espressos, but some of your guests may like macchiatos and long blacks. In these situations it’s good to know how to do it, and how to do it well. To help you on your way to become a top notch home barista, we’re going to walk through all the main coffees and show you how to make your guests smile … and rave about your killer barista skills. Let's start with the Long Black

A little long black history

The long black comes from the Caffe Americano style of coffee but it took the Italians to perfect it. Historically Italians made two types of coffee, an espresso and a cappuccino. That’s it. So when black-coffee-loving Americans visited Italy they would ask for a large cup of black coffee. This was foreign to the Italian Barista who was used to making (and drinking) black coffee as a small espresso. So over time in order to please American tourists, they adapted their espressos and made a large (or long) cup of black coffee. Americans were used to drinking brewed filter style of coffee and the strength of the espresso was too strong. The Italian barista quickly adapted and reduced the strength of the coffee by drawing one shot of espresso into a cappuccino cup that was pre-filled with hot water. And just like that, the long black was born.

The modern version of the long black

Even though there is now a bit of variation on how to prepare the long black, the common practice is to extract an espresso shot over hot water, rather than adding hot water after the shot is extracted. This is the best way to produce a sweet black brew that retains the beautiful crema and avoids burning the flavours. There is a trend in many specialty cafes to drink long blacks as a single full length espresso shot drawn over hot water. And while this style produces a really nice brew, at White Horse Coffee we believe that the black coffee drinker wants to taste the flavours and nuances of where the coffee came from as well as being full bodied and strong. So this is how we like to make it, with a double ristretto style shot. The difference in cup character with this method, is a bolder more syrupy cup with greater strength and lower acidity.

How we make it

At White Horse Coffee we serve long blacks as a double ristretto style shot drawn over hot water. Here is the recipe and how to make it. 23g of ground coffee in, 20g of extracted coffee out, in approximately 20 seconds
  • Fill a small or regular cup with 80% hot water (not boiling but pretty hot). Your cup should be 150ml to 200ml in total volume, 80% of which will be hot water.
  • Grind 23g of coffee into your portafilter using the double basket. We use a scale that you can get here.
  • Draw 20g of coffee over the hot water by placing your cup on a scale, press tare and extract your shot.
And that’s it. A beautiful, deeply nuanced, strong black coffee. We hope you enjoy experimenting with different styles of long black and come up with your perfect cup of black coffee. Have fun and keep black coffee special.

Get the gear

In this article we mention weighing your coffee. We use a simple $20 scale that you can get here. And you can get other brewing gear as well. Dom

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