What is a Ristretto?
The Ristretto… it’s shorter than a Long Shot or Lungo and shorter than a Short Black or espresso.
A Ristretto is an Italian espresso that has a more intense flavor yet is still smooth and sweet. It is made with a shorter pull than an espresso (solo or single shot) but with the same amount of coffee grounds. Thanks to its concentrated flavor, it has earned its place as one of the most popular coffee drinks in the world.
About the Ristretto
|Coffee Base||espresso grounds (1 3/4 tsp to produce 3/4 ounces)|
|Finished Product||1/2 to 3/4 ounce (smaller than espresso)|
|Cup||glass espresso cup – the smallest you can find|
|Supplies||espresso coffee or capsules|
|Sugar or Added Flavors||none|
|Notes||an espresso maker is preferred, but you can also use L’OR, Nespresso, a Moka pot, AeroPress, or other method that makes proper espresso|
Certain types of beans work best when trying to make a satisfying ristretto shot. Lighter roasts like Colombian Supremo or Sumatra Mandheling tend to produce sweeter flavors. While darker roasts (French) can also provide depth and complexity without too much bitterness when brewed correctly. It depends on personal preference, so experiment until you find something that suits your taste buds!
When preparing ground coffee for a Ristretto, remember there’s less water being used during extraction. That means finer grind sizes are necessary to ensure full flavor extraction from each bean particle – aim for something close to table salt consistency if possible.
Think tiny when choosing the best cup for a homemade Ristretto. You want it to be small to keep the heat in as much as possible.
It’s also handy to run your cup under hot water before brewing.
Making Ristretto with an Espresso Machine – Step-by-Step
Step 1: Before you begin, it’s important to ensure that the espresso machine and all equipment you will be using are clean and ready to go.
Step 2: Grind the coffee beans for your espresso. A typical grind size for espresso is between “fine” and “very fine.” It is best to use freshly ground beans to get the maximum flavor out of your espresso shot.
Step 3: After grinding, measure out the appropriate amount of coffee grounds for one shot of espresso. Typically this would be 7-9 grams of grounds for an 18-22 gram yield when brewing with an espresso machine.
Step 4: Place the coffee grounds into your portafilter and tamp them down in an even layer with a tamper designed specifically for tamping espresso shots. This helps ensure that water will pass through evenly during extraction resulting in a better-tasting shot.
Step 5: Load the portafilter into the group head on your machine and lock it in place. Ensure the seal between the portafilter and group head is tight to prevent water leakage during extraction.
Step 6: Select the desired extraction volume by setting your volumetric knob or buttons on your machine to pull a short shoot around 1 ounce (30 ml), which would be enough for a ristretto shot. Some devices also have manual pressure settings that must be adjusted as well, but this varies from machine to machine. So make sure you read up on how yours works beforehand.
Step 7: Activate the pump on your machine to pull a shot once all settings are set correctly. The extraction time should usually only take about 15-20 seconds for a ristretto shot since it requires less volume than a regular espresso shot. Keep an eye on it so you don’t over-extract it.
Step 8: Once done, turn off the pump and remove the portafilter from the group head of your machine while being careful not to spill any hot liquid in the process! Your perfect Ristretto should now be ready to enjoy!
Alternative Ways To Make a Ristretto
An espresso machine allows you to create the most authentic Ristretto with a short pull. But you’re not out of luck if you don’t have one, as there are plenty of alternative methods (and plenty of coffee shops, too!).
You don’t need step-by-step instructions to make a Ristretto with a Nespresso machine. Ristretto Italiano capsules (including a decaf version) are available for the Original Nespresso.
Ristretto isn’t a regular on the Vertuo capsule menu, as you’ll typically find 1.35-ounce espresso variations. However, seasonal offerings are a different story. For example, Nespresso offered a Flat White Over Ice for a time, which is basically Ristretto.
Like the Original Nespresso, if you have L’OR Barista System, you can buy Ristretto capsules that take the guesswork out of making a shot (or a flat white!). L’OR’s version has a few spice notes inspired by Sumatran markets.
If you’re using a Moka Pot, prepare the grounds and water as you typically would but leave the top off as it’s heating. When you see the coffee start to come through, you’ll take it off the stove earlier than you would for a full shot of espresso. There might be a little trial and error with this method, but the finished product will be delicious anyway.
Adjusting your coffee-making technique with the AeroPress is as simple as using the same amount of coffee grounds (medium-fine to fine ground) but cutting the water to 75% of what you typically use for a shot of espresso.
A Ristretto is the starting point for a Flat White – one part Ristretto to two parts microfoam
Ristretto vs Long Shot (Lungo)
It can be a bit confusing with so many names for similar coffee drinks. And while so many people Google Ristretto vs. Long Shot, we wanted to provide an easy distinction.
A Ristretto is about 1/2 to 3/4 ounces of espresso. It’s a short pull with a smooth result. While the Long Shot, on the other hand, is the opposite – a slightly longer pull than an espresso, creating 1.5 to 2 ounces of coffee. A Long Shot is also called a Lungo, and it’s somewhat more bitter than a Ristretto.
Oh, and if you’re wondering about caffeine content – while the Ristretto is more robust, there’s more caffeine in the Long Shot.
Espresso vs Ristretto
Right in the middle of the Ristretto and Long Shot is the Espresso. It takes about a 20 to 30-second pull to create about an ounce of liquid goodness.
Ristretto – 1/2 – 3/4 ounce
Espresso – 1 ounce
Long Shot (Lungo) – 1 1/2 to 2 ounces
More Than a Shot – Other Ways To Use Ristretto in Coffee Drinks
While it’s possible to replace Espresso with Ristretto in any espresso-based drink, the Flat White is the most common. A Flat White is made with a 1:2 ratio of Ristretto and microfoam for a sweeter, smoother, richer combination compared to a Latte or Cappuccino.
Aside from the Flat White, Ristretto can be the star of other coffee variations.
Caffè Corretto – Caffè Corretto translates directly as “corrected coffee.” This means adding liquor such as brandy, grappa, or sambuca to your favorite Ristretto or a short shot of espresso beverage for some extra kick.
Red Eye, Black Eye, Dead Eye – a way to “rev up” an Americano or drip coffee with extra flavor (and caffeine!). It’s a shot of Ristretto (or Espresso) added to a 6 to an 8-ounce cup of coffee.
- Red Eye = one shot
- Black Eye = two shots
- Dead Eye = three shots
Spillin’ the Beans Espresso Making Alternatives
Frequently Asked Questions About the Ristretto
Ristretto coffee is a “restricted or narrowed down” espresso shot made with half the amount of water, resulting in a more concentrated and intense flavor. Baristas do a shorter pull on an espresso machine.
No. If you imagine an espresso as the starting point, the Ristretto is on the left with less water – it’s half the size of an espresso. The Lungo or Long Shot is on the right of espresso, made with anywhere from 50-100% more water.
Ristretto coffee is unique because of its intense flavor profile and its silky, creamy texture. It is also often used as a base for specialty coffee drinks such as Flat White.