Ristretto vs Long Shot: Which One is Right for You?

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Confused about Ristretto and Long Shot? Learn the differences in brewing techniques, flavor profiles, and the history behind these two popular espresso drinks.

Summary of Key Points
☕️ Ristretto and long shot are different types of espresso drinks
☕️ Ristretto is smaller, more concentrated and made with half the amount of water and a finer grind
☕️ Long shot, also known as lungo, is a larger, weaker version of espresso made with double the amount of water and longer extraction time
☕️ Ristretto has a sweeter taste due to less extraction of bitter compounds, while a long shot has a more dilute and less intense flavor

Although Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee, the award for inventing the espresso goes to Italy. In the early 20th century, businessman Luigi Bezzera invented the espresso machine in a bid to speed up the brewing process. As “espresso” means fast in Italian, the name stuck to the brew and the machine. 

What Is A Ristretto Shot?

What Is A Ristretto Shot
What Is A Ristretto Shot

A ristretto shot is an espresso drink that is smaller in size. “Ristretto” in Italian means “restricted” or “shortened”. The name is such because the amount of water used to brew a ristretto shot is less than the amount of water used to brew an espresso. Plus, the ristretto coffee is brewed in a shorter time (15 to 20 seconds) using a finer grind for slow extraction, making the ristretto a more concentrated and sweet coffee drink, and smaller in size at 15 to 20 milliliters. 

The Origins Of The Ristretto Shot

Ristretto owes its origins to Italy but it became popular in the United States during the early 1980s. North Americans can thank David Schomer, proprietor of Seattle’s renowned Espresso Vivace Café, for introducing the ristretto shot in these parts. For those who don’t like the bitterness associated with espresso, a ristretto espresso shot is the perfect answer. 

Ristretto Vs Espresso Shot: Key Differences

Water used15ml30ml
ConcentrationMore concentrated and thickerLess concentrated and thinner
TasteRicher and sweeterBitter
Shot time15-20 seconds20-30 seconds
Coffee to water ratio1:1 or 1:1.51:1.5 or 1:2.5

What is the difference between ristretto and espresso is a question that may arise in the minds of those who have just delved into the world of coffee. 


Espresso is a more familiar term and hence most coffee drinkers are used to it. It is the base for all coffee beverages and can also be taken on its own. An espresso shot is bold, bitter, and intense with deep notes of caramel and chocolate. It is made by passing 30 milliliters of hot water through 7 to 10 grams of finely ground coffee and applying a 9-bar pressure for 25 to 30 seconds. The result is a strong cup of 25 to 30 milliliters of coffee. 

The body of the espresso is thinner as it is a less concentrated shot than a ristretto shot. The coffee-to-water ratio in an espresso shot is 1:1.5 or 1:2.5. However, if you’re home and are using a French press, you should know the right coffee to water ratio for a regular, weak, or strong cup. 


In contrast, a ristretto coffee is a smaller version of espresso made with half the amount of water – 15 milliliters – and yielding a cup that is between 15 and 20 milliliters. You need a finer grind to make a shot of ristretto so that the hot water flow through the coffee grounds is slower, leading to less extraction of the bitter compounds. Owing to the less amount of water, the ristretto is more concentrated with a thicker and fuller body

The taste is sweeter in a ristretto coffee shot because it wasn’t brewed long enough to release the bitter notes from the ground coffee. Another important difference is the brewing time. A ristretto is typically brewed for half the time as an espresso – 15 to 20 seconds. The shorter brewing time causes the difference in the taste and flavor of the ristretto. Finally, the coffee-to-water ratio in ristretto shots is 1:1 or 1:1.5, leading to a cup that is stronger than an espresso

Ristretto Vs Long Shot

FeatureRistrettoLong Shot
Water usedLessMore
Coffee-to-water ratio1:1.5 or 1:2.51:2.5 or 1:4+
Extraction timeShortLong
Brewing time15-20 seconds30-45 seconds
TasteLess bitterMore bitter
NotesFloral notesCaramel, nuts, chocolate
AcidityLess acidicMore acidic

An espresso or normale is what you have in the middle of the coffee strength spectrum. On one end there is the stronger and smaller ristretto and on the other end, there is the weaker and larger lungo. Lungo means “long” in Italian, hence the long shot. 

The long shot is made using the same amount of ground coffee as the espresso, but with a longer extraction time and double the amount of water. Therefore, the coffee-to-water ratio in a long shot is 1:2.5 or even 1:4+. If you order a lungo, you will get a larger version of espresso that’s 45-60 milliliters in volume. The brewing time is also longer than the ristretto or the espresso – 30-45 seconds. 

Since you have 60 milliliters of water going through the same portion of coffee, it will be weaker than ristretto or espresso. Due to the longer extraction time, the bitter compounds from the ground coffee will be more present in the long shot. The resultant coffee is weak but bitter. 

As for the notes, they are the deepest in the long shot and you will get distinct notes of caramel, nuts, and chocolate. However, the color will be lighter and the body will be much thinner in this espresso drink. You will also find the long shot more acidic in nature due to the long extraction time. 

Ristretto Vs Long Shot Taste

FeatureRistrettoLong Shot
TasteSweet with floral notesBitter and acidic
Prominent notesFloralCaramel, chocolate, nutty

To recap, ristretto is made with a shorter extraction time and therefore, tastes sweet with floral notes and a full-bodied mouthfeel. The short brewing time of only 15 to 20 seconds doesn’t allow the bitter compounds in the coffee grounds to dissolve fully and make the ristretto bitter.

On the other hand, the long shot is a coffee drink that is made with more water so it’s less concentrated with a thin body. The longer extraction time allows all the compounds to dissolve fully so that you will get a more bitter and more acidic taste in the long shot. The caramel, chocolate, and nutty notes are much more prominent here. 

Ristretto Vs Long Shot Caffeine

FeatureRistrettoLong Shot
Extraction timeShortestLongest
Caffeine contentLeastMost
NoteCaffeine content also depends on type of beans, roast, brewing method, and extraction timeCaffeine-free options available at Starbucks

According to Mayo Clinic, 400 milligrams of caffeine per day is okay for a healthy adult. That’s about four cups of brewed coffee. But there are also steps to take when you’ve drunk too much coffee.

Fun Fact: The longer coffee beans and grounds are allowed to be in contact with water, the more flavors and compounds are extracted. 

Coffee flavors are released in three phases – sweet, sour, and bitter – as per the brewing time. When you brew coffee for a longer time, all the compounds and caffeine are released into the brew. That’s why, the ristretto has the least amount of caffeine, thanks to the shortest extraction time. Following the same logic, the normale or espresso has a higher caffeine content than the ristretto but lower than a long shot. The highest caffeine amount is in the lungo or long shot as it is brewed for more than 30 seconds. 

I am referring to only the relative caffeine amount in these espresso shots because caffeine content depends on the type of beans, the roast, the brewing method, and the extraction time. If you’re conscious about caffeine intake, you can order any of the Starbucks low-caffeine drinks or caffeine-free drinks there. 

What Is Ristretto Or Long Shot Starbucks?

Ristretto or long shot in Starbucks uses the Starbucks Espresso Roast that’s also used to brew an espresso shot. The Flat White and Holiday Spice Flat White are made with ristretto shots, but you can ask for ristretto in any espresso-based beverage at Starbucks. The ristretto shots Starbucks contains 130 milligrams of caffeine in a standard serving while the long shot at Starbucks contains 225 milligrams of caffeine per serving, as per this source

A blonde ristretto at Starbucks uses Starbucks Blonde Espresso to pull a ristretto shot as the base in a blonde flat white beverage. 

How To Make Ristretto

You can make ristretto shots in 3 ways – using a manual or semi-automatic coffee machine or a fully automatic ristretto machine. 

Automatic Ristretto Machine

If you have a fully automatic coffee machine like this, chances are there is a programmable setting for making ristretto shots. Simply press and pour!

Semi-Automatic Coffee Machine

In a semi-automatic coffee machine, you will definitely have a setting to make espresso. Begin with the espresso program and tweak the settings so that you get a 15-milliliter cup in 15 seconds. 

Manual Espresso Machine

Ristretto Shot

You can make ristretto shots in 3 ways – using a manual or semi-automatic coffee machine or a fully automatic ristretto machine. 
Prep Time1 min
Active Time2 mins
Total Time3 mins


  • Espresso machine
  • Burr Grinder
  • Coffee scale


  • Water
  • 7-10 grams Ground coffee beans


  • Fill the reservoir with cold, filtered water
  • Turn on the espresso machine and wait for it to warm up. 
  • Preheat your demitasse or espresso cup with a hot water rinse.
  • Put 10 or 20 grams of finely ground coffee into the portafilter. 
  • Tamp the coffee grounds as you usually would.
  • Attach the portafilter to the coffee machine. 
  • Pull the shot. Weigh the amount of coffee extracted using the scale. Aim to get 15 to 20 grams


💡Pro Tip: Instead of using a scale, you can stop pulling the shot at 15 seconds to get ristretto shots. 


What Is A Ristretto Shot Of Espresso?

A ristretto shot of espresso is a short shot of espresso brewed at a shorter time for slower and less extraction of the full flavors of the coffee. The size of the ristretto is smaller; 15 – 20 milliliters. With the smaller amount of liquid extracted, the ristretto shot is usually sweeter, full-bodied, more concentrated, and stronger than the espresso and without bitterness. 

Is Ristretto Stronger Than Espresso?

Yes, ristretto is stronger than espresso.

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