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Exploring Ristretto vs Long Shot (or Lungo) Espresso: How They’re Different and How to Make Both

In today's article, we will first discuss a little about the history of ristretto and long shot individually before I explain to you what distinguishes those two coffee-based beverages from one another.
ristretto vs long shot

Working as a barista for 5 years, I’ve drank a lot of ristretto and long shots of espresso. I can confidently say Ristretto has my heart. Why? 

Because a ristretto shot has more aroma and is stronger in taste. I like that you can almost feel the aroma. For me, the ristretto is like a small bottle of perfume and it’s my favorite.

With the long shot, I have mixed feelings. Sometimes when I want a bigger coffee so I can sip from it throughout the day I’ll make a long shot, but since it’s more diluted, it’s rare. That said, I’m an expert on both anyway, so let’s dive into the differences before I teach you how to make both.

What’s a Ristretto Shot?

The coffee beverage known as ristretto comes from Italy. A “short shot” of espresso is a common term used to describe it.

A ristretto, which translates as “restricted” or “limited” in Italian, is an espresso shot that is shorter and more potent. 

Ristretto became more well-known as a result of people appreciating its distinctive flavor. A sweeter and smoother espresso shot resulted from the reduced extraction time since fewer of the coffee’s chemicals, including some of the bitter ones, were removed.

What’s a Long Shot or Lungo?

Espresso and the development of coffee brewing techniques are intimately tied to the idea of a “long shot” in the context of coffee. 

A long shot is an espresso shot that has been extracted for a longer period, allowing more water to pass through the coffee grounds. In comparison to a typical espresso shot, this may produce a weaker and more diluted coffee flavor. Somewhere between an Americano and drip coffee, if you will.

Now that we have some knowledge of the characteristics of each of those two beverages, let’s compare them side by side. 

Difference Between Ristretto vs Long Shot Espresso

Prefer to watch vs. read? I love this video explanation:

1. Extraction times.

Ristretto is an espresso shot that is only slightly longer than a shot of regular espresso. It is produced by quickly putting a tiny amount of water through finely-ground coffee beans. 

In contrast, a long shot is the ristretto’s reverse. To allow more water to pass through the coffee grounds, it entails pulling an espresso shot with a prolonged extraction period.

2. Amounts of coffee and water.

Ristretto uses the same amount of coffee grounds as a conventional espresso shot but uses less water. This results in a concentrated and potent brew.

On the other hand, a long shot produces a milder and diluted coffee flavor since more water is needed to brew the same amount of coffee grounds.

3. Flavor profiles.

The ristretto is rich and powerful with less acidity and bitterness. It is renowned for its sweetness and sturdiness, which successfully capture the coffee’s nuances.

Long shots can be more diluted, which results in a milder flavor profile than a regular espresso shot. Even so, the acidity and aromatic chemicals may still be present in some measure.

4. Quantity.

Ristretto shots typically provide between 15 and 20 milliliters of liquid, which is less than a standard espresso shot’s 30 ml. Comparing a long shot to an espresso or ristretto, a long shot produces more liquid, between 120-180 milliliters. More water lightens and even softens the espresso’s bitterness.

Personal preference ultimately determines whether you order a ristretto or a long shot. A long shot’s gentler and broader qualities may be more appealing to certain people than a ristretto’s powerful and concentrated flavors. Find the preparation that best suits your preferences by experimenting. 

Ristretto or Long Shot: How to Pick Which As A Drink Base?

Now, if we had to discuss why each of those two beverages is a good base for particular drinks, I would say the ristretto’s distinctive qualities create a concentrated and powerful base for some coffee beverages.

Why? 

Because of its high espresso and caffeine concentration.

The ristretto’s strong base can survive the addition of milk, syrups, and other components without becoming diluted under the weight of the mixture.

When espresso and milk are combined to make drinks like lattes or cappuccinos, the ristretto’s potency guarantees that the coffee flavor is retained even after blending with the milk’s creaminess. It’s also more acidic.

A long shot can provide a distinctive flavor profile and a different experience from standard espresso when used as the base for some coffee drinks. A long shot may be preferred as the base for several drinks because of its less intense and milder flavor if we compare it with a regular espresso.

A long shot’s mildness can create a balanced and pleasing flavor when combined with other ingredients like milk or ice. You will be also able to feel the added components because the coffee won’t overpower the rest of the drink.

Opt for a long shot if you want a slight coffee taste rather than a super concentrated espresso shot to serve as the drink’s focal point.  Reduced acidity means we can also use it as a base for alcoholic coffee drinks because it’s so light.

What About a Double Espresso vs Long Shot?

When comparing a double espresso to a long shot, there are a few key differences to bear in mind. A double espresso is two shots. It’s essentially a concentrated shot of coffee served in a small cup or glass. 

It’s brewed by forcing a small amount of nearly boiling water under pressure through finely-ground coffee beans. This rich and strong blend is often enjoyed straight, and may also serve as the base for other drinks like lattes, cappuccinos, and more. It’s intense and robust, with perfectly balanced acidity. 

On the other hand, a long shot, or ‘lungo’ in Italian, is an espresso shot brewed with twice the amount of water. The coffee extraction process is longer, too, resulting in a more diluted taste yet still retaining some of the strong espresso features. It will yield more volume of coffee and a milder taste.

Ultimately, whether you prefer a double espresso or a long shot comes down to how strong you like your coffee. 

The Caffeine Difference Between Ristretto and Long Espresso Shots

Ristretto and long espresso shots refer to two different styles of extracting espresso coffee, which contribute to the caffeine difference between these two drinks. 

To level set, a regular shot of espresso has about 63 mg of caffeine. A Ristretto shot contains 50 mg per serving; less caffeine compared to a long espresso shot’s 75-85 mg. 

A long shot has more caffeine because the Ristretto uses less water and has a shorter extraction period. making it a small, concentrated shot of espresso with intense flavor yet less caffeine. 

On the other hand, a long or “lungo” espresso shot involves a longer extraction period with more water passing through the coffee grounds, leading to a larger volume of coffee with more caffeine than a regular shot or Ristretto. 

However, since the water has more time to extract compounds from the grounds in the case of a long espresso, it results in a milder, less condensed flavor.

Thus, there is a trade-off between taste and caffeine content when deciding between Ristretto and long espresso shots, with the former being more flavorful and the latter packing more caffeine. 

How to Make Perfect Ristretto

To make Ristretto coffee, the espresso’s highly concentrated sibling, you need precision and quality equipment. Invest in a high-quality espresso machine, as it will have the pressure settings required for Ristretto espresso extraction.

1. Grind 20 grams of your favorite coffee.

You will need finely ground coffee beans. o make a perfect ristretto, you want that finer grind to slow down the extraction rate.

Ristretto shots are brewed with roughly 20 grams for a single shot to create an intense flavor profile, so use your coffee scale to measure the correct amount.

2. Prep your machine.

ristretto vs long shot

Turn it on and warm it up!

3. Tamp your grounds.

ristretto vs long shot

Begin by tamping the coffee into the portafilter very firmly to ensure a dense espresso puck. 

4. Pull your shot.

ristretto vs long shot

Set your machine to extract at a lower pressure for about 15-20 seconds. Less water is used in Ristretto, resulting in only 15-20ml of liquid compared to traditional espresso.

The goal is to extract the most flavorful elements from the coffee, without any bitterness that longer espresso pulls can generate. 

ristretto vs long shot

Serve immediately for maximum quality and taste. With practice and attention to detail, you will soon master the art of making the perfect Ristretto. 

How to Make a Long Shot Espresso

Making a long shot espresso, also known as lungo, involves a specific technique to extract more flavors and characteristics of the beans. Since a long shot uses more water than a traditional espresso shot, we’re going to act like we are pulling a doppio but lengthen the extraction time.

1. Grind coffee for two shots of espresso.

Start by grinding around 18 grams of espresso beans. Aim for a coarser grind compared to the fine grind used for standard espresso shots.  

2. Preheat your espresso machine.

ristretto vs long shot

Ensure that your espresso machine is clean and pre-heated.

3. Tamp your coffee.

Put the ground coffee into the portafilter and tamp it down firmly. Attach the portafilter to your espresso machine.

4.  Pull your shot.

ristretto vs long shot

Now, begin the extraction process, which should take around 45 to 60 seconds for a lungo—almost double the time it takes for a standard shot. If you are using a coffee scale like me, it should weigh about 1.5 grams.

You will use around 3 to 4 ounces of water, about double the amount used for a regular espresso.

ristretto vs long shot

The result is a long shot espresso, a less intense but more filled-out flavor experience that covers a wider range of the coffee taste spectrum.

The overall process requires precision and practice but the unique taste of a lungo espresso is worth the extra effort. 

What Type of Coffee Bean Brews a Perfect Ristretto or Long Shot?

The perfect bean for brewing a ristretto or long shot ideally has a rich, bold flavor and a smooth, full-bodied profile. A dark roast, such as an Indonesian, French, or Italian roast, often works best due to its high oil content and robust character.

And a high-quality type of espresso blend that comes whole bean is a solid choice for both ristrettos and long shots.

Some coffee shops use Arabica beans for a finer, sweeter taste as they have less caffeine and more flavors. For Ristretto, beans ground to an espresso fineness are optimum, while for a long shot, a slightly coarser grind is better.

Regardless of the preference, a fresh roast and grind is critical for a flavorful brew.  

TL;DR – The Difference Between a Ristretto and a Long Shot

To sum it up, the ristretto and the long shot are two different ways of drawing espresso shots. A Ristretto is a brief and concentrated shot, whereas a long shot is a longer prolonged, and diluted shot.

To make a ristretto, you want a really fine grind to slow the extraction down and you’ll use less water when pulling the shot. Long shots tend to taste weaker because they have more water but actually contain more caffeine due to the volume of espresso. Pull a double shot of espresso for 60 seconds with a tad coarser grind and you’ll have a lungo that’s ready to make a lighter, refreshing espresso drink!

Remember, though: When it comes to espresso, experiment with regular, long shot and ristretto pull methods. Only then will you find your magical brew!

Ristretto and Long Shot Coffee FAQs

How do you make a ristretto?

To make a ristretto, a coffee drinker would use the same amount of coffee grounds as they would for a regular espresso but only half the amount of water. 

What’s the flavor profile of a ristretto coffee?

A ristretto has a flavor profile that is more concentrated and intense than an espresso. It’s often described as more flavorful and less bitter, with a smoother finish. It’s a favorite among coffee lovers who prefer a strong, robust coffee drink.

How does the caffeine content differ between a regular shot and a ristretto?

A ristretto is made using less water than a regular espresso. Because of this, it generally contains slightly less caffeine due to the shorter brewing time.

As a coffee lover, should I opt for a ristretto or a long shot?

It’s all about personal preference when it comes to how you make espresso. A ristretto is more concentrated and has a robust, intense flavor, while a long shot is more diluted and has a lighter flavor. If you prefer a more powerful coffee taste, a ristretto is the way to go.

Can I make a double shot using the Ristretto method?

Yes, simply double the coffee grounds and use half the water. The result will be a double shot of a very potent espresso, also known as a “doppio ristretto”.

What does the term “ristretto” mean?

“Ristretto” comes from the Italian term for “restricted,” referring to the restricted amount of water used in the brewing process. It results in a shot that is significantly more concentrated than a traditional cup of espresso.

What’s the difference between ristretto and long shot coffee?

A ristretto is a very concentrated form of espresso, made with half the amount of water. A long shot, also known as a “lungo,” is the opposite – it is an espresso made with more water, resulting in a milder flavor. So, in a ristretto vs. long shot coffee showdown, a ristretto would generally be stronger than long shots.

How is a ristretto different to an espresso?

An espresso has more water and thus a higher volume than a ristretto. On the other hand, a ristretto is made with the same amount of coffee grounds but half the amount of water, giving it a very intense, concentrated flavor. Therefore, a ristretto is commonly described as a more potent and concentrated espresso shot.
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