Ristretto vs long shot: Which one is better?
The choice we have as coffee lovers keeps growing daily. For some among us, it’s not easy to keep even score of the classic coffees out there. Let’s reduce this choice today to the ristretto vs long shot, 2 great coffees.
The biggest difference between these 2 coffee drinks is that a ristretto is more “restricted” in resources. It uses less water and thus has a shorter extraction time. A long shot uses more resources, thus water and has a longer extraction time.
So, which one should you choose? It all depends on your personal preferences! If you like a strong, full-flavored coffee, go for a ristretto. But if you prefer a smoother, less intense espresso, go for a long shot.
We will explore these 2 coffees more in-depth: ristretto vs long shot.
What is a ristretto?
Ristretto, in Italian, means “limited” or “restricted”. This coffee drink is made with a smaller amount of water than a regular espresso. As a result, the ristretto shot has less liquid but is more concentrated. The main difference with a regular espresso is the brewing process: it has a shorter extraction time.
The flavor of a ristretto is often described as being more intense and robust than a regular espresso. Because less water is used to extract the coffee grounds, the ristretto also contains more caffeine and is less bitter.
For many coffee drinkers, the ristretto is the ideal way to enjoy an espresso. The concentrated flavor and higher caffeine content make it the perfect morning pick-me-up. So if you’re looking for a more intense espresso experience, be sure to ask for a ristretto.
What is a long shot (or lungo)?
A long shot espresso is made with the same amount of coffee grounds and with twice or more the amount of water required for a regular espresso.
This results in a less concentrated and smoother coffee with a lighter, less strong flavor.
The pull time is equal or longer compared to a regular espresso.
A long shot is also called lungo or caffe lungo.
Ristretto vs long shot
Ristretto and long shot are two different types of espresso that have their own unique characteristics.
Ristrettos are more concentrated and less bitter than long shots, making them a great choice for coffee lovers who want to enjoy the full flavor of espresso.
Long shots are perfect for those who want a smoother, less intense espresso.
We will go a little bit deeper on the subject by comparing them when it comes to: appearance, grind sizes, ratios of brewing, and last but not least how they taste!
Ristrettos have less liquid because they use less water in the brewing process. This results in a darker and more concentrated shot of espresso.
Long shots have more liquid because they use more water in the brewing process. This results in a lighter and less concentrated shot of espresso.
Ristrettos use a finer grind size compared to long shots, who’ll use coarser grinds.
The reason ristrettos have a finer grind size is that their brewing time is shorter and the finer the grind is, the more flavor they can extract from the grounds.
On the other hand, Long shots use a coarser grind size than ristrettos. This is because they have a longer brewing time and don’t need to extract as much flavor from the coffee grounds like the ristretto.
As we’ve said before in this post, the main difference between the ristretto vs long shot is the duration of their brewing method and more specifically their coffee-to-water ratio.
The long shots require more water compared to a regular espresso. The ratio is about 1:3.
On the other hand, the ristretto uses about half of a single shot of espresso and the same grounds as a regular espresso.
Because of the different amounts of water and extraction time, the taste will be different.
Generally, the longer you’ll shoot or pull, as they say, the more likely you’ll extract bad-tasting compounds like oils and acids and other flavors. Don’t pull longer if you’re in doubt.
Brewing your long shot or ristretto at home
Before we dive into how you’ll need to brew your long shot or ristretto at home, we’ll repeat the basics of what espresso brewing is about.
Brewing an espresso is the art of combining hot water and shoot it, under high pressure, through the finely ground coffee.
We’ll highlight the aspect of grinding your coffee very finely because this is needed to resist the high pressure of the water. If you don’t grind finely, the resistance will be not so high and give us less quality because the water won’t get the best taste out of your beans.
You must think about 4 aspects, there are more, but these are the most important ones when brewing coffee:
- grind size: as highlighted above
- coffee doses: this is related to the coffee-to-water ratio and must be in balance
- water volume: this is also related to the coffee-water ratio and must be in balance
- contact/extraction time: the contact time between the water and the coffee grounds. The longer, the more risk of bad flavors getting into your cup of coffee
How to pull a long shot espresso?
Some people confuse the long shot or lungo with the Americano. An Americano is a shot of espresso that has warm water added on top of it, while the lungo/long shot is a cup filled with the extracts.
Steps on how to make a long shot at home:
- 1 espresso shot equals about 7 – 10 grams of grounded coffee
- Don’t grind these very coarse. We’ll need finer grinds here.
- Extraction is done with hot water and pressure. Medium pressure, about 10 bars, will do just fine because remember, we will pull long, not short.
- This extraction time is maximum 55 – 60 seconds, nothing more than 60 seconds.
- Remember, a quality indicator for a good extraction is the light brown color of the crema.
- Serve it in your favorite mug or cup. Finish it off with whatever you like but it can be consumed perfectly without it. The taste of this espresso can be sour or bitter.
How to make a ristretto?
There is, as with most brewing guides and drinks, no 1 recipe to follow.
Every coffee shop or barista will do it a bit in their own way.
What they will have in common is the following guiding principle:
The brew ratio will vary between 1:1 to 1:1.5. This means for every gram of coffee, you’ll have 1 to 1.5 grams of ristretto coffee.
A regular espresso will have a ratio of 1:2.
You’ll need an espresso machine for this brew job. Please maintain and clean these regularly for increased longevity and quality of your brews.
Remember, we’re using less water and contact time is lower, so bean type will be very important. here we should look for coffee beans that are less dense and don’t give a lot of resistance because we’ll need our portion of flavor in a short amount of time. Normally, medium roasts will be fine or medium to dark roasts. Try and tweak at your hearts content!
You’ll also will mostly chose between Arabica bean, Robusta bean or a blend. Mostly blends will do fine but more specialty coffee lovers will either opt for Arabica beans or Robusta beans. The latter contain more caffeïne.
Grind your coffee beans finer than you’ll do for espresso. The finer it is, the better as it will resist better the water that’s shot through. This will block the flavors, bad ones and good ones unfortunately, and reduce bitterness.
Take your espresso cup or favorite cup or mug so you can have your drink in style!
- Fill your espresso machine with water, filtered water if possible because unfiltered is bad, for your taste and to your machine, heavily downgrading your coffee experience!
- Heat your water through your machine and wait for the indicator to turn green or give “the sign”
- Place about 15 grams of coffee grounds in the filter and tamp it.
- Insert the filter into the machine if needed
- Brew for about 15 seconds, this will give you about 15 ml coffee (0.50 oz).
Generally, the finer your grind size the better. Other methods can be brewing with a finer grind to get more resistance, this way you’ll don’t have to adjust brew time and still get a similar result.
What is better: Ristretto or long shot?
We don’t like to answer this question as this is highly subjective and different for most people. What we would like to highlight is that a ristretto is harder to brew compared to a long shot.
Ristretto requires more experience, while espresso can be done by simple following instructions and buttons on the machine. This means you’re a bit more on your own on this.
Go and follow your senses and adjust the grind size for your desired taste.
Depending on your personal preferences, you’ll opt for a ristretto or a long shot, or any other coffee of course. Here, quick ain’t always easy as this is true for the ristretto, it gives you a sweet and good taste. The espresso is easier because of the simpler instructions and gives you a good and balanced coffee drink.
The ristretto vs long shot. Try these coffees and learn, also pay attention and see how they’re brewed at your coffee shop. Everyone has their own way of brewing coffee.
What’s the difference between a long shot and a ristretto?
They’re both espressobased coffees but to conclude shortly: a ristretto uses less water and less extraction time for a more concentrated coffee. A long shot or lungo uses more water, more extraction time to create a less concentrated coffee. The ristretto often has high chance for a good flavor because of the lower extraction time. The longer the extraction time, the more likely you’ll have bad flavors heading your way!
Which has more caffeine ristretto or long shot?
The amount of caffeine is related to the extraction time of the coffee grounds and water. It’s simple, the longer, the more likely there will be caffeine extracted as well. The difference isn’t that much of course and is relatively low.
Are ristretto shots better?
This is highly subjective and different for everyone. Ristretto shots are better when it comes to flavor profile of the coffee. Because of the lower extraction time, there is a lower chance of getting bad, and good, flavors into your cup. Long shots can have, because of the longer extraction times, more bad flavors and ruin your coffee! Ristretto’s require more skill to make though.
What does lungo mean?
Lungo is the Italian word for “long”. Another name is the long shot. It uses 2x more water compared to regular espresso.
Why are ristretto shots sweeter?
Because of the lower extraction time and lower amount of water. Extraction time is an indicator for the likeliness that bad flavors will reach your cup (and good flavors). This way, the lower the extraction time is, the more concentrated your shots are and the more sweeter your coffee will taste.
Can you add milk to a lungo?
Of course, a long shot is an espresso that uses 2x water compared to a regular espresso and can taste bitter. You can add milk or other sweeteners to your cup to improve your experience.
Enjoy your coffee!