Ristretto vs. Espresso: the Difference Between Similar Coffee Drinks

This article will discuss everything you need to know about ristretto and espresso in order to choose the better one.
Samanta Fryer
Samanta Fryer
Samanta Fryer is our senior editor and content writer, at CoffeeVibe. Apart from writing and reading, she’s fond of the coffee brewing process and enjoys tasting new coffe read more
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Ryan Hendricks
Ryan Hendricks
Ryan Hendricks is our tester, who puts products through their paces. He used to be a barista and is now a full-time coffee enthusiast. He’s always testing out new gadgets, read more
Last updated: August 25, 2023
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Apart from the every morning energy that coffee gives, one other reason why it’s so much loved is that it comes in several forms. So, you have different kinds of coffee to choose from depending on your mood. If you go into a coffee store, you’ll probably see an Espresso, Americano, Caramel Macchiato, and Flat White. But there is also one coffee type that you don’t pay attention to – Ristretto. This coffee type is similar to espresso. Although, both coffees have some differences that are worth discussing.

The only reason why there hasn’t been a ristretto vs espresso war is that a lot of people are yet to take notice of the spectacular coffee. It is spectacular because it’s like espresso, but it requires less time to extract. So, in this write-up, we will reveal every notable difference that exists between both coffees in order for you to make your pick.

What Is a Ristretto?

Ristretto vs. Espresso: the Difference Between Similar Coffee Drinks
A ristretto is a type of espresso with a shorter shot time and smaller volume than a regular espresso.

Ristretto is an Italian word that means “limited” or “restricted.” As previously mentioned, its making is similar to an espresso’s. But a ristretto takes a shorter time to extract, which translates to a more flavorful, bold, and sweet coffee.

A ristretto is an espresso that has been shortened. It is made with half the quantity of water that’s used to make espresso, causing it to be more concentrated. Due to the fact that it’s made with less water, you will have only a few shots to take.

A ristretto is normally prepared with a fine grind of coffee and dispensed via a manual espresso machine with a shorter lever pull. With such a machine, a ristretto is made perfectly; it requires human attention, which means the barista pulls the lever until the kind of brew needed is made. A shorter pull on the machine means less water but more flavor. If you still do not have this device, we recommend you to check out our review of the best manual espresso machines that will make you a fragrant cup of ristretto.

What Is an Espresso?

Espresso is brewed by passing hot water through finely-ground beans. It’s a small concentrated coffee that can be made with an espresso machine. To achieve the perfect ratio of coffee to water, you’ll need a good device. If you don’t want to spend a lot of money on it, you can choose one from our review of the best espresso machines under 300 dollars with great features and outstanding design.

When made this way, you will have less coffee in your cup than when you brew with a slow-drip or standard coffee machine. But an espresso machine is a better choice as it comes with a bunch of features like additional flavor and caffeine.

Ristretto vs. Espresso: Which Hot Drink to Choose?

Quickly, we’ll examine the characteristics of ristretto vs. regular espresso so that you’ll be able to deduce the coffee type that suits you better.

Caffeine Content

The type of coffee beans used and the brewing method determine the contents that will be retained in your coffee. In fact, it determines the whole outcome of your coffee.

According to experts Trusted Source Caffeine content for coffee, tea, soda and more | Mayo Clinic Up to 400 milligrams of caffeine a day is considered safe for most adults. www.mayoclinic.org , coffees usually contain a high concentration of caffeine, which causes headaches, restlessness, and anxiety. So, it must be regulated.

Even though ristretto is made with less water causing it to have more concentration of coffee beans, it is usually brewed in low volume. Because of this, a shot contains a low amount of caffeine. But espresso is usually made in large volumes, which makes it contain more caffeine.

In a bid to regulate the consumption of caffeine in our everyday drink, coffee lovers have recommended the Lavazza Decaf Coffee – it has no caffeine and still maintains its rich flavor.

Coffee Strength

In comparing ristretto shots vs. espresso, another feature that differentiates them, even though they belong to the same family, is how strong they are.

A ristretto is stronger than espresso. Because ristretto is made with a low amount of water and less time is spent on its extraction, a large amount of coffee beans flavor is retained, hence producing a strong cup of coffee.

On the other hand, an espresso needs more water and time in its extraction, thereby washing away some portion of the coffee beans’ flavor. As a result of this, espresso doesn’t get as strong as ristretto.

Ristretto vs. Espresso: the Difference Between Similar Coffee Drinks
Difference between ristretto and espresso.

Sugar Content

The sweetness of the brew is one of the most appealing qualities of ristretto. Many coffee lovers are unaware that the sweetness of their coffee is not dependent on the amount of sugar or cream added. Instead, it has to naturally do with the coffee beans and how the coffee is brewed Trusted Source Beverages - Coffee Flavor: A Review | MDPI Studies have identified the sensory aspects and volatile and non-volatile compounds that characterize the flavor of different coffees. www.mdpi.com .

The sweetness obtained from ristretto is one of a kind, and this is so as a result of the short extraction time. It gives a stronger flavor and reduces the amount of bitter components that make it through. If the extraction time in your coffee is reduced, your coffee will be sweeter as the most flavorful and sweet part of the coffee beans always comes out in a short time.

Taste and Flavor

To choose between espresso long shot vs. ristretto, you need to consider the taste and flavor you’ll get.

So, a ristretto flavor is less bitter than an espresso, making ristretto bolder, more flavorful, and taste better than espresso. The lower bitterness is because of the extraction procedure, which uses less water than espresso.

Coffee has several significant chemical components that dissolve at various rates. In fact, the temperature of the water used also has an impact on the brew. Because ristretto uses water at a specified temperature, the extraction process would have been completed before the bitterness emerges. However, for extraordinary taste and flavor, top chefs, coffee experts, and espresso connoisseurs have recommended Illy Espresso Classic.

Ristretto vs. Espresso: the Difference Between Similar Coffee Drinks
The taste and flavor of ristretto depend on its blend and origin.


Espresso and ristretto have the same amount of calories. They both contain a small number of calories due to the oil contained in the coffee beans. Protein is released when coffee is seeped, giving the coffee a few calories without any additions. However, with one of the best espresso beans, you get a lot of energy even with a single shot.

Ristretto vs. Espresso: Quick Overview

The primary difference that occurs between these two is in the extraction process. Ristretto, as a shorter version of espresso, takes a reduced number of minutes to be extracted. Below is a table that better differentiates both coffee-type.

Ristretto Espresso
Takes 12 to 15 seconds Takes 20 to 30 seconds
Uses half the amount of water espresso needs Uses double the amount of water that ristretto uses
It is bolder, sweeter, and more flavorful Not very bold, sweet, and less flavorful
Contains less caffeine Contains more caffeine
Gets sourer if under-extracted Gets more bitter if over-extracted
Looks darker and thicker Looks pale
More grounds are used for a smaller amount of brew The grounds used and the brew produced are commensurate
Has more crema Has thinner crema

What Is a Lungo?

It will be unfair if we talk about the short version of espresso, i.e., ristretto, and don’t talk about the extended version, Lungo.

In Italy, Lungo means “long.” This is another version of espresso. But it is brewed differently. A lungo is usually made with the same amount of ground coffee, but double the water used in making an espresso is used. Also, it requires a longer time.

Because it requires more water, it’s usually made in large volumes with less concentration. Due to the longer brewing time, the bitterness is more intense than the regular espresso and ristretto.

A lungo contains all of the hardest, smoky, roasty, tobacco-ey qualities that coffee has to offer. While some people may argue that a Lungo is nothing more than an overcooked espresso, this does not negate the fact that it’s a form of coffee that some people like.

So, next time you go to a coffee shop, try out one of these – ristretto vs. espresso vs. lungo. It would be nice to have a different taste of coffee.

Final Thoughts

There are so many types of coffee in the market, but ristretto seems to be unnoticed. Well, it belongs to the same family as espresso. So, if you love espresso, there’s no doubt that you will love ristretto.

Ristretto requires less water than espresso. Also, it’s sweeter and contains more flavor than espresso. When both types of coffee are compared, it’s obvious that the unnoticed coffee (ristretto) is better than the regular espresso. However, your choice is yours to make.

This article has done well to shed light on everything you need to know about ristretto vs espresso. Now the ball is in your court.


Caffeine content for coffee, tea, soda and more | Mayo Clinic
Up to 400 milligrams of caffeine a day is considered safe for most adults.
Beverages - Coffee Flavor: A Review | MDPI
Studies have identified the sensory aspects and volatile and non-volatile compounds that characterize the flavor of different coffees.

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