Ristretto is a short espresso shot with a sweeter and more intense flavor! This coffeehouse special is a total treat.

Ristretto

Love a great espresso shot? Then you’re probably already turned on to Ristretto! This delicious short shot of espresso is pulled faster, making it have a sweeter, richer flavor than the standard. It’s a great way to mix up the classic when you’re looking for something a little different, or slightly alter the flavor of your Starbucks espresso drink. What’s the exact difference between ristretto vs espresso? Here’s what to know, and how to make a ristretto shot at home!

What is ristretto?

Ristretto is a short espresso shot that’s pulled in less time than the standard shot (it means “restricted” in Italian). It uses the same amount of coffee, but is made in 15 to 20 seconds versus 25 to 30 seconds. This shorter extraction time makes ristretto taste sweeter and more intense than the normal espresso shot.

You can order ristretto at your local coffeeshop, or even at Starbucks! You can request a ristretto shot to replace espresso in any of the Starbucks espresso drinks, like a latte, macchiato, Americano, iced latte, and more.

Ristretto vs long shot

Long shot vs ristretto

What’s the opposite of ristretto? A long shot, or Lungo! Italian for “long,” the lungo uses the same amount of espresso as a normal shot but is pulled in 35 to 40 seconds. The longer extraction makes it taste slightly less intense but more bitter.

What’s the better of the two? In our opinion, the Ristretto is king! Its sweet, rich flavor beats the bitter lungo any day. (But that’s just us.)

Make it at home with an espresso machine

Love the intense flavor of a ristretto shot? You can make it at home, but you’ll need specific gear. In fact, there’s really no way to make ristretto coffee without an espresso machine. Here’s what to know:

  • You’ll need a great countertop espresso machine. Here’s the Breville espresso machine we use: it works like a charm and makes the best espresso we’ve had outside of Italy. This type of machine is similar to what you’d see a barista use: it sits on the countertop and grinds the coffee. Many espresso makers also have a steaming wand: it makes the best steamed milk for lattes and cappuccinos.
  • Pros and cons: Countertop espresso machines are pricey, starting at about $300 up to several thousand dollars. But if you’re a purist, it’s worth it for the high quality! It’s really the only way to make a ristretto in the comfort of your own home.
  • Accessories: Make sure to get a knock box to use with your espresso machine. It’s helpful for tamping and discarding the used coffee grounds.
Ristretto

The coffee to use: espresso roast

Start with an espresso roast coffee for a ristretto: the roast is important to get the right dark, bitter flavor to an espresso shot. Some espresso coffee brands we recommend are Illy, Starbucks, or Intelligentsia.

How to make a ristretto shot

Got your espresso maker and your coffee beans? Let’s make a ristretto! Here’s what to do:

  1. Grind the coffee: Use espresso roast coffee, about 9 grams for a single ristretto shot and 18 grams for a double shot. Grind the coffee until it’s very fine ground. Different roasts and brands of beans will require a different grind for your machine. You may need to do a few test runs to get it dialed in just right.
  2. Pack and tamp the coffee grounds: Add the coffee grounds to the espresso basket (portafilter) until it’s slightly heaping over the top. Use the tamper to press the grounds evenly into the portafilter, pressing very firmly until it is fully compressed. Place the portafilter on a folded towel before tamping, or the best tool is a knock box for tamping and discarding used grounds. It’s important for the coffee grounds to be as even and straight as possible to get the best ristretto shot.
  3. Pull the shot: Place the portafilter in the espresso machine and press the button to pull the shot using Manual mode. Make sure it lasts 15 to 20 seconds, resulting in 1 ½ ounces coffee for a double ristretto with a caramel-colored crema (compared to 25 to 30 seconds for a standard espresso doubleshot).

And that’s it! Enjoy your beautifully rich, aromatic ristretto shot. Let us know how you got on in the comments below!

Ristretto

More espresso drinks

Want to make all the espresso drinks? In our Barista Series, we’ll show you how to make everything coffee related. Try these coffee drinks:

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Ristretto

Ristretto


  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 drink (1 ½ ounces) 1x
  • Diet: Vegan

Description

Ristretto is a short espresso shot with a sweeter and more intense flavor! This coffeehouse special is a total treat.


Ingredients

Scale

Instructions

  1. Grind the coffee: Grind the coffee until it’s very fine ground. Different roasts and brands of beans will require a different grind for your machine. You may need to do a few test runs to get it dialed in just right.
  2. Pack and tamp the coffee grounds: Add the coffee grounds to the espresso basket (portafilter) until it’s slightly heaping over the top. Use the tamper to press the grounds evenly into the portafilter, pressing very firmly until it is fully compressed. It’s useful to have something to press onto for tamping so that you don’t damage the counter or filter. Place the portafilter on a folded towel before tamping, or the best tool is the ledge of a knock box (you can also use it to discard the used grounds). It’s important for the coffee grounds to be as even and straight as possible to get the best espresso shot.
  3. Pull the shot: Place the portafilter in the espresso machine and press the button to pull the shot using Manual mode. This is the most important part of pulling a ristretto shot. Make sure it lasts 15 to 20 seconds, resulting in 1 ½ ounces coffee for a double ristretto, with a caramel-colored crema (compared to 25 to 30 seconds for a standard espresso doubleshot).
  4. Consider any adjustments: It takes a while to hone in the grind of the coffee and the tamping process. Don’t worry if it’s not exactly right the first time! If you find that the shot is watery, use slightly more coffee grounds or use a finer grind on the coffee. 
  • Category: Drink
  • Method: Espresso
  • Cuisine: Coffee

Keywords: Ristretto

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Meet Sonja and Alex Overhiser: Husband and wife. Expert home cooks. Authors of recipes you'll want to make again and again.

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