What is Ristretto Shot and the Difference with Espresso?

Ristretto means a ‘short shot’ of a highly concentrated shot of espresso coffee. It’s made with the same amount of coffee as an espresso shot but while using a finer grind and less water. Espresso shots look similar but it’s in actual fact weaker than ristretto shots due to it being full length shots of coffee.

Have you ever found yourself getting a little flustered when trying to choose what type of coffee you want when it’s your turn to order your coffee drink at coffee shops? There are the regularly chosen options such as flat white, a straight black and adding milk, and a lungo. But what is the right coffee for you?

If you’re new to coffee, you may be interested in figuring out which type of coffee you would prefer but you don’t want to try every coffee drink out there to find out. It can be a little overwhelming considering there are so many different ones and a variety of names for the coffee drinks available out there. For example, have you considered ristretto shots? We want to help you navigate the coffee world!

In the first half of this article we’ll go through the difference between a ristretto vs espresso and then how to make it at home.

Ristretto Vs Espresso: What is the Difference?

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The differences between coffee drinks can be so small. Long, short, milk, no milk. Just the change of one ingredient makes a difference, such as instant coffee vs coffee beans. And if you’re wondering, does ground coffee dissolve, the answer would be no. This is because instant coffee is made completely different than ground coffee. So, how do these elements influence espressos and ristrettos?

Firstly, ristretto shots are similar to espresso shots but still a little different. An espresso shot has double the amount of water, making it a little weaker than a ristretto shot. It’s as if you’re diluting shots. But, it’s important to know the different balance of taste each one has. Each coffee-making method can change the taste of a coffee drink drastically.

If you’re looking for a strong coffee taste, then choosing a ristretto shot will be the best choice. The varying colors are easy to spot between the drinks and also a ristretto shot has more body than an espresso shot.

When drinking straight espresso shots you’ll enjoy a completely different flavor compared to a ristretto shot. Some even say you’ll have more bitter compounds due to it having fewer total coffee compounds. People even prefer a ristretto shot over an espresso shot due to it having a bit of a sweeter finish, a more concentrated flavor, and less bitterness.

Below is a table of comparison for you to look at so you can have a shortened list of ristretto vs espresso in order to see all relevant differences at a glance.

The Difference Between Ristretto & Espresso



Now you understand the difference between the two, let’s go to….

How to Make Ristretto at Home?

Barista, cafe worker and bartender concept. Portrait of careful young serious-looking young man in apron, pouring water from kettle into chemex while making filter coffee, white background

We don’t always have time to go to a coffee shop for an espresso drink or coffee drink which is why it’s good to know the best way to make it at home. Firstly, have a look at the list of equipment you will need in order to make a ristretto shot of the best characteristic compounds:

  • Coffee beans or ground coffee
  • A coffee grinder if using coffee beans; make sure you use a small grind size
  • Espresso machine and portafilter basket
  • A demitasse cup because a larger cup is pointless with these drinks
  • Distilled water

Once you have everything you need, go through the steps you’ll need to follow.

  1. Turn on your espresso machine. This is an important factor as it can take up to 45 minutes to heat up and the water needs to be hot for optimal taste.
  2. You’ll need about 14 grams of coffee grounds in the filter that you’ll need to pack down. This will give you a strong ristretto shot.
  3. Place the coffee filter into place, securing it tightly. Turn on the water and count 15 seconds before removing the cup.

When you compare methods you’ll see a ristretto uses less hot water than an espresso.

If you’re interested in learning three different techniques you can use at home to make ristretto shots or double ristretto shots check out this video below.

With regards to flavor, a ristretto is much stronger than espresso. It has a bolder and sweeter flavor due to how concentrated the shot is.

Due to a ristretto having less extraction time, there is less caffeine than an espresso. It’s only a small difference though.

A typical espresso takes about 25-30 seconds to make and because a Ristretto is literally half an espresso shot, it would take 15 seconds to make.

Lungo means long shot which is the opposite of a Ristretto. It uses more hot water than the standard method when brewing espresso. The espresso shot will end up having a milder taste.

The Bottom Line

Having the perfect dose of coffee shouldn’t be difficult. You don’t want to waste time trying to figure out what to order when you’re desperate for that caffeine kick. Hopefully after reading this article you have a much better understanding of what you’ll be getting when ordering your next coffee drink at coffee shops. Will you pick an espresso or ristretto?