Lungo Vs Espresso: Extending An Espresso Shot
You might have heard of lungo and espresso at your local coffee shop. And maybe it seems like they are the same thing, but are they? No, lungo and espresso are not the same things. But they are similar.
Let’s look at these coffee cousins and put them head-to-head to understand their differences and similarities.
Espresso: The Basics Explained
Espresso is a concentrated form of coffee. Imagine every taste, flavour, and aroma you would have in a cup of coffee and condense that down into a few mouthfuls. That’s essentially what an espresso is.
Espresso is thick, viscous, and sometimes syrupy. On top, you’ll find what’s called crema. Crema is the lighter brown and almost foamy stuff that sits on top of the coffee. It’s what’s left from the oils of the coffee that get extracted when espresso is made.
Espresso is one of the purest ways to enjoy coffee.
Speaking of, espresso is made in specialized machines that produce pressure and force water through finely-ground coffee beans. The pressure extracts coffee very quickly, and you’ll have a good espresso in 25-30 seconds.
A typical espresso recipe will be around 8 grams of ground coffee for a single shot. And an espresso should weigh 14-16 grams. That translates to around 30 ml of espresso. Keep in mind that there are many variations of espresso, like a ristretto vs espresso. This ratio is for a standard, balanced shot.
But the best part of espresso? It’s the base of some of the most popular coffee drinks in the world. Drinks like lattes, cappuccinos, mochas, and, my personal favourite – cortados. You can, and sometimes should, also enjoy it on its own.
- Versatile, espresso is the base for the most popular coffee drinks around the world
- Standard, every consumer espresso machine is programmed to make espresso
- Delicious, a good espresso is one of the purest possible ways to drink coffee
- A learning curve, it takes a while to master making and tasting espresso
What is Lungo?
A lungo espresso, or long espresso, is a coffee beverage made by allowing more water to pass through the coffee grounds than in traditional espresso. Lungo espresso is slightly milder and has more volume.
The barista or the machine will use more water to make espresso lungo, usually 1.5-2 times the amount of water used in a regular espresso shot. The result is a more substantial but less intense flavour and aroma with a longer extraction time of about 45-60 seconds (1).
Lungo espresso provides a slightly different coffee experience than traditional espresso, with a more extended flavour profile and a less intense taste.
- Milder, lungo shots are more palatable than straight espresso
- Easier to make, there’s more wiggle room for error
- Versatile, lungo shots can still be used in drinks like lattes or cappuccinos
- More bitter, lungo shots are more bitter because of the longer extraction time
Espresso Vs Lungo: The Differences
In this section, let’s explore the difference between espresso and lungo by comparing them head-to-head.
How they Taste
Lungo uses more water than standard espresso. With more water comes more extraction, and with more extraction, a less concentrated and milder taste.
So, lungo has a milder taste than standard espresso. But because coffee extracts in order or sour, sweet, and bitter, using more water to extend the shot will cause the shot to be more bitter.
The extended extraction means less acidity. But that comes with the territory of having a slightly more bitter coffee. Therefore, lungo is usually described as having a less intense taste than regular espresso.
It’s a good option for those who prefer a less strong coffee.
Winner: Espresso. It’s hard to argue with tradition here. Lungo shots can get bitter, diluted, and detract from drinks like lattes or mochas.
How you prepare them
Lungo and espresso are more than just different names of coffee drinks. They are made differently; the preparation difference lies in the amount of water used to extract the coffee.
Brewing an espresso typically takes around 25-30 seconds, and the resulting shot should be about 30-60 ml in volume.
Typically, a lungo runs twice as much water through the same amount of ground coffee used for an espresso shot. The brewing time is also longer, taking 45-60 seconds to complete. The resulting shot should be between 90-120 ml in volume.
So, a lungo is prepared using the same process as an espresso but with more water and a longer brewing time.
Winner: Espresso. It takes less time to get your drink at a busy cafe if you order a traditional espresso. And most home espresso machines aren’t programmed for lungo.
How you use them
While lungo and espresso are both forms of concentrated coffee, they are used differently from each other. Lungos are usually consumed on their own while espressos are typically the base for other drinks like lattes. Lungo is like the drip coffee version of espresso.
Since we already know that lungo shots have a milder and more diluted taste, it makes sense that they are more often served on their own. No one would want a milky coffee with a diluted coffee base.
The extra water will alter the consistency of the final drink, creating less of a creamy texture.
Lungos have less crema than their traditional counterparts. And having less crema makes them less suitable for espresso-based drinks.
So, remember that lungo means more dilution and less ideal for your milk drink. Espresso is more intense and concentrated, less ideal for drinking on its own. But it all comes down to personal preference.
Winner: Lungo. I prefer my coffee black, and I love the smoothness and balance of a good lungo.
How strong are they
Lungo espresso has slightly more caffeine than regular espresso. Caffeine content comes down to extraction time. More water means more extraction. And more extraction means more caffeine.
But that’s just the tip of the answer. A lungo has anywhere from 90-120 mg of caffeine, and a regular espresso has 70-120 mg (2). When comparing espresso vs coffee, espresso still has more caffeine per 100 ml. But espresso will always have a stronger flavour than a lungo.
A double shot of espresso will have about the same amount of caffeine as a lungo. I wouldn’t recommend choosing between lungo and espresso based on caffeine content, it’s not a big enough difference.
Winner: Espresso. It’s easier to control how much caffeine you’re drinking when dealing with espresso instead of a lungo.
Opt for espresso if:
- You want a standardized and traditional coffee
- You want a strong and more balanced flavour
- You want to add your shot to a latte or cappuccino
Opt for a lungo if:
- You prefer drinking your shots black
- You want a milder but deeper flavour
- You want a little more caffeine
No, a lungo is not 2 shots of espresso. Lungo is a single shot made with double the amount of water. It takes longer and produces more coffee.
You use espresso for latte. Espresso generally tastes better in a latte because it is more balanced and has a thicker layer of crema.
No, Lungo is not the same as Americano. An Americano is a shot of espresso with hot water added to dilute the espresso. A lungo is a shot of espresso brewed with more water.
- ACM 4.08 – espresso strengths: Normale. Barista Hustle. (2018, October 31). Retrieved February 20, 2023, from https://www.baristahustle.com/lesson/acm-4-08-espresso-strengths-normale/
- Caffeine In Espresso. Caffeine Informer. (n.d.). Retrieved February 20, 2023, from https://www.caffeineinformer.com/caffeine-content/espresso/