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What is a Ristretto Shot?

Ristretto is an intense shot of espresso served black. You make ristretto the same way you make an espresso: with an espresso machine. But the volume is smaller than a typical espresso. A ristretto shot has a volume of 15 to 20 mL, while espresso is 25 to 35 mL, but you make both with the same amount of ground coffee. Because the ristretto is more concentrated, it is richer and sweeter. It is distinct from a short shot, simply a smaller espresso that is not more concentrated.

Ristretto Shot

What kind of coffee is a ristretto?

A ristretto is an espresso-based coffee drink. It is a highly concentrated form of coffee, usually served without any added milk or sweeteners. It is traditionally made with dark roast coffee, but various types of coffee can be used.

The flavor of a ristretto is not the same as an espresso; it is stronger and sweeter. This occurs for three reasons:

  • The first part of any extraction is the most concentrated, as you will see if you prepare any espresso drink.
  • The flavor compounds that extract fastest will be more prominent in a ristretto, and the slower extracting compounds tend to be the ones that contribute to bitterness.
  • A ristretto will also contain fewer chemical compounds overall than a longer extraction, thus leading to a different balance of tastes and aromas.

Where does ristretto coffee come from?

The ristretto is a traditional Italian espresso drink. The word ristretto means “restricted” in Italian because the ristretto uses a finer grinder that results in a restricted flow compared with an espresso. In French, this drink is called a café serré, which means a “tight coffee.” It is the smallest of all the types of coffee drinks.

Ristretto gained popularity in North America in the 1980s thanks to David Schomer, owner of Seattle’s famous Espresso Vivace café. Schomer has described a properly prepared ristretto shot as the finest of coffee extracts, saying it has “the ability to preserve the fragrance of the roast, and caramelized sugars, through the brewing process into a thick chiffon with a silky mouth-feel.”

How to Make a ristretto shot coffee

A ristretto coffee aka ristretto espresso is made using an espresso machine and very fine coffee grounds. The exact steps to follow are presented below.

WHAT YOU NEED

  • 20 g very finely ground coffee beans
  • Water
  • Espresso machine
  • Coffee scale

AT A GLANCE

BREW TIME

5 minutes

YIELD

Double ristretto shot

Extra notes:

  • Coffee needs to be ground extra fine for a ristretto shot, so you won’t be able to buy pre-ground coffee at the grocery store. It needs to be ground fresh using a burr grinder.

Step 1: Prepare your espresso machine

Ensure you fill the espresso machine’s reservoir with cold, filtered water. Turn the machine on and wait for it to come to temperature. This can take up to 45 minutes, depending on the machine.

Using hot water, you can also preheat your espresso cup, also known as a demitasse. Because a ristretto is so small in volume, it will cool too quickly if the cup is cold.

Step 2: Prepare the portafilter

Add the 20 grams of coffee grounds to the espresso maker’s portafilter. Tamp it down using approximately 30 pounds of pressure. Twist the portafilter into the espresso machine.

Step 3: Pull the shot

Start pulling the shot. You should stop for a 20-gram dose when you have about 30 mL of espresso in your cup. If you don’t have a volumetric espresso makerd, the easiest way to measure this is to use a coffee scale. 30 mL of water weighs 30 grams.

What is the difference between ristretto and espresso?

The difference between ristretto and espresso is the amount of water pressed through the coffee grounds to produce the shot. Ristretto uses half to three-quarters the amount of water, making it “shorter” than espresso. A ristretto is made with a more finely ground coffee and is said to taste sweeter than espresso.

What is the difference between a ristretto and a lungo?

The difference between a ristretto and a lungo is the water used. Ristretto is made with half the amount of water used for espresso, whereas lungo is made with double water. Because the ristretto is extracted with less water, it often has lighter tasting notes, such as fruit and sweetness. A lungo will have deeper flavors, like chocolate, nuts, and caramel.

The lungo is often confused with the doppio, a coffee drink that is composed of a double espresso shot.

Related: What is Lungo Coffee?

What are the unique benefits of a ristretto shot?

Because it is so concentrated, a ristretto shot is a fast and effective way to consume the caffeine and antioxidants found in coffee. These can help improve the immune system, manage blood pressure, and ward off many diseases. You may also experience increased mental alertness and an energy boost.

Ristretto shots are very low in calories, and contain no fats or sugars. It is a good way to consume coffee if you are worried about your caloric intake or trying to limit certain macronutrients – as on a low-carb or low-fat diet, for example.

What are the side effects when you drink a ristretto?

There are some possible negative side effects when drinking ristretto shots. They can be categorized as low risk and high risk.

The Low-Risk Side Effects are:

  • anxiety
  • insomnia
  • nausea
  • restlessness

The High-Risk Side Effects are:

  • decrease in bone density
  • severe headache

FAQs

Yes, a ristretto has coffee in it, and it is an espresso-based drink made from 20 grams (for a double ristretto) or 10 grams (for a single shot) of ground coffee beans.

No, a ristretto shot coffee does not contain sugar, and it is an espresso drink made solely of extracted coffee beans and water. A double ristretto contains just four calories. If you add milk or cream to your ristretto shot, you will add fat, calories, and the naturally occurring sugars found in dairy.

A ristretto coffee’s taste is typically described as bolder, more flavorful, and with a sweeter tone than espresso. And it is noticeably less bitter. Because the extraction uses less water, fewer chemical compounds are extracted from the ground coffee beans. The compounds that contribute to bitter flavors are thus less present in a ristretto.

Yes, ristretto is a strong coffee if you’re referring to flavor. Because it is so concentrated, its flavor is much stronger than brewed coffee and even stronger than espresso. However, in terms of caffeine content, it has slightly less caffeine than espresso due to the lesser extraction.

Julia Bobak
I love trail running, rock climbing, coffee, food, and my tiny dog — and writing about all of them. I start every morning with a fresh Americano from my home espresso machine, or I don’t start it at all.

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