- Updated Mar 27, 2020
- Writen by Robert Smith
Ristretto vs. Espresso: Know About Espresso Shot
- Updated Nov 16, 2019
- Writen by Robert Smith
When it comes to the sweet, highly flavorful and concentrated coffee, nothing beats an espresso, and this should explain its ever-increasing popularity. But, espresso is not the only option here as there is also another great beverage option which is the ristretto.
A huge chunk of coffee lovers already know about the espresso and probably already make it at home, but the same cannot be said of the ristretto. And when looking at the two side by side, things become even more confusing as they look almost identical.
However, despite the obvious similarities between the ristretto and espresso, they are not the same, and here we explain what each beverage is all about, its pros and cons, and also show you how they differ.
Ristretto can be best described as a short type of espresso as it is made with the same amount of finely ground coffee you would use to make espresso, but with relatively less water, and it is extracted in about half the time.
The brewing time means that you will end up with a more concentrated beverage, but it will also be lacking in some of the typical espresso flavors as there is not enough time for them to be extracted from the coffee beans.
And if sparing a few seconds when making your espresso makes a significant difference, then a ristretto will be perfect as it takes relatively less time to make. But the best thing about it is that despite it being different from espresso, it will not require any extra ingredient or a special technique as it is all about getting the timing right.
But while ristretto may lack some of the common compounds that make espressos fantastic, it will have more of the fast extracting compounds, and there will have less likelihood of over-extracting anything which leads to a unique flavor balance and distinct taste.
Also, although one serving of ristretto will contain relatively less caffeine, this beverage will have slightly more caffeine per ounce than espresso given its higher concentration.
The most notable shortcoming that many coffee drinkers will associate with the ristretto, besides not providing the rich and well-balanced flavor of espresso, is that it can be a little unbearable for the first time drinkers, which means it comes with some getting used to.
Espressos are some of the richest and boldest coffee types, and anyone that loves strong coffee will love them as they will also provide a distinct balance of flavors that is hard to get with any other coffee type.
These are also among the most popular coffee types because, besides the amazing flavors, they will also form the base for many other coffee-based beverages like lattes, cappuccinos, and mochas.
What sets espressos apart from other beverages like ristretto is the longer shot extraction time and the fact that they will contain relatively more water, which makes them a little more diluted when compared to the latter.
A good espresso will also come with a nice and thick crema, unlike the ristretto that has a relatively thinner one, and you will also get a little more beverage in your cup to quench your coffee thirst.
However, like ristretto, some coffee drinkers can also find the espresso a little too bitter, and this is more so for those that prefer to take their coffee with no lighteners or additives. But, the taste only takes some getting used to, and the flavors will become more and more pleasant as you drink more espressos.
Coffee to Water Ratio
How it is Made
Hot water is forced through finely-ground coffee within a short time
Hot water is forced through the finely ground coffee
Fewer earthy notes and strong herbal and floral notes
Stronger nuttier and earthier notes
10 to 15 seconds
20 to 30 seconds
Ceramic espresso cup
Higher per ounce
Higher per serving
Ristretto vs. Espresso
Whether you go with ristretto or espresso, you can be sure that you will be drinking one of the most flavorful and boldest coffee you can get anywhere. However, like with all coffee types, you need to know what to expect from both drinks to determine what will appeal most to your taste buds. Here are a few factors that set the two beverages apart to help you out with this.
1. Brew Size
One of the best ways to tell these two coffee types apart when looking at them side by side is with the brew size or quantity of coffee.
A ristretto is one of the smallest beverages that you can make on your espresso maker, which should explain why it is also often referred to as a "short shot". And a typical shot is often around 3/4-ounce, which is significantly smaller than an espresso.
While the volume of espresso will often be highly dependent on the method you are using to make one or the machine, a typical single shot of espresso is about 1 ounce.
However, with both beverages, you can still make more coffee if you want to. For example, you can make a double espresso which is over 2 ounces or pull two ristretto shots to have more coffee in your cup.
2. Coffee to Water Ratio
Another key difference between the ristretto and espresso that also affects significantly different things like the flavor and brew volume is the coffee to water ratio.
Ristretto will have a 1:1 coffee to water ratio, which makes it naturally more concentrated than the espresso. While it is made with the same amount of coffee as an espresso, the shorter extraction time means that less water is pushed through the coffee grounds and hence the higher ratio.
With espresso, the ratio of coffee to water is around 1:2, which means it will be relatively more diluted than a ristretto since it will contain about double the amount of water given the longer extraction time.
3. How it is Made
Both these coffee beverages are made using the same technique, which entails forcing hot water through finely packed coffee grounds at high pressure (9 bars is the most ideal).
For both ristretto and espresso, the process always starts with grinding coffee beans to a fine consistency and then packing them in a portafilter before tamping and putting it back on the espresso maker to pull a short.
But, while the espresso will be made by simply forcing water through the coffee grounds, with the ristretto, you have to vary things a little by restricting or reducing the volume of water by half, which in turn means that the extraction time also reduces by half.
Besides the time and volume of water, everything remains the same, and for both beverages, it is possible to pull a short with both espresso machine and manual espresso makers.
With any coffee type, it is all about the flavor because if the brew does not have a good taste, it will not appeal to you regardless of what other good traits it might have.
While both ristretto and espresso will deliver some of the boldest coffee flavors, their taste is not entirely the same given the different coffee to water ratio and extraction times.
Ristrettos will generally have a more concentrated and bolder flavor given the shorter extraction time and less water.
But, while the ristretto will also be extracted at high pressure just like espresso, the extraction process is less thorough, which results in slight earthy tones, thinner crema, and the chocolate tones are almost non-existent.
Also, you can expect to get some strong herbal notes and some floral and dark fruit hints on the aroma and on the tongue, there will be more emphasis on the floral and herbal notes than the fruity notes.
A typical shot of espresso will exhibit all the earthy, nutty and dark tones that you get in most coffee types. Some of the best ones will have some nice and strong chocolate and cocoa flavors, and you might even think you are actually taking some melted chocolate.
And that nice, thick aroma is what many coffee lovers are always looking for in their cup of espresso. If you combine this with the cream and chocolate notes, you will understand just why espresso is one of the most sought-after coffee types.
To crown all this up, espresso is also able to capture the floral notes that you would get from other coffee types, and with the earthy background, this will create a very distinct flavor.
5. Extraction Time
Extraction time is what sets these two beverages apart, and if you are going to make them using a manual espresso maker, you will need to master the extraction time.
If you do not get the extraction time right, you can end up making an espresso when you wanted a ristretto or vice versa. And besides just knowing that the ristretto has a shorter extraction time than an espresso, you also need to know the precise brew times.
Extracting ristretto takes between 10 and 15 seconds, and the time typically depends on the method that you are using. Espressos, on the other hand, will take between 20 and 30 seconds to extract which is double the time needed to pull a ristretto.
6. Ideal Serving
Provided you make your ristretto the right way and ensure it packs all the nice flavors, you can serve them almost any way you like and still enjoy it. But, if you are a serious coffee aficionado, it is always good to give your coffee some justice by serving it the right way.
Given the similarities in these beverages, they are often served in similar cup types. However, the ristretto is almost always served in a demitasse, which is either a small ceramic cup like what is used to serve Turkish coffee or a small glass cup that is usually fitted into a metal frame.
Espressos, on the other hand, should be served in a small ceramic espresso cup, but in some regions, it is also served in a small shot glass.
7. Caffeine Levels
For many coffee fanatics, coffee is all about the caffeine that it packs. Hence, when trying to pick between the ristretto and espresso, you need to know how much caffeine to expect from either.
Given that the ristretto is the smaller of the two beverages, one serving of this coffee will contain less caffeine than the standard 1-ounce shot of espresso.
However, things are not that straightforward because when comparing the two beverages using the same volumes of coffee, the more concentrated ristretto will contain relatively more caffeine per ounce than espresso. But, also note that given the small serving size of both, they will still have less caffeine per serving than drip coffee.
If you love stronger, bolder and richer coffee, the ristretto and espresso are your best, and you will hardly find anything better at your local coffee shop. And if you do not have a favorite already, you need to understand what each has to offer to determine which will work best for you.
The two beverages will differ in several aspects from the brew size and coffee to water ratio to the flavors that you get and the caffeine levels.
For many coffee aficionados, the flavors and caffeine levels will be the key determinants of what they choose. Hence, if you are looking for coffee that delivers all the natural coffee flavors and tones and is strong enough, espresso is perfect.
But, if you want a brew that contains more caffeine per ounce and delivers a deeper flavor with a sweeter finish, you should give ristretto a try.