There’s no better way to brighten your morning than with a cup of well-made espresso. It boosts energy, motivates us, and is delicious. A cup of coffee’s not great only in the mornings before work, but it’s also a fabulous beverage for afternoon or evening leisure time.
No doubt you’re familiar with the most common types of espresso you’re likely to find in your favorite coffee shop. However, let’s discuss the two types that are all the rage today in online forum posts, Ristretto and Longshot (Lungo), including how to prepare them.
What is a Ristretto?
This variation of espresso, ristretto (which comes from an Italian word meaning short or narrow), is a short shot of a much stronger Italian espresso coffee. Some coffee shops call a double shot of espresso a ristretto.
A ristretto shot is made pretty much like a traditional espresso, with the same amount of coffee grounds but of a finer grind range and about half the water amount.
Because of the finer grind of coffee (roast style is not important) and water reduction in a ristretto, it takes a shorter time to prepare a ristretto. This shorter time for extraction, coupled with the reduced water, gives the ristretto a bolder taste with more mellow flavors as less water saturates the grounds. These characteristics are similar to espresso, although they’re more pronounced in a ristretto.
That said, a ristretto may not be as balanced as an espresso, but I can assure you it’s easier to drink. For a typical ristretto recipe, use about 15 milliliters of water for every 7 grams of ground coffee to get about 11 milliliters of concentrated coffee yield at maximum.
What is a Long Shot?
Ever heard the person queuing in front of you ordering a Lungo and got tempted to try it out? Well, after reading this, you can now establish whether it’s worth trying out.
Long shot, also known as Lungo (Italian for short), is another method to extract coffee from ground beans using an espresso machine. It tastes a lot like a regular shot of espresso but in a larger quantity.
It involves changing the quantity of water you’d use in a typical espresso recipe. You double the water quantity for the same quantity of grounds. The extra water gives you a larger shot of coffee, richer caffeine, and unique, deeper notes of the concentrated flavor of the coffee. Like ristretto, lungo is not common because many people are not familiar with making this coffee.
The long shot has a longer than usual extraction time that results in higher coffee notes breaking down. As a result, your coffee will have a more intense flavor than regular espresso. However, you’ll have that maximum caffeine kick, and if the flavors commonly obtained during short extraction times are not your favorite, you’ll love this one.
For a typical long shot recipe, use 50 milliliters of water for every 7 grams of coffee grains to yield about 45 milliliters.
Difference Between Ristretto and Long Shot
The level of grinding is what differentiates ristretto from Lango. In your preparation procedure, the roasting and blending process will be different, resulting in distinct flavors.
It takes longer to extract a Lungo, meaning the processing time is prolonged. Therefore, what we use is a coarser espresso grind which is more suited for such a process. On the other hand, when fixing a ristretto, it flows into the cup in no time, so finely ground coffee is ideal. You’ll use less liquid and get a cup of rich coffee rich with a delightful aroma.
Additionally, with the ristretto, you’ll use less hot water. That means less water passing through the grounds. As a result, you get a smaller drink that’s more concentrated, sweeter, and richer tasting.
Ristretto shots maintain even more of the flavor compounds you would otherwise lose in other types of coffee. Therefore, arrested extraction of espresso makes ristretto more full-bodied and less bitter than fully extracted espresso.
While ristretto will get you a smaller coffee and a long shot more coffee, most coffee connoisseurs say ristretto is a sophisticated coffee. In fact, many say it is the most sophisticated espresso drink.
Lungo is a less concentrated or milder coffee. In comparison, ristretto is the highly concentrated version of espresso preparation.
What about the Difference in Flavor?
In the preparation of ristretto, we apply high pressure, but less water means less end product and shorter extraction time. The result is a thinner crema. Besides, there will be no chocolate notes whatsoever. Instead, what we get are the aromatic and floral coffee notes.
You can expect to get strong herbal notes in the smell of the coffee, too. The floral and herbal notes will be more emphasized on your tongue than the fruit, which is more concentrated in the aroma compounds.
As far as Lungo flavors, I hate to admit it but allow me to say that this is at the bottom of my list among all the espresso preparations. That’s because I only get the negative flavors and bitter compounds of the roasty and smokey notes.
I find there’s too much extraction going on with the Lungo. Sometimes I even feel like I’ve burnt the espresso due to the flavor profile.
That said, lungo has its purpose, and it too has a wide following from those who enjoy its flavors a great deal.
Here are some frequently asked questions about the difference between ristretto and long shot.
Between Ristretto and Long Shot, Which One is Stronger?
While ristretto is a narrow or limited espresso, lungo is a long one. We make lungo by increasing the extraction time beyond 30 seconds. So lungo is a 60-milliliter coffee consisting of more soluble compounds and more caffeine than ristretto and other espressos.
Does Lungo Contain More Caffeine?
Yes, your lungo drink will have lots of caffeine overall, but the caffeine level will be less per milliliter.
What Makes Ristretto Shots Sweeter?
We use less water to prepare ristretto. This means the concentrated shot obtained is highly saturated with a richer flavor. In addition, the shorter extraction time means the coffee will have sweeter aspects with much-reduced bitterness.
Do you have an espresso craving now? Which style of espresso would you prefer? The sweet ristretto or the lungo? It’s all a matter of taste. If you’re a coffee lover and your mind is not made up yet, here’s what I’d recommend: Visit your favorite coffee shop and order both the long shot and ristretto and taste each to experience the difference and discover which gives you that perfect caffeine kick. And who knows, the barista may even be kind enough to explain to you how they prepare both drinks.
Alternatively, if you own an espresso machine, go ahead and brew each version to make your comparisons. Experiment with different espresso blends. As we’ve been discussing here, you’ll realize that the coffee ristretto vs. long shot showdown is indeed an epic battle!
Happy (espresso) Caffeinating!