Make Fancy Coffee Drinks Without The Expensive Equipment

Download our FREE guide to making the best espresso drinks without owning expensive equipment. Just enter your email address to download the guide today!

We respect your privacy and you can unsubscribe at any time.

Get our FREE Coffee Lover Newsletter

Sign up for a free newsletter to help you brew amazing coffee at home.

We respect your privacy and you can unsubscribe at any time.
  • What is a Ristretto? Do Not Distress, It’s Espress(o)

    CLICK HERE to subscribe to our weekly emails on finding and brewing amazing coffee!

    Obviously, we don’t all speak Italian. So deciphering what all the drinks on your coffee-shop menu are can get a little challenging, especially with franchises throwing in things like “Frappuccino” (which is entirely made up).

    So chances are you’ve come across the road “ristretto” and might not be sure of what EXACTLY the drink is. Don’t worry, we’re here to help! Read on for the full break down of the ristretto, so you’ll feel ready-to-go with your limited Italian vocabulary next time you swing by the cafe.

    what's a ristretto

    Let’s Start with Espresso

    In order to understand a Ristretto or a Lungo, you’ll first need to understand the the mechanics of a basic shot of espresso.

    Espresso is a highly concentrated coffee beverage. It is generally about 30mL and baristas make it by forcing hot water. through extremely fine, packed grounds for 25-30 seconds. The resulting beverage sports a rich, full-bodied flavor that’s a staple across the global coffee community. You’ll probably recognize it by the distinctive crema on top.

    Espresso is also the base of most popular coffee beverages you’ll find in a coffee shop!

    So what’s a Ristretto?

    The difference is in the amount of water used to brew the drink. The word ristretto is Italian for “restrict,” and the drink is names such because you reduce (or “restrict”) the amount water used to pull a shot. Otherwise, the process for brewing the two drinks is the same as far as temperature and pressure go.

    Because there’s less water, there is also less drink, making them shorter. As a result, a ristretto is 15 to 20 mL as opposed to the standard 30 mL. Thus, most coffee shops will only sell double ristretto shots, so they’ll come out about the size of a typical espresso. shot (perhaps slightly larger depending on the barista).

    Since a ristretto is an overall shorter pull than an espresso, the final drink is a slightly sweeter, more concentrated flavor that plays out without any bitterness.

    Brewing it

    As we mentioned, the process of making a ristretto is nearly identical to pulling a regular shot, just with 2/3 or 1/2 the amount of water. Most espresso machines have the customizability to pull a ristretto shot, even if it isn’t a preset. However, even the most basic machines tend to have the option pre-programmed for you.

    The step-by-step process is as follows, but keep in mind it does require an espresso machine:

    And that’s it! Enjoy your ristretto.

    Flavor

    First, it’s important to note that a ristretto is NOT the same as simply cutting a regular shot short. The decreased amount of water actually impacts the overall flavor of the espresso in a couple major ways.

    Extra concentrated

    Because there is less water pushed through the grounds, the pull is significantly more concentrated. Baristas don’t usually dilute with drink with added water or milk, so a ristretto tastes much like a more intense espresso shot: bolder, fuller, with more body and less bitterness

    Balance

    Here’s a quick lesson on coffee chemistry: when exposed to hot water, different compounds in coffee dissolve at different rates. Thus, the faster-dissolving ones are more prominently featured in a ristretto than the slower ones that are typically associated with over-extraction.

    Extracts

    Along the same lines, fewer coffee extracts appear in a ristretto. The most notable one is the caffeine. The smaller caffeine content also contributes to the fact that this drink is usually served undiluted.

    But… CAN you add milk?

    As a coffee enthusiast, you probably know that the coffee scene is all for some experimentation. So, while a ristretto hasn’t really been tampered with in the past, several shops have begun experimenting with this espresso shot variant.

    How so? you may be asking. By simply replacing the normal shots in espresso-based drinks (like lattes, cappuccinos, etc.) with a double shot of ristretto. Usually, the milk in these drinks will emphasize and complement the sweetness of the espresso.

    Thus, while using the ristretto results in a less caffeinated drink, it also produces a sweeter, bolder flavor. However, this practice hasn’t become extremely widespread, as people tend to enjoy the drinks more in their classic forms.  Some complain that using the ristretto in this way makes it taste under-extracted.

    Nonetheless, most coffee chains and even some shops will allow you to request ristretto instead of an espresso shot. If you’re a Starbucks fan, they specifically recommend it with their “Caramel Macchiato, Americano, Starbucks Doubleshot® on Ice, or Eggnog Latte.”

    Should you go for it?

    Milk experimentation aside, now is the time to discuss the important part: should you try it?

    While we always encourage branching out to expand your coffee horizons, but tastes are tastes. So are you already a fan of espresso? Then you absolutely should try a ristretto! Don’t mind a nice, strong coffee? Go for it! The intensity of this drink might be fun for you.

    On the other hand, if you’re more into super milky or sugary drinks maybe you should simply try replacing your espresso base rather than going for the full shebang. So next time you go to order your go-to cappuccino or latte, try asking to swap the usual espresso shot for a single or double shot of ristretto.

    Either way, this drink is definitely a variation of espresso that is worth a shot.

    Happy Caffeinating!

    Recommended Reading

    Best Gaggia Espresso Machine: Why Go Gaggia?
    Best known for carrying some of the top entry level espresso machines for people who actually care about how the coffee tastes, Gaggia has been one of the #1 names in espresso since their founding. Today, we are taking a look at their lineup to find the best Gaggia espresso machine for your shot pulling needs. 
    15 Bold Espresso Drink Recipes
    Does your new bio read "ISO a pick-me-up"? Because Roasty has the perfect candidates that might be your next espresso-style match made in heaven. Read on for 15 bold espresso drink recipes, and find your happily (caffeinated) ever after.
    Best Espresso Machines for Your Kitchen
    Check out our picks for the best espresso machine for the money so you can make barista level espresso drinks without ever leaving your house.
    Long Black: A Shortcut to Simple, Savory Coffee
    Looking to broaden your coffee horizons? Spice up your cup of joe by trying the Long Black. Bold and robust in flavor, the Long Black is a satisfying sip to add to your morning routine. Click here to read why the Long Black is about to become your new favorite drink.
    Macchiato vs Latte: The Expressions of Espresso
    Lately, there seems to be a disconnect between the lingo used in chain coffee shops and that used in specialty shops. That disconnect makes it even harder for coffee-lovers to distinguish between combinations of milk and espresso. We're here to help you figure it out! Read on to see the breakdown of macchiato vs latte.
    Espresso vs Latte: The Land of Milk and Crema
    What really separates the latte from its base, the espresso shot? And which one is better for your coffee preferences? We're here to answer all your questions on espresso vs latte. Read on to find out how each is made, what makes them different, and which one you should try.
    Roasty Coffee

    Learn to Make Barista-Level Coffee From The Comfort of Your Home

    The Home Barista Coffee Course 14-lesson video course about brewing consistently amazing coffee at home. Stream or download the entire course to learn how to make coffee as good as your local barista for a fraction of the cost.

    Click Here To Learn More