Ristretto vs Long Shot: Comparing Rich Espresso Intensity

Last updated on July 28th, 2023 by Rebekah Pierce

ristretto vs long shot

Calling all coffee lovers! Are you searching for the perfect espresso shot but not sure whether you should go for a Ristretto or a long shot? 

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Many coffee connoisseurs have found themselves in the same situation, but it’s important to understand the subtle differences between Ristretto vs long shots to ensure that your next cup of espresso is exactly what you’re looking for. 

In this post, we’ll guide you through the benefits of each type of shot and which one might be best for you.

What is the Ristretto

What is the Ristretto
What is a ristretto?
Photo by nitin pariyar

Ristretto, which means ‘restricted’ in Italian, is a type of espresso that’s made from the same amount of coffee grounds as a regular shot, but with half the amount of water. 

This brewing process produces a highly concentrated coffee that’s typically served in a smaller cup. Ristretto is known for its rich, intense flavor that’s more concentrated than regular espresso, with a thick crema on top.


The Ristretto has its origins in Italy, where it was first introduced as an alternative to regular espresso. It was originally brewed using a lever espresso machine, which allowed baristas to control the amount of water used in the brewing process. 

Today, modern espresso machines have automated this process, making it easier to produce Ristretto consistently.

Brewing Process

To brew a Ristretto, one uses the same amount of coffee grounds (7 grams) as in a regular espresso shot, but extract only 15-20 ml of water instead of the standard 30 ml. 

The brewing time is also shorter than a regular espresso, resulting in a concentrated shot that’s usually served in a smaller cup (30 ml or less). The shorter water extraction process makes it more intense and flavorful, with notes of chocolate, caramel, and nuts.

Flavor Profile

The flavor profile of a Ristretto is quite robust, intense, and full-bodied. It has a higher concentration of coffee solids, which gives it a richer, creamier texture and a more complex flavor. 

The milk-based drinks made with Ristretto, like latte or cappuccino, have a much more intense coffee flavor compared to their regular espresso counterparts.

What is the Long Shot

What is the Long Shot
Our kind of shot.
Photo by Collin Merkel

Long Shot, on the other hand, is an espresso-based drink that’s made using twice the amount of water as a regular espresso shot. This brewing process results in a longer extraction time, giving the coffee a milder flavor with a more diluted aroma. 

Here are a few more of the basics.


The exact origins of the long shot or lungo are unclear, but it’s believed to have originated in Italy sometime around World War II or perhaps slightly before (as was another popular drink, the Americano). 

While the stories aren’t clear on how the long shot came to be, it’s clear that the long shot is here to stay, both in America and back at home, in Italy. 

Brewing Process

To create a long shot, baristas extract espresso shots for a longer time than traditional espresso shots, 40 to 50 seconds. The longer extraction time allows for more water to be pushed through the coffee grounds, creating a larger volume of liquid. 

Flavor Profile

The long shot has a unique flavor profile compared to traditional espresso. The additional hot water pulled into the espresso creates a milder and less intense taste. The flavor is described as smooth, light, and with a slightly bitter aftertaste. The long shot is an excellent choice for those who find traditional espresso too strong.

What is the Difference Between Long Shot and Ristretto?

What is the Difference
Single espresso vs double ristretto vs double espresso
Photo by Brian Fathurohman

Below, we’ll dive into the nitty-gritty details of long shot and Ristretto so you can get the coffee you want. 

Ristretto vs Long Shot Caffeine

Ristretto has less caffeine than a long shot. Why?

Because a Ristretto shot extracts less coffee and has less water than a long shot. 

A Ristretto shot is made with a standard amount of coffee (around 7 grams), but it’s extracted with half the amount of water a long shot uses. Therefore, the caffeine content of a Ristretto shot is less than a long shot. If you’re looking for a quick caffeine boost, long shot is the way to go!

Ristretto vs Long Shot Taste

A Ristretto shot has a more concentrated flavor and is sweeter and bolded than a long shot. Ristretto’s flavor profile is deep and rich, with less bitterness than a long shot. It’s the perfect alternative for espresso lovers who want a full-flavored shot without the bitterness. 

On the other hand, a long shot, which is extracted with more water, has a much longer extraction time. It results in a more diluted flavor, with a smoother, more balanced taste.

Long Shot vs Ristretto – Which is Stronger?

So, which one is stronger? It depends.

Ristretto is more concentrated, so it gives the impression of being stronger. But if we compare caffeine content, then a long shot or lungo is stronger than a Ristretto shot. 

A Ristretto shot is extracted faster and has less water with the same amount of coffee, so it concentrates more flavors into the shot. In contrast, a long shot tastes waterier because it’s extracted with more water into the coffee. 

However, a long shot has twice the amount of water, which makes it more voluminous than the Ristretto shot.

Other Key Differences to Keep in Mind

Other Key Differences to Keep in Mind
Small but strong shot of espresso
Photo by Nathan Dumlao

Here are a few more intricacies to keep in mind. 

Ristretto vs. Long Shot vs. Espresso

Again, a Ristretto is a shot of espresso made with the same amount of coffee but half the amount of water. This means that the shot is more concentrated, resulting in a stronger, thicker, and creamier coffee with less bitterness. 

On the other hand, a long shot is made with the same amount of coffee but twice the amount of water, creating a milder, aromatic flavor compared to regular espresso. It’s popular among those who like a more diluted tasting coffee.

So a Ristretto is a short 0.5 – 0.75 oz. espresso, an espresso is a standard 1 oz shot, and long shot is 1.5 – 2 oz. 

Ristretto vs. Long Shot at Starbucks

At Starbucks, you can order a Ristretto or a long shot. However, not all Starbucks stores carry Ristretto shots. Also, Starbucks sizes their Ristretto shots differently. 

For example, a tall drink generally comes with one shot of espresso, while a short drink comes with a double shot of espresso.

However, regarding Ristretto shots, the size doesn’t change the number of shots added to the drink. Therefore, a tall cup with a Ristretto shot will come with just one shot.

Ristretto vs. Long Shot Upside Down

Other variations of coffee ordered as Ristretto or long shot include the Upside Down. It means that the beverage is made in reverse order, with the contents like milk or syrups added first then the espresso shots added on top. 

So the ristretto or long shot can be made upside down using whatever other ingredients you want, provided there is something else in your cup other than an espresso shot. 

Brewing Tips for the Perfect Ristretto and Long Shot Espresso

Brewing Tips
Crema extraction.
Photo by Wherda Arsianto

The first – and most crucial – step in brewing a perfect cup of coffee is measuring and grinding the coffee beans to the right consistency. 

1. Weight and grind your coffee

Use a weighing scale to ensure you have the correct amount of ground coffee, which should be around 7-8 grams for a Ristretto and a long shot espresso. When it comes to grinding, a fine grind is ideal for a Ristretto, while a coarser grind is better for a long shot.

Before brewing, ensure that all your espresso-making equipment is preheated to the right temperature. It is essential to preheat your coffee machine, portafilter, and cup to maintain the coffee’s proper temperature and flavor. This step will also flush out any old grounds or residue that might affect the quality of your Ristretto or long shot espresso.

2. Tamp

Tamping your coffee grounds is crucial for espresso extraction. It ensures that the grounds are evenly distributed, providing an even extraction, and your coffee won’t be too bitter or weak. 

When tamping your coffee, use minimal pressure to avoid over-tamping, which can affect the flow of water through the grounds.

3. Timing your pull

Timing the extraction is an essential step in brewing a perfect cup. 

For a Ristretto, the extraction time should be 15-20 seconds, while a long shot espresso should take 30 to 60 seconds. The ideal extraction time varies depending on the type of coffee ground and personal preferences. 

Keep an eye on the flow of water through the coffee machine to ensure that you get the right extraction time and flavor.

4. Optimize and experiment

Finally, feel free to experiment with the water temperature and volume to achieve the perfect Ristretto or long shot espresso. The water temperature should be between 195-205°F to avoid under-extraction or over-extraction. 

For the water volume, let the size of your portafilter guide the volume of water you use. A typical Ristretto uses 0.5 to 0.75 ounces of water, while a long shot espresso requires anywhere between 1.5 and 3 ounces of water, depending on your preference.

Final Thoughts

So which one is right for you? It depends.

If you want to avoid bitterness and get a sweeter and lighter taste, Ristretto is your best option. It’s perfect for those who prefer a more robust shot without the harsh flavors that can come with a long shot. 

On the other hand, if you need an energy boost and stronger coffee, long shot is the way to go. It has a higher caffeine content, and it’s extracted with more water, which makes it perfect for those who like a more diluted flavor.

Ultimately, the type of espresso shot you choose to drink depends on your personal preference and what you are trying to accomplish with your coffee drink

Whether you want a bold, intense flavor or a smoother, more extended milder taste, there is a shot that will suit you. So, there you have it, our guide to choosing the perfect espresso shot — happy brewing!


Do Ristretto shots taste better?

Ristretto is known for its stronger, more concentrated flavor profile, which some people find more enjoyable than traditional espresso. It also has a thicker crema, which enhances the espresso’s aroma and texture. 

Why do people like Ristretto?

Ristretto is not for everybody. But those who enjoy it, appreciate the rich and robust flavor. Because Ristretto shots are shorter, they offer a more concentrated taste.

What is a Ristretto shot at Starbucks?

A Starbucks Ristretto shot is made with the same amount of ground coffee as a normal shot but less hot water. This results in a shorter and more intense shot, with a creamy texture.

What is an upside down espresso shot?

An upside down espresso shot, also known as a reverse espresso, is an espresso shot with the shot prep done in reverse order. Instead of having the steamed milk added on top of the espresso, the espresso shot is added over a layer of steamed milk.

What is a Ristretto upside down?

The term ‘upside down’ in the coffee world refers to adding the ingredients in reverse order than originally intended. 

What is the difference between long espresso vs Americano?

While a lungo has water added during the brewing process itself, with an Americano, it’s added after. Because of the difference in how water is added, the two drinks also differ in taste. 


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