Long Shot vs Ristretto: Which Espresso Suits Your Taste?

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Navigating coffee shop menus can feel like a puzzle. Just as you master the basics of espresso, lattes, and cappuccinos, along come terms like long shots and ristretto. Fear not! We’re here to demystify these options for you. Get ready to explore and enjoy these new drinks with confidence!

Imagine a lungo, or long shot, as an espresso’s bigger, slightly bitter cousin, because it’s made with more water. On the flip side, a ristretto is like espresso’s intense little sibling, using less water for a sweeter, stronger flavor.

Dive into the world of coffee with us! We’ll compare the taste and texture of long shots, ristrettos, and espressos. Plus, learn how to whip up long shots and ristrettos in your own kitchen.

Quick Comparison: Long Shot vs Ristretto

Long ShotRistretto
Pull time60 seconds15 seconds
FlavorMild, bitter, aromaticSweet, fruity
Volume1.5 ounces0.4 ounces
Caffeine contentMore total (less per ounce)Less total (more per ounce)

What is Espresso?

Espresso is the base for drinks like long shot and ristretto. Let’s dive into what makes it special.

Making two shots of espresso, the drink that both ristretto and long shots are based on.

An espresso is a rich, intense coffee shot made by pushing hot water through tightly packed, finely ground coffee. This process pulls out the coffee’s deep flavors into a tiny, powerful drink known as a shot.

The “pull of the shot” is a cool term that comes from using a lever on old-school espresso machines. It’s all about how long the water hangs out with the coffee grounds. This little detail? It’s a big deal for making your coffee just right. Check it out here.

Even if espresso sounds new to you, you’ve likely heard of drinks like cappuccino and latte. These favorites, along with many other espresso-based drinks, start with espresso and are transformed by adding milk or other ingredients. It’s how we get so many delicious coffee varieties!

Adding milk isn’t the only way to jazz up your espresso. By adjusting how we make it, we can change its taste and strength, leading to delicious variations like ristrettos and long shots.

What is Ristretto?

A shot of ristretto, a sweeter alternative to espresso

Ristretto is like espresso’s stronger cousin! It’s made just like espresso, using the same coffee amount. But, here’s the twist: it uses less water and brews quicker, giving you a super-concentrated, bold shot of coffee joy.

In Italian, “ristretto” translates to “restricted.” It’s a special espresso shot, made by cutting the brewing time short. This technique uses less water, creating a stronger and more concentrated flavor.

Ristretto vs Espresso

  • Ristrettos have a shorter pull time. A ristretto shot extracts for about 15 seconds, while a regular espresso requires a pull time between 25 and 30 seconds.
  • Ristrettos are smaller. A ristretto shot has a smaller volume than the standard serving size of espresso since less water is used in the brewing process. Generally, a ristretto shot is about 0.4 ounces (12 milliliters), while an espresso shot is about 1 ounce (30 milliliters).
  • Ristrettos are sweeter. Sweet compounds are some of the first to be extracted from grounds, whereas bitter compounds take longer. Because ristrettos don’t end up extracting these later compounds, a ristretto tastes like a sweeter version of a regular espresso. And because of the lower water content, they have a stronger, more concentrated flavor.
  • Ristrettos are stronger. Ristrettos have a higher caffeine density than regular espresso, but they have less caffeine overall because there is much less water. The decreased caffeine content is because caffeine takes longer to extract than most other compounds in coffee grounds.

What is a Long Shot Espresso?

A long shot of espresso, which is larger and more bitter than regular espresso

A long shot, also known as espresso lungo or just lungo, is like a regular espresso but with a twist. It uses the same amount of coffee but adds more water. The magic happens in the brewing, which is just like making an espresso, but we let the water run through the coffee for a bit longer. This gives you a lungo, a unique coffee experience with a milder taste.

Long shot vs espresso

  • Long shots have a longer pull time. Long shots are allowed to extract for about 60 seconds, compared to a 25–30 second extraction time for espresso.
  • Long shots are larger. Long shots are brewed with more water, so their final volume is larger than an espresso but smaller than a double shot. They contain about 1.75 ounces (50 milliliters) compared to 1 ounce (30 milliliters) for espresso.
  • Long shots are more bitter. A long shot tastes more bitter than a traditional espresso because it has more time to grab the slower-extracting bitter compounds from the grounds. Despite the added bitterness, a long shot is not as intense as a regular espresso because of the extra water.
  • Long shots are weaker. Long shots have slightly more caffeine than regular espresso, but they have a lower caffeine density because of all the extra water. The difference in total caffeine is small, but it does account for some of the added bitterness.

How to Make a Ristretto vs Long Shot at Home

You can enjoy these drinks at a café or easily make them at home. It’s quicker, more affordable, and super convenient compared to Starbucks.

To make a great espresso, all you need is a good espresso machine and your favorite beans. How you brew depends on your machine type: manual, semi-automatic, or automatic. Below, we’ll guide you through each method.

How to Brew Using a Manual Espresso Machine

A manual espresso machine, showing the lever used to operate it

Manual espresso machines need some elbow grease and skill to make your coffee just right. You have to master the art of speed and pressure on the lever. Let’s dive into how to use one.

  1. Remove the portafilter from the machine. Make sure the surface is dry and clean before placing the finely-ground coffee beans. Doing so ensures that the extraction process has not begun. 
  2. Fill the portafilter with coffee grounds and tamp it down. Compacting the grounds allows water to run through evenly.
  3. Lock the portafilter back in its place. Make sure the tool is sealed tight into the head to avoid accidents and any pressure from escaping.
  4. Push the lever down. The pressure forces hot water through the grounds, so the speed of your push is crucial. Just don’t be discouraged if you don’t make your espresso perfectly with one try.
    1. Vary your lever push. Once you perfect the speed of pushing the lever, you can adjust the push to get a ristretto or a long shot of espresso. You want to aim for about 15 seconds for a ristretto or 60 seconds for a long shot.

How to Brew Using a Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine

A high-end semi-automatic espresso machine with a digital display

Tired of manually making espresso? A semi-automatic espresso machine could be your new best friend. Just a few simple steps and you’ll have your perfect espresso shot. It’s easy and hassle-free!

  1. Remove the portafilter carefully. Remember that most semi-automatic models may not be as durable as manual espresso machines, so be careful when handling its components. Also, ensure that the surface of the portafilter is clean and dry before use.
  2. Fill the portafilter with coffee grounds and tamp it down. Place your finely-ground coffee beans into the portafilter and compact them in place with a coffee tamper. With your coffee grounds becoming denser, water runs through its gaps and extracts flavors better.
  3. Lock the portafilter back in its place. Seal the portafilter to the machine’s head tightly to prevent pressure leakage and accidents.
  4. Start the brew process. Unlike manual espresso machines, semi-automatic ones do not use a lever to force hot water through the grounds. Pull time (and usually water volume) are controlled through dials or buttons if they are adjustable.

Remember, not all semi-automatic espresso machines give you control over how long you pull a shot. Most mid-range machines, like those in my best espresso machine review, will do the trick. But, cheaper options might lack these fancy features.

How to Brew Using an Automatic Espresso Machine

A super-automatic espresso machine, the easiest espresso makers to use

Brewing espresso at home doesn’t require expert skills. Consider getting an automatic espresso machine, or check out Nespresso capsule espresso machines for an even simpler option. Just follow a few easy steps, and you’ll be enjoying your own delicious espresso in no time.

  1. Fill the water reservoir. When pouring water, use only the intended capacity for your machine to avoid spillage or over-capacity issues.
  2. Place coffee beans (or coffee pods) in the compartment. Most automatic espresso machines take whole coffee beans instead of grounds. The exception, of course, are pod espresso machines that take vacuum-sealed capsules filled with coffee grounds.
  3. Press the correct buttons and wait. Automatic espresso machines do everything from preparing the ground to measuring the water to filling up your cup of coffee. The specifics will depend on your model, but any of these drinks should only take a couple of button presses.
    1. Try out different coffee drinks. Some machines, like the Nespresso Lattissima Pro, have one-touch options for a ristretto, a long shot, and several other espresso drinks.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is ristretto stronger than espresso?

In terms of caffeine content, ristrettos have less caffeine overall, but they have more caffeine per ounce than espresso. In terms of flavor, ristrettos do have a stronger, sweeter taste than other espresso sizes.

Does a long espresso contain more caffeine than a short one?

Longer extractions do pull more caffeine from espresso grounds. Since long espresso uses a longer pull, has more caffeine than regular shots or ristretto. However, long shots also have more water, so their caffeine-per-ounce is actually lower than espresso or ristretto.

Espresso: Ristretto, Long Shot, or Traditional? 

Espresso making is more complex than it seems! Every shot involves science, and tiny tweaks can alter its bitterness and taste. That’s what makes mastering it at home so thrilling for coffee lovers!

Espresso is just the beginning! Explore other brewing methods like the trendy cold brew, or even whip up your own nitro cold brew at home. Want a budget-friendly yet top-notch option? My go-to is the AeroPress. Dive into these methods to discover your new favorite coffee flavor!

long shot vs ristretto

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