Ristretto vs. Espresso - what's the difference? - LITTLE CREAM (2023)

Espresso is the basis of most modern coffees. It's not the only brewing method, of course, but it's a big reason for the coffee renaissance we're living in.

Compared to other extraction methods, espresso machines offer incredible precision in making a cup. More control means more opportunities to experiment. And more drink options!

Ristretto is one of the main drinks derived from the standard espresso. If you really want to taste the flavor of the coffee beans, ristretto is a great way to do it.

This article covers the basic formula for espresso as it is adapted for ristretto and some of the key differences between ristretto and espresso!

Ristretto vs. Espresso - what's the difference? - LITTLE CREAM (1)

Table of contents

What is an espresso?

Espressois a strong, spicy and full-bodied coffee drink. It is usually made to order and served as a "shot" in small mocha cups.

The brewing process makes espresso unique. A special machine is required for peeling.

To "draw" a shot, the espresso machine forces near-boiling water through a puck of compressed coffee beans. The force of the water in an espresso machine is 9-10 bar, which is 10 times stronger than other brewing methods.

Several components of the brewing process can be adjusted to change the resulting cup. Dose ratio, duration of hit, and amount of water are some variables we will cover here.

The dose ratio for a standard espresso shot is 1:2. This means that 7 grams of ground coffee makes a 14 gram drink. Approximately 1 fluid ounce in volume.

The duration of an espresso draw is 25-30 seconds. Compared to other brewing methods, this is quite quick. Speed ​​is one of the reasons espresso is so popular.

A shot of espresso is strong, intense and bitter. The taste is much more intense than a normal cup of black coffee.

(Video) Ristretto, Espresso vs Lungo: What's the difference?

Ristretto vs. Espresso - what's the difference? - LITTLE CREAM (2)

When steeped properly, tiny bubbles of C02 form an emulsion with the oil extracted from the coffee beans. This adds to the full body of the drink and adds a short layergolden creamon the cup – a trademark of espresso.

While espresso is often enjoyed on its own, it is also found as the cornerstone of all types of coffee beverages around the world.

What is a ristretto?

Alimitedis an espresso form that is prepared with a shorter extraction time. The name "Ristretto" actually means "restricted" in Italian because the train time is shortened.

While a regular espresso takes 25-30 seconds to brew, ristretto brewing is compressed to just 15-20 seconds.

The halving of the time corresponds to a half-volume drink. The brewing ratio for ristretto is closer to 1:1. Using 7 grams of coffee yields a 7 gram drink - approximately ½ fluid ounce in volume.

Tasting ristretto is a more intense experience than espresso because the cup is more concentrated. But not every quality of the standard espresso is so pronounced in the ristretto.

Why? The coffee extraction does not happen all at once.

When water comes into contact with ground coffee, the first flavors extracted are salty. Then sour, sweet and bitter. And so forth.

With Ristretto you get a higher concentration of “front-end” flavors. And less bitterness.

A ristretto pull has a rich, sweet flavor with lots of crema. It is darker and has a fuller consistency than regular espresso. It's often used as a coffee base in milk and coffee drinks because the intensity penetrates the milk flavor in the cup.

Differences between ristretto and espresso

Taste good

Since a ristretto halves the extraction time of a standard espresso, you should expect a fuller and more intense flavor. Because the extraction process is restricted, ristretto usually has a sweeter flavor profile.

Standard espresso tastes strong, bold, and sour. It can also be a bit bitter. If you're hoping to remove the bitterness from your cup, limiting the extraction time is a good option.


A ristretto draw is significantly shorter than a comparable espresso shot, about half the volume. A single ristretto shot is about ½ ounce, while espresso is a full ounce.

Ristretto contains more dissolved coffee solids (by volume) than regular espresso, so it turns a darker color—almost black. Traditional espresso looks layered, with darker tones at the bottom of the cup and honey brown at the top.

(Video) What is a double shot? Ristretto vs normale vs lungo explained


A normal espresso has a little more caffeine than a ristretto because twice as much water has to flow through the coffee grounds. More water means more extraction and therefore more caffeine.

Comparing the drinks per ounce, the ristretto would have more caffeine. However, because the standard sizes of the two drinks are ½ vs. 1 ounce, the espresso has more caffeine in a single serving.

To be fair, the extra caffeine isn't enough to really feel a difference - maybe 10mg.


Since the ratios between a ristretto and an espresso are different, the resulting size of the coffee is also different. A ristretto with a coffee to water ratio of 1:1 is about half the size of a single espresso.

A single shot of espresso is 1 ounce, while a ristretto should be around ½ ounce.

How to make espresso

1: loops

For peak flavor, grind yoursespresso beansjust moments before brewing. This applies to all types of coffee preparation - the fresher, the better.

Ristretto vs. Espresso - what's the difference? - LITTLE CREAM (3)

You should pay close attention to the texture of your grind, as a finer grind produces drastically different results than a coarser grind. Ideally, you want to achieve a grind similar to granulated sugar.

2: Dosage

Your "dose" is coffee lingo for the amount of coffee grounds you use to load the portafilter and brew your espresso.

For a standard single shot of espresso, use 7g of finely ground beans, yielding 30ml or 1oz of brewed espresso.

Weigh the necessary powder and pour it into the portafilter.

3: level

Next, level the terrain in the portafilter. This ensures that the water is evenly distributed throughout the floor and filtered through them all at the same rate.

Suppose you have a heap of coffee in the middle and only a thin layer around it. In this case, the water moves much faster through the thinner parts than through the middle, resulting in an unevenly brewed espresso.

To avoid this, gently tap the portafilter a few times with the palm of your hand until the surface looks level.

4: Stamp

Tumbling the terrain is the second part of leveling. You tame for the same reason; to ensure even brewing on all floors.

(Video) Espresso vs. Ristretto vs. Lungo: Caffeine Levels And Ratio Pours

This step takes practice, and the more times you do it, the more natural it will become, and your espresso brewing will only get better.

Place your portafilter on a stable and level surface and grip the tamper like a doorknob. Then push the pusher into the portafilter with your elbow pointing toward the ceiling while applying even pressure.

Your goal is a smooth, flat layer of coffee grounds so that the water seeps through at the same rate.

5: brows

You're finally ready to pull off your shot!

Insert your portafilter into your espresso machine. Then place your cup under the nozzle.

You pull the shot for 25-30 seconds until the full 30 ml of water has run through the beans and the perfect crema ratio crowns your espresso.

How to make ristretto

1: loops

As with espresso, the ristretto grind should be fine - like granulated sugar.

Achieving a consistent grind size is an essential part of creating a proper extraction. Some coffee grinders are better at this than others, and burr grinders are always better than a knife grinder.

Consult your coffee grinder manual to understand which setting works best for a fine espresso grind. For best results, grind your coffee just prior to brewing.

2: Dosage

Choosing your "dose" means choosing the weight of coffee grounds to use in the portafilter to brew your drink. It's often given as a ratio, like 1:1 for ristretto.

This ratio refers to the ratio between the weight of the ground coffee and the weight of the drink that comes out at the end.

For a standard ristretto, use 7 grams of ground coffee to make a ½ ounce drink. Increase this ratio to double it.

3: level

Gently tap the side of your portafilter while rotating it to allow the ground coffee to settle evenly in the basket. This step is critical as it sets up proper tamping.

The underlying principle is that the ground coffee must rest with even distribution and density before extraction begins (the "puff").

(Video) Espresso Vs Ristretto

4: Stamp

Place the front corner of the portafilter on a stable, flat surface. Grip the rammer like you would a doorknob. Then press firmly and evenly to compress the ground coffee into the portafilter basket.

Ristretto vs. Espresso - what's the difference? - LITTLE CREAM (4)

The espresso machine's high-pressure water takes the path of least resistance when extracting. If the coffee puck is less compressed on one side, the water will flow there. It will mess up the taste of the cup.

Practice makes perfect, so don't fret if your tamp isn't perfect from day one.

5: brows

Lock your portafilter in the espresso machine. Place a cup under the spout, begin steeping, and start your extraction timer.

The entire extraction should take 15-20 seconds.

Afterwards, weigh your cup and see how you did. The ristretto should be the same weight as the ground coffee you added at the beginning.

Limited vs. Express - Frequently Asked Questions

What is the main difference between ristretto and espresso?

Ristretto is a variation on the standard espresso that cuts the extraction time in half. This equates to a smaller volume of coffee beverage with more flavor intensity and a fuller body.

Ristretto vs. espresso, which is more bitter?

Ristretto is actually less bitter than espresso. During coffee extraction, sweet aromas are released faster than bitter substances. Because the extraction time is limited with ristretto compared to standard espresso, the cup tends to be a bit sweeter.

Is ristretto stronger than espresso?

Ristretto is a more concentrated form of espresso. They have a similar amount of dissolved solids in half the volume of water. The taste of a ristretto is more intense. While a ristretto contains more caffeine by volume, a regular espresso has slightly more caffeine overall.

(Video) Understanding Espresso - Ratio (Episode #2)

Looking for more coffee comparisons? head here!

  • Lungo vs. Espresso - what's the difference?
  • Nespresso vs. Espresso - Do you know the difference?
  • Ristretto vs. Long Shot - what's the difference?


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