There is a considerable difference between these two types of espresso.
There are some significant differences in a head-to-head matchup featuring ristretto vs long shot espressos.
Since the comparative results of each brew are so decidedly different, it matters for anyone drinking one, not just for the most discerning coffee drinkers.
If you want to know the difference so you can order the right one for your palette and caffeine needs, read on!
Ristretto vs Long Shot: An Introduction
Ristretto and long shots are variations on the central theme of an espresso.
By varying the amount of water used in brewing your shot, you also alter the time it takes for the water to pass through your espresso grinds.
This change strongly influences the results that end up in your cup.
What Is a Ristretto?
A ristretto is a variation on the espresso that uses minimal water to run through the grounds of an espresso.
This practice yields a powerful espresso drink that’s even more potent than a standard espresso.
An espresso is usually about an ounce, and a single ristretto shot is only half an ounce.
What Makes a Ristretto Unique?
Despite the robust flavor and the abundance of jolting caffeine, short shot ristrettos are much sweeter than their standard espresso counterparts, all the result of using half an ounce less water and a finer grind.
What Is a Long Shot Coffee?
A long shot of coffee is also known as a lungo.
It’s brewed the same way as an espresso but with an additional half-ounce of hot water to alter the brew ratio.
It also takes a bit longer to make this coffee drink.
What Makes a Long Shot Coffee Unique?
A long shot is unique because of the profile of the coffee it produces.
It’s somewhere between an Americano or regular drip coffee and espresso.
The Main Difference Between a Ristretto and a Long Shot
The main difference between espresso coffee, ristretto coffee, and a long shot is the brew ratio you use to make them.
Other variations affect the taste of the extraction, but they all result primarily from changing the ratio of hot water to ground coffee.
Flavor Profiles of Ristretto and Long Shot Coffee
Since their brewing is a little different, a shot of ristretto and a long shot espresso shot do not taste the same.
These espresso variations are both stronger than what might come out of a standard drip coffee maker.
Flavor Profile of Ristretto
A ristretto has less dilution and brews for a shorter period, so the results are unique.
Plus, since you’re using less water, the shot is quite small.
Ristrettos are sometimes referred to as short shots of espresso due to their relatively small size.
What Does a Ristretto Taste Like?
A ristretto tastes like an extra bold shot of espresso.
The expression that big things come in small packages is quite apropos when sipping on a ristretto.
Ristretto shots are less bitter than a regular espresso.
Since there is less time spent in contact with the coffee grinds, they only have a chance to impart the sweetest aspects of its flavor.
Fast extraction leaves behind much of the bitterness.
Ristrettos tend to be fairly acidic, similar to a light roast cup of coffee.
Flavor Profile of Long Shot Coffee
Lungo shots have more water and take longer to brew.
That means the compounds that take longer to extract are imparted into the espresso that ends up in your cup, affecting the flavor profile significantly.
Long shots of espresso are more bitter, and short shots and regular espressos.
If you are a dark roast lover, who prefers deep, smoky, caramel flavor notes in your coffee, lungos are for you.
Long shots have less acidity than their short shot cousins.
Ristretto vs Long Shot: Caffeine Content
A lungo shot takes the longest to brew, so it has the most caffeine content.
But, the increase over a regular cup of espresso is insignificant.
However, they both have much more of a caffeine jolt than a short shot of ristretto espresso.
Because it brews so quickly, a ristretto has much less caffeine.
For reference, cold brew coffee has slightly less caffeine than regular drip-brewed coffee.
And espressos tend to have a lot of caffeine but come in a smaller shot than a cup of regular brewed coffee.
How Much Caffeine Is in a Ristretto?
A typical regular espresso has around 65 milligrams of caffeine.
That’s a pretty good wallop for such a small beverage, especially when you consider that a full cup of coffee only has 100 milligrams of caffeine.
Depending on the coarseness of the grind and the type of beans you’re using, a ristretto has anywhere from 25-45 milligrams of caffeine.
How Much Caffeine Is in a Long Shot?
A long shot has a bit longer interaction during the pulling process, so the grinds impart more caffeine to your brew.
But, it doesn’t move the needle much in terms of the overall content or effect.
A lungo has about 70 milligrams of caffeine.
Ristretto vs Long Shot Roasts and Grinds
The type of coffee roast and the coarseness of the grinds you use have a big effect on the results that end up in your cup.
Ristretto Roasts and Grinds
Typically, Espressos are brewed using fine grinds of coffee beans.
When you make ristretto, you should use an even finer grind but the same amount of grinds as you would for a regular espresso.
The best roasts for ristrettos come from less dense beans.
The more dense a bean and its grinds, the more difficult it will be for the water to pass through them during brewing.
That slows the process, imparting more bitterness to your brew.
On the other hand, less dense roasts will allow the water to pass faster, leaving the ristretto in your cup airier, lighter, and less bitter.
Look more at a medium, less-dense roast for the best result.
Long Shot Roasts and Grinds
Long shot espressos are best when using a slightly coarser grind of coffee.
Not as large as the grinds for regular coffee, but maybe one or two notches higher on your grinder than for a regular espresso.
Since long shots take longer to brew due to the larger volume of water, you should always choose a roast that you enjoy the flavor of.
It doesn’t matter what roast you choose, but your brew will take on the characteristics of the roast much more than in the ristretto process.
So, make sure you’re using a coffee you enjoy.
Brewing a Ristretto vs Long Shot
The process for brewing a ristretto and a long shot follows the same format as making an espresso.
But, you’ll make a couple of tweaks to the volume of water you use and the coarseness of your coffee ground size.
Which Is Harder to Brew?
Neither ristretto nor long shot is hard to brew.
You just need a good-quality espresso maker and a bit more patience than if you were making a coffee on an instant or drip machine.
Should You Use Different Beans For Ristretto and Long Shot?
You should probably use different beans for ristrettos and long shots.
Since long shots have more of an opportunity to absorb the bean’s flavor, due to the longer brewing process, you should make sure to use a coffee bean that has a long, satisfying flavor that appeals to your palette.
For best results, make ristrettos using beans that aren’t too dense.
The denser the bean, the harder it will be for the water to pass through it, and that may have the effect of overexposing the water to the flavors you don’t want, making for a bitter, sour cup of espresso.
How To Make a Ristretto
Making a ristretto starts just like making a regular espresso.
You need to get your espresso machine or maker ready and then grind your favorite ristretto beans down slightly finer than you would for your usual espresso.
Use about half the volume of water you would typically use.
When you start the brewing process, stay close, and set a timer for fifteen seconds.
You can adjust the amount of water to anywhere from about fifteen to thirty milliliters and still stay within the range of a ristretto.
If you use the larger quantity, you’ve made yourself a double ristretto espresso, also known as a doppio.
A single shot is anything around 15 ml.
The first time I made my own ristretto, I decided I’d never buy one in a coffee shop again!
If your ristretto shot is too strong for you, perhaps add some foamed milk.
Or, next time, make it with slightly more water.
When you transform a ristretto into a latte, it’s sometimes called a ristretto bianco, especially in Europe.
How To Make a Long Shot
Making a long shot or lungo espresso also starts just like making a regular espresso.
Except, you’ll grind your beans one notch coarser.
Speaking of beans, you may want to choose a roast with a flavor profile you enjoy, as the grinds will steep a bit longer than with your typical espresso.
The whole pull will last around 45 seconds, or until you have about a half-ounce (15 ml) more coffee than your typical one-ounce (30 ml) espresso.
Of course, unless you want to add some steamed milk or even a bit of froth to make a cappuccino.
If set up properly, You can also perform the whole process on a Nespresso machine.
For comparison, a typical espresso pull lasts only thirty seconds, and a ristretto pull lasts only fifteen.
If you’re a big coffee drinker, you know that the convenience of coffee shop pickups can hit your wallet pretty hard.
But, with just a little know-how, you can satisfy the coffee lover in you with professionally prepared espresso coffee from the comfort of your own home.
Next time you have friends over for dinner, you can show off your barista skills.
Just make sure you have some staples on hand, like whipped cream, milk, and finely ground coffee.
Next thing you know, your friends will be marveling at your ability to make ristretto espresso shots, lungos, and standard espresso to order!
If anyone asks for a latte, maybe, tell them to steam their own milk!