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What Is Ristretto? The Stronger Espresso!

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Ristretto is a way of preparing espresso that uses less water. Because of this extraction method, the following espresso has a velvety mouthfeel and intense taste. Read this guide to learn more.

As a coffee enthusiast, I want to know all the details about making espresso. To help us learn everything about espresso, I’ll cover all available information about ristretto.

Here’s what you’ll find:

Let’s begin.

Key Takeaways

  • Ristretto is a shot, concentrated espresso shot
  • Few coffee shops offer ristretto
  • Due to its concentrated nature, ristretto intensifies your beans’ flavors
  • Often used for flat white coffee drinks (very strong espresso-based drink)

What Is Ristretto Espresso?

TasteIntense, strong, and rich
AromaConcentrated and fragrant
MouthfeelFull-bodied, velvety, and thick
Caffeine level *60–80 mg per 1 fl. oz.
CaloriesApprox. 7–9 calories per 1 fl. oz. (30ml)
Other names for ristrettoShort shot, Corto (Spanish), Café serré (French)

Ristretto espresso is a short, concentrated coffee shot [1]. It’s made by extracting less water through a coffee puck than a standard espresso. This extraction process produces an intense, full-bodied taste with a velvety mouthfeel.

Here’s a fun fact: ristretto means “shortened, narrow, and restricted” in Italian. Show off your newly learned Italian word to your friends.


The difference between ristretto and espresso lies in the extraction time and water volume. The typical extraction time for a ristretto shot is 15–20 seconds. While a regular espresso takes 20–30 seconds.

How to Make Ristretto

You’ll need the following to make ristretto espresso:

  • High-quality, dark roast coffee beans
  • A coffee grinder capable of producing a fine grind
  • An espresso machine
  • A scale for measuring coffee grounds
  • A tamper for compressing the grounds in the portafilter


  • 1 fl. oz. (30ml) for a single ristretto shot, or 2 fl. oz. (60ml) for a double ristretto shot.

Brew time: 15–20 seconds


  • Use a finer grind size & less water than for a regular espresso to bring out more flavor.

Steps to Make Ristretto

  1. Grind beans to a fine consistency.
    1. Slightly finer than for a standard espresso.
  2. Measure & weigh 18–20 grams of coffee grounds.
  3. Tamp the grounds evenly in the portafilter.
    1. Many baristas recommend 30 lbs (13 kg) of pressure [2]. Determine how much pressure you use by pressing against a scale.
  4. Attach the portafilter to your espresso machine.
  5. Begin extraction.
    1. Aim for a 15–20 second brew time.
  6. Use 30–35 ml of water for a double ristretto shot.
  7. Stop extraction when you’ve reached the desired volume

How to Choose the Best Beans for Ristretto

When selecting the best beans for your double ristretto, keep these tips in mind:

  • Choose high-quality green coffee beans from reputable sources.
  • Focus on dark roasts that enhance the ristretto’s flavor profile.
  • Prioritize freshness by buying recently roasted beans or roasting your own.

Use dark roasts for ristretto because they produce a bold, full-bodied taste. A taste that complements the concentrated extraction process.

Consider these factors when choosing the right coffee beans for a ristretto:

  • Bean origin: Look for beans from regions known for bold flavors (e.g., Central & South America or Indonesia).
  • Roast level: Opt for dark roasts to get the desired rich, intense taste.
  • Freshness: Purchase freshly roasted beans or roast your own green coffee to ensure maximum flavor.

Once you choose the best beans, you’ll need to know what type of drinks ristretto would go great with.

Ristretto Espresso in Coffee Drinks

Here are some drinks that ristretto will go well with:

  • Ristretto Macchiato: A ristretto shot topped with a small amount of frothed milk.
  • Ristretto Cortado: Ristretto combined with an equal part of steamed milk.
  • Ristretto Affogato: A scoop of vanilla ice cream or gelato drowned with a shot of ristretto.
  • Ristretto Coffee Cocktails: Alcoholic beverages that feature ristretto as a key ingredient.

How does ristretto differ from other methods of making espresso?

Differences Between Ristretto & Other Ways to Prepare Espresso

Let’s compare ristretto espresso to its counterparts:

MethodCoffee Req.Water Req.Brewing TimeCaffeine Content *
Doppio14–20 g60 ml40 sec126 mg
Solo8–12 g30 ml25–30 sec50–70 mg
Long Shot8–12 g50–70 ml35–60 sec70–100 mg
Ristretto8–12 g15–20 ml15–17 sec25–30 mg
Different types of espresso preparation compared.

1. Ristretto vs. Solo Shot

  • Ristretto uses less water than regular espresso.
  • Ristretto has a shorter extraction time than espresso.
  • Ristretto is more concentrated & intense in flavor.
  • Ristretto has a smoother, less bitter taste.

A solo shot uses more water and has a longer extraction time. Allowing for more compounds extracted from the coffee grounds, including some bitter notes. This results in a more balanced, but sometimes slightly bitter, flavor profile.

2. Ristretto vs. Doppio

  • Ristretto has less water, making it more concentrated.
  • Doppio is a double shot of espresso, with twice the volume.
  • Ristretto has a shorter extraction time than doppio.
  • Doppio’s flavor profile is more balanced, ristretto is more intense.

While ristretto boasts a shorter extraction time than doppio, this doesn’t mean it’s a weaker shot. The reduced water content in the ristretto creates a more robust flavor. Often highlighting the more subtle nuances of the coffee bean.

Doppio’s longer extraction and increased volume bring out a wider range of flavors. Presenting a more comprehensive representation of the coffee’s characteristics.

3. Ristretto vs. Long Shot

  • Ristretto uses less water, resulting in a concentrated, bold flavor.
  • Lungo uses more water, producing a milder, larger espresso.
  • Ristretto has a shorter extraction time than lungo.
  • Lungo highlights the coffee’s bitterness & acidity more than ristretto.

A lungo espresso uses more water and has a longer extraction time. That leads to a milder, larger espresso shot. This extended extraction pulls out more of the coffee’s bitterness and acidity. Creating a different flavor experience.

History of Ristretto

Ristretto was born from this experimentation. Some folks learned what happened when shortening espresso extraction time and using less water. And that discovery led to a bolder, richer flavor.

Key moments in the history of ristretto include:

  • Early 20th century: Desiderio Pavoni invented the first commercial espresso machines in Italy [3].
  • Mid-20th century: Ristretto started gaining popularity as a more intense alternative to espresso.
  • Late 20th century: The specialty coffee movement embraced ristretto, showcasing its unique qualities.

The rise of specialty coffee culture in the late 20th century and early 21st century has further popularized ristretto.

Places that Serve Ristretto Espresso

Here are some places where you could order ristretto espresso:

Business †Coffee Beans Used
StarbucksEspresso Roast
Coffeehouses and restaurants that offer lungo shots.

† Drink availability will vary by restaurant. Not all countries serve the same drinks.

Tips & Tricks for Perfecting Ristretto Espresso

The following sections will cover various ways to optimize your ristretto extraction.

1. Experimenting with Different Beans & Roasts

Different coffee beans and roasts have unique flavor profiles. These affect your ristretto’s taste. Ristretto showcases the intense flavors of your chosen bean, so it’s worth exploring different options.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Use dark roasts for a bold, intense flavor.
  • Try medium roasts for a more balanced taste.
  • Experiment with single-origin beans for distinct regional flavors.
  • Blend beans from different regions to create unique taste combinations.

You’ll discover the perfect ristretto espresso to suit your taste palate by playing with beans and roasts.

2. Adjusting Grind Size & Extraction Time

Here are several tips to help you fine-tune your ristretto:

  • Start with a finer grind for a more concentrated shot.
  • Experiment with extraction times between 15–25 seconds.
  • Monitor the flow: aim for a slow, steady stream.
  • Taste test & adjust accordingly.

By adjusting grind size and extraction time, you’ll optimize the flavor and intensity of your ristretto espresso.

3. Tasting & Evaluating Your Ristretto

Here’s some tips on evaluating your ristretto:

  • Pay attention to flavor balance: a great ristretto should be intense but not bitter.
  • Check the body: it should be rich & syrupy.
  • Assess acidity: bright but not overwhelming.
  • Note the aftertaste: should be pleasant & lingering.

By tasting and evaluating your ristretto, you’ll gain a better understanding of the nuances in flavor and quality. Allowing you to refine your brewing technique. And enjoy a consistent, delicious ristretto.

4. Pairing Ristretto with Complementary Foods

Here are some suggestions for complementary food pairings:

  • Rich desserts: Try a chocolate cake or a tiramisu to balance the ristretto’s intensity.
  • Nutty flavors: Pair your ristretto with almond biscotti or hazelnut macarons.
  • Fruity notes: Complement ristretto’s acidity with raspberry or lemon pastries.
  • Savory bites: Some cheeses, (e.g., sharp cheddar or tangy blue) can contrast ristretto’s bold taste.


Read on and you’ll find frequently asked questions about ristretto.

How Is Ristretto Espresso Made & What Are the Best Beans & Grind Size for It?

Make ristretto by using an espresso machine with a finer grind size and a shorter extraction time. Using dark roast beans with bold flavors to achieve a concentrated, intense taste.

What Are the Benefits & Drawbacks of Ristretto Espresso Compared to Other Types of Coffee?

Ristretto espresso offers a more intense and concentrated flavor with a full-bodied mouthfeel. Some may prefer it, but others may find it too strong.

How Can I Order Ristretto Espresso at a Coffee Shop?

Request a “ristretto shot” at a coffee shop to order or make ristretto espresso. Not all coffee shops offer ristretto, though.

What Are Some Popular Coffee Drinks That Use Ristretto Espresso as a Base?

Popular coffee drinks that use ristretto as a base include ristretto macchiato and ristretto cortado.


Ristretto is an extraction method that results in concentrated espresso. This espresso delivers more taste and less bitterness.

I recommend experimenting with ristretto-based drinks if you have the time and equipment. And if you don’t have the equipment, check out our recommendations on the best espresso machines for beginners.


* Caffeine content varies depending on factors such as bean type, roast level, and preparation method. The provided values are approximate ranges for an 8-ounce serving.

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Tim Lee is, as you might have guessed the founder of He is a former barista and a professional web publisher. He has now combined his knowledge and expertise in both subjects to create
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