I’m sure you want to be such an expert on espresso drinks that people always ask what part of Italy you’re from.
If your personal preference is espresso-based drinks, you’ve already been wondering what a long shot is and how it differs from a ristretto.
I don't recommend you ask a busy barista to list the differences and best practices of long shot vs ristretto. So let me save you the trouble.
For the coffee lover in you, get excited to take your knowledge of espresso variants to expert levels. Read this complete breakdown of these two very different ways of enjoying delicious espresso coffee.
Ristretto Vs Long Shot: What’s The Real Difference?
The main difference between a long shot and a ristretto is the amount of concentrated flavor.
Real coffee lovers already know this, so let’s get you caught up with the detailed differences between these two coffee-making processes.
1. Brewing Process
The brewing process of a ristretto vs long shot is the same as regular espresso brewing.
The key factors are the type and quality of coffee beans; quantity of ground coffee; water temperature; finely ground coffee; tamping pressure, and brewing time.
2. Brewing Time
The main difference in brewing techniques between long shot vs ristretto shot is the extraction time (brewing time).
A ristretto shot is brewed for 17-20 seconds, and a long shot is brewed for 18-24 seconds. Both delicious espresso drinks can be served in an espresso cup.
3. Amount Of Water Used
The brewing time determines how much water passes through the coffee grounds.
Less extraction time means less water which means a smaller (shorter) shot of coffee, which is what a ristretto is.
A ristretto shot should use about 0.75 ounces of hot water and is a very concentrated drink.
A long shot, as the name implies, is a larger (longer) shot of coffee, around 1.5 ounces of hot water. For comparison, a regular espresso should use 1 ounce of hot water.
Therefore, a long shot will be a less concentrated shot than a regular shot.
4. Strength (Caffeine Content)
One ristretto coffee contains less caffeine than one long shot. However, ristretto shots have a higher concentration of caffeine than long shots.
Both coffees are made using the same quantity of coffee, so they have access to the same caffeine content.
Ristretto is essentially only the strong, early extracted coffee, stopping before the more watery coffee comes out at the end.
Because that watery coffee at the end also has caffeine content, long shots have higher caffeine content.
So if we compare by the ounce, the ristretto has more caffeine. If compared by the drink, the ristretto has less caffeine, and the long shot has more caffeine.
5. Type Of Coffee Bean
Both use the same type of coffee beans used for a traditional espresso shot. Espresso beans are a combination of robusta beans and arabica beans.
The arabica coffee beans are dark roasted and provide coffee tastes of intense flavor with a slightly bitter finish.
The robusta coffee beans are less roasted and deliver the much-desired light, frothy crema that tops a beautiful espresso while balancing out the intense flavor profile of the arabica.
Be sure to use the best coffee beans available for brewing coffee.
6. Grind Size
The correct grind size for ristretto and long shot is the same fine grind that is suitable for espresso.
Other coffee drinks use a coarser grind that best suits the different brewing methods (e.g., french press or filter).
The finer grind used for espresso produced a richer taste and bolder flavors, perfect for combining with steamed milk and other types of popular espresso drinks.
Both should use 7 grams of coffee grounds per espresso.
The coffee grounds should be tamped (pressed) into the hopper with 20 to 30 lbs of pressure. Be sure to clean off any extra coffee grounds from the rim of the hopper prior to brewing.
7. Taste & Smell
A ristretto should be a pop of intense flavor, concentrated in a small shot. Ristretto is a flavorful espresso with a sweet taste, as the sweet flavor comes out early in the extraction process.
A long shot is a more watered-down version of a standard espresso, so each sip provides a milder taste than the ristretto, with a more bitter taste in the flavor profile.
The addition of the extra water in the long shot, however, allows for more of the subtle flavors and smells, in particular of the coffee, to come out.
Similar to adding a splash of water to scotch for tasting, the water increases the surface area of the drink and dilutes the intense coffee taste and smell to allow the notes of floral and earth tones to be enjoyed.
The ristretto will feature stronger acidity with its more concentrated flavor. Twice the amount of hot water in the long shot will balance out the acidity with full-bodied flavor.
In general, with coffee, a more concentrated drink will be more acidic due to the extraction time.
There should be no price difference between a ristretto and long shot.
The cost is based on how much coffee is used. Since they all use the same amount of coffee grinds, the only difference is 0.75 ounces of water.
Every coffee shop varies in what they charge for an espresso. I would estimate between $2-$4 in North America. In Italy, expect to pay around 1 Euro.
If you are making your ristretto and long shot at home, depending on what coffee beans you buy, your espresso should cost you about 25 cents.
BHQ Fun Fact: When you order an espresso in Italy, the barista serves it to you alongside a small glass of water. Many people think they should have the water after their coffee to refresh and rehydrate themselves. The real reason for the water is actually to cleanse your palette BEFORE you enjoy your coffee so that you can truly appreciate the flavor of the coffee and that it stays with you.
What Is A Ristretto? (Pros & Cons Of Drinking)
The word ristretto means “restricted” or “tight” in Italian, so think of a ristretto as a concentrated espresso shot that’s full of robust flavor and caffeine.
This is also often referred to as a short shot of espresso.
If you walk into a coffee shop in Milan and order a ristretto, this coffee would be a one-gulp drink with a strong flavor that you would drink quickly and then get on with your day.
The ristretto is an excellent choice for the coffee drinker that loves a strong shot of espresso with more intense flavor in a short, quick drink.
This is not the drink if you want to lounge in your fave coffee shop and read a good book. It’s also not recommended to drink this before bed as it will definitely keep you awake and your mind racing.
What Is A Long Shot? (Pros & Cons Of Drinking)
A long shot, or Lungo, is the Italian name for a long shot of espresso. As opposed to the one-gulp ristretto, long shots are twice the volume of an espresso drink.
If you are in the same coffee shop in Milan, you might sit and sip your long shot to enjoy its bold flavors in a balanced cup of coffee.
Your long shot is going to have a bit more caffeine.
If you really want to savor your coffee and pick up on the balanced flavor, aromatic notes, and subtleties, a long shot of espresso is the better choice vs ristretto.
Long shots are often confused with a double espresso. A double espresso uses more coffee to produce two shots of espresso.
Some coffee drinkers don’t like the added water as they believe it takes away from the coffee bean’s natural flavors.
How To Make These Espresso Shots At Home
You don’t need professional training to make these, but it helps. Here is some professional training so you can avoid the long lines and high prices at local coffee shops.
Suppose you are using a stovetop espresso maker.
In that case, you will use the same amount of coffee (7 grams of finely ground espresso beans per drink) and about 75% of the amount of water for your ristretto recipe as you would for regular espresso shots.
Nespresso and similar pod-based machines now provide ristretto-specific pods.
For an at-home espresso machine, your machine may even have a pre-programmed setting for ristretto or short shot.
But an easy way to make a perfect ristretto shot with any espresso machine is to stop your regular espresso shot short when you have 0.75 ounces of coffee in your cup or after about 17 to 20 seconds.
Remember, a ristretto and long-shot espresso use the same amount of coffee as a standard espresso shot.
So if you are making long shots on the stovetop, you adjust the amount of water only.
For long shots, you need 1.5 times the amount of water you would for making espresso (twice as much as ristretto).
Nespresso and its competitors also produce long-shot (or lungo) specific pods.
Most at-home espresso machines have a long shot setting. Or you can manually operate the machine and extract your shot for about 18 to 24 seconds until you have 1.5 ounces of coffee in your cup.
Common Ristretto Vs Long Shot Questions
Can I use any type of espresso machine to make a ristretto or long shot?
Yes, you can use any type of espresso machine to make a ristretto or a long shot. Simply either stop the espresso short for the ristretto or let it run longer for the long shot. Making a double espresso requires more coffee and a slightly different procedure.
What is better: a long shot or ristretto at Starbucks?
I find the long shot to be better due to Starbucks's type of beans and roasting procedure that Starbucks uses. The nice thing about Starbucks is that their baristas are very well-trained, and everything is nicely standardized. So when you go to any Starbucks, your ristretto shots and long shots should be consistent. You may expect a difference at other independent coffee shops based on your barista and their skills.
What are some of the best coffee drinks that can be made with a ristretto shot?
One of the best coffee drinks to make with a ristretto shot uses ice. My favorite coffee drink to use ristretto with is when I make an iced espresso. I make my ristretto, then pour it over ice into a cocktail shaker with a bit of sugar, shake vigorously, then strain over fresh ice cubes. Serve either with a splash of your preferred milk or garnish with a lemon twist.
What are some of the best coffee drinks that can be made with a long shot?
The great drink to make with a long shot is probably a lungo macchiato, which is a long shot, served with just a splash of foamed milk. “Macchiato” is the Italian word for “stained” or “marked,” so the milk should be just enough to mark the coffee.
Conclusion - Ristretto Vs Long Shot
Now you know all the differences, the methods, and the reasons for when and why we choose to enjoy ristretto vs long shot coffee.
It’s as simple as this. Ristretto shots are brewed for a shorter time, contain less water, and are more concentrated and sweeter. Great for a quick gulp or diluted in coffee drinks.
The long shot uses more water, is extracted for a longer time, contains more caffeine, and has a fully rounded flavor profile. Best enjoyed as is or stained with a touch of foamed milk.
Whether you tell your friends you learned all this on your favorite coffee blog or during your time backpacking around Europe is up to you!