Ristretto Coffee – Everything You Need To Know

Ristretto is a “restricted” but a more concentrated form of espresso. It’s usually served in itself or in lattes and flat whites. It uses a smaller amount of water and a shorter extraction time–a bolder, richer experience for real espresso fans.

Coffee drinkers enjoy the robust and flavorful kick that espresso can bring to a beverage. From lattes to affogatos, there’s no doubt that it can make your favorite coffee treat more enjoyable. But are you aware that the espresso isn’t the most concentrated version yet? Meet the bolder and more intense sibling, the ristretto.

As we always say, the secret to a rich coffee experience lies in its concentrated form. So, in this article, we will introduce what a ristretto is and how it differs from the usual espresso. Discover its taste, caffeine content, and preparation method, and see why this unique brew is worth trying on your next visit to the cafe!

Main Ingredients: Ground Coffee, Filtered Hot Water
Serving Temperature: 90-93°C or 195-200°F
Place of Origin: Vienna, Italy
Caffeine per Serving (mg): 63mg of caffeine per 15ml shot.

What does ristretto mean?

Ristretto basically translates to “restrict” or “narrow” in Italian. But in the coffee world, it’s a whole other version of a regular espresso made with less water and shorter extraction time. However, don’t be fooled by its small volume as it packs a more concentrated flavor that will surely awaken one’s taste buds–in contrast to its sweeter mouthfeel that is very pleasing to the palate.

What is a ristretto made of?

Just like a regular shot of espresso, a ristretto is made of finely ground beans and hot water. With the use of an espresso machine, the coffee grounds and water are combined to pull a shot. The water is forced through the pack of grounds to extract the flavor and create a concentrated beverage.

While we already call an espresso “a concentrated form of coffee”, the key difference a ristretto has is that it’s more concentrated. In preparing a ristretto, we utilize less water and shorter extraction time. As a result, you will get a stronger flavor with a less bitter and sweeter tasting experience.

The History of Ristretto Coffee

Italy is home to almost every espresso beverage, and so does ristretto.

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Where is the ristretto from?

Italy is home to almost every espresso beverage, and so does ristretto. Ristretto coffee was present on the menu boards of Italian coffeehouses way back in the 1980s. It was David Schomer, owner of the Espresso Vivace cafes, who first brought into the US in Seattle. And in the early 90s, ristretto easily became a staple in many coffee shop menus all over the world.

Who invented the ristretto coffee?

There is no definite answer of who invented the ristretto. However, it was the co-founder of a famous coffee venture, Espresso Vivace cafes, who introduced this unique espresso to the US in Seattle in the late 1980s. David Schomer declared ristretto as one of the best coffee extracts one could ever experience. And in the 90s, ristretto made its way to the menu boards of several coffee shops around the world.

How much caffeine is there in a ristretto?

We usually perceive that the stronger the coffee is, the higher its caffeine content; that is not the case. Even with the higher concentration and more intense flavor ristretto coffee possesses, it actually has less caffeine than a regular espresso.

Since brewing ristretto shots comprises less water and shorter brewing time, not much caffeine is released from the coffee grounds during the process of extraction. A 15ml shot of ristretto coffee has about 63mg of caffeine, while a regular espresso of the same quantity has about 68mg.

How many calories are in a ristretto?

With only two main ingredients, coffee grounds and water, one shot of ristretto coffee has only one calorie. This is the same as how many calories are found in regular espresso and drip coffee.

How To Make Ristretto Coffee?

We have three different ways to extract ristretto shots perfectly: grind finer, tamp harder, or use less water.

Grinding your beans finer than usual will restrict the shot being produced. This means that only a small amount of water will be able to penetrate the grounds. This is the most popular way of brewing ristretto coffee.

Instead of altering the grind size of the coffee, try tamping the coffee harder before brewing. However, this method isn’t really recommended as tamp pressure isn’t always consistent and may bring you unpredictable results.

Finally, the last method is using less water–this is also the most common method used in different coffee shops. In order to do this, baristas will simply stop the brewing of shots earlier than usual. This then restricts the extraction and brings a more concentrated and intense shot of espresso.

A step-by-step guide in brewing ristretto shots

How to brew ristretto shots

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Every espresso machine is different, so there are several techniques to pull a ristretto shot. Some espresso machines already have pre-programmed options where you can press a button to brew a ristretto shot instantly. Otherwise, follow the steps below.

If you’re using an automatic espresso machine:

  1. Tweak the options to lower the amount of water that goes through the ground coffee. For example, you can set the machine to produce 15-20ml of espresso in 15-20 seconds.
  2. Taste your ristretto accordingly until you come up with your desired taste and balance.

If you’re using a semi-automatic espresso machine:

  1. Use about 14-16 grams of your chosen coffee beans and grind them finer than you usually do.
  2. Place the ground coffee into the portafilter and tamp.
  3. Attach the portafilter to the grouphead of the machine and start brewing the espresso shots.
  4. Stop the extraction once you get 15-20ml of coffee.

If you’re using a manual espresso machine:

  1. Use about 14-16 grams of your chosen coffee beans and grind them finer than you usually do.
  2. Place the ground coffee into the portafilter and tamp.
  3. Attach the portafilter to the grouphead of the machine and start brewing the shots.
  4. Time the shots. Assuming you’re producing a double shot of ristretto, they should be pulled for 25-30 seconds and produce 30-35 grams of coffee.

Points To Remember

  • Some espresso machines are programmed to produce ristretto shots as an option, while others require the barista’s expertise.
  • Single shots of ristretto will be 15-20ml of coffee. Double shots will be 25-35ml of coffee.
  • Because of the finer grounds used, a slower pour rate is expected when brewing a ristretto.
  • Always taste your pulled ristrettos until you achieve your desired taste.


Print Pin
Prep Time: 2 minutes


  • Espresso machine
  • Tamper
  • Shot Glasses
  • Serving cup


  • 14-16 grams of coffee


  • Prepare your ground coffee and grind them fine.
  • Transfer the grounds into the portafilter.
  • Settle, level and tamp the grounds.
  • Attach and lock the portafilter to the machine and begin the brew.
  • Time the shots and stop the extraction after 15 seconds.
  • Observe the shots–they should be dark brown and about ¾’s of the shot glass.

Ristretto Vs. Espresso Vs. Long Shots

What is the difference between ristretto and espresso?

Image credit > Mohamed Shaffaf from Unsplash

The classic espresso is a concentrated form of coffee derived from using high pressure in brewing finely ground coffee beans with hot water. Ristretto and lungo (long) shots are two of its more popular variations. These three are different in terms of flavor, preparation, etc. Below are their significant differences:


Espresso shots generally use 30ml of water per 7 grams of coffee. Meanwhile, ristretto shots use less water and long shots use more than usual. For the same amount of coffee, we use about 15ml water for ristretto and 45ml for lungo shots.

Extraction Time

A perfectly brewed shot of espresso is pulled between 25 to 30 seconds. Ristrettos are extracted for only about 15 seconds as we are restricting the water exposure. Long shots are produced within 35 to 40 seconds.


A regular shot of espresso is about 30 ml of coffee. Ristrettos are usually about 22ml of coffee, and long shots can be as much as 45ml.

Aroma and Flavor

The distinct aromas you can get from espresso shots are somewhat similar to dark cocoa, with a rich, sweet smell. Since lungos are over-extracted versions, they typically produce bitter and toasty notes. In contrast, ristrettos will be more fruity and floral in aroma.

Flavor-wise, a classic espresso taste is rich and caramelly with hints of spiciness. Ristrettos will be more on the sweeter side but more intense, while lungos will have a mellower flavor but bitterer characteristics.

Caffeine Content

In general, a regular espresso has 68mg of caffeine per fluid ounce. A long shot will have slightly higher caffeine content, if not the same. On the other hand, one ristretto shot has about 63mg of caffeine which is lower than that of a regular espresso.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is ristretto coffee stronger than an espresso?

In terms of flavor, a ristretto is much more concentrated making it taste bolder and more intense than espresso. However, ristretto shots are sweeter and less bitter and have less caffeine content as compared to the regular ones.

Is a ristretto stronger than a long shot?

The ristretto is bolder in flavor as compared to a long shot since it undergoes an increased concentration with less water used in extraction. Meanwhile, a long shot will have mellower flavors as a result of diluting the coffee in more water.

Is ristretto the strongest coffee?

While ristretto is regarded as a more concentrated form of espresso, other factors such as roast profile and geographic origin may also contribute to the intensity and character of a cup of coffee. However, many coffee drinkers still find ristretto an exceptionally stronger option than other coffee drinks.

Are ristretto shots weaker than regular coffees?

Ristretto shots taste bolder than most coffees like regular espresso and drip. You can opt to get ristretto shots for your lattes or cappuccinos if you want a more intense tasting experience.

Take Your Ristretto to the Next Level

The ristretto is a concentrated form of espresso made by using less water and a shorter extraction time. Unlike regular and lungo espresso shots, ristretto actually contains less caffeine but packs a more intense flavor. There are different techniques on how to pull a ristretto shot and altering variables such as grind, water, and tamp to suit your preferences is one of the ways to do this.

In today’s world where there are a lot of new coffee terms that are unfamiliar or getting misused, we may encounter different definitions of what a ristretto truly is. However, there is really no such standard and every coffee shop is free to brew it in their own ways. What’s important is that you know what makes it different from the regular espresso you usually order.

Main image credit > Nitin Pariyar from Unsplash