What is A Ristretto Shot?
A ristretto shot is a concentrated form of espresso that originates from Italy. It uses about half the water of a regular espresso and is extracted in a shorter time, usually 15-20 seconds. The result is a 0.75 oz shot that’s sweeter (due to the crema) and less bitter than traditional espresso.
Ristretto shots capture more of the rapidly dissolving flavor compounds from the coffee grounds. Because the extraction process is cut short, ristrettos end up being less bitter and more full-bodied compared to fully extracted espressos.
The opposite of a Ristretto is a Lungo. Italian for “long.” In this case, the barista extends the hot water pull time through the espresso machine. While not as potent as a regular espresso or ristretto, the longer extraction time of a lungo results in more bitter flavor notes.
- Ristretto is a highly concentrated form of espresso with an intense flavor profile.
- Born in Italy, the term “ristretto” translates to “restricted.”
- Making a ristretto requires specific grind settings and timing to yield a 0.75 oz shot.
- Ristretto offers less bitterness, a fuller body, and less caffeine than traditional espresso.
For those interested in exploring the nuanced world of coffee, the ristretto is a variant worth understanding. Originating in Italy, the term “ristretto” translates to “restricted,” emphasizing its concentrated nature. Contrary to what the term might imply, restricted here doesn’t mean less; it actually leads to an intense burst of flavor and aroma.
In the 90s, David Schomer of Espresso Vivace in Seattle helped refine and popularize the ristretto, setting standards for its unique sweetness and aromatic qualities1.
Fun Fact: Espresso Vivace on Capitol Hill in Seattle had a rep among us baristas as the espresso gold standard. I’d often swing by for double espresso, would take a seat on a barstool looking out onto Broadway, and jam out to the newly dropped Postal Service album. #2003 #IYKYK
So, what goes into a ristretto shot?
- Finely ground coffee: Typically, a grind finer than that used for espresso.
- Hot water: Usually at a temperature around 195-205°F.
How To Make A Ristretto At Home
Want to try making this little wonder at home? It’s not as complicated as it sounds. You will need an espresso machine for this. I use a Breville Espresso Pro that I got on Facebook marketplace.
- Grind: First, grind your coffee beans even finer than you would for an espresso.
- Dose: Use about 7-10 grams of finely ground coffee per shot.
- Tamp: Tamp those grounds firmly and evenly in the portafilter.
- Extract: Run hot water through the grounds for 15-20 seconds, targeting a yield of 15-30 ml.
- Cut Off: Stop the extraction halfway when the sweeter notes are at their peak.
Fun fact: some commercial espresso machines, like the La Marzocco I used at Tully’s in Seattle, come with two sets of buttons—one for pulling regular shots and another specifically for ristretto. Most home espresso machines won’t have a dedicated ristretto setting, but you can easily control this manually.
For all you number lovers, a typical ristretto shot uses a ratio of around 1:1, that is 7-10 grams of coffee to 15-30 ml of water. It’s all about finding the sweet spot—quite literally.
How does a Ristretto differ from an espresso?
When you compare a ristretto shot to a regular espresso shot, here’s what you need to know:
- Quantity: Ristretto gives you a smaller 0.75 oz shot, compared to espresso’s 1-1.5 oz.
- Taste: Sweeter and less bitter than espresso, thanks to its shorter extraction time.
- Caffeine: A tad less caffeine content in ristretto than in espresso.
- Body: Ristretto has a creamier mouthfeel, making it fuller-bodied2.
|Quantity||0.75 oz||1 oz|
|Taste||Sweeter, bolder||Balanced, more acidic|
|Caffeine Level||Slightly less||Standard amount|
Ristretto shots are very low in calories and contain no fats or sugars. It is a good way to consume coffee if you are worried about your caloric intake or trying to limit certain macronutrients – as on a low-carb or low-fat diet, for example.
Due to its concentration, a ristretto shot quickly delivers caffeine and antioxidants, which can benefit your immune system and blood pressure, as well as prevent diseases. You’ll likely feel more alert and energized too3.
A ristretto shot packs in all the antioxidants of coffee but in a smaller shot, which means fewer chances of acidity and digestive issues. However, it’s important to remember that drinking too much coffee can have side effects.
Potential Side Effects
For those sensitive to caffeine, even the reduced caffeine in ristretto can trigger restlessness or insomnia. Always moderate your intake, folks!
How much caffeine is in a ristretto shot?
Slightly less than a regular espresso, due to its smaller size and faster extraction.
Can I use regular coffee grounds for ristretto?
It’s best to go for a finer grind to get that concentrated flavor.