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Coffee being extracted into a ristretto

What is a Ristretto Coffee and how to make one?

Just when you thought you know all the specialty coffees there is to know, all of a sudden you walk into a coffee shop and see “Ristretto”.

So what is a Ristretto, and if you are someone that does know, then how can you make ristretto coffee?

Either way this got us thinking, so we decide to dive in a do some research and find out.

A Ristretto is the smaller sibling of the very popular espresso coffee. Although perhaps one of the least familiar terms on a typical coffee menu, the Ristretto certainly has a lot to offer.

ristretto coffee

Many specialty coffee enthusiasts often prefer a Ristretto shot to obtain the best and finest qualities of the espresso, for example the aromatic and flavours of the coffee.

The secret of a Ristretto is that it has a character of its own due to its shorter extraction time. This means that although a Ristretto doesn’t have as much of a rounded balance, drinking one can be a strong sweet and fruity experience. 

Coffee contains hundreds and even thousands of aroma compounds, which is why the Ristretto differs from other specialty coffees.

This can be described in three main key factors:

  • More Concentrated

The first part of the extraction is the most concentrated, therefore, being a shorter shot, the ristretto is far more concentrated than a longer brew.

  • Different Balance 

Different chemical compounds dissolve at different rates. The ristretto contains faster extracting compounds, therefore having its own unique balance.

  • Fewer Total Extracts

Being a short shot, fewer coffee compounds are extracted into a ristretto, for example caffeine.

Ristretto Vs Espresso Coffee?

coffee shop and two baristas making coffee

Ristretto in Italian means ‘restricted’, and that’s one of the major differences between a Ristretto and an Espresso.

When making a Ristretto, water is restricted to pass through, compared to the espresso, where more water is used.

Therefore, the size of the two types of coffees are very different, even though the same amount of dry coffee grounds is used. In general the water to coffee ratio is as follows; Espresso Coffee 1:2 and Ristretto Coffee 1:1. 

There are a couple of ways to achieve this, however, the most common way is to stop the extraction (pull) process half way through the normal espresso extraction process, ending up with a shorter brew with slightly thicker consistency.

The below table explains the key differences between a ristretto and espresso at a glance;

Ristretto

Espresso

Smaller Form

Longer Form

Shorter Extraction Time

Longer Extraction Time

Sweeter

Slightly More Bitter

Less Complex

More Complex

Stronger Intensity

Less Intensity

Less Water Used

More Water Used

Less Concentrated

More Concentrated

Smaller Amounts of Caffeine Per Ounce

Larger Amounts of Caffeine Per Ounce

What Does a Ristretto Taste Like?

So what is the taste difference you may be wondering?

Because the Ristretto has an overall shorter pull than an espresso, the final brew has a sweeter, more concentrated flavour that has minimal to no bitterness.

The body, or ‘mouthfeel’ of a final brew is determined by several factors, such as the roast style and brew method, therefore, just like an Espresso, the Ristretto is created with high pressure resulting in thick slightly syrupy mouthfeel and taste.

How Do You Make a Ristretto?

making a ristretto coffee with espresso machine

For best results, a Ristretto is made generally with an Espresso Coffee Machine, however, it can also be made using capsules such as Nespresso Ristretto Capsules, with a Nespresso coffee machine which is commonly found in most people’s household.

Either way it is where hot water will pass through a filter with finely ground compacted coffee at high pressure, just like an espresso coffee.

The force of the extraction will then result in an intense flavour profile.

You can also make a Ristretto from the comfort of your home by following these 4 simple steps:

Step 1: Grind Your Fresh Coffee

Ensure you are grinding your beans down to a size that you would when making an espresso, which is a moderate to fine size.

Step 2: Fill Your Porta-Filter With The Grounds

(component that holds your coffee prior and during brewing process)

Ensure you fill the porta-filter to the line as you will be tamping it down.

Step 3: Extract Your Coffee

Extract the coffee for about 15 seconds (or 15-20mls), which is typically half the extraction time as an espresso.

Step 4: Serve

Drink black, and enjoy!

How Should You Drink A Ristretto?

person holding ristretto cup about to consume drink

A Ristretto on its own is traditionally consumed as a black coffee shot, without any milk being added, otherwise your coffee brew will turn into a different brew such as a latte.

It also should not be diluted with any extra water, and consumed as is for the true experience, otherwise, adding water would turn your Ristretto into an Americano or Long Black.

However, just like an espresso, you can make a single or double shot ristretto as a base for a longer type of coffee brew, such as a flat white, which many coffee shops are beginning to do.

What Specialty Coffee Could You Use?

bag of whole coffee beans

Need Specialty Coffee that is perfect for a Ristretto? Maybe you are looking for a change and would like to experiment with different beans?

When we decided to make Ristrettos we discovered that while any coffee can typically be used, there are a few other options that stand out.

We currently use Barista Italiano Coffee Beans, which you can easily find over on Amazon.

At Barista Italiano, they are passionate about bringing you coffee of excellent quality and unmistakable flavour, in the finest Italian tradition.

Why should you try this coffee?

  • Value – 1kg Roasted Coffee Beans.
  • Variety – Ristretto Italiano coffee blend (50% Robusta, 50% Arabica).
  • Emotion – Ristretto Italiano : the soft range of the Arabica supported by the robustness of the Robusta. The correct balance between acidity and sweetness leaves the palate a persistent softness.
  • Quality – Their coffee beans are roasted in small batches immediately prior to packaging, according to the best Italian coffee artisan tradition, with a unique profile to create a full layered taste. BaristaItaliano coffee whole beans are packed with a specific flat degassing valve, allowing the beans to keep their entire freshness and fragrance intact for 24 months after packaging.
  • Made in Italy – The unmistakable Italian taste is a recognized value and Barista Italiano offers it in its coffee. Passion for tradition that is renewed in the continuous research and challenge for making a unique coffee.

Check out Barista Italiano Coffee here

Ristretto Coffee Pods

person holding coffee pods in hands

If you only have a coffee machine that uses coffee capsules, try the New original Nespresso Ristretto flavour coffee.

Why?

  • Full and Balanced –

The balance of lightly roasted South and Central American Arabicas with Robusta, gives Roma coffee capsules sweet and woody notes and a full, lasting taste on the palate.

  • Origin –

Cultivated at high altitude, the Central American Arabica brings finesse, whilst the Brazilian Arabica and Robusta provide body and a lingering taste on the palate.

  • Roasting –

Light roasting and fine grinding bring finesse to the blend and create a short espresso which is not too strong.

  • Aromatic Profile –

Roasted and woody notes are revealed through the light roasting of intensely flavoured beans from different origins.

Don’t have a Nespresso Machine? Try NESCAFÉ DOLCE GUSTO Ristretto Ardenza Coffee Pods.

F.A.Q's

frequently asked questions

Q: How do you drink a ristretto?

A: This type of coffee is always served with a glass of water.

Commonly referred to as a short black, some of the most modern appliances consume even less than 60 ml of water or 45 ml of water to prepare a simple shot of ristretto

Q: Why are ristretto shots sweeter?

A: The coffee tastes sweeter and less bitter because of the shorter extraction time.

Q: How many ml is a ristretto?

A: 25ml

Q: What’s the difference between Ristretto and Lungo?

A: Usually a lungo is a 60 ml beverage with more solubles and more caffeine than the ristretto.

Lungos have a thinner body and a dryer and more acid taste.

Conclusion: What is a ristretto

holding strong black coffee in white mug

So what’s our final thoughts?

Well just like all coffee brews out there, you can do all the research you like, but ultimately the only way to know if a Ristretto is for you is to simply try one, why not purchase one from a barrister, or go a step further and make one yourself?

Next time you visit your local coffee shop, instead of purchasing another espresso, trying asking for a Ristretto.

If you enjoy a stronger more intensified shot of coffee, then a Ristretto should be your go to, however, either way it is always exciting to experiment within the specialty coffee industry.

So what are you waiting for? 😉

If you enjoyed this article, read more like this by checking out our Specialty Coffee Beginners Guides

3 thoughts on “What is a Ristretto Coffee and how to make one?

  1. Thanks for the explanation. There are several views out there as to what ristretto process is, so it’s good to know what others think. The alternative view that is also prevalent is that ristretto process takes the same amount of time as espresso (~25-30 sec) but produces less of a final product for the same amount of grounds, i.e. 1:1 as you pointed out. So it’s not the timing but the flow that is changed, compared to espresso extraction. I can see how your point makes sense in terms of taste, as the taste profile varies a lot between beginning and the end of extraction (salami shots anyone? 🙂 ).

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