Ristretto Shot

Are you wondering what a ristretto shot is and how to make one perfectly? Well, you have come to exactly the right place.

This brief article is packed full of all of the information you need on ristretto shots – what they are, what sets them apart from regular espresso shots, and how to prepare one to perfection, in case you want to try preparing your own ristretto shot at home. Finally, at the end of this article you’ll find a FAQ that is (hopefully) going to answer any last questions youhave about ristretto shots.

Without further ado, let’s get to it.

What a ristretto shot is and how it differs from a regular espresso shot

If you are an espresso lover, you probably appreciate the short coffee drink for its intensity and instant caffeine hit. So what if I told you that there is an even shorter and more intense version of coffee your favourite?

To boil it down to its bare bones, a ristretto shot is a very short, super intense shot of coffee. The standard size for a ristretto shot is approximately 15-25 ml from a double basket. For comparison, a normal shot of espresso is also 30 ml, but using grounds from just one basket.

In other words, a well-brewed shot of ristretto packs as much punch as a double espresso at about half the size. The result is a super intense hit of flavor and caffeine.

Size and intensity aren’t the only aspects where ristretto and espresso differ – it is made using finer coffee grounds than the ones used for espresso, it uses half the water, and even the extraction time is shorter. All of these factors make a ristretto shot notably different to a regular shot of espresso.

The word ristretto, loosely translated, means ‘narrow,’ and this word perfectly defines the drink, as both the amount of water used and the brewing process are restricted when brewing a ristretto shot.

You might think that the finer grounds, the smaller amount of hot water used for extraction, combined with the shorter brewing time means that a ristretto is simply a concentrated espresso shot – but this is not the case. Or rather, this is only partially true.

The fact that the extraction process is winnowed down means that the extraction ends before the full acidity of the ground coffee has a chance to be released. Essentially, ristretto coffee contains less caffeine than a normal espresso shot, despite being more intense. Its flavor profile is also a little more simple, since the acidity isn’t fully released which, coincidentally, is also great news if you have a sensitive stomach that doesn’t agree with highly acidic coffee.

The shorter brewing process also means that the soluble components of the ground coffee release sweet and fruity flavor notes that would have become somewhat drowned out if the brewing process had been left to run its full course.

Yet another detail that sets ristretto apart from espresso drinks is texture: The texture of ristretto is known for being thicker and more creamy than that of espresso drinks. The typical ristretto shot is also likely to have a thicker layer of crema on top.

A potential downside is that a ristretto drink tends to be less round and balanced than an espresso drink – but the tradeoff is its richness, sweetness and intensity.

How to prepare the perfect ristretto shot

So how do I make a ristretto? I hear you ask.

Well, the process is relatively easy if you already know how to use an espresso machine to brew espresso as ristretto is brewed in a very similar way. Regardless of your level of experience as a home barista, however, here are the simple steps to preparing a delicious shot of authentic Italian-style ristretto.

Step 1: Get your coffee beans or coffee grounds ready

First and foremost, you want to make sure you are using ground coffee that is suitable for ristretto. While some commercial offerings exist – for example, Nespresso’s ristretto capsules – any finely ground coffee of your choice will do. The important thing is that the grind size is very fine, because it helps slow down the water running through during the extraction process.

Once you have selected your finely ground coffee, add it to the filter and tamp it, then lock the filter into your espresso machine.

Step 2: Espresso machine

Start the brewing process, making sure you use only half the amount of water you normally would when preparing an espresso shot.

Pull 1-2 shots of ristretto. To get the volume right, we recommend using kitchen scales so you know the precise amount of coffee you have extracted. Aim for 15-20 ml.

Cut off the extraction time at approximately 15 seconds.

Step 3: Serve and enjoy

Your freshly brewed ristretto shot is ready to be enjoyed immediately, either as it is, or as the base for a ristretto-based drink. You can use ristretto as the base for any drink you would normally us an espresso shot for.

Ristretto shot FAQ

Is a ristretto shot stronger than espresso?

Yes, a ristretto shot is significantly stronger and more intense than a shot of espresso.

The reason for this is that a standard 15-20 ml ristretto shot uses the same amount of coffee grounds as a 30 ml shot of espresso.

How long should a ristretto run for?

The extraction time for a ristretto should stop at the 15 second mark.

When preparing ristretto, it is very important to restrict the brewing process, to get the correct flavors released and to avoid the release of acidity that occurs when brewing espresso. In parallel, an espresso shot runs for about 20-30 seconds, and the run time for the perfect ristretto should not be much more than half of that time.

Which is stronger ristretto or long shot?

A ristretto is stronger than a long shot.

The reason is simple: A long shot, also called a Lungo, uses the same amount of ground coffee as an espresso, but a slightly longer extraction time. By contrast, a ristretto uses the same amount of coffee grounds but half the water and half the extraction time, resulting in a much stronger, more intensely flavoured coffee drink.

What is a ristretto shot?

Ristretto means ‘narrow,’ and a ristretto shot is very similar to an espresso, only it is a shorter shot (15-20 ml) than a standard espresso (30 ml).

Size isn’t the only difference, however. Ristretto uses the same amount of ground coffee as espresso, but only half the water and half the brew time.

Is ristretto a strong coffee?

Yes, ristretto is a strong and intense short shot of coffee.

Do you add milk to a ristretto?

You can enjoy ristretto as it is, or add milk depending on what you prefer.

Like espresso, a shot of ristretto can be enjoyed on its own or as the base for any of your milky coffee favourites, including latte, flat white and cappuccino.

Ristretto shot – final thoughts

Once you have had your first test of ristretto, it becomes difficult to understand why this rich, intensely flavoured coffee drink isn’t more widespread. Many coffee shops don’t even serve ristretto, and out of those that do, many will simply serve you a double shot of espresso.

The reason why ristretto isn’t spoken about more, or served more often, is that most coffee consumers simply aren’t aware of its existence, so the public demand isn’t great at this particular point in history – all the more reason to patron the coffee shops that do offer an authentic ristretto, or to learn how to brew it yourself at home.

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