How To Make A Ristretto (And Why You Need To Know How)?

Have you heard of ristretto? You might have seen it on your favorite coffee shop’s menu and now is the time you try it. This is a real treat for all espresso connoisseurs as it allows you to enjoy the sweet flavors from the coffee beans that usually get lost during the brewing process. But, you might be wondering how to make a ristretto and can you make one yourself?

You can, and we are here to help. We did thorough research, found the best recipe, and explained the process step by step to ensure that you get everything right the first time. Stay with us and find out what exactly is ristretto and how can you make one from the comfort of your home.

What Is A Ristretto?

Simply put, a ristretto is an espresso made using the same amount of coffee but a smaller amount of water. It is a much smaller drink than espresso and as a result, has a highly concentrated and rich flavor.

What Does Ristretto Mean?

“Ristretto” is Italian for “restricted” or “shortened”.  This stands for a restricted amount of water that an espresso machine uses to brew coffee.

How Do You Pronounce Ristretto?

As mentioned, Ristretto is an Italian word and you pronounce it REE-STREH-TOH.

What Is a Ristretto Shot?

As its name implies, it is a shot or a single serving of ristretto. However, you need to be careful while ordering ristretto, unless you are in a specialized coffee shop because you will probably get a double shot. This is because a single shot of ristretto is only half an ounce of a usual espresso serving. For this reason, baristas usually make a double shot to get a full ounce which is a standard espresso size.

How Is It Different From Lungo?

As opposed to the ristretto, which is a short version of espresso, a lungo or a “long shot” is a long version of espresso. It is made by using the same amount of coffee as espresso but with more water. This is made simply by letting the espresso pour out of a machine for more than 30 seconds.

A Shot Of Lungo, Espresso, And Ristretto

What Is a Ristretto Bianco?

A ristretto Bianco is a somewhat smaller latte that uses a ristretto instead of an espresso shot as a base. A latte is usually made by combining a single espresso shot with about 6 to 8 ounces of steamed milk. Finally, it is topped with a dollop of thick milk froth. Now, if you make that with a ristretto as a base, you get a delicious brew that is naturally a bit sweeter (due to the ristretto base).

What Do You Need To Make A Ristretto At Home?

Although it might sound like science, ristretto is actually very easy to make. Everything you need to have is:

  • an espresso machine – you can not make a ristretto if you do not have an espresso machine. Any type of machine will do (we will cover this later on) but it is a must.
  • a coffee grinder – ristretto is all about the flavor and you can not get it right if you use stale coffee. It is best to grind coffee beans right before you want to make a brew. Note that a conical burr grinder provides the best results as it does not heat up during the process, meaning, it does not burn your coffee beans (or damage their quality).
  • fresh coffee beans – there is no point in using freshly ground coffee if the coffee beans are not fresh, to begin with. Of course, you don’t need to go to a store for new coffee beans every time you want to make coffee but make sure to keep them in a sealed container so that the moisture can not get to them.
  • filtered water – now, this is not a must (you can use regular tap water), however, using filtered water allows you to brew a much better ristretto shot. This is especially true for households that use hard water.

Step-By-Step To A Delicious Brew

Here are some simple steps you should follow to make a delicious ristretto:

  1. The first thing you want to do is remove the portafilter from your espresso machine.
  2. Now, run the water through the group head – this is to remove any leftover coffee grounds that might be stuck in there.
  3. Grind your coffee beans to a fine grind size – for the best results use espresso roast coffee. You need about 9 grams for a single or 18 grams for a double ristretto shot. Depending on the roast and the coffee brand you use, you might need to adjust the grind size accordingly.
  4. Add the grounds to the portafilter and tamp them down – fill up the filter basket until the grounds are heaping over the top. Now, use a tamper to make a nice and even press. Keep in mind that the grounds need to be evenly tamped and as straight as possible to pull the perfect shot.
  5. Start the brewing process – place the portafilter back into its position and lock it in its place. Now, press the button or flip a switch (depending on what kind of a machine you have) to start the brewing process but make sure that it is in a manual mode so you can stop it manually in 15 (for a single shot) or in 20 seconds (for a double shot).

There you have it. If you follow these steps to the word, you should get an aromatic and rich ristretto brew.

What If You Have A Super-Automatic Espresso Machine?

In case of a super-automatic machine, there is a high chance you already have a “ristretto” setting pre-programmed in the menu. In case you do not, you can either add the brewing parameters for a ristretto as a new program (if the machine offers customizable profiles) or choose the espresso program and change the shot timing from 30 to 15 seconds.

Can You Get A Ristretto Shot From A Nespresso?

Yes, you can as long as you can manually time the shot. Keep in mind that Nespresso machines are made for use with pod coffee so you will not get the same result as you would using freshly ground coffee beans. Your brew will be slightly lighter and have a milder taste.

Ristretto & Espresso – All Differences Explained

Since there are so many similarities, let us explain the differences between ristretto and espresso:

Key Differences In The Brewing Process

The main differences you will notice are in the brewing process:

  • shot time – for espresso you need about 20 to 30 seconds whereas for ristretto you need only 15 to 20 seconds (depending on wheter you are making a single or a double serving)
  • volume – espresso is about 25-35 ml (about 1 ounce) while a ristretto is only 15-20 ml (about half an ounce)
  • the flavor – ristretto is much sweeter than espresso

Brewing A Shot Of Ristretto

Is A Ristretto Stronger Than Regular Espresso?

No, it has just a bit less caffeine than a regular espresso does.

Why Is It Sweeter?

This is because of its short brewing time. The sweet flavors are the first to get extracted from the coffee grounds while the bitter coffee oils come in last.

You Might Be Wondering…

Here are some additional answers to questions you might have about ristretto:

How To Order Ristretto?

To avoid the trouble of getting a double shot, you can emphasize that you want a single shot of ristretto. It is worth knowing that you can ask a barista to make any beverage with a ristretto base and this will not cost you more money.

Coffee Shop Menu With Ristretto

Can You Use Ristretto As A Base For Other Espresso/Milk-Based Beverages?

Yes, you can. You can use it for a latte (ristretto Bianco), cappuccino, flat white, etc.

How Many Shots Of Ristretto Are In A Latte?

As a rule, only one. However, this depends on the size of the latte you are having. Since the Us latte is usually served as a 12 oz beverage, it usually has 2 shots.

To Wrap It Up

Many coffee enthusiasts say that a ristretto allows you to enjoy a true coffee experience. So if you have not tried it yet, go for it. If you have come this far, you have all the steps and know which equipment you need to make the perfect brew. We recommend brewing a shot of ristretto, espresso, and lungo, so you can try them all at the same time and find out which flavor truly works the best for you.

As a former cook and a pastry chef, Patricia knows how to recognize fresh ingredients and appreciates their quality above all else. Her ideal day is spent at a local farmer’s market looking for the fruits, vegetables, and herbs she can combine and use to make meals for her loved ones. She is also a big coffee enthusiast and enjoys trying out different coffee brews while traveling.