What Is The Difference Between Ristretto And Espresso?

Ristretto is espresso with less water. It has a more intense flavor because there is less water to extract the coffee solubles. Espresso is coffee that has been brewed with more water, so it has a milder flavor.

When it comes to coffee, there are many choices to be made. One of the most important decisions to make is whether to order a ristretto or espresso. But what’s the difference between these two drinks? How do they differ in flavor and caffeine content? And which one should you choose? Read on for answers to all of your questions about ristretto and espresso.

With such an incredible array of bizarre new and old options in the world of coffee, it is just a matter of time before you start to think that you understand and know the differences between all of these beverages, and BAAM!! Nope, you don’t!

Many can get confused in all of these various styles, names, and types. When it comes to the difference between espresso and ristretto, a ristretto is a mixture of a standard espresso drink with half the amount of water. It will end up in a darker and more concentrated version of a standard shot of espresso.

The espresso, on the contrary, consists of 1 to 3 shots of espresso. The espresso shot is the mainstay of any espresso-based drink. So without it, the drink is impossible to be successfully crafted. This is why a quality espresso drink demands to be done to excellence.

So, you must be wondering, what kind of drink is considered to be espresso-based? The answer is that it’s a coffee that shares three mandatory ingredients milk, espresso, and foam. And also being made with a cappuccino machine.

The different varieties of espresso are based on the ratios of each of those ingredients. Other than such ingredients, there can also be extra ingredients for decorations. For example, items like cinnamon, chocolate, or other syrups can be added. But the three base ingredients must remain.


difference between espresso and ristretto

A ristretto is a short espresso shot made with less water and finely grounded beans. You may be thinking why anyone would fancy ordering less amount of coffee. Besides, always ordering more coffee better is a rational option, isn’t it? Most of the time, yes. But ristretto is all about quality rather than quantity. When less warm water is pushed through the finely grounded coffee beans, the aftermath is way denser in flavor.

The coffee tastes less bitter and sweeter because of the shorter extraction period. In short, ristretto stands for “restricted”. By ordering a ristretto, you are telling the barista to cut the amount of espresso shot in your cup of coffee.


You may have already known what an espresso is. But for our newbie coffee enthusiast, briefly, here is an overview. An espresso is a strapping shot of coffee. It is made by quickly forcing high-pressured water through the coffee grounds. It has a low caffeine concentration and a foamy surface.

The process requires an espresso machine. Most people believe espresso shots are too tough to drink. Yet it is present in many coffee drink types such as flat white, lungo, ristretto, and also macchiato coffee.

what is the difference between espresso and ristretto

Difference Between Espresso And Ristretto

The flavor is the most important and biggest difference between ristretto and espresso. First, let us take a look at flavor and extraction theory.

For ristretto, you require half the amount of water compared to what you need for making the same amount of espresso. A normal shot of espresso is about 1 ounce, whereas a ristretto shot is about 0.75 ounces. In terms of extraction time, espresso needs way more time than ristretto. The perfect cup of ristretto will consist of a bolder, concentrated flavor with a sweet finish. On the other side, espresso carries a classical bold flavor. The Caffeine amount is higher in espresso whereas ristretto has slightly less caffeine.   

The body is determined by the green coffee, its roast style, and finally the brewing method. Both with espresso and ristretto, the high pressure generates a syrupy and viscous mouthfeel or body.

However, different aromas and flavor compounds are extricated at different periods. You’ll first get mellow flavors, followed up by acidity. Then its sweetness and balance. And finally the bitterness. It means that with a ristretto, the number of bitter compounds that can emerge is restricted. That is why it should be a more intense and sweeter cup of coffee.

It also adjoins an extra risk. While they are pulling the ristrettos to sweeter aspects of the espresso, they also face a higher endangerment of under-extraction. Under-extracted coffees can be overly unpleasant and sour. So, it is truly important that the correct balance is formulated. You need to keep control of the grind size as well as brewing time to extricate the coffee’s, full sweetness.

It’s also crucial to remember that the acidity level in coffee is not always necessarily a sign of bad coffee. In fact, lighter roasts incline to contain more acidity as it lets more of the coffee itself. It can be in a fruity or floral form to excel through. It all adds up to utilizing the accurate ristretto recipe for the accurate pick of the coffee.

Traditionally, a ristretto is drunk straightforward. But a huge number of shops are letting it in their milk-based drinks. For example, latte, cappuccino, flat white, etc. And the resultants are a bit different from espresso.

Milk-based drinks are creamier and sweeter. Please remember that ristretto is already sweeter, bolder, and more intense. In a ristretto-based drink, the milk amplifies that sweetness even more than in an espresso-based drink.

difference between ristretto and espresso

Ristretto Vs Espresso: Which Is Better?

When it comes to these two coffee comparisons, it ultimately comes down to individual tastes. If you are looking out for an easygoing drink in the form of espresso, the ristretto will be a good choice. You will be able to appreciate the intensity and accentuated sweetness in a smaller form. But with the equal caffeine kick. On the other hand, an espresso may provide you with a more complex cup of joe with slight notes of bitterness.

We recommend our readers to try both espresso and ristretto in all forms: straight up, with milk, black to pick your stance on the ristretto vs espresso debate. Taste it with different coffee beans or even by different baristas. Take notes and explore your cravings. Find out which one you like the most.


  • What are 3 shots of espresso called?

    In America, espresso-based drinks, particularly the larger milk-based ones, a drink with either three or four shots of espresso will be called a Triple and a Quad, respectively.

  • Why are ristretto shots sweeter?

    Less amount of hot water is passed through the grounds. As a result, the espresso becomes a smaller but more concentrated serving with a richer and sweeter flavor.

  • Does Ristretto have less caffeine?

    Though it is a small variance, a ristretto shot has a bit less caffeine quantity than a usual shot of espresso.

  • Which is stronger Ristretto or Lungo?

    Lungo stands for long in Italian. So it lets the extraction continue for longer (more than 30 secs). Normally a lungo is a 60 ml of beverage with more caffeine and solubles than the ristretto.

  • Is single or double espresso stronger?

    One liquid ounce of espresso contains between 30 to 50mg of caffeine. That means a double shot of espresso will likely have anywhere around 60 to 100mg of caffeine. To be honest, that is going to be good enough for most people.

Final Words On Difference Between Ristretto And Espresso

So what’s the verdict on espresso vs ristretto? If you love your espresso, chances are you will fall in love with ristretto shots even more! Enthusiastic ristretto drinkers love a somewhat sweeter finish and a deeper flavor. Some coffee shops show their love for ristretto so much that they put it as a default in their espresso drink section on the menu.

Starbucks, as an example, serves flat whites with their ristretto shots. So we conclude here by hoping that the next time you visit your local coffee shop, you will be out of much confusion and be able to explore various options with an air of confidence.

And of course, you will be an educated coffee drinker when it comes to anything under the ristretto vs espresso debate.

Enjoy Your Coffee!

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