A cup of ristretto

Not many of us know how to speak Italian, so it's not very easy to figure out the exact meaning of some words in the coffee shop menu. And it can make it a bit challenging to brew it at home. How are you going to brew what you don't fully understand? 

Deciphering the terms used for coffee drinks is not impossible, all you need is the right information, and we are here to help you out with that. 

Let's start with the meaning of the word espresso and then ristretto. You may have seen this term on the menu, but you haven't gotten the opportunity to ask coffee fanatics what it means and how to make it. Or you are a newbie in the coffee world, and you are still learning the ins and outs of the numerous list of coffee drinks.  Wherever category you find yourself in, don't think so much, we are here to give you a breakdown of the ristretto coffee. 

Read on, once you are done reading, you can impress your colleagues or friends with your knowledge of coffee drinks, continue looking out for our latest post as we will be sharing different recipes. 


We have to explain the mechanisms of a shot of espresso, so you can fully understand what a ristretto means. Espresso is a highly concentrated beverage with robust flavors, and it is the base foremost coffee drink. 

It is usually produced with an espresso machine, and you’ll get a rich, strong, full-bodied flavor with a unique foam called ‘crema’. A shot of espresso is about 30ml, and it is made when hot water is forced through fine grounds for about 30 seconds. 


The ristretto was enjoyed for many years in Italy, and it didn't become popular in other places until the 1980s. This drink was created by Espresso Vivace's owner named David Schomer. David declared this drink to be one of the best coffee extracts. In addition, his voice is trusted by many coffee fanatics as his book is still being used by many roasters and cafés and some special training institutes. 

The difference between regular coffee and ristretto is the water and coffee ratio used during the brewing process. The term ristretto means ‘restrict’ and the drink is given that name because as you brew, you’d have to reduce the amount of water used during extraction. 

Asides from this, the pressure and temperature used for brewing the espresso and ristretto are the same.  Since this coffee drink uses less water for brewing, you’ll have less liquid than the normal espresso shot. Ristretto often comes out as 15 ml or 20 ml while the regular espresso is about 30ml.

If you are ordering from some coffee shops, they may just offer you double shots instead of one, so they can give you a size that is about the same or slightly larger than the usual espresso shop. But if you are brewing at home, you’ll know how many shots will be good for you. 

It is important to note that since less water is used for the grounds, you’ll get a more concentrated taste than the regular espresso shot: it will be fuller, bold, full-bodied, and have a few bitter flavors. 


As we previously mentioned, the brewing method for ristretto is almost the same as espresso, but the quantity of water used is not the same. Most espresso machines will brew a rich, strong, bold dose of espresso without you presetting it, even some basic machines have a pre-programmed option for you. 

This is the step-by-step process for making a ristretto, follow it carefully, and you are going to have a flavorful cup in a few minutes.  

  • Measure the coffee beans to be used, preferably freshly roasted ones to get a sweet flavor, and grind it using a burr grinder. You’ll have to use the same type of grind size that is required for making an espresso shot- finer grounds.
  • Put the coffee grounds into the portafilter (ensure that you follow your machine’s specifications). So you won't have to reduce some of the grinds or waste them.
  • It's time to tamp the grounds to ensure that they are leveled properly. They have to be firmly pressed.
  • Now, this is the important part. You’ll have to extract only 15 to 20 ml of coffee in about 12 to 15 seconds. So, this means you’ll have to use less water than you would use for the normal espresso shots.  If your machine already made provision for brewing a ristretto, then you are lucky, and you won't have to stress it but if it doesn't have the settings, you have to do it manually. 
  • That's it! Enjoy your new favorite drink.


Normally, the ristretto is served back, and you’ll get to enjoy the bold flavors and full body to the fullest extent. But is there a wrong way to enjoy a cup of coffee? Nah. So if you like to take your cup of coffee with milk, then feel free to add some dairy to the drink or cream. 

A ristretto can be a base for other drinks like cappuccino or latte and sometimes the flat white. The milk in these drinks now complements the sweetness from the espresso. The practice of adding milk to this drink has not been widespread as most cafés and people drink the coffee in its normal form. 

The ristretto is usually taken from a small cup, and it can be served with a glass of water. When you want to drink the coffee, you can stir the crema and take a sip. You’ll only take about two sips or 3 before the drink is finished. This is because of the small amount of water used to extract the coffee grounds. 

It is best to wait for a few seconds after you have pulled a shot of ristretto before drinking it to get the best flavors possible. This is because when the coffee cools down a bit, it will bring out more flavors. 


This is another way to drink ristretto, let's talk about it for some time. We know that the name sounds fancy, but it's a really simple drink. It is similar to the latte, just that it is smaller and uses a double shot of coffee, sometimes three with the ristretto style.  Asides from the type of coffee used to make the ristretto Bianco, it mimics the latte drink. It contains a few ounces of steamed milk. The layer of milk has to sit on top of the coffee. 


As we said, the only difference between the normal coffee and espresso is the amount of water that is used for brewing, but the drinks don't have the same taste. If you are a coffee lover, you will expect to taste floral notes in this coffee but if you want something that's not so earthy, then the espresso would be the right choice.


For flavor notes, ristretto will have a more potent dose than the regular espresso because it is more concentrated and really sweet. For the caffeine kick, a shot of espresso will give more energy than a shot of ristretto as the short brewing time means that it will contain less caffeine. That brings us to another question. 


Ristretto contains a lesser amount of caffeine when compared to espresso, it is between 65 and 80 mg. It will contain less caffeine because of the extraction time. If not for the extraction time, the caffeine level would have been the same. This is because caffeine levels are measured by the number of coffee beans used for brewing.


It's time to discuss the most crucial part; should you go for it?  Yes. At Coffee Hero we always want every coffee to expand the coffee palate and horizons. So if you are already a fan of the regular espresso, and you wouldn't mind taking a sweeter drink, then you should give the ristretto a shot, you’ll have a fun experience. 

So, there it is, you now know the difference between ristretto and espresso and how to make it. So order some freshly roasted coffee beans from our store and start brewing this delicious coffee. 

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