Ristretto vs Long Shot Coffee

While coffee can be associated with quick energy and being on the go, there is something lovely about sitting, sipping, and savoring this flavorful brew.

Both the Long Shot and Ristretto have distinct tastes and characteristics making them ideal for a slow morning.

Yet they can easily be a favorite to take on the go. If you are wondering what the difference is between Ristretto vs Long Shot and which one may be the best choice for you, we will explain the subtle, yet important differences between these two interesting and intense coffees.

Ristretto or Long Shot?

ristretto or long shot

If you frequent coffee shops or are traveling abroad, knowing the difference between a Ristretto vs Long Shot can make your ordering experience much more efficient and enjoyable.

The word ristretto comes from Italian and means, “shortened or narrow” you may also hear it referred to as a “short shot”. Ristretto is a highly concentrated form of espresso coffee.

It is made similarly to espresso but uses a finer grind and half the water. It has a bold flavor with a slight sweetness to it. Some coffee shops serve a double espresso shot and call it a Ristretto.

A Long Shot, or lungo as it is sometimes known, is another variation of espresso but uses a coarser ground bean. This beverage uses the same amount of coffee as espresso but with double the amount of water.

The flavor is a deep, rich, concentrated coffee taste, with a strong caffeine kick.

How Are They Made?

Making a ristretto requires the use of a manual or electric espresso machine. The same coffee that would be used for espresso (Arabica or Robusta)  is ground to an extremely fine texture.

The coffee is added to the metal basket of the espresso machine and tamped down to create a compressed puck. 15 milliliters of water for every 7 grams of coffee used is added to the water reservoir of the machine.

While the espresso machine takes over at this point, less water means the “shot” will take less time to pull (which simply means the water has worked its way through the grounds and become coffee).

how they made

A long shot also uses an espresso machine, but there are differences in how it is made. To make a Long Shot, good-quality espresso coffee should be ground a bit coarser than espresso, but still finer than a traditional coffee brewer.

This coffee is tamped down into the basket of the machine in the same fashion as an espresso or ristretto. However to make a long shot you will use 50 milliliters of water for every 7 grams of ground coffee. The machine will then use boiled water and pressure to produce a creamy and delicious brew.

Due to the nearly doubled amount of water compared to traditional espresso, the shot takes nearly double the time to pull.

What Are They Made of?

Both the Ristretto and the Long Shot use the same machinery. Espresso machines can vary in complexity, but in general, they have a few common parts.

Most espresso machines have a filter (sometimes called the “porta-filter”, boiler, basket, and pump). Water is placed into a reservoir of the machine and coffee is added to the basket where it is tightly pushed down to form a puck.

The pump then takes the water from the reservoir and passes it through the boiler which heats the water, and pressure forces the water through the grounds, producing espresso.

Ristretto vs Long Shot – How Are They Similar?

Both Ristretto and Long Shots are strong, bold, and flavorful. Each of these beverages is produced using the same machinery and the same type of coffee bean, with Arabica coffee being a great choice.

While there is some crema on both, it is not as notable as other types of espresso. Both can be enjoyed as a standalone coffee, or mixed to create a craft beverage.

Both beverages are espresso variations developed in Italy. Coffee drinkers will find both to have all of the characteristics of espresso, without the harshness.

Flavor, Coffee Ratio, Size, Caffeine, Crema Comparison

comparison

Ristretto:

  • Flavor Profile: Floral, earthy notes
  • Water to Coffee Ratio: 15 milliliters of coffee to 7 grams of water
  • Beverage Size: 11 milliliters
  • Caffeine: 33 mg per single shot (20 mL)
  • Crema: Less than Espresso more than a Long Shot

Long Shot:

  • Flavor Profile: Smooth and smoky
  • Water to Coffee Ratio: 50 milliliters of coffee to 7 grams of water
  • Beverage Size: 45 milliliters
  • Caffeine: 81 mg per 110 milileters
  • Crema: Less than Ristretto

As much as these two beverages have in common, there are some notable differences.

First is in the taste. While both are strong and bold, the Ristretto is more elegant with floral notes and some earthy qualities it is less biter but remains full-bodied. The Long Shot has a smokier flavor profile and can have a more bitter taste.

Ristretto is made from a much finer grind of coffee and yields only about 11 millimeters of drinkable coffee and has a higher caffeine percentage of 33 mg per shot (20 milliliters), however, when you order a Ristretto you typically be served a double shot.

This means it is still a smaller beverage than the Long Shot which is a much larger beverage, typically served at around a size of 45 millimeters of coffee.

The coffee ground is coarser than that of Ristretto, though still finer than what is used for traditional drip coffee.

Although the typical caffeine amount on a beverage is higher, it is because of the amount of liquid, in an actual break down the Long Shot has less caffeine than the Ristretto. It takes longer to make and has far less crema than Ristretto.

You will find both at many coffee shops, but the Long Shot can also be easily made using home espresso makers, especially with pod-based machines such as Nespresso.

How to drink Ristretto vs Long Shot

Ristretto

The Ristretto can be enjoyed in a small coffee cup or shot glass, but it can also be enjoyed as you would a traditional coffee with a sweetener and milk or milk alternative.

You can also use Ristretto to make a delicious martini for a wonderful after-dinner drink!

how to drink ristretto

Ristretto Martini

  • 1 oz Ristretto
  • 1 oz vodka
  • 1 oz coffee liquor
  • Simple syrup to taste

In a cocktail shaker, add ice and equal parts Ristretto, vodka, and coffee liquor, add simple syrup to desired sweetness. Shake vigorously and pour into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with coffee or cocoa powder.

Long Shot

Long Shots are wonderful to sip as they are, however many people also enjoy adding steamed milk and sweetener such as sugar in the raw.

A Long Shot also makes a great base for a twist on a classic cocktail such as an old fashioned. Consider making a Long Shot Old Fashioned.

how to drink long shot

Long Shot Old Fashioned

  • 2 oz bourbon
  • ½ oz Long Shot coffee
  • ½ simple syrup
  • 2-3 dashes orange bitters
  • Orange and cherry
  • Sugar

In the bottom of a short glass, muddle 1 tsp sugar, orange, and cherry (if you don’t have a muddler you can skip this step). Add ice to the glass and pour 2 oz bourbon, ½ oz of Long Shot coffee, and ½ oz of simple syrup.

Add 2-3 dashes of orange bitters and stir until thoroughly chilled.

Alternatives

Ristretto can be intimidating for first-time coffee drinkers. If you aren’t sure if it’s for you, consider ordering an espresso to start.

An espresso will have the same flavor profile with less strength. It also has a higher beverage yield, giving you more to sip on.

Another alternative would be Pour Over coffee, which will give you some of the same floral notes and bold flavor.

If you enjoy a Long Shot but are looking for some alternatives, the Americano, an espresso, and hot water-based beverage could be a great choice. You will still have a strong flavor, without the caffeine levels.

French Press coffee could also be a great alternative with similar strong flavors but a more oily mouth feel.

alternatives-ristretto vs long shot

Ristretto vs Long Shot – FAQs

Which came first?

Ristretto has existed in Italy for a long time, espresso having developed in the early 1900s. However, it did not gain popularity in the United States and other places around the globe until the 1980s.

The Long Shot was also developed in Italy around the same time, becoming popular more recently with the rise of at-home espresso machines.

Which is stronger?

Both beverages are stronger and bolder in taste than traditional espresso. The Long Shot has a smoker flavor than Ristretto. However, the Ristretto has a higher concentration of caffeine.

Which is the most popular?

Although both have been known worldwide, the Ristretto began to gain significant popularity in coffee shops in the 1980s, the Long Shot has recently become more popular with at-home machines such as Nespresso providing Long Shot options (sometimes referred to as Lungo).

Further Reading