Ristretto vs Espresso: Full Guide

Ristretto vs Espresso

Have you ever traveled to Italy? I had the good fortune to visit the country of pizza and pasta once. And when you ordered coffee, did you come across Ristretto coffee? And what is the difference between Ristretto vs Espresso? Another interesting comparison is between Ristretto vs Long shot.

I have friends who travel and baristas, and I like to collect interesting stories.
Today we will look at what Ristretto is and how it is different from traditional espresso.
Scroll down a bit and learn the secrets 🙂

Let’s start.


  1. What is Espresso?
  2. What is Ristretto?
  3. Ristretto vs Espresso Shot
  4. How to order Ristretto at Starbucks?
  5. Tips for the perfect Ristretto

What is Espresso?

Before I look at what the Italian drink Ristretto is, I will first introduce you to the most popular coffee drink, Espresso.

The Espresso is prepared by passing very hot water through the dry coffee for 18 to 23 seconds. The result is a drink with classic bold flavor. The standard Espresso is prepared in a ratio of 1: 2 (coffee to water), and the caffeine content in it is about 60 mg.

The longer the coffee itself, the more caffeine there will be. This is due to the length of time hot water passes through the bulk coffee.

Because the taste of coffee is bitter, there are people who turn to the consumption of Ristretto.

What is Ristretto?

Have you ever heard that Ristretto is the traditional morning coffee drink of the Italians? In Italy, the conventional café is small and has only a few high tables without chairs. The guests of the restaurant order Ristretto with a dessert, and after a few minutes, leave the restaurant. Another interesting fact is that if you are in Italy and order a short coffee, it will not be Ristretto. When ordering, the name must always be stated.

And what exactly is Ristretto coffee?

Ristretto or “limited espresso” is thick coffee with noticeable sweetness and is twice as short as espresso. The ratio of coffee to water is 1: 1, while in espresso is 1: 2. The volume of the drink is one small sip. Its taste is slightly bitter has an intense infusion with hints of sweetness. This is due to coffee’s shorter extraction time (between 15 – 17 seconds).

Also, due to the lower presence of water and shorter extraction, Ristretto has less caffeine (about 30mg) than espresso (about 60mg).

Ristretto vs Espresso Shot

Ristretto and Espresso are two methods of brewing coffee. When you make Ristretto, you use less water and pressure to make a cup of this beverage. In actuality, both ways of brewing coffee are excellent. Whether you like the bolder, more robust flavor of espresso or the delicate flavor nuances of ristretto may come down to personal preference.

Let`s see more in-depth the difference:

Ristretto15ml.75 per shot12-15 secondsConcentrated, bolder flavor with a sweet finish33 mg
Espresso30ml1 per shot18-23 secondsClassic bold flavor64 mg
Ristretto vs Espresso Shot: The Difference

Water Volume

The main difference between Ristretto vs Espresso is the amount of water pressed into the grounds. Ristretto uses half of the water needed to make Espresso which makes ristretto “shorter” than Espresso.

You can prepare Ristretto with 15ml water force through the coffee grounds. The Espresso needs twice the quantity of water – 30ml.


The most notable difference is the distinction in flavor between an espresso and a ristretto. Many things can change your mouthfeel, like the type of green coffee, the roast, and how you brew it. Because of the high pressure, espresso and ristretto have a sticky, syrupy mouthfeel.

Various taste and aroma molecules, on the other hand, are extracted at different periods. Mellow tastes come first (imagine cold brew), acidity, sweetness and balance, and bitterness. This implies that a ristretto limits the number of bitter chemicals in the drink. It should be a more robust and sweeter cup of coffee.

In conclusion, Ristretto has a concentrated, bolder flavor with a sweet finish, while Espresso has a Classic bold flavor.


A ristretto has a sweeter, more robust flavor. Espresso’s bitterness is higher due to a complex collection of over a thousand components responsible for coffee’s scent. These compounds affect the tongue’s sense of mouthfeel (bitterness, sweetness, and sourness). 

The ristretto is extracted using approximately half the amount of water. As a consequence, the shots are more concentrated with fewer total extracts. In the end, you will drink a coffee shot with a more significant body and fewer caffeine molecules, usually responsible for an espresso’s bitterness.


Espresso has a robust flavor and a light brown crema. The foam has a complex taste profile that is somewhat acidic. On the other hand, ristretto has a more pungent taste than espresso but is not as powerful as espresso. It’s also less harsh and acidic. Because of the longer contact time, espresso has more significant bitterness and acidity. The high temperature extracts more oils and caffeine.


Ristretto is a short shot of coffee. That is why it is prepared with less water and of course less extraction time. On average the extraction time for Ristretto is between 12 and 15 seconds. 

In comparison, the extraction process for an Espresso shot is between 18 and 23 seconds.


Most people believe that the shorter a coffee is, the more caffeine it contains. The truth is just the opposite. This is due to the process of making coffee. The longer the water passes through the coffee, the more caffeine is extracted. 

If we have to compare the amount of caffeine between ristretto and Espresso, then ristretto contains less caffeine. In this case, it contains almost twice as little caffeine. While Ristretto contains about 33 mg of caffeine, Espresso contains about 60 mg. 

Espresso is probably the first thing that comes to mind when you think about coffee. Everywhere you go, you’ll find “espresso” on coffee shop menus. On the other hand, a ristretto is a smaller, more delicately flavored coffee.

How to order Ristretto at Starbucks?

You can experiment and ask the barista to make you a coffee ristretto if you visit Starbucks often. In return, they will make your shot shorter (less water). Finally, you will get the typical Ristretto with its sweeter and more syrupy characteristics.

This way, you can order each of the Starbucks espresso drinks. Instead of a simple shot of Espresso, your coffee will be made Ristretto.

Remember that one of the main characteristics of Ristretto is that it has twice less caffeine compared to Espresso. So you could order one of the famous strongest coffee at Starbucks and ask to make it Ristretto. This will reduce the caffeine content in it 😉


Tips for the perfect Ristretto

  • The most efficient way to take an espresso shot without using a scale is to stop your shot earlier than you typically would. If you take an espresso shot for 25 seconds, then try the shot at 15 seconds.
  • Bitterness is at the end of the espresso shot. So, if you choose to take short shots, it’s a slightly sweeter and less bitter taste.
  • In general, most cafes offer double ristretto shots to suit all sizes of drinks rather than single. Starbucks begins with a single shot of ristretto and adds additional shots when the size of the drink increases.
  • The opposite of Ristretto coffee is “Lungo” (long shot), which typically means that more water can go into the shot of espresso than usual. The volume is between 1:3 to 1:4. 
  • A shot with ristretto is significantly darker than a standard or lungo shot. This is due to the dark brown color, which is more concentrated at the shot’s beginning. 
  •  The best part about ristretto is that it is easy to pull out and compare with regular shots. If you’re unsure of the difference, you can pull two shots – one regular and one ristretto- and taste them both.


Is ristretto stronger than espresso?

Ristretto is NOT stronger than Espresso because of the extraction time for the preparation. The brew ratio of Ristretto is 1:1 while of Espresso is 1:2 (coffee to water). The more water passes through the dry coffee; the more caffeine is released.

Does Ristretto have less caffeine?

Ristretto has less caffeine than a regular shot of Espresso. The reason is in the water volume and the extraction time used during the making of the drink.

How much caffeine is in Ristretto vs Espresso?

The caffeine content in Ristretto is around 30mg, while in an Espresso shot is around 60mg.


Both ristretto and espresso have their pros and cons. I love to drink coffee, and I love to diversify. That’s why it’s hard to say which of these two coffees is better.

It’s all a matter of choice and taste 🙂

I hope that the differences described above will help you orient yourself when choosing.

I will be very happy if you share with me your impressions.

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