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Ristretto vs Espresso: Key Differences Explained

Ristretto VS Espresso Unless you are a barista, you may not know what a ristretto is. In short, it is a concentrated variation of espresso. We will outline how espresso is made and then explain the difference between an espresso and a ristretto. After learning the differences, you might be surprised at how much you want to try a ristretto!

Want to know more about the types of espresso drinks? Take a look at our guide!

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What’s Espresso?

espresso machine
Image Credit: Tim St. Martin, Unsplash

Let’s start with the basics. A shot of espresso consists of about 1-3 oz of concentrated coffee with an intense flavor. To pull shots of espresso, the machine forces hot, pressurized water through tamped (packed) grounds. This extracts the bold flavors that make espresso so distinctive. The extraction takes between 20-30 seconds depending on the settings and calibrations of the machine used. Many customers order a double, also called a doppio, and some even order triple shots of espresso.

There are three parts in a shot of espresso; the darker “body” at the bottom, the lighter “heart” in the middle, and the light “crema” on top. The air bubbles in the crema give espresso its signature aroma and aftertaste. Espresso may be served black or with sugar.

What’s Ristretto?

ristretto top view
Image Credit: CC0 Public Domain, Pxhere

A ristretto is pulled from an espresso machine using the same process. The difference is that it is for a shorter amount of time and with half the water, resulting in a very concentrated shot of espresso. The variation in water and extraction time creates three differences between ristretto and regular espresso: quantity, taste, and caffeine level.

1. Quantity: Since a ristretto shot is made with half the water, the result is a smaller shot. A regular shot of espresso is about 1 oz, while a ristretto shot is 0.75 oz.

2. Taste: A ristretto shot will have less extraction time and therefore produces a more concentrated, bolder flavor. It also has a sweeter finish than espresso.

3. Caffeine Level: Less extraction means less caffeine. Even though it is a small difference, a ristretto shot has a little bit less caffeine than a regular shot of espresso.

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Ristretto vs Espresso: Which Should You Choose?

  • Half the water
  • About .75 ounces per shot
  • Shorter extraction time
  • Concentrated, bolder flavor with sweet finish
  • Slightly less caffeine
  • Twice as much water
  • About 1 ounce per shot
  • Longer extraction time
  • Classic bold flavor
  • Slightly more caffeine

So what’s the bottom line on ristretto vs espresso? If you love espresso, you may love ristretto shots even more! It’s a fairly common order at coffee shops, offering an interesting difference in flavor. Avid ristretto drinkers love the deeper flavor and somewhat sweeter finish. Some coffee shops love ristretto so much they put it default in some of their espresso drink on their menu. Starbucks, for example, serves flat whites with ristretto shots. Next time you visit your local shop, ask for a ristretto shot and see what you think!

Here are some other types of coffees we’ve compared:


Kate MacDonnell

Kate is a lifelong coffee enthusiast and homebrewer who enjoys writing for coffee websites and sampling every kind of coffee known to man. She’s tried unusual coffees from all over the world and owns an unhealthy amount of coffee gear.

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