Ristretto vs Long Shot: The Differences Easily Explained

Mike C
Written By Mike C

I've been writing about coffee and espresso machines for 3 years. My goal is to provide you with helpful content that you can trust based on my own personal experiences, information from manufacturers, and tips and tricks I've gathered from other coffee and espresso machine users.

I may get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.

Ristretto vs Long Shot: The Differences Easily Explained

Deciding whether you’d like to enjoy a ristretto or a long shot can be difficult for a coffee lover. Both delicious espresso beverages are similar, but they actually have a few key differences that distinguish the drinks from one another. Aside from their slightly different flavor profiles, they are also made with entirely different processes.

Knowing the difference between a ristretto vs long shot coffee drink can help you decide when you’re craving your next espresso. This article explains everything you need to know about ristretto and long shot — and the key differences that make these two distinct beverages so unique. With this information, you’ll be able to decide on the perfect espresso every time.

What Is A Ristretto?

Ristretto is a delicious Italian beverage made with a single shot of espresso but half the amount of hot water. The name translates to “restricted” in Italian, referring to the restriction on the amount of hot water used and the brewing time necessary to make the drink.

The reduced amount of hot water used makes the drink highly concentrated. As a result, you can expect a cup of ristretto coffee to have a stronger and fuller body and a more intense and acidic taste. Due to the reduced amount of water used, a ristretto shot is usually served in smaller portions than a long shot.

What Is A Long Shot?

What Is A Long Shot

A long shot is a decadent espresso drink made with twice the normal amount of espresso grounds and twice the regular amount of water. They are named for their preparation time, as brew longer than a standard espresso shot. A long shot is highly similar to regular espresso but is generally served in a much larger portion due to the amount of water used and offers a slightly mellower flavor.

Key Differences Between Ristretto and Long Shot

History Of The Drinks

While the two drinks are very similar, ristrettos and long shots have distinct histories. Ristrettos first became popular in Milan, Italy, while long shots were created in Vienna, Austria, and then spread across Europe. Both drinks were created during the 1950s and quickly became trendy coffee shop staples.

Brewing Process

The brewing process used to create ristrettos and long shots is quite different between the two drinks. Ristrettos use half the water and a shorter brew time compared to espresso to create the bold and concentrated flavor. A long shot use twice as much water and an extended brew time to dilute and mellow the flavor. Both drinks are made with an espresso machine.

Milk And Cream

While many people enjoy their ristrettos and long shots without added ingredients, adding a bit of milk or cream can mellow out the flavor compound and give the espresso’s complex notes a perfect place to express themselves. Milk and cream can be added to long shots. In both cases, it is ultimately a personal preference.

Caffeine Strength

One of the most apparent differences between ristrettos and long shots is the concentration of caffeine. Because ristrettos are made with half the amount of water as conventional espresso drinks, they have more caffeine by volume. Since a long shot has more volume, it will ultimately have more caffeine.

Amount Of Water

A clear difference between ristrettos and long shots is the amount of water they use — and in turn, what portion you’ll receive. Ristrettos are typically half the volume of a typical espresso shot, while long shots are generally served as twice the regular portion.

Distinct Pricing

Between long shots and ristrettos, you can generally expect to pay more for an equal portion of a ristretto than a long shot. The reason why is simple: ristrettos use a significantly more concentrated amount of espresso than long shots, so they can cost up to twice as much. Despite that, you can generally expect the asking price to be similar, as ristrettos are usually served in smaller portions.

Flavor Strength

Due to the way long shots and ristrettos are brewed, different aspects of the traditional espresso flavor profile are accentuated. Ristrettos tend to be strong, complex, and acidic, while long shots forgo many of the most acidic flavors in favor of offering a mellow finish with just a few complex notes.

Espresso Grind Size

Espresso Grind Size

While it’s acceptable to use the same conventional espresso grounds for both drinks, the espresso grind size differs between ristrettos and long shots. It’s encouraged to use a finer grind of espresso with ristretto to bolden the flavor, while using coarse grounds with long shots is a great way to dilute and mellow out the flavor.

Aroma Concentration

If you enjoy the aroma of coffee, it’s essential to know that ristrettos typically offer a much stronger aroma than long shots. The reason why is simple: ristrettos are significantly more concentrated. If you enjoy smelling the complex notes of your espresso brews, it’s worth opting for a ristretto.


While it may seem the opposite of what you’d expect, ristrettos are generally much less bitter than long shots. Bitterness results from the over-extraction of flavor from the espresso coffee grounds. Since ristrettos have a reduced brew time, they typically lack much bitter taste and instead have an acidic profile.

Are Ristrettos or Long Shots Better?

Neither drink is inherently better than the other. Ristrettos and long shots offer incredibly delicious flavors that people worldwide enjoy. Rather than attempting to determine which drink is better, the best thing you can do is consider which drink better suits your taste preferences.

Enjoy a Delicious Espresso

While we all love a cup of regular coffee, there’s no better way to treat yourself than ordering a delicious ristretto or long shot espresso. And you don’t have to stop at just ordering these incredible drinks while you’re on the go — learning how to make cafe-quality espressos at home is as simple as starting with the right espresso machine and a bit of expert advice.

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