Ristretto vs. Long Shot What’s The Difference

Have you reached a point where regular espresso just does not do the job? If that’s the case, then there could be two reasons you want to find an espresso alternative. The first is that you are tired of the regular shot’s taste, and the second is that the caffeine content of the shot is not sufficient. Ristretto and Long Shot are good alternatives to consider.

Ristretto uses the same amount of coffee grounds but while using half the water through it, while the long shot contains the same quantity of grounds but is made by running twice the volume of water through them. Consequently, Ristretto tastes stronger, and the long shot contains more caffeine.

In this article, you will learn more about Ristretto and Long Shot, their flavor profiles, and the situations in which you should order them. You will also learn more about their specific features and drawbacks so you can decide which espresso variation is better.

FeaturesRistrettoLong Shot
Taste relative to a standard espresso shotMore intense but less bitter than a regular espressoMore diluted but simultaneously more bitter than an espresso
Caffeine compared to espressoSlightly less than an espressoSlightly more than an espresso
Caffeine compared to espresso double shotSignificantly less Slightly less
CostSame as an espresso shotSame as an espresso shot
Preparation time relative to espressoIt takes half as long It takes twice as long
Water volume compared to a regular espressoIt contains half as much waterIt contains twice as much water
Ease of adoption for an espresso consumerEasier to switch toDifficult to switch to
Ideal for an espresso lover whoenjoys the espresso flavorlikes espresso’s ability to wake him up.

Ristretto: A Brief Overview

Ristretto is derived from “restringere,” which is early Italian for “concentrate.” Staying true to this name, Ristretto is one of the most concentrated forms of espresso because it is poured short from the same batch of coffee grounds as a standard espresso. 

The key aspects that differentiate a Ristretto shot from a regular espresso are the use of half the standard espresso’s amount of water and sometimes finer ground coffee. Collectively, the result is a much bolder serving of coffee that is preferred by people who like to get a more concentrated dose. The intensity of Ristretto is also the flagship feature of the drink, making it the perfect segway into the pros and cons of the short espresso.

Pros of Ristretto

Most of the advantages associated with Ristretto come from its lower water content and shorter brewing duration. Since the coffee beans’ roast and ground tier affect the final taste and contents of the espresso, the degree to which these features are valid may vary based on the coffee grounds used. That said, here are the key features of a Ristretto.

More Potent Flavor

As covered above, Ristretto is made from the same amount of coffee grounds with less water. This results in a much bolder flavor and a full-bodied beverage that has a long-lasting aftertaste. It is also a better additive in other coffee beverages, cakes, and desserts because its aroma and flavor can shine through a variety of additives because it contains less water.

It Takes Less Time to Prepare

With the use of finer grounds and less water, the extraction time for a Ristretto is nearly half that of a regular espresso shot. While espresso usually doesn’t take long to make, Ristretto takes even less time. This benefit might not be one to write home about for people who optimize their time down to the minute. A Ristretto shot is a better alternative to any other type of espresso.

It Takes Less Time to Consume

Continuing the theme of productivity and saving time, Ristretto takes less time to consume. Again, one can have an espresso while standing up but can consume a Ristretto in even less time. No one sits to drink coffee in the Italian coffee bar culture that inspired Howard Schultz to reimagine American cafes as social spaces. 

Ironically, Starbucks is where people like to sit for extended periods while slowly having their coffee. For them, Risretto’s short consumption time might be a drawback. So, this feature is a valid pro only for people in a hurry and introverts who do not like crowded or over-social spaces.

Less Bitter Than a Regular Espresso

While Risretto might give an impression of being much stronger than the regular espresso, that isn’t the case. Its flavor profile is strong, but that’s mainly because the most aromatic and taste-dictating compounds get extracted the earliest. Because less water runs through the coffee grounds when brewing a Ristretto, the final beverage contains less bitter coffee oils. By the time the oils are ready for extraction, all the water has already passed through.

Less Acidic Than a Regular Espresso

This is the secondary result of the espresso not being fully extracted when brewing a Ristretto. The short espresso has fewer coffee oils that are acidic in nature. The acidic contents, which dictate the bitterness of the beverage, get extracted towards the end when there is no more water. The Ristretto is already prepared and is noticeably mellow for the lack of acidic coffee oils.

Cons of Ristretto

The drawbacks of Ristretto are the result of the espresso not being fully extracted. An average espresso contains five ounces of water because an average back of coffee grounds needs five ounces of water for a standard extraction. The following drawbacks can be noticed when an espresso contains less water.

Not Fully Extracted

While there are certain benefits to an espresso not being fully extracted, there are clear drawbacks as well. The Ristretto does not contain the same quantities of contents that a standard espresso does. Among these contents is caffeine, which is 5 mg less in a serving of Ristretto.


While the word Risretto refers to a short serving of espresso, it doesn’t hold the same meaning universally. For many American baristas, the word means a double shot of espresso. Not only is that not what a Ristretto is, but it is also the opposite of a Ristretto in many ways. 

The double shot has more caffeine, features more water, and is relatively bitter. When ordering a Ristretto, it is prudent to follow your order with “I want a short espresso.” That way, the barista can be clear that you’re not referring to the double shot version of the beverage.

Fewer Antioxidants

Returning to the drawbacks associated with quick extraction, the Ristretto has fewer antioxidants than fully extracted espresso because a bulk of said antioxidants are bound in the oils that get extracted towards the end. But since Ristretto is prepared before the tail-end of the extraction can take place, it has fewer antioxidants.

Easier to Overconsume

Because Ristretto has slightly less bitterness and significantly lower volume, it is easier to overconsume. Our brains do not process our intake based on their contents but judge by their consumption experience. Ristretto is a delicious beverage that can make you keep returning for more cups, and if you have more than four in a day, you might experience strong side effects. Make sure to check out our post on how many shots of espresso are too many?

Should I Get a Ristretto?

You should order a Ristretto if you like the opening aroma and flavor of coffee but dislike the bitter end. It is also a good option if you want to have coffee on the go and do not want to sit down to enjoy it. 

Another instance where Risretto might have a practical advantage is if you’re storing coffee for a long-haul journey. More servings of Ristretto can be stored in a single flask than servings of espresso or a long shot.

Long Shot: A Brief Overview

A long shot is also called Lungo, which means ‘lengthy,’ a title apt for a shot of espresso that equals the volume of two. However, a long shot is different from a double shot in that it doesn’t contain twice the grounds of an espresso shot. It contains twice the water with half the grounds. You might think this is the equivalent of diluting an espresso with a shot of water. 

But the beverage made by straight dilution is americano, not Lungo. The Lungo is relatively diluted, but the water still passes through the beans, which leads to deeper extraction. Does longer extraction lead to tangible benefits? Let’s see.

Pros of Long Shot Coffee

Long shot coffee has multiple pros that are the result of it having a longer brewing time and a larger final volume. These two features result in a series of benefits. In this section, we explore these pros.

Easier for Social Consumption

Since long shot coffee has twice the volume of a ristretto, it takes more time to drink. If you order coffee in a social setting, you’re less likely to finish your beverage and then watch everyone else enjoy theirs. Long shot coffee also balances black coffee drinks like americano and quick espresso shots. 

Because it has a volume that lies between the two extremes, it can be consumed while having an engaging conversation but doesn’t draw out to the point of wasting time. That’s why it is one of the best espressos to order in business settings.

Rich in Antioxidants

If you’ve been overdosing on Acai bowls for the fruit’s antioxidant content, you’ll be glad to know that the Lungo has more caffeine than most variations of espresso. Even if you order regular coffee drinks, you can ask for the espresso shot to be replaced by a long shot.

Rich in Caffeine

A long shot contains slightly more caffeine than a regular shot of espresso. If you feel drowsy even after having a serving of your favorite coffee, you can ask for its espresso to be replaced by a long shot. This can be a balanced solution compared to getting a double shot in your espresso. And if your regular drink is the standard espresso, then you can have a long shot instead.

Cons of Long Shot Coffee

Long shot coffee’s main drawback is that it tastes quite unlike most espresso. But that’s not the only disadvantage of being a first-time consumer of a long-shot coffee. In this section, we diver deeper into the disadvantages of long-shot coffee.

The Flavor Isn’t for Everyone

The flavor profile of a long shot is strange, to say the least. First of all, it tastes weaker than a Ristretto. Then it is comparatively bitter. Coffee novices associate bitterness with having caffeine or espresso strength. But in reality, it simply indicates the presence of coffee oils. Long Shot is an acquired taste as it is slightly watery but has a bitter aftertaste. If what you like about espresso is its bitterness, this drawback might not be valid for you.

Can Cause Acidity

A long shot can cause acidity because of its higher acidic content. If you have issues with coffee consumption and heartburn, you must not only avoid long shots but must switch away from a regular espresso in favor of Ristretto. While not everyone experiences acidic reflux after having Long shot coffee, the ones who do cannot do anything except switch to a mellower espresso.

Should I Get a Long Shot?

In general, you should not order a long shot unless you need to. But if you are already a fan of coffee’s tail-end bitterness, you might actually enjoy a Lungo. And in case you’re switching away from a standard espresso in favor of a stronger one, then you should switch to a long shot for its caffeine advantage as long as you can accept the fact that the beverage tastes relatively weak.

Final Thoughts

Ristretto and Long Shot coffee are different enough that one can clearly see which one suits their needs the best. For people who care less about the taste and simply want more caffeine, switching from an espresso to a long shot makes sense. And for those who love espresso’s flavor and wish it were bolder, Ristretto is a much better option.

Tim S.

Tim loves roasting, brewing, and experimenting with coffee. After years of perfecting this craft, working as a barista, and owning a small coffee service in college, he has decided to share his knowledge with the world.

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