If you are an avid coffee lover then you will have heard of these two popular coffee drinks and more than likely had the old-age debate of ristretto vs long shot and which is better.
Choices, choices, choices...
But if you are new to the world of coffee beans and the various coffee drinks then you are in luck.
As a coffee roaster and previous cafe owner we really compare a ristretto vs long shot, taking into account intense flavor, coffee grounds, brewing process, or whether coffee drinkers prefer other coffee drinks altogether.
Ristretto Vs Long Shot Quick Overview
We cover both espresso drink versions and their methods of preparation. and the flavor you can expect to achieve when made well
A long shot is more balanced whereas the ristretto will give you that caffeine kick you need to get out of bed
Always consider the highest quality of beans for the most flavorful drink
What is a long shot?
A long shot is, in simple terms, a regular espresso shot made with the twice the amount of hot water as a regular shot of espresso, thus yielding a less concentrated flavor profile with a milder taste.
Long shots have a lower ratio of coffee grounds to hot water compared to the ristretto shots.
The long shot is also known as lungo, caffe lungo, or café allongé (French).
History of the long shot
Some say its origins date back to the motherland of espresso, Italy, but during the mid-20th century in America, the long-shot coffee was documented as a highly popular espresso drink because of the less caffeine present.
The milder flavor profile of long shots appealed to women and the older folk who enjoyed the coffee flavor profile but not necessarily the caffeine content.
As we saw the evolution of the espresso machine with a standard espresso shot size stated as 1 ounce (30ml) of liquid espresso, it offered a less intense flavor, and the long shot became a household name for espresso machines around the world and baristas alike.
Many say it was created with the sole purpose of those who wanted and enjoyed a larger, longer coffee drink.
What is a Ristretto?
As you may have guessed the ristretto shot is somewhat the opposite of the long shot with a much smaller amount of water used against standard espresso shots ratio and in turn yields a more concentrated espresso shot.
The ristretto shot offers coffee connoisseurs a more flavor espresso and the extraction process is that much quicker.
While they do, however, have a more concentrated flavor the ristretto espresso shots do tend to be more bitter with an acidic undertone.
Ristretto vs long shot is often considered the more premium option of the two as it highlights the rich yet intense flavor of the coffee beans used (such as Arabica beans or Robusta beans), with more caffeine and less of the sweeter taste.
History of the Ristretto
During World War 2, coffee beans were extremely expensive and not readily available thus coffee shop owners would use less of the coffee grounds to make the espresso shot which led to a preferred and essentially more flavorful espresso.
This technique can be traced back to, what we know as the home of espresso, of course, Italy.
The ristretto coffee quickly grew in popularity and the darker roast coffee tastes became a coffee staple in shops and cafes.
The quick extraction time also meant customers weren't left waiting for ages to get the daily caffeine content, and it is still, to this day, considered the purest form of drinking espresso.
Ristretto comes from the Italian word for 'restricted' which emphasizes the small amount of water used.
What is the difference between a long shot and a ristretto?
The ristretto vs long shot conversation is forever ongoing with coffee aficionados around the world debating based on personal preference and nothing else, but in fact, there are quite a few comparatives that make them stand apart.
Let's take a quick look at whether a ristretto or long-shot beverage could soon become your new go-to morning drink;
The Difference in Grind Size
Average Ristretto shots take anywhere from 7-10 grams of coffee grounds, and you want to use finely ground coffee beans because of the shortened extraction time.
A finer grind size ensures the hot water flow during the extraction time is significantly reduced and pulls the maximum flavor profile from the coffee beans.
Long shot -
A long shot uses freshly ground coffee beans that are coarser grind size and double the amount of water used for a traditional espresso shot, therefore watering down the initial more concentrated flavor profile we taste in dark roasted beans.
If you do opt for a finer grind size be sure you use considerably more water and rule out the unwanted concentrated coffee.
Difference in Strength
Ristretto shots are a more concentrated shot because they use the same amount of coffee as a regular espresso, but about half the water and extraction time which results in a more intense flavor.
It has a higher caffeine content and is a good alternative to a double espresso if you enjoy those.
Long shot -
Long shots essentially have more caffeine content per espresso cup because of the longer espresso brewing process and more water runs over the espresso beans.
More approachable for those of us who love coffee but can't necessarily manage a double shot of coffee first thing in the morning.
Difference in Taste
The ristretto shot is more complex, it has a more intense flavor profile and the aromatics are enhanced when you opt for a high-quality coffee bean and ensure you use a fine grind.
Because of the quick brewing methods and extraction time, it gives off a more acidic mouth feel with a hint of bitterness.
Long shot -
The milder flavor of a long shot is preferred for those who need just a little something to get them to the end of the day. It is less concentrated and has a more balanced acidity taste.
A long shot is the mellow, smoother version of a regular espresso, the coarser grind size means it stays longer in most espresso machines for maximum extraction.
- The taste of a long shot is somewhere between a shot of espresso an Americano.
Difference in Origin
Ristretto - Ristretto first came onto the scene during the 1950s in Milan, Italy, and has stayed ever since.
Long shot - Around the same time the Long shot was created but a stone's throw away in Vienna, Austria, and now commonly enjoyed throughout Europe.
Which Choice Offers the Strongest Coffee Punch?
If you are looking for a kickstart to the day then opt for a ristretto, it has a higher coffee-to-water ratio. Therefore you can enjoy a caffeine boost to get the ball rolling and tackle the day ahead.
Caffeine Content Comparison
Depending on how you make it and fill your coffee puck and the coffee blend you use there may be slight variations, but for the most part, you are looking at;
Ristretto: 60-80mg per 25 ml
Long shot: average 63mg per 1 ounce
Differences Between Making A Ristretto vs Long Shot
Like with all things it may seem a little daunting at first, but making these espresso drinks - the ristretto and long shot - is straight forward.
And with a bit of practice, you will be creating barista-style coffees in no time.
How to Make a Perfect Ristretto Shot?
Use freshly roasted beans that have been finely ground
Work on an extraction time of 20 seconds
Adjust the water temperature for optimal flavor extraction
Keep an eye out for the crema, when its light brown stop the extraction process
Strain into a preheated mug and serve
How to Make a Perfect Long Shot?
Take freshly roasted beans and grind them slightly coarser than you would for an espresso
Put the grounds into the puck and maintain a steady extraction
Swirl as it is being poured into the cup
Stop when you have your preferred amount and transfer to a preheated cup
Add a few drops of boiled water if you enjoy a creamier, more serious flavor in your long shots
Top it up with a splash of steamed milk and enjoy your homemade long-shot espresso
What Type Of Beans Are Best For Ristretto?
Ideally, you want to invest in a top-quality blend, don't go for the cheapest, you'll regret it after the first sip, and the last thing you need is to start the week with a terrible coffee, am I right?
Look for beans that will give you a well-rounded flavor, they have high acidity levels, and if in doubt reach for Arabica beans.
They are full-bodied and rich, or even Robusta beans if you prefer an intense kick.
Flavored beans are also great for your morning cuppa and give your sip that little bit something extra that makes you smile.
Dark roasted beans are decadent and even more so if you choose ones that have hints of caramel and chocolate to elevate your coffee aroma.
5 Main Differences
The amount of coffee - A ristretto uses double the amount of coffee compared to an espresso, where long shots use more than twice the amount of water.
Flavor Profile - Long shots are more mellow, somewhat chilled and have a smoother finish. Ristretto is more acidic with hints of bitterness and is richer.
Serving Size - A ristretto is served in a smaller portion size against the bigger portion of a long shot.
Milk & Foam - Usually, you will serve a ristretto as is with no frills, whereas long shots can be elevated to a more complex flavor with the addition of milk, cream, or foam.
Preparation - Both the ristretto and long shot take practice and skill, a quality espresso machine, and patience. If we did have to choose, a long shot needs closer attention during the extraction process so as not to over-extract and burn the beans.
Are there health benefits to drinking long shots or ristretto?
Yes, there are.
Espresso has always been known to be high in antioxidants which work to protect the body and prevent free radicals, and in turn, significantly reduce inflammation in the body and the joints.
To add to that, the high caffeine in hot drinks is a great mood booster and energy injection. Do keep in mind that caffeine should always be consumed in moderation to prevent any unwanted, and unnecessary side effects.
Ristretto or Long Shot: Caffeine Debate
At the end of the day whether you prefer the traditional long-shot espresso or a ristretto with slightly more caffeine the debate between the ristretto or long shot and which is better will forever live on.
Try one, try both, but most importantly, make great-tasting coffee. The best way to enjoy both the long shot and the ristretto is to savor the complexity of the process.
Many people comment they have a different aromatic with each sip from robust and full-bodied, to delicate notes of citrus, and why wouldn't you want to have that for yourself, right?
Make coffee with love, and your body and mind will thank you for it.