by Erin Marissa Russell
Ready to learn about the difference between ristretto versus a long shot? Both these espresso drinks are slightly altered versions of a standard espresso shot. We’re ready to give you the breakdown of exactly what goes into a ristretto and a long shot, as well as how they differ.
In short, a ristretto uses less water than a single shot of espresso while a long shot uses more water. That means the flavor of a ristretto is more concentrated than a single shot, while the flavor of a long shot is gentler and more diluted.
What Is a Ristretto?
Ristretto means “restricted,” which refers to the reduced amount of water and reduced brewing time that go into making this concentrated espresso drink. So less water is run through the coffee grounds for a ristretto than for a single shot. A ristretto takes about half as much water as you’d use making a single shot of espresso.
This is sometimes called a “short shot” of espresso and is made by pulling just the first part of a regular espresso shot. A ristretto always comes served with a glass of water.
What Is a Long Shot?
On the other hand, a long shot is less concentrated than a ristretto because it uses a longer brewing time and more water than the ristretto. For the long shot, the espresso is usually pulled directly into a cup of hot water. There is an alternative method that involves pulling the shot first and then adding the hot water on top.
Long shots may be pulled for the same amount of time as single shots of espresso or for slightly longer. A long shot may also go by the name café allongé, caffe lungo, or lungo.
Long Shot vs. Double Espresso or Double Shot
Be careful not to confuse a long shot with a double espresso, also called a double shot. The long shot has a milder, smoother flavor while the double espresso has a thicker, denser mouthfeel. The difference between the two drinks is the ratio of water to espresso. A double espresso consists of two shots of espresso with water, pulled at a ratio of 1:2.
While the double espresso is two shots, the long shot is one shot of espresso pulled with more water than the double espresso. The two drinks may result in the same amount of liquid, but the makeup is different and the flavor would be different as well.
How to Make a Ristretto
Start by grinding whole coffee beans fresh, aiming for a grind that’s a little bit finer than you usually use for espresso. Fill a single shot basket portafilter with seven to nine grams of the coffee you ground. Tamp the coffee down like you usually do. Put the portafilter back in the grouphead and begin the brewing process. After about 20 seconds, you should have 15 ml of coffee, which makes up your ristretto shot.
How to Make a Long Shot
You can use any small cup for serving your long shot, but traditionally, a long shot is consumed from a small tulip-shaped cup that holds between 150 and 200 ml.
Start by adding hot water to the cup until it is 80 percent full. Grind your coffee into the machine’s portafilter, leveling it off and tamping the grounds as you normally do. Put the portafilter back into the espresso machine and pull the espresso shot into the cup of water you have already prepared.
There are two possible ways to make a long shot, though this is the most common method. The other technique involves pulling the shot of espresso into an empty cup and then adding the hot water. The technique we’ve described here is preferred because the coffee it produces is sweeter, holds the crema, and has a full-bodied flavor that doesn’t taste burned.
As we’ve learned, while the ristretto is a more concentrated type of espresso, the long shot has more water so is more diluted. Trying these drinks is a good way to find out how much you like the flavor of espresso to be concentrated. If espresso is too strong for you, you may find that you love the long shot. Or if you love the flavorful kick of espresso, you may love the ristretto even more. Try both to find out.