What is The Difference Between Ristretto and Long Shot?

Coffee culture has become as much a part of our lives as breathing oxygen. We start off our day with a cup of Joe, take a break from work with a quick espresso pick-me-up, and sometimes finish off dinner with an after-dinner espresso. 

But when it comes to choosing which type of espresso is best for you, the decision can be overwhelming, especially when there are two types that stand out from the rest: Ristretto and Long Shot espresso. 

Let’s break down the differences between these two types of caffeinated beverages so you can decide which one is best for you.

What Is Ristretto Espresso?

Ristretto is an Italian word meaning “restricted.” This type of espresso shot is restricted in volume but not intensity. A ristretto shot has about half the water used for a standard espresso shot, making it more concentrated and intense. 

The result is a thicker, sweeter flavor with more crema on top. It also contains less caffeine than a standard espresso shot because there is less water involved.

What Is a Long Shot Espresso?

A long-shot espresso is basically the opposite of a ristretto. It has double the amount of water as a standard espresso shot, making it less concentrated and intense than its counterpart. 

The result is a lighter flavor that isn’t as sweet or thick as ristretto shots. Long shots contain twice as much caffeine as regular shots because more water is involved in making them.

Which Is Stronger: Long Shot or the Ristretto?

The answer to this question depends on your personal preference. Generally speaking, a ristretto is stronger than a long shot because it uses less water. However, if you prefer a smoother taste, then a long shot may be the better choice because it has more water, making it less concentrated and, therefore, milder on the palate.

How Does the Brewing Process Differ for Ristretto and Long Shot Espressos?

The brewing process differs greatly depending on which type of espresso you choose. For ristretto, only 15-20mls of water are used during extraction to create a concentrated liquid with strong flavors and intense aroma. 

On the other hand, long-shot espresso requires approximately 35mls of water during extraction resulting in a milder flavor with more subtle aromas due to its lower concentration levels.

Ristretto espresso is made by using the same amount of coffee grounds as a regular shot of espresso but half the amount of water. This results in a concentrated shot with less volume, stronger flavor, and thicker crema. The brewing time is shorter than a regular shot of espresso, typically around 15-20 seconds.

Long-shot espresso, on the other hand, is made by using the same amount of coffee grounds but with more water than a regular shot of espresso. This results in a shot with a lighter flavor, more volume, and a weaker crema. 

The brewing time is longer than a regular shot of espresso, typically around 30-35 seconds.

Overall, the main difference in the brewing process is the amount of water used, which results in different taste and texture profiles for the two types of espresso.

Can You Adjust the Strength of Ristretto and Long Shot Espressos?

Yes! The strength of your espresso can be adjusted by adding more or less ground coffee or adjusting how much water is used during extraction. However, this should only be done by experienced baristas who know what they’re doing.

Furthermore, if you want to adjust the strength without changing your brewing process too much, try adding steamed milk or hot water to your drink to dilute its strength while preserving its flavor notes (e.g., sweet caramel notes in long shots).

Which Type Of Espresso Should I Choose If I Prefer A Smoother Taste?

If you prefer a smoother taste, I recommend trying out a long-shot espresso since this type uses more water during extraction resulting in fewer concentrated flavor notes. But still delivers on flavor complexity due to its higher extraction rate (which increases aromatic compounds). 

As mentioned before, if you want to further reduce its intensity without losing too much flavor, add steamed milk/hot water to your drink for that extra boost.

Are Ristretto and Long Shot Espressos Commonly Served in Cafes?

Yes! Both ristretto and long shot espressos are very popular in cafes worldwide since they offer distinct coffee experiences that cater to different preferences.

Ristretto espresso, being a more concentrated and strong shot, is often favored by espresso enthusiasts who prefer a bolder and more intense flavor profile. It is also commonly used as a base for specialty drinks like cappuccinos and lattes.

On the other hand, long-shot espresso is less popular than a ristretto or regular espresso but is still offered in some coffee shops. It is a good option for those who prefer a milder flavor or want to dilute their espresso with more water.

What is a Ristretto Shot at Starbucks?

At Starbucks, a ristretto shot is an espresso shot made by using less water than a traditional shot of espresso. 

This results in a more concentrated and bolder flavor with a thicker crema. Starbucks can make any of its espresso-based drinks with a ristretto shot upon request, and some of its specialty drinks, such as the Flat White, are traditionally made with ristretto shots.


Ristretto and long shot espressos are two popular coffee drinks with different flavors and experiences depending on your preference. If you like stronger-tasting coffee with more crema, try a ristretto. In contrast, if you prefer something lighter, opt for a long shot instead.

Both ristretto and long-shot espressos offer distinct coffee experiences that appeal to different coffee drinkers’ preferences. So there isn’t one “right” option; it all depends on what kind of experience you’re looking for

However, if you prefer a smoother taste, then I recommend trying out a long-shot espresso.  Remember that you can always adjust its strength by adding steamed milk/hot water into your drink while preserving its special flavor notes.

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