Long Shot vs Ristretto (3-Minute Explainer Here)

If you thought that only those who want fancy coffee drinks have a hard time with variations and substitutions, think again. Even ordering a ‘plain’ espresso has different ways of brewing that come with different names and brew methods. Ever heard of a ristretto or a long shot? Well, we’re here to guide you through the differences between long shot vs ristretto.

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Long Shot vs Ristretto

When ordering an espresso (especially in Europe), you might get asked if you want it long shot or short. Your Nespresso pods may even come in different varieties, for example, the Lungo or Ristretto. Fact is, the humble espresso is varied and versatile! And if you’re a coffee lover like us, it pays to know the difference.

Topics Explored

  1. What is a Long Shot?
  2. What is a Ristretto?
  3. How is the Long Shot & Ristretto Different?
  4. How Do You Pull A Long Espresso Shot?
  5. How Do You Make A Ristretto?
  6. FAQ

What is a Long Shot (Espresso)?

A long shot espresso is the same amount of coffee grounds brewed with twice or more the amount of water needed for a regular espresso. Lungo, or cafe allonge, is an example of a long shot. Taste-wise it’s milder, and when it comes to strength, it stands between espresso and americano.

The long shot doesn’t have a specific period when it emerged or gained popularity. Since the invention of the espresso machine, baristas have experimented with the pull time and taste. The long shot takes up to a minute to pull and fill 2 to 3 oz cups.

Long Shot Espresso
Lungo, a type of long shot.
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What is a Ristretto?

Long Shot vs Ristretto is the two sides of the espresso spectrum compared. They require different grinds and the brewing method develops two different flavors. Look through the features of each to pick the one suiting your tastebuds.

Ristretto
Ristretto

The ristretto got its breakthrough in the 1980s when baristas searched for a way to present the essential taste of the espresso. The ristretto captures the best of the coffee’s ingredients. It’s the most flavorful part of espresso, thick and fitting in a single sip.


Long Shot vs Ristretto

Long Shot vs Ristretto is the two sides of the espresso spectrum compared. They require different grinds and the brewing method develops two different flavors. Look through the features of each to pick the one suiting your tastebuds.

Long ShotRistretto
Brew Ratio:
1:3
Brew Ratio:
1:1
Grind Size:
Medium recommended
Grind Size:
Fine recommended
Subtle flavors more evident
Can be more bitter if over-extracted
Sweeter notes
Can be more sour if under-extracted
– More pale
– Thinner crema
– Darker and more viscous
– More crema
0 calories per serving0 calories per serving

Brew Ratios

The brewing method and coffee and water ratio are essentially what separates these two drinks. The long shot uses a 1:3 ratio, meaning you’d extract triple the volume of brewed espresso compared to ground coffee used.

Ristretto uses a 1:1 ratio, or pulls as much espresso as you use coffee ground. You need to use a fixed amount of coffee to sense the difference between the different pulls.

Grind Size

A coarser grind is recommended for brewing a long shot to reduce the coffee’s contact with water and prevent over-extraction. But for ristretto, you’d want a finer grind size. It prevents a large amount of water from passing through the coffee grinds, and they don’t end up under-extracted even when you pull a shot for 12 seconds.

Appearance

When it comes to appearance, the volume is not their only difference. Due to the prolonged extraction, the crema on the long shot is thinner, and the color is more faded, not deep dark. The ristretto has more and thicker crema. The color is darker, and it’s overall more viscous.

Long Shot and Ristretto from the Top
Crema on a Long Shot (left) and Ristretto (right)

Taste

The ristretto comes with a hint of sweetness and can have a slight sour if it’s under-extracted. The long shot has a more subtle flavor, but it can also be more bitter. The bitter compounds in coffee are extracted towards the end of the pull, so ristretto is less bitter than the long shot.


How Do You Pull A Long Espresso Shot?

Lungo

Don’t underestimate the process of pulling the perfect long shot. Just a second longer or a different grind can leave you with a bitter, tasteless cup.

How to Nail a Long Shot Espresso

  1. Grind your coffee beans but use a medium grind.
  2. Using a scale, measure between 14 to 22 grams of ground coffee. Go upwards of 18 grams if you like it strong and as long as it fits your portafilter basket.
  3. Pull your shot for 50 seconds or until the total beverage volume reaches 2 oz (using the 1:3 brew ratio).

The truth is, there’s no perfect long shot recipe. The pull time depends on the coffee beans type, roast, and personal preference. Use a Lungo recipe as a baseline for a long shot. Over time, increase the extraction time or pick a larger grind size. Most importantly, practice makes perfect, so try it out, and you’ll develop the ideal formula.


How Do You Make A Ristretto?

Ristretto Recipe

No-Fuss Ristretto

Yield: 0.7 oz
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes

Tired of your same old espresso? Change up your brew with this Ristretto recipe. All you need is a timer on hand and you are all set!

Ingredients

  • 14 to 20 grams of ground coffee (use finer grind)
  • Water (enough for your espresso machine)

Instructions

    1. Grind your coffee on a fine or medium-fine setting. All roasts and kinds work, but it's best to use some you've already tried and are familiar with the taste.Ground Coffee
    2. Measure out your desired ground coffee amount (dose), fill your portafilter and tamp it down. Put it back on the machine and pull your shot.Portafilter
    3. If you're using a timer, you can brew it for 13 seconds or up to 16 seconds since we are using a finer grind., If you insist on using a medium grind, stop the pull after 15 seconds.
    4. If you're using the brew ratio method, stop pulling the shot just as it reaches slightly over the 0.5 oz mark.Pulling Shot
    5. You now have a shot of thick, rich, and flavorful espresso. The aroma and taste are unbeatable and you’d definitely try it again! Ristretto

Notes

You'll need to use an espresso machine to get the best results. The Ristretto tastes best when extracted with high pressure.


Which Is Better? Long Shot or Ristretto

Long Shot vs Ristretto

Is there a winner for best tasting coffee between long shot vs ristretto? It’s a matter of preference.

The long shot brings out more hidden flavors from the coffee beans, like floral, which you can’t sense in the ristretto due to the dominant espresso flavor.

The ristretto pulls a sweet flavor accompanying the strong coffee flavor that we’re used to. Essentially the bean, roast, and brew quality determine which of both drinks is the better one.

Long Shot & Ristretto FAQs

What has more caffeine Ristretto or long shot?

The ristretto has a more pungent coffee taste in terms of flavor profile, which might lead you to believe it has higher caffeine content. But on the contrary, it has a little less caffeine when compared to the long shot. The long shot is pulled longer, allowing the beans to release more caffeine into the water.

Is pulling a long shot the same as making an Americano?

No, Americano and long shot require two totally different preparation methods. The long shot is just an espresso that is pulled with more water than usual, ending up in milder taste and higher volume. The Americano is a regularly pulled espresso shot that is diluted with hot water afterward.

Is Ristretto stronger than espresso?

The ristretto has a stronger taste of coffee compared to the espresso. This is because it’s pulled for a short time, so it contains only the most pronounced aroma of the coffee beans. However, the ristretto has less caffeine content than the espresso, which makes it weaker in comparison.

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