The Cafe Ristretto is a particularly intense coffee specialty. When preparing with an espresso machine, the processing time is halved compared to espresso in order to obtain a particularly strong note. In addition, the higher caffeine content is achieved in this way.
So the ristretto is basically at one end in terms of processing time (particularly short), at the other the lungo and in between, you will guess it, the espresso. Here we explain the differences, give recommendations, and show you how to make ristretto at home like a real barista!
What is a Cafe Ristretto?
The ristretto comes from Italy and has a special taste. This is due to the reduction in the amount of water used to make the drink. Instead of the normal amount of around 30 ml for espresso, it is only around 15 ml. In addition, the extraction time is also halved by around half.
Since the amount of espresso coffee remains the same, the result is a greatly reduced and therefore particularly intense coffee. Nevertheless, in the end, the taste is sweeter and more syrupy than a conventional espresso because the bitter substances are only added at the end of the extraction.
Due to the small amount of liquid, there is only a small sip of ristretto. This is why most people choose to have a double ristretto.
Where Does The Ristretto Come From?
In addition to classic espresso, ristretto and lungo are particularly popular in southern Italy. There the rule of thumb applies: “The further south, the less water it contains”. There it is also often affectionately called ” Corto ” (short: “a lot of coffee, little water”). The French counterpart to the Coffee Ristretto is the “Café serré”. Together with its close relative, the lungo, the espresso variants are one of the favorite coffee creations of every Italian.
Espresso is a coffee preparation method originally from Milan. From there, the concentrated coffee quickly conquered the entire Mediterranean region. Italians drink espresso all day long. Strong coffee is the ideal way to start the day, especially in the morning.
The ground coffee consists of dark roasted coffee beans, which give the espresso its unmistakable character. Espresso is now available in numerous variants, which vary in popularity depending on the location where the coffee bar is located.
How to Make Ristretto at Home?
To prepare this special coffee like a real barista, an espresso machine is ideal as a first step. The water is pressed through the coffee strainer under great pressure, which is why it only has a comparatively short contact time with the coffee. This short contact time is very important because it makes the coffee strong and flavorful, but does not have an overly bitter note.
You can of course also prepare the flavorful coffee in a fully automatic machine, but you should make sure that both the coffee strength and the amount of water can be regulated. A little tip: if this is not possible with your coffee machine, simply prepare a classic espresso with the normal amount of coffee, but halve the amount of water. It’s even easier with a capsule machine. There are now ristretto capsules from various brands with which your coffee can be prepared and enjoyed in a few seconds. Coffee capsules for ristretto are available from many brands like Gourmesso capsules.
The perfect taste experience is achieved when the coffee beans are ground immediately before preparation. This is the best way to preserve most of the flavors. The coffee beans should be stored in a dark, dry, and cool place so that the coffee retains its aroma.
Ristretto Recipe: Steps to Make Ristretto at Home
The preparation is very similar to that of an espresso. However, the ristretto differs mainly in terms of the grinding degree of the beans, the amount of water, and the extraction time in your espresso machine.
To prepare the perfect ristretto coffee, proceed as follows:
Ristretto Coffee Recipe
- Espresso Machine
- Glass Espresso Cup
- 7-10 g Finely Ground Espresso Beans
- 15 ml Water
- Preheat your espresso cup.
- If you haven't already, grind your coffee beans. They must be finer than for an espresso.
- Level and tamper your powder in the sieve.
- Clamp the sieve into your espresso machine and press start.
- In about 15 seconds you stop.
- You should now have about 15ml of ristretto in your cup
- Enjoy your drink
For a delicious ristretto, it is crucial that you prepare your espresso as well as possible. Therefore, you should pay attention to the details, which always act as a basic rule. What is behind these details?
- Mixture: The most important ingredient in a coffee specialty is the beans used. So the better the quality you choose, the better the ristretto tastes in the end.
- Grinder: In contrast to the already finely ground espresso, an even finer grind must be selected here in the grinder. Only then can the typical taste of a ristretto be achieved at the end.
- Espresso Machine: The best result is achieved with the best possible espresso machine. As with espresso, the decisive factor is the pressure that the machine generates.
- You: If you leave the cover open too long, it can lead to a less good taste experience. So follow our instructions step by step.
In addition to an espresso machine, acceptable results can also be achieved with capsule machines like Nespresso. Since they are more and more often found in offices and also at home, they are a cheaper option.
Which Coffee Beans are Best for Ristretto?
The low extraction time of only around 15 seconds makes it a very grateful drink in terms of the main ingredient. Since there is no longer processing time, most espresso beans are suitable for ristretto without any problems. This applies to both light and dark Robusta and Arabica beans.
In this respect, it is advisable to start with the espresso beans that you like best anyway. The ristretto is most commonly drunk in southern Italy, and around the world. So you could try espresso that comes from there too. Depending on the product, the taste of the result also changes, of course.
Many well-known manufacturers also have their own ristretto creations in their range.
Espresso & Lungo
When preparing the espresso, heated water is pressed under high pressure through finely-ground coffee from roasted coffee beans. This method creates the crema, a thin layer of foam. This contributes to the strong and intense taste of the espresso.
The lungo (Italian for long) is a variation of espresso that is prepared with more water. The same amount of coffee powder is required for the preparation of the Lungo, around seven grams, but the amount of water is around twice as large, around 60 ml (in contrast to conventional espresso with 30 ml).
This roughly doubles the coffee dispensing time. The longer contact time causes aromas to be released. They do not get into the cup with normal espresso. Due to this longer extraction time, the lungo is a bit more bitter and less strong in taste compared to espresso and ristretto. In addition, the lungo often forms the basis for the caffe latte.
Differences Between Espresso, Cafe Ristretto, And Cafe Lungo?
The ristretto (“limited”) is basically a “shortened” espresso and thus the counterpart to the lungo. The same amount of powder (about seven grams) is required for preparation, but only about half the amount of water as for espresso. Exactly how much water is used naturally also depends on personal taste. For espresso, however, one assumes around 30ml, for ristretto 15-20ml.
The consequence of the smaller amount of water is that the ristretto is even stronger, tastier, and richer than the espresso. In contrast to espresso, the former is less bitter in taste but has a very strong note. Compared to the classic espresso, the processing time for the ristretto is only about half as long.
This shortens the contact time with the coffee grounds and fewer bitter substances get into the coffee. The Doppio Ristretto (double ristretto) is also considered particularly noble.
Basically, espresso, ristretto, and cafe lungo only differ from one another in the details. This is especially true with regard to the amount of water and the extraction time in the espresso machine.
As you can see in the table below, the ristretto is the drink with the least amount of water and preparation time. Espresso and lungo follow in this order.
7-10 g Beans, 15 ml Water
Sweet And Strong
7-10 g Beans, 30 ml Water
Balanced And Aromatic
7-10 g Beans, 60 ml Water
A Bit Bitter
If you want to drink an authentic ristretto in a coffee bar on your trip to Italy, you should always drink your coffee standing up at the bar. Anyone who points out when ordering this coffee “al banco” pays a maximum of one euro for the flavorful drink throughout Italy.
He also delves deeply into Italian coffee culture, because many Italians drink their favorite drink while standing at the bar, maybe have a little chat with a friend and then go to work. The ristretto is ideal for people who prefer small amounts of coffee, but do not want to completely do without the tasty drink with the wonderful aroma.
The Cafe Ristretto is a particularly intense drink that, in contrast to espresso, has a rather sweetish tone. This results in an extraordinary taste profile that every coffee lover should enjoy once. There is a good chance that the ristretto will establish itself as one of the favorite drinks.