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Ristretto vs Long Shot (Lungo): 5 Key Differences (Short vs Long Espresso)

Espresso is one of the most popular coffee drinks, and for good reason. The concentration of coffee flavors is outstanding, and it’s easy to drink. There are a number of espresso variations. What are the differences between ristretto vs long shot?

Ristretto and the long shot are variations of an espresso. Ristretto is known as a short shot and has a shorter extraction time. Long shots (lungo) are on the other end of the scale and have a longer extraction time. The standard espresso is right in the middle of these two drinks.

ristretto vs long shot

If you’re unfamiliar with these two types of coffee shots, this post will help. This guide will walk you through the differences between ristretto vs long shot.

What is a Long Shot?

A long shot is effectively a shot of espresso. However, you use twice as much water to make a long shot. The higher water content creates a less potent and more diluted drink.

While the taste of a long shot is not as strong as an espresso, it is still very flavorful. The increased amount of water also makes the long shot a bit smoother than an espresso. If you find straight espresso too bitter or intense, you may enjoy the long shot.

The taste of a long shot is somewhere between a shot of espresso and an Americano.

The long shot is also known as lungo, caffe lungo (Italian), or café allongé (French).

what is a long shot lungo
Pictured is a lungo (long shot) being made

What is a Ristretto?

A ristretto is also a shot of espresso, but it is the opposite of a long shot. A long shot uses twice as much water as a standard shot of espresso. A shot of ristretto uses less water and a shorter extraction time.

The combination of less water and shorter extraction time results in a more highly concentrated coffee drink.

The ristretto has a more intense flavor than the long shot. It is also slightly more bitter. The increased concentration of coffee flavors can be too much for some people.

Try a ristretto if you enjoy straight espresso or intense coffee flavors.

The word ristretto comes from the Italian word for “restriction.” Restriction refers to the smaller or restricted amount of water you use to make this coffee drink.

It also refers to the restricted or shorter amount of time used to make the drink.

what is ristretto
Ristretto in espresso cup

5 Key Differences: Ristretto vs Long Shot

Now that you know the background of ristretto vs long shot, let’s look at the differences between these two drinks.

1. Ristretto Vs Long Shot: Brewing Process 

You brew ristrettos and long shots differently.

  • You make a ristretto with the same amount of coffee grounds as a typical shot of espresso. However, you use less water, and the extraction time is shorter. The result of this brewing process is a more concentrated drink.
  • A long shot is brewed with twice the amount of water as an espresso. The additional water makes for a less potent and more diluted beverage.

2. Ristretto Vs Long Shot: Caffine Conent

Due to the different amounts of water to make these two drinks. You will find each drink has different amounts of caffeine.

  • A ristretto has more caffeine by volume since it is more concentrated. If you want a more decisive caffeine kick, go for the ristretto.
  • On the other hand, the long shot has more caffeine per cup because it has a longer extraction time and more water passes over the ground beans.

3. Ristretto Vs Long Shot: Type of Bean 

The type of coffee bean used to make a coffee drink can significantly impact its taste and flavor.

For ristrettos, you typically use a darker roast. You want a darker roast because the shorter extraction time of a ristretto can make a lighter roast taste too weak.

You can make a long shot with any type of roast. It is most common to use a light or medium roast. The increased amount of water can make a dark roast taste too bitter.

The acidity of the bean used for ristrettos and long shots also matters. Beans with lower acidity and grown at lower altitudes often make for better ristretto shots. Lower acidity beans tend to have a lighter and sweet flavor. Since ristrettos are concentrated, high acidity beans can create an offputting shot.

Meanwhile, higher acidity beans are more appealing for long shots. You face more significant challenges extracting the flavor from higher acidity beans, but since long shots use more water, you can get the taste you are chasing.

You can use Arabica or robusta beans to make both coffee shots. 

4. Ristretto vs Long Shot: The Grind

  • Ristrettos need finely ground coffee to get the ideal flavor. Since you use such a small amount of water, you want to use a fine grind to maximize the surface area of the coffee grounds.
  • For long shots, you’ll also want a fine grind. Even though long shots use more water, it is not very much compared to a pour-over or a similar type of coffee.

Using a finer grind allows the water to maximize contact with the coffee grinds. The finer grind maximizes the flavor you get from the beans.

5. Ristretto vs Long Shot: Taste and Aroma

The taste and aroma are some of the most significant differences between ristrettos and long shots. The taste, texture, and smell all change significantly between these drinks.

Flavor and Taste

  • The ristretto has a more intense flavor than the long shot. It is also slightly more bitter. The increased concentration of coffee flavors can be too much for some people. Try a ristretto if you enjoy straight espresso or intense coffee flavors.
  • The long shot has a more mellow flavor. The mellow flavor is a result of diluting the shot with water. The texture of the long shot is also smoother since more water is used. If you want a less intense coffee drink, go for the long shot.

Aroma

  • Due to the lower water content, ristretto tends to have a bold and fragrant aroma. You can smell a ristretto before you see it. Additionally, ristrettos tend to bring out the fruity flavors of coffee beans.
  • On the other hand, long shots tend to have a more decadent and typical-coffee aroma. There can be a hint of smokiness to the smell of long shots.

Here are 241 words to describe coffee.

Americano vs Long Shot

If an Americano is a single espresso shot with added water, it kind of sounds like a long shot. But because of the brewing methods, the flavors will be different.

The single espresso that goes in an Americano has a limited window of extraction. But for a long shot, it is extracting for the whole cup of coffee. As grounds continue to be extracted, the water pulls different flavor notes.

If you taste test a long shot and an Americano side by side, you’ll be sure to notice the difference.

Keep Reading: 3 Easy Methods to Make Americano Coffee at Home

Double Espresso vs Long Shot

If a long shot has more volume than a single espresso, it might be easy to confuse it with a double espresso. But these are distinct drinks.

A double espresso is two espressos in one cup. A long shot is basically a watery, over-extracted single espresso.

The flavors and drinking experience will be distinct between a double espresso and a long shot.

Here’s more about how many ounces in a cup of coffee.

long shot vs ristretto

Wrap Up

There you have it, the 5 key differences between ristretto and long shot (lungo) coffee. Ristrettos are more concentrated, have more caffeine, use a darker roast bean, and have a bolder flavor. 

Long shots are diluted, have less caffeine, use a lighter roast bean, and have a mellower flavor. Choose the coffee drink that fits your taste preference and enjoy!

What is your preference? Have you tried both? Let me know your favorites in the comments!

Michael Gibbons

Sunday 4th of December 2022

Seriously, do you just make this stuff up? It is so wrong in so many ways and has no science backing it lol