What is a lungo? Know your espresso variants

By Shabbir
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There are so many varities of espresso that it can get quite confusing. You’ve probably heard of espresso, ristretto, long black, and lungo. So what is a lungo? That’s what we aim to help you become an expert on in this post.

The difference between a lungo, espresso, and ristretto is quite minor but the taste is very different as a result. Making a lungo is also pretty easy, which we’ll cover as well.

what is a lungo

What does lungo mean?

Understanding the meaning of the word will go a long way towards understanding the drink itself. In Italian, lungo means long.

So essentially a lungo is a longer espresso. By longer, we mean both the volume of the drink as well as the extraction time.

How to make a lungo

Making a lungo is very easy! By simply adjusting the amount of hot water you use, you’ll pull a longer shot by default, and it will also end up taking a little more time too.

A typical espresso shot is pulled with around 50 ml (1.5 ounces) of water and takes 20 to 30 seconds to pull. There are a few more factors that determine the pull time, such as the fineness of the ground coffee and how tightly you have tamped it.

A lungo uses 100 ml (3 ounces) of water. Since there is double the water, it takes nearly double the time, 1 minute to pull a lungo shot.

You’ll need a bigger cup to drink a lungo shot, as a typical espresso shot glass will end up overflowing!

It’s pretty easy to make a lungo with a home espresso machine. Just use enough coffee for a single shot of espresso(!5 to 20 grams) and use the double shot button to pull more hot water through it.

Nespresso Lungo Shots

If you have a Nespresso machine, Nespresso makes special lungo pods you can use to pull the shot.

Can I use espresso capsules for Lungo?

You can hypothetically use espresso capsules for making a lungo, but it is much better to use the specific lungo capsules, especially since you’re using a Nespresso machine.

The espresso capsule is specifically designed to handle a certain amount of water, and using more water than needed will result in over-extraction and mess up the flavor.

The most fun way to make a lungo is using a manual espresso machine, of course. By pulling the lever yourself you’ll be able to notice the longer extraction as you slowly pull down the lever and get all the water through the coffee puck into the cup below.

Aside from the amount of water and the extraction time, everything else is the same as it is for an espresso: the amount of coffee grounds, the fineness of the grind, and the pressure with which you tamp does not change.


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What does lungo taste like?

A lungo tastes much milder than a shot of espresso due to the fact that you’re using the same amount of coffee grounds with more water.

While the overall intensity is less, the longer extraction does end up making it a little bitter.

Bitterness is a result of over-extraction. Most of the bitter-tasting compounds come out later in the brewing process. So the longer you brew, the more bitter your coffee will taste. By doubling the brewing time, you’re getting more bitter compounds into your brew.

This is not an entirely bad thing, as many folks prefer the bitter taste of a lungo.

Finally, it’s not fair to say that a lungo is half as strong as espresso. This is because you’re pushing water through the coffee grounds and changing the brew.

A half-strength shot would hypothetically be an espresso shot that has been diluted with an additional 50 ml(1.5 ounces) of water! That’s just a long black, then.

Also read: Can You Make an Espresso With Regular Coffee?

How much caffeine in a Lungo?

It’s tempting to assume that a lungo has more caffeine than a regular espresso. However, this is unlikely! Caffeine is one of the first compounds to be extracted, and the extended brewing time does not do much for caffeine extraction.

Additionally, you’re using the same amount of coffee beans in a lungo as you would in an espresso. So an espresso and a lungo made from the same kind of coffee beans would not really have much of a difference in caffeine content.

For more caffeine, you’d have to use a different bean that actually has more caffeine. Alternatively, you can try drinking an Americano with a double shot of espresso for a bigger hit.

Espresso Vs Lungo

There are two main changes between brewing a typical espresso and a lungo: the amount of water used to pull the shot, and the extraction time.

While a typical espresso is 1.5 to 2 ounces and takes about 30 seconds to brew, a lungo is double a typical shot of espresso at 3 to 4 ounces and consequently takes about a minute to brew.

Again, if your espresso machine has a preset for lungo, brewing is pretty easy. Otherwise, you can simply pull a shot of espresso twice through the same grounds.

Is lungo stronger than espresso?

The taste of a lungo is milder than an a shot of espresso because it’s more hot water pulled through the same amount of coffee. It will miss some of the intensity and boldness of espresso, but if you enjoy slightly tempered coffee, it may be a sweet spot for you.

That’s not to say it isn’t bitter, though. Lungo is more bitter than espresso due to the extra brewing time. As coffee brews, certain compounds are extracted early on, and others like the bitter compounds come later on. So when you pull a shot for longer, the bitter compounds also make it in.

Bitterness is not always a bad thing, as some people actually savor the extra bitterness.

Finally, it’s not fair to say that a lungo is half the strength as an espresso. You’re not diluting the espresso, but you’re actually brewing it for longer. There are a few more processes that take place and the result is a different flavor profile than a single espresso shot.

Lungo vs doppio

Is a lungo the same as a doppio, or double espresso? Not exactly. While the amount of water in a double espresso and a lungo is essentially the same, the amount of coffee is not.

A lungo is double the amount of water pulled through one espresso shot worth of ground coffee. A doppio is double the amount of water pulled through two espresso shots worth of coffee grounds.


Frequently asked questions

What is the difference between a lungo and americano?

Since we’re adding more water to your coffee, you may think that a lungo is just an Americano or a long black. That’s actually not the case, and for one important reason.
To make americano and long black, you add the extra water after the brew has completed. So you are essentially diluting your coffee shot.
A lungo uses more water during the extraction process itself, which results in a different chemical composition altogether.
An americano will have the sweetness of espresso without the bitterness of a lungo. It actually tastes much more like regular drip coffee.

What is the difference between a lungo and a ristretto?

Lungo and ristretto sit at two opposite ends of the espresso spectrum. If espresso is in the middle, ristretto comes before since it contains less water and the flavor is much more intense.
The lungo is after the espresso, since there is more water and the flavor is weaker.
Instead of 50 ml for an espresso, or 100 ml for a lungo, a ristretto uses just 25 ml!

What is the difference between a lungo and a latte?

Lungo and latte are two very different drinks! A latte is a shot of espresso mixed with steamed and foamed milk. A lungo is just a longer version of normal espresso.
To make things interesting, you could just a lungo instead of an espresso in preparing your latte.


Hopefully this cleared up some of the confusion behind what a lungo is. Should you try it? Of course! It’s always fun to try new variants of coffee. You may find a new favorite when you try something new.

Bear in mind that the flavor will be significantly different from that of an espresso.

If espresso shots are too short for you and you want something that will last a little longer, and you don’t mind the extra bitterness, a lungo is worth trying.

In fact, there was a time I used to have lungo in the morning as espresso was too intense for me and I wanted something that would last longer than a single shot that would dissappear within seconds!

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About Shabbir

Shab is the Chief Caffeine Officer at Coffee Brewster. When he's not weighing out coffee beans for his next brew, you can find him writing about his passion: coffee.