What Is Ristretto? An unrestricted definition and guide

By Shabbir
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If you love your espresso, the name Ristretto might already sound familiar to you. However, if you a new to coffee culture, Ristretto might sound quite foreign to the ears. Today, we take a closer look at this enigmatic beverage and how it is made to answer the question of what is ristretto.

Ristretto in a glass

Ristretto is all about espresso

To truly understand what a Ristretto is, you really need to look at the espresso first. After all, this beverage is heavily based on the basic espresso shot. But what makes the ristretto different from an espresso?

The espresso is a beverage that could be translated as highly concentrated coffee. It is made by forcing hot water through coffee grounds at incredible pressure. For an espresso shot to be perfect, the brewing process happens in twenty-five to thirty seconds.

Getting a shot of espresso in this manner has numerous advantages, but the main one is the full and exquisite taste. This is also one of the reasons why the espresso is such a staple in the current coffee culture.

Okay, so now you know how the espresso is made, let’s move onto ristretto shots and how they come to fruition.

How Are Ristretto Shots Made?

The average Ristretto shot is not that different from a shot of espresso. To understand the difference, we need to look at the naming of the beverage. Ristretto is the Italian word for restrict, referring to the amount of water that is used by the barista while pulling a shot.

As the name suggests, the Ristretto shot is different from a shot of espresso as the barista will “restrict” the amount of water compared to the espresso. The extraction time is also different, more specifically the time during which the shot is pulled through the espresso machine.

To make your Ristretto, you will first need some coffee beans. Then, turn your beans into ground coffee, which will be pulled through the espresso machine. Make sure you add the ground and tamp and level as required.

Now, here comes the most important technique for making the perfect Ristretto shot. To make the perfect Ristretto shot, you need to extract approximately 15 to 25 millilitres of coffee, and this must be done in an extraction time of 15 seconds. In other words, both are much shorter than for normal espresso shots.

What Are The Taste Differences With Espresso?

As you may have guessed, the short extraction time and lesser amount of water has an influence on the flavor of the coffee. But how does it influence the flavor of the coffee overall?

More Intense Flavor

Since the shot is pulled in a relatively short time and with less water, the flavor of the Ristretto shot is obviously more intense. The stronger concentration due to less water and shorter extraction time also has another advantage: mainly less bitterness overall.

Coffee Varietals

Coffee aficionados already know that different coffee beans from various areas can provide quite extraordinary flavors. It is important to note that certain coffee types will extract faster and slower than others, quite an important fact for a beverage such as Ristretto.

When looking for coffee to use for Ristretto, always look for options that tend to extract quicker. After all, you want to get the fullest body and the most flavor from a shot with a short extraction time. If you use a slower dissolving coffee, then it can easily ruin the coffee flavor and you will not get the desired result.

Undiluted Serving

One of the more interesting things about Ristretto is that it contains less caffeine overall. Therefore, you will find that most baristas and coffee shops will serve the Ristretto without diluting it with milk or other additives.

Even though Ristretto coffee is often served without diluting it, it does not mean that you cannot add any milk to it if you prefer your coffee drinks with some milk. In fact, you can even make a latte or a cappuccino with a double shot of Ristretto instead.

And you do not necessarily have to make your own. Some of the bigger coffee shops tend to provide Ristretto on their coffee menu. One of the ones where this is the case is Starbucks, where you can get your favorite Caramel Macchiato or even the Eggnog Latte with a Ristretto coffee shot instead of an espresso shot.

Is Ristretto Better Than Espresso?

You may have guessed that this is quite a personal question. Everyone has their preferences when it comes to coffee, and this is certainly the case for espresso and Ristretto.

When it comes to your coffee preferences, it is certainly worth experimenting with the available options. If you never tried Ristretto before, but you are quite an espresso lover, then it is certainly a good idea to try it because of its bolder and fuller flavor.

Those who have an espresso machine in their home can start experimenting immediately. After all, the more advanced machines tend to come with their own Ristretto setting, allowing them to change extraction time and water amount with the greatest ease.

Before you make your Ristretto, we do recommend having a look at the most suitable coffee to make Ristretto. Remember, only the ones that dissolve quickly will give the best result when it comes to making this coffee.

It is usually best to buy your beans fresh instead of pre-ground coffee. While you can get a decent shot of espresso or Ristretto from coffee grounds, freshly ground beans always provide a superior result, this in terms of taste as well as texture.

Just as long as you have a good grinder to get the perfect fine grind for your brew, nothing is stopping you to maximise your barista skills and truly master the Ristretto inside your own home. So, be sure to check out some of the tried and tested grinders to get the most from your coffee.

Of course, the right coffee can only take you so far. Good coffee brewing techniques will make all the difference. Of course, the right equipment is also a part of that, as you want your water at the right temperature for the best results. Fortunately, there are plenty of interesting and affordable machines out there that allow you to pull shots a lot easier than ever before.


When it comes to the coffee culture, it is all about experimenting, this much you may have noticed in our guide to the Ristretto. Naturally, the Ristretto and the espresso are just two minor parts of the coffee world, and there is much more to discover.

As a new coffee culture lover, it is always best to take a look at the basics first and foremost. The espresso certainly belongs to the basics, as well as learning how to select and grind the best beans out there. Investing in some good equipment is also worth it, especially if you want to have the best coffee from the convenience of your own home.

Beginners will have some things to learn before they can master the espresso and the Ristretto, going from the temperature of the water to bar pressure and overall extraction time. However, once you are familiar with these factors and have the equipment to boot, it will become much easier and you can master your barista skills in minimal time.

Fortunately, there is much information available for beginners and there are even coffee tasting notes online you can use to create and compare the beverages you like most. So, at the end of the day, there is no coffee beverage that is necessarily better than the other, it is all about personal preferences.

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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.