Long Shot vs Ristretto: What’s The Difference? (Explained)

long shot vs ristretto

When in doubt, get an espresso. This small yet powerful coffee shot is perfect to consume any time of the day to stay caffeinated and feel good!

What’s more, one espresso shot offers insane versatility. And I’m not just talking about adding more ingredients like milk and cream to make espresso-based coffee drinks you often see at the coffee shop, but by altering the brewing method itself.

In this article, we’ll explore the other two common types of espresso – Long Shot vs Ristretto – to learn what they are and how they’re different from the traditional espresso and each other.


What is A Long Shot In Espresso?

Now, don’t confuse this with a long shot in filming.

The term “Long Shot” in the coffee world refers to a coffee brewing method using the espresso machine to produce an espresso shot with a larger quantity and more diluted yet bitter taste.

 Long Shot vs Ristretto

You might have also heard its other name, the Italian term “Lungo”, which can be translated to “long” in English.

What Is The Difference Between Espresso And Lungo?

So, there are 2 espresso definitions we need to clarify here before moving on.

If you missed out on our article explaining in detail what an espresso is, here’s a short recap: Espresso is the umbrella term for the coffee preparation method where hot water is shot through a tight puck of finely ground coffee under high pressure to produce an espresso shot with concentrated flavor.

And the type of espresso coffee that you’re familiar with is pulled with a “Normale” (normal in English) coffee-to-water ratio of 1:3 in around 25 – 30 seconds.

And Lungo espresso coffee, or Long Shot, is a variation of that method. The main difference is:

  • It involves double the amount of hot water, as much as a double espresso;
  • It has a slightly “lunger” extraction time – around 35 -40 seconds. Some may even pull it for as long as 1 minute!

The resulting Long Shot is more diluted due to being brewed with twice as much water.

However, the longer extraction time allows more bitter, harsh, and smoky flavor compounds from the coffee grounds to slip into the Long Shot, so it won’t be bland or lackluster as most might expect.

But how much each coffee drinker enjoys the bitter Long Shot depends on their personal preference.

So, is espresso stronger than lungo?

Taste-wise, although bitter, Long Shot is less intense than Normale espresso due to being less concentrated.

But caffeine-wise, you can get a tiny bit more of a caffeine kick from the Long Shot than a regular shot due to the longer extraction time.

Is Lungo Black Coffee?

It should be abundantly clear by now that Long Shot is very different from your classic black drip coffee which usually involves medium-sized ground-up coffee beans and no pressure.

 A shot of Lungo

Is A Lungo The Same As An Americano?

Americano is a type of espresso-based coffee drink. It’s made with 1 part water and 2 part espresso, which gives it a more diluted taste that many may mistake for Long Shot.

Let me remind you that although Long Shot is also diluted and served in a larger quantity than normal espresso shots, this coffee tastes more bitter with higher caffeine content, because of how it’s prepared.

What’s more, Long Shot is a type of espresso. Not an espresso-based drink. So it can be served as the base in place of the regular espresso shot. Just ask the barista for a Long Shot or Lungo base when ordering an espresso drink like Americano, latte, cappuccino, flat white, etc.


How Do You Make A Lungo?

Coffee Grounds

Lungo can be made the same way a regular shot of espresso is made, from the espresso blends to roast style and grind size.

Type Of Coffee Beans

You can go the traditional route of brewing espresso which contains both Arabica and Robusta coffee beans.

Arabica is popularly considered to be the superior kind with its milder, sweeter, and richer flavor profile.

 Explore other types of espresso as the base for drinks like latte

However, its sweetness can make the overall coffee taste underwhelming when paired with sweet add-on ingredients like milk, sugar, and creams to brew espresso-based beverages.

Robusta, on the other hand, with its bolder, more bitter, and earthier flavors makes a much better partner with those sweet ingredients.

That’s why a blend of both is preferred as the traditional espresso take. But Arabica still makes up the majority of the blend, around 80%.

However, specialty coffee lovers and coffee shops have been favoring the usage of 100% single-origin Arabica beans for more consistent and milder coffee extraction. That’s why so many bags of coffee in the market is marketed with that title. Ultimately, the choice is yours.

Roast Style

Commonly, espresso coffee is brewed with dark roasts to boost oiliness, remove acidity, enhance the smoky and roasted flavor notes to create a brew that’s full-bodied, concentrated, and intense.

The easiest way to find a suitable bag of dark roast coffee is getting the “Espresso Roast”, which is appropriately roasted for this brewing method.

To learn more about other possible names and roast shades, check the different types of coffee roasts here.

Many coffee aficionados have also been experimenting with lighter roasts when making espresso.

Feel free to expand your coffee knowledge and improve your brewing skills; however, for starters, I recommend sticking to the traditional take to make sure you’re getting the basics right first.

Grind Size

Generally, to extract coffee compounds the espresso way, you need a high-quality burr grinder to produce finely ground coffee.

However, since you’re pulling a “lunger” shot for the Lungo drink, go for a slightly coarser grind size to optimize coffee-to-water contact and extraction rate. This way you can avoid too much bitterness and over-extraction.

How Much Coffee Do You Use For Lungo?

You can use the same amount of grinds as the standard espresso shot, around 7 – 10 g.

Water

A normal shot of espresso calls for around 21 – 30 g of water. The Long Shot espresso requires double the amount of water, which should be roughly 42 – 60 g to meet the coffee-to-water ratio of at least 1:4.

Another thing you should keep in mind is the quality of the water you’re using to pull the shot of espresso, and this can be applied to all brewing methods.

If your water has any sort of unusual smell or taste, that will get transferred to your fully extracted espresso as well.

So it’s best to use filtered water by either setting up an under-the-counter water filtration system or adding one of the charcoal water filters to your water reservoir.

Espresso Machine

Finally, you can’t get the job done without one of these devices. They come with a pump pressure that’s able to apply around 7 – 15 bars of pressure during the brewing process.

And that’s the key to getting the more concentrated flavor that espresso drinkers love so much.

There are many types of espresso machines in the market.

Explore other types of espresso as the base for drinks like latte

If you’re a more experienced barista, you can shoot your shot with a manual espresso brewer, also called the piston machine. But they definitely require much more effort, precision, and skill to get the shot of espresso right.

For the majority of the home baristas out there, sticking to a semi-automatic or fully-automatic coffee machine is a safer bet.

The former still offers you some control over how the coffee shot is pulled, suitable for those who really want to learn how to get the right Long Shot espresso taste and experiment further.

caffè-lungo

The latter can be the convenient automated home barista that’s always at your beck and call to fulfill whatever espresso craving you have.

Check my recommended espresso machines available in the market and along with the buyer’s guide to pick your next favorite device that’s better than other coffee machines by a Long Shot – pun intended.

Another option for really busy coffee lovers is a Nespresso machine, which makes coffee with coffee capsules.

It can’t produce the bold coffee flavors and kick-ass caffeine kick of an authentic coffee shot, but it’s a quick and affordable alternative nonetheless.

How Long Is A Long Shot Espresso?

As I’ve mentioned above, the extraction time for Long Shot coffee should be dragged out to around 35 – 40 seconds or 1 minute at maximum.

How To Make A Lungo With An Espresso Machine

Generally, you can follow my instructions for making a Normale shot of espresso using the Breville Barista Express.

Just use a slightly coarser grind (No. 9) and time the shot a little longer (35 – 40 seconds) and you’re set.


What Is A Ristretto?

Ristretto shots are another variation of the espresso brewing method.

Opposite of Lungo meaning “long” in English, Ristretto is an Italian term that can be translated to “restrained” or “restricted” to indicate the less amount of water and shorter extraction time that Ristretto shots are known for.

 A shot of Ristretto

Is Ristretto A Strong Coffee?

Yes, as Ristretto coffee is made with less water, the coffee is a lot thicker and more intense. Ask the barista at your favorite coffee shop to switch your full-length espresso shot base to Ristretto for a stronger taste.

What Is The Difference Between Ristretto And Espresso?

We’ve settled that Ristretto is stronger than espresso due to being brewed with half the amount of water.

However, though it’s bolder, Ristretto coffee actually tastes sweeter at the same time. Its mellow flavors are achieved thanks to the shortened brew time. Specifically, it’s cut by half to around 15 seconds only.

That means there’s less time for the hot water to come into contact with the coffee, resulting in fewer coffee compounds being extracted.

What you taste from the cup of Ristretto only contains the compounds closer to surface level while the more bitter ones (negative flavors) are left unextracted.

And that applies to the caffeine content as well. Does espresso or Ristretto have more caffeine? The answer should be the former.


How Is A Ristretto Made?

Ground Coffee

You can use the same type of beans, roast profile, and grind size as Normale espresso.

Some people prefer to use a slightly finer grind to slow down the water flow rate during the shorter brew time for more thorough extraction.

A double shot of Ristretto served in a glass

Personally, I don’t recommend this due to a higher risk of getting grounds to slip into your cup or clogging the filter, but feel free to make adjustments depending on your coffee strength preference.

How Much Coffee Is In A Ristretto?

Again, the same as regular espresso, use around 7 – 10 g of coffee when making Ristretto.

However, it’s a limited espresso with less than half the amount of coffee. So, when using it as a base for an espresso-based drink, most baristas would brew a double shot of Ristretto, which should produce the same amount as a normal shot.

Water

The common coffee-to-water ratio for the sweet Ristretto is either 1:1 or 1:1.5. So you need around 13 g of hot water.

Also, take the same note I suggested regarding filtered water when brewing a shot of espresso Lungo and other types of coffee.

Espresso Machine

Use the same devices I’ve recommended above for making Long Shots.

How Long Should A Ristretto Shot Run For?

As I’ve mentioned, the recommended brew time for Ristretto is 15 seconds.

What Are The Two Ways Of Creating A Ristretto Extraction?

The most common way to prepare a Ristretto is by cutting the normal brewing time by half (15 seconds). This way, you don’t have to adjust to a different grind size.

If you don’t want to time differently, especially when it comes to fully automatic machines, use slightly finer ground beans to slow down the extraction. However, you’re more at risk of the issues I mentioned above.

You can also try tamping more firmly to create a more compact coffee puck, which can influence the flow rate.


Long Shot vs Ristretto – What Is The Difference Between A Ristretto And A Long Shot?

Here’s a quick summary of what we’ve learned so far.

Brewing Method

Both of them are a type of espresso that can be brewed using the same beans and espresso brewer.

However, generally, a Ristretto shot – short shot – calls for the same fine size as your regular Joe, while the Long Shot is achieved with a slightly coarser grind size.

But the most significant difference lies in how they’re brewed. When compared to a normal espresso shot, you only need half the water amount and half the time to pull a Ristretto.

On the other hand, Lungo requires double the amount of water and a little bit more time than normal espresso.

Taste

In this Ristretto vs Long Shot battle, the Ristretto recipe with restricted water and brew time produces a smoother shot with a sweeter but stronger, richer, and more intense flavor.

Due to the extra amount of water and lengthened brew time, the Lungo flavors are more diluted. So, is ristretto stronger than Long Shot? Yes.

a cup of Ristretto

Although it’s weaker than Ristretto, it’s also more bitter, which is a characteristic some coffee drinkers might be into to knock themselves awake in the early morning hours.

The longer pull also makes time for more original coffee flavors to slip in, such as traditional caramel and chocolate flavors. If you’re using brighter coffee, you may also catch hints of floral coffee notes more distinctly.

Caffeine Content

What type of espresso shot has the most caffeine? From most to least, here’s the lineup: Lungo, Normale, Ristretto. Though it’s all relative, the longer the contact with water is, the more caffeine gets extracted.


Ristretto Vs Long Shot –

To Wrap Up

Personally, I prefer Ristretto.

Although it has less caffeine, the sweeter and thicker flavor profile can easily make up for that.

I always ask the barista for a double shot of Ristretto when ordering a classic latte.

A cup of Ristretto

However, a Long Shot can still offer the perfect caffeine kick for those who prefer something less intense and a more thorough exploration of the beans’ original flavors.

Either way, you’re not gonna know for certain which you’d like better just from reading my article. Get up, give both a try and see for yourself.

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