Ristretto vs Espresso

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Written by: John Beans

Last Updated on April 19, 2021

This is our ristretto vs espresso comparison.

These two drinks seem the same to you, but you'll find out this is far from the case. Despite their similarities, they're considered different drinks due to their different brewing times.

Keep reading to learn more.

What Is an Espresso Shot?

Espresso is a dense coffee beverage prepared under high pressure in an espresso machine. During brewing, water passes through the ground coffee, which sits in a metal portafilter. Crema forms on the surface of the espresso shot. This looks like foam and is formed from the essential oils that are found inside the coffee bean.

What Is a Ristretto Shot?

Ristretto is a shortened version of an espresso. It's brewed in the same basic way—water flows under high pressure through ground coffee in a portafilter. However, the extraction time is shorter than that of espresso. A few seconds' difference makes ristretto a completely different drink than espresso.

Ristretto vs Espresso

As mentioned above, the principle of brewing espresso and ristretto is the same; the only difference is time. Other differences, even in taste, follow from this difference.

Below we will look at the parameters that show the difference between espresso and ristretto.

Brewing time

As a rule, espresso is extracted for 23-30 seconds from the moment the pump is turned on.

When preparing ristretto, the extraction time is 15-20 seconds.

Volume and coffee-to-water ratio

When using the same amount of ground coffee, a ristretto shot will always be smaller in volume than an espresso shot.

The average volume of an espresso is 0.8-1.2 fl oz (25-35 ml).

The average volume of a ristretto is 0.5-0.8 fl oz (15 to 25 ml). Because of a ristretto's small size, a double ristretto is often found on coffee shop menus.

As a result of their different extraction times and volumes, the drinks' coffee-to-water ratios also differ:

  • Ristretto — up to 1:1.5
  • Espresso — from 1:1.6 to 2.5

The ratio, when using the same grind size for both drinks, also affects the strength of the coffee.

Strength of coffee

The term total dissolved solids (TDS) indicates the strength of coffee. It shows the percent of substances dissolved in the drink based on its total weight.

TDS depends on two parameters. The first is ratio—the more coffee there is compared to water, the higher the TDS. The second is grind size—the finer the grind, the higher the TDS.

Ristretto and espresso use the same grind size but different ratios of coffee to water. Ristretto uses a higher coffee-to-water ratio than espresso, so it has a higher TDS, which means it's a stronger drink.

Here are the TDS values for these two drinks:

Ristretto — 12% and above

Espresso — 8% to 12%

Flavor

The body of coffee—the tactile sensation of the beverage in the mouth—is determined by the quality of the coffee beans, the style of roasting, and the brewing method. Both espresso and ristretto are prepared under high pressure, so both drinks will feel sticky and syrupy. The main and most important difference between the two is in taste and aroma.

When preparing both drinks while maintaining the same parameters—grind size, amount of coffee, and water temperature—ristretto has more acidity and less bitterness than espresso.

When making an espresso or ristretto shot, substances from the ground coffee are extracted at different stages. First acids are extracted, then sugars, then bitter substances like caffeine and tannins. Because ristretto has as shorter extraction time, it has more acids and sugars and less bitter substances.

Caffeine content

Many people think that ristretto has more caffeine because it is stronger.

But this impression is misleading: in fact, there is less caffeine in a ristretto than in an espresso.

During brewing, the following parameters affect the amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee: grind size, brewing temperature, and brewing time.

The first two parameters are the same when preparing espresso and ristretto, but the brewing time differs. When brewing a ristretto, extraction stops before the caffeine is fully drawn out of the grounds, so there's a little less caffeine in a ristretto shot than in an espresso shot.

The Team That Worked On This Blog Post

Patty-Cramer-Editor-Coffee-Consultant-at-MyFriendsCoffee

Editor & Coffee Consultant

Patty Cramer

I'm the coffee consultant at MyFriendsCoffee. I've been in the coffee business for over 21 years and still have a passion for coffee. My most important skill is that I know how to organize work processes.

John Beans Editor & Founder

Resident Editor-in-Chief

John Beans

I’m the resident Editor-in-Chief of MyFriendsCoffee. For more than 5 years I tried a large variety of coffees from different brands and master 7 ways to brew coffee and am not going to stop there. I switched my first coffee maker with a professional espresso machine and now my kitchen is filled with various coffee equipment.

Tessa Dixon – Beginner Barista & Content Creator

BArista

Tessa Dixon

I was born in Seattle, and this city has a strong connection to coffee culture, so it's no wonder I decided to become a barista! I’ve learned many ways of making coffee and now I know how to make any coffee delicious.

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