What Is a Ristretto?: The Ultimate Guide

For years, coffee lovers have been drinking some strong coffees like espresso and ristretto. However, when it comes to what is ristretto, not all people know the answer to this question thoroughly. To describe what ristretto means and its basics, we prepared this article for you to learn this drink that is stronger than espresso.

What Is Ristretto?

Ristretto is a coffee-based drink, or in other words, shot. Although some people think that the strongest drink they can order is espresso, this is wrong. When you learn the basics of ristretto coffee, you will see that it is actually stronger than the espresso we drink. While one of the highlighting features of the ristretto is its strong and concentrated content, there are a lot of things besides it that make ristretto unique.

In brief, in the Italian tradition, the ristretto is prepared by adding 7-8 grams of ground coffee to the water and extracting about 15 grams of coffee out with a ratio of 1:2. While it is served in a ristretto cup which is usually 90 milliliters, some people think that it can be made in larger amounts if it stays in a 1:2 ratio.

If you are wondering what does ristretto mean, the word “ristretto” can be translated basically into “restrict” or “narrow” in English. However, the word “ristretto” is used as describing the small volume of water and short extraction time that ristretto coffee has.

History of the Ristretto

Although ristretto was available to order around the 1960s or earlier in Italian cafes, it gained momentum and popularity at the end of the last century. In the 1990s, ristretto was at its peak thanks to the many barista and brewing tournaments all around the world. In the internet forums, it was even seen as the future of espresso. Some people even invented a new drink which can be named ristretto espresso.

The reason behind this popularity was due to the people that thought ristretto takes all the great things from espresso by leaving out bad things of the espresso. However, this popularity and overrating upon ristretto didn’t continue forever. Some counter-arguments claimed that ristretto was kind of cheating because of the lack of skill it includes in its preparation process.

Despite the fluctuating history of ristretto, it is still drunk by many people and can be found in many coffee shops around the world.

Differences Between Espresso and Ristretto

While the preparation process of a ristretto is similar to the espresso, some main dissimilarities distinguish them apart. While keeping the coffee amount the same as the espresso, the water amount is decreased by half in the ristretto preparing process. To slow the extraction, a finer grind is used for ristretto in contrast to the espresso, which uses a little bit more coarse grind. Unlike espresso’s extraction time, which is about 25-30 seconds, this extraction process usually lasts about 15 seconds.

With the amount of water it includes, a ristretto is less bitter and slightly thicker than espresso. Furthermore, a ristretto can have more crema than an espresso. Now that you have read almost all the differences between ristretto vs espresso, you can decide on which one is the best.

The coffee amount is the same as the espresso.The coffee amount is the same as the ristretto.
The water amount is less than espresso.The water amount is more than ristretto.
Coffee grind size is finer than espresso.Coffee grind size is coarser than ristretto.
Extraction time is about 15 seconds.Extraction time is about 25-30 seconds.

What Makes Ristretto Special?

With the caffeine content of ristretto and low water content, it is maybe the strongest drink that you can find in coffee shops. This makes ristretto an excellent choice for coffee lovers who are looking for some stronger things.

Ristretto, along with its short extraction time, finer coffee grind, and small water amount, outdo many coffee drinks. Another thing that makes it special is the ristretto cup size which is usually smaller than a standard espresso cup. This small size of the ristretto leads most coffee shops to offer only double ristretto shots. What’s more, thanks to the unique preparation process of it, you can’t get the taste or texture of the ristretto by making your espresso smaller or shortening its extraction time.

Another thing that makes ristretto special is its extraction process. Its extraction process is stopped before coffee releases its full acidity which in turn makes ristretto less complex and lowers its caffeine content. In addition to these, some soluble compounds that create fruity and sweet flavors can be released with this method which makes ristretto less bitter and more drinkable than espresso.

Which Coffee Beans Are the Best for Ristretto?

Although the roast type of the coffee bean that you use affects the quality and taste of your coffee to a great extent, it is not the same when it comes to ristretto. Having a short extraction time, ristretto doesn’t use its beans roast level to the utmost which makes roast type less important while making the type of the bean more important.

Usually, coffees that are grown on lower altitudes that are lower in acidity content are suggested for a ristretto. Coffee beans that come from Brazil, Sumatra, or Nicaragua can be preferred due to their acidity levels. What’s more, soft coffee beans that contain medium-low acidity content goes well with ristretto because juicy and acidic coffee beans can be too sour for a ristretto.

While roast types are not important, you can use medium or dark roasts if you are not professional in the extraction process. Even if you use some poor quality beans, you can still make your ristretto because the negative flavors they contain don’t have any time to come out thanks to the limited extraction time.

How to Make a Ristretto

Although it differs from espresso, lungo, or other coffee drinks considerably, making a ristretto is not hard. Without further ado, we will leave you alone with the brewing instructions of this delicious coffee.

  1. Get your fresh coffee grounds. You can select coffee beans that are not acidic such as Brazilian and Sumatran.
  2. Grind your coffee beans finer than you do for espresso. This will lead less water to flow through beans which makes ristretto less bitter.
  3. Prepare your ristretto cup. You can use an espresso cup if you don’t have one.
  4. Fill your espresso machine’s reservoir with cold, filtered water and heat it.
  5. Put approximately 15 grams of coffee in the filter.
  6. Tamp your coffee in the filter to get rid of the spaces between coffee grounds.
  7. Put the filter back into your espresso machine.
  8. Brew for 15 seconds to make your coffee less acidic and tasteful.
  9. Bon appetit!
What Is a Ristretto?: The Ultimate Guide

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