Espresso as a coffee brewing method has led to the development of a range of espresso-style coffee drinks such as ristrettos, lungos, and the classic espresso. Baristas and coffee enthusiasts are continuously making customizations to the espresso brewing technique as they chase for the ‘perfect shot’.
Various factors that necessitate these customizations include the type of coffee beans, the desired flavors, the type of espresso coffee maker, the grinder, and the altitude at which the espresso is pulled. Hence, espresso-style shots come in different sizes with different flavor profiles and caffeine content.
How much is a shot of espresso?
|Espresso Type||Grams of Ground Coffee||Coffee Volume (Ounces)||Brew Time (Seconds)|
|Double shot (Doppio)||14-18||2||20-30|
Ristretto vs Espresso vs Lungo
The main difference between a ristretto, espresso, and lungo is that a ristretto uses less water in a 1:1 coffee ratio to enhance the strength and sweetness whereas an espresso uses a 1:2 ratio for a more balanced flavor. A lungo, on the other hand, uses more water in a 1:3 coffee ratio and is bitter.
Traditionally, they all used the same amounts of grounds and brew time and only the grind size was adjusted to regulate the amount of water to achieve the respective coffee ratio.
The classic espresso uses about 7 grams of coffee grounds to make one ounce (30ml) of coffee. However, espresso singles are not as popular as they used to be.
Most coffee shops use only double-shots and, sometimes, triple shots for extra-strong espressos. Newer espresso coffee makers also do not include single-shot portafilters in their shipments.
Espresso baskets and portafilters are also available in sizes that are bigger than the traditional single-and-double-shot sizes.
Ristretto is Italian for restricted. Water is restricted from flowing through the coffee grounds to yield a shot of coffee that is shorter than an espresso. Half the amount of water for a classic espresso is used to make a ristretto.
Lungo is Italian for long. For lungo coffee, more water is allowed to flow through the coffee grounds at high pressure to yield more coffee than espresso.
Doppio is a double-shot of espresso that uses double the amount of ground coffee for a single shot to yield 2 ounces of espresso.
A triple-shot of espresso is about 3 ounces and uses 18-21 grams of coffee grounds.
Our article that compares pressurized espresso baskets to nonpressurized ones will make for an interesting read for you.
Espresso is more balanced with a full body and some bitter notes due to the thick crema. Espresso is ideal for drinking on its own as well as making milk coffees like lattes
Ristretto is more intense, aromatic, and sweeter than espresso. It also has less crema and bitterness. It has more caffeine concentration (caffeine per ounce) than both espresso and lungo.
Caffeine is one of the first compounds to dissolve in water during extraction. A ristretto is an excellent choice when using coffee beans that have floral notes.
Lungo has more caffeine overall, and more bitterness and smoky flavors than both the espresso and ristretto.
Here is our interesting post that discusses whether espresso expires.
Extraction Methods For Ristretto, Espresso, and Lungo
1. Traditional Method (Adjusting the Grind Size)
The basic principle of the traditional method of making an espresso, ristretto, and lungo is that the time of extraction and dosage remains unchanged. The grind size regulates the quantity of water that flows through the grounds within the set brew time.
For example, for a single ristretto, dial in 7 grams of coffee and grind to a finer than espresso size so that the extraction takes 20-30 seconds to yield a half-ounce of coffee.
For a single lungo, dial in 7 grams of coffee and grind coarser so that the coffee puck allows more water to flow through in the normal brewing time of 20-30 seconds to yield 1.5 ounces of coffee. The same practice applies to the double and triple shots.
- No need to recalibrate the coffee maker as adjustments only apply to the grinder
- Can be laborious in a busy setting where you have to constantly change the grinder settings for the appropriate grind size
2. “Modern” Method of Making Ristrettos and Lungos (Adjusting the Brew Time)
Some coffee enthusiasts advocate for reducing the espresso brew time by 50% and increasing it by 50% for ristretto and lungo respectively without changing the dosage and the grind size. A single ristretto, therefore, uses the same 7 grams of coffee and espresso grind size but the extraction is stopped midway (12-15 seconds).
The extraction of a single lungo is longer (about 45 seconds) than the espresso brew time but uses the same dosage (about 7 grams) and espresso grind size.
- It eliminates the need to constantly recalibrate the grinder
- It’s easy and fast as you just focus on the extraction time
- Under extraction. Stopping the extraction midway to make a ristretto inhibits the extraction of some of the coffee solubles that take longer to extract. The coffee yield may lack some desirable coffee compounds
- It may require calibrating the espresso machine, especially, for a lungo
The classic espresso is about one and two ounces for a single shot and doppio respectively. Ristretto and lungo are customizations of the classic espresso by tinkering with either the grind size or the brew time to add less water in the case of a ristretto and more water in the case of a lungo.
The coffee yield for a ristretto is about half that of espresso whereas a lungo yields 33% more coffee than espresso.