What is Ristretto?

A Ristretto is a concentrated espresso shot with a shorter extraction time and less water than a traditional espresso. The name literally translates as restricted, and the idea is that from the same amount of ground coffee, you would get less liquid. The result is a thicker, oozier, more intense drink. 


Where does Ristretto come from?

The Ristretto has its roots in Italy, where espresso culture thrived with the invention of the Espresso machine in the early 20th century. Although it's unclear when or who exactly introduced it, Ristretto was a variation of traditional Espresso, tailored to those who preferred a shorter and more concentrated coffee experience. Even today, it remains a significant part of Italian coffee culture and has gained popularity worldwide among coffee enthusiasts who enjoy a bold and flavorful espresso experience.


How is Ristretto brewed?

Brewing a Ristretto is a simple process that involves the same steps as making an Espresso (you can find steps on how that is done in the Espresso entry in our coffee glossary). The only difference lies in how the flow is restricted, which can be achieved by using less water or a finer grind. 


  • Less water: This is the most common method you'll likely see practised in a cafe if you order a Ristretto. The barista will prepare a shot of Espresso as usual. However, they will stop the flow of water halfway through the pour (approx 15 seconds) to create the Ristretto.
  • Finer Grind: This method of brewing is considered the best but is not typically used in a cafe setting. It involves adjusting the grinder to a finer setting, which restricts the flow of coffee while still extracting the full dose. However, if you work as a barista, you probably know it's not a good idea to adjust the grinder mid-service to make one drink.


When done right, it should have a coffee-to-water ratio of 1:1 and be rich and scrumptious. If you're familiar with your cafe and enjoy its Espresso, I recommend you try it at least once. If you're not sure, it could be risky. 


How does Ristretto coffee get its distinct flavour?

Because a Ristretto is a restricted shot, its extraction is stopped before the coffee's full acidity is released. The result is a less complex, potentially less caffeinated (see more below) Espresso shot with a unique flavour profile. This extraction method allows the fruity and sweet flavours to shine through while avoiding any bitter, caramel, or chocolate flavours. 


Ristrettos are slightly thicker than Espresso because they use less water. This also results in more crema, which enhances its taste. Although Ristretto may not have the same balance as Espresso, it is still a great option to consider as it is easier to drink and has a unique flavour profile.



Does Ristretto have more caffeine than regular Espresso?

Ristrettos have a higher concentration of coffee solids, which can include caffeine. However, the shorter extraction time may not extract as much caffeine as a more prolonged extraction. Ultimately, the caffeine content will vary depending on factors such as the coffee bean type, the grind size, and the brewing equipment. In some cases, Ristretto might have less caffeine than a regular espresso, but the difference won't be significant.



What are the differences between Ristretto and Espresso?

Ristretto and Espresso are both concentrated coffee beverages, but they differ in a few key aspects:


Extraction time and volume 

Espresso is typically brewed with a longer extraction time and a larger volume of water, resulting in a larger shot size. Ristretto, on the other hand, is brewed with a shorter extraction time and less water, producing a smaller, more concentrated shot.


Flavour profile

Ristretto tends to have a more intense and robust flavour compared to Espresso. The shorter extraction time in Ristretto extracts fewer bitter compounds from the coffee grounds while preserving the more flavorful and aromatic compounds, resulting in a sweeter, smoother, and more balanced taste.


Body and texture

Due to its concentrated nature, Ristretto often has a thicker body and richer mouthfeel compared to Espresso. The higher ratio of coffee solids to water in Ristretto contributes to its velvety texture and heightened intensity.



Ultimately, strength in coffee is a complicated issue (you can read more about that here). Despite its smaller volume, Ristretto is considered slightly more potent in terms of flavour content than Espresso. As mentioned above, the strength of caffeine is dependent on a few factors.


In summary, while both Ristretto and Espresso are espresso-based beverages, Ristretto is distinguished by its shorter extraction time, smaller volume, richer flavour, thicker body, and heightened intensity.