How to Make a Ristretto Coffee

ristretto vs espresso

Ristretto is a short shot of a concentrated espresso coffee. It is made with much finer ground coffee. Ristretto which originated in Italy, is usually served with a glass of water. You may hear Ristretto referred to as ‘a short black’, as less water is used in the making and if you like a really strong coffee to ‘kick start ‘ your day, then this is the coffee for it is all about quality not quantity.

How To Make a Ristretto?

When you mix less hot water with finely ground coffee beans you get a concentrated slightly sweet flavor. Many people have never tried Ristretto and they will be pleasantly surprised when they do. The word Ristretto means restricted in Italian, and is very popular in Italy.

In making Ristretto, 30 grams of coffee comes out of 15 grams of coffee, leaving a slightly syrupy texture, here is a great method to make it but you should know that there is more than one way.

  1. Grind coffee finely and prepare a shot, sometimes this can be a bit gritty.
  2. Put an early stop to the extraction by allowing less water to pass through the coffee, producing a unique taste.
  3. Compact the grinds in the filter basket, allowing as short a time as possible for a regular espresso.

Ristretto Vs Espresso

The main difference between the coffees is that more water is used in Espresso than in a Ristretto, and for those of us who never go without a coffee or two, Ristretto is a pleasant surprise as the coffee tastes sweeter and less bitter due to short extraction time. All Ristretto shots will use the same dose of dried coffee.

Espresso is a shot we buy from the coffee shop and made from Espresso beans, and the real difference is in the preparation. Many domestic machines like the Breville BES920XL make great espresso at home. Espresso is made when a small amount of water is forced through finely ground, packed bed of coffee at very high pressure. The result is consistent, getting a concentrated coffee from the brewing method, and forming a crema on the shot’s surface.

Ristretto focuses more on the aromatic aspects of the espresso method. Water flows through the grounds more quickly allowing some of the flavor to remain intact.

How To Pull a Ristretto Shot

In making a Ristretto, the secret of the shot lies in high pressure and extraction time. By definition, less water means shorter extraction. This allows a few earthy flavors to come through and the crema is thinner on the top of the shot. All shots will be prepared with the same dose of dried coffee, water pressure and water temperature.

Because they use less water, the coffee has a high-intensity flavor. As with most coffees, there are slightly different ways of making it and some Baristas grind the coffee very finely giving even greater flavor to the finished cup.

You can also make a Ristretto Bianco which is a small cafe latte prepared with Ristretto not espresso and this makes a pleasant change with a foam on top of the shot, enhancing the flavor of the latte.

How Do You Drink a Ristretto Coffee?

Ristretto is traditionally served with a glass of water, and is a shorter sweeter version of espresso. This means that the Barista pulls only the first portion of a full-length espresso shot. So all you have to do is sit down and drink it with maybe a delicious slice of cake or a biscotti.

Some cafes offer a double Ristretto shot and this makes a better option at lunchtime when you might need a slightly longer coffee. This is a choice at Starbucks and is called a “lungo”, meaning “long” in Italian, giving you more caffeine and more aromatic oils.

Because the beans have been roasted for a long time it brings out the flavor, and because it is Italian you should have it with an amazing Mediterranean meal. Tomatoes, olives and crusty bread along with olive oil are a good choice. Unlike America, the coffee houses of Italy never serve the coffee boiling hot. The temperature is medium-hot so that it can be drunk immediately. It is also served in a porcelain cup, and ‘takeout’ cups are not common.

How To Make a Ristretto On a Nespresso?

Nespresso Ristretto is an all-Arabica blend of Central and South American coffees, and it uses lovely dark roasting beans to give you the aromas.

Because coffee is extremely important in nearly every culture, there are many different ways of making it. If you like coffee pods/ capsules there are Nespresso/Ristretto capsules available. Ispirazione Ristretto Italiano, is a medium blend inspired by Italian roasting traditions.

Nespresso is a premium-priced coffee and is a combination of the names, Nestle and Espresso. A Nespresso machine brews coffee from capsules or pods in a home machine.

The blend allows the Ristretto to give you the flavor and strength and the Nespresso is a concentrated coffee with the brewing method forming a crema on the top. Various combinations of pods can be used depending on preferences.

Variations On How To Make a Ristretto

Ristretto is usually drunk straight, but many cafes are now using it in their milk based coffees ( cappuccino, latte and flat white) and as expected the results vary. Milk based drinks are sweeter and creamier and many people enjoy this variation.

As Ristretto is already a shorter slightly sweeter version of espresso, it gives a different variation in coffee for people to try and comes down to personal taste. You can spend a week or two trying all the different blends and variations and make up your own mind.


Coffee is a very old drink and goes back to the 15th century where coffee seeds were roasted in Sufi shrines. In the 1700s it was brought to America and coffee houses became popular. Following the Boston Tea Party in 1773 there was a revolt against Britain and culture changed forever with a mass switch from tea to coffee. Thomas Jefferson called it the favorite drink of the civilized world.

Ristretto will always be popular and in hot weather, it is very nice as a cold drink with ice in it, the slight sweetness lends it to outdoor drinking in summer.