How to Make a Ristretto: Crafting the Perfect Espresso Shot

Ristretto, meaning “restricted” or “short” in Italian, is an artful extraction method that involves brewing a smaller amount of water through finely-ground coffee, resulting in a rich, bold flavor profile.

In this guide, we’ll delve into the step-by-step process of making a ristretto at home, exploring the essential ingredients, equipment, and techniques needed to achieve a truly exceptional and satisfying espresso experience.

Whether you’re a coffee enthusiast or a curious beginner, let’s embark on this flavorful journey and unlock the secrets of mastering the perfect ristretto shot.

Ristretto: A Concentrated Delight

In the realm of coffee aficionados, the ristretto holds a special place as a concentrated elixir of flavor.

Derived from the Italian word for “restricted” or “narrow,” this espresso-based delight lives up to its name by offering a bolder and more intense experience than its regular espresso counterpart.

By finely grinding coffee beans and utilizing less water during extraction, the ristretto achieves its signature characteristics.

To craft this tantalizing beverage, the barista employs the same amount of ground coffee as a standard espresso shot but with a refined grind and half the usual amount of water.

This careful preparation method preserves the essence of the coffee, resulting in a dense and velvety liquid that showcases a concentration of flavors.

With its reduced extraction time, typically lasting between 20 to 30 seconds, the ristretto captivates the senses with its exquisite taste profile.

The Distinctive Flavors of Ristretto Shots

Ristretto shots offer a more concentrated and bolder flavor profile compared to regular espresso.

By using less water, ristretto shots achieve a higher concentration of flavors, resulting in a sweeter and more intense taste.

They are slightly sweeter, richer, and less caffeinated than other espresso drinks.

The heightened coffee flavors in ristretto shots may be overwhelming for some, but those who enjoy straight espresso or intense coffee flavors often prefer them.

Ristretto shots have a simpler flavor profile with light tastes and aromatics, lacking bitterness or deep chocolate notes.

The crema layer on top of ristretto shots is thinner and less noticeable, while long shots have a more pronounced crema due to their higher overall fluid content.

Additionally, ristretto shots have a higher coffee-to-water ratio, resulting in a higher caffeine content compared to long shots.

Selecting the Ideal Coffee for Ristretto

Choosing the right coffee beans is crucial in creating a delectable ristretto.

Opting for an espresso roast is recommended, as it brings forth the desired dark and bitter flavors essential for an espresso shot.

While personal preferences may vary, several popular brands and beans have garnered praise among baristas for their ability to deliver exceptional ristretto shots.

Renowned names such as Illy, Starbucks, Intelligentsia, Lavazza Super Crema Whole Bean Coffee Blend, DEATH WISH COFFEE Whole Bean Coffee, Kicking Horse Coffee, Cliff Hanger, and Bettadakhan Estate blend (from Third Wave Coffee Roasters) are often favored choices.

These brands and specific bean varieties have earned a reputation for their high quality and their ability to produce remarkable ristretto shots.

It is worth noting that the selection of coffee beans for ristretto may spark some debate among baristas.

Different individuals have their own preferences when it comes to flavor profiles, and personal taste plays a significant role in the ultimate choice of coffee beans.

When brewing coffee, achieving a well-balanced combination of acids, sugars, and bitter substances is key to attaining a delicious taste.

The quality of the coffee beans, the level of roast, and the brewing method all contribute to the final flavor profile of the ristretto.

Mastering the Art of Crafting a Ristretto

Preparing a ristretto requires finesse and precision, allowing you to unlock the concentrated essence of coffee.

By following a few simple steps and utilizing the appropriate tools, you can create a ristretto that captivates the senses and transports you to a realm of unparalleled flavor.

Ingredients and Equipment

To embark on this flavorful journey, gather the following ingredients and equipment:

Finely ground coffee beans

Choose your preferred blend, but aim for a fine grind to facilitate the extraction process.

A combination of Arabica and Robusta beans is commonly used.

Espresso machine

Ensure you have a reliable espresso machine that can deliver the necessary pressure for extraction.


The vessel that holds the coffee grounds during brewing.


Use a tamper to evenly compact the coffee grounds in the portafilter.

Scale (optional)

While not mandatory, a scale can help you achieve consistency by measuring the precise amount of extracted coffee.


Step 1: Grind the coffee beans

Begin by grinding the coffee beans to a fine consistency.

Aim for an amount equivalent to a standard espresso shot, which typically ranges from 7 to 10 grams.

Directly grind the beans into the portafilter to ensure freshness.

Step 2: Settle, level, and tamp the coffee grounds

After filling the portafilter with freshly ground coffee, use your finger to level any excess grounds.

Gently tap the portafilter on the counter a few times to settle the grounds evenly.

When tamping, apply consistent pressure to achieve a level surface, ensuring uniform water distribution during brewing.

Step 3: Brew the ristretto shot

There are two methods to create a ristretto:

Adjust the grind: Grind the coffee even finer to slow down the pour.

This approach reduces the volume in the cup while allowing the same brewing time as a regular espresso shot.

Cut the shot short: Brew the shot for a shorter duration, aiming for around 15 to 20 seconds.

This technique yields a smaller volume of intense and flavorful coffee, usually around 15 to 20ml (0.5 to 0.7 fl. oz), with a flow resembling warm honey.

Step 4: Serve and drink immediately

Once your ristretto is extracted, serve it promptly.

The concentrated flavors and aromas are at their peak when consumed fresh, providing an optimal sensory experience.


To enhance your ristretto brewing process and elevate its taste, consider the following tips:

  • Opt for filtered water: Using filtered water improves the overall taste of your ristretto.
  • Choose a lighter roast: To avoid excessive bitterness, opt for a lighter roast instead of a darker one.
  • Adjust the grind size: Grind the coffee beans slightly finer than you would for a regular espresso shot. This adjustment helps slow down the extraction process and intensify the flavors.
  • Utilize a scale: For precision, weigh the amount of extracted coffee. Aim for a volume of 15 to 20ml to achieve the desired concentration.
  • Consider the roast profile: Ristrettos tend to favor medium-dark to dark roasts, which complement their intense and robust characteristics.
  • Experiment with blends: Find the perfect combination of Arabica and Robusta beans that allows the ristretto to express its full aromatic richness. Discover the interplay between powerful bitterness and woody notes within a dense and silky texture.

Contrasting the Ristretto and Lungo Experience

Ristrettos, characterized by their shorter length and higher concentration, deliver a bolder and more intense flavor.

The reduced extraction time and minimal water content create a concentrated shot that captivates the palate.

Ristrettos are often celebrated for their robustness and ability to showcase the intricate flavors of the coffee beans, with a pleasing balance of sweetness, richness, and depth.

On the other hand, lungos offer a contrasting experience with their longer extraction time and greater water volume.

The extended brewing process dilutes the espresso, resulting in a milder and more nuanced flavor profile.

Lungos possess a mellower taste compared to ristrettos, providing a smoother and more extended coffee experience.

The disparity in extraction time and water content contributes significantly to the divergence in taste and strength between ristrettos and lungos.

Ristrettos’ concentrated nature creates a flavor powerhouse, while lungos’ diluted composition offers a more gentle and prolonged flavor sensation.


Crafting the perfect ristretto is a delightful journey that requires attention to detail and a passion for exceptional coffee.

By using finely ground coffee beans, a precise brewing process, and understanding the balance of flavors, you can unlock the concentrated essence of a ristretto shot.

The result is a bold, intense, and sweet experience that captivates the senses.

Embrace the art of making ristretto and savor the remarkable flavors that await in every perfectly crafted espresso shot.


How is a ristretto shot made?

A ristretto shot is created using the same espresso roast as a full espresso shot.

However, the key difference lies in the amount of hot water that is passed through the coffee grounds.

With a ristretto, less hot water is used, resulting in a smaller and more concentrated serving.

This concentrated extraction delivers a ristretto shot with a sweeter and richer flavor profile

What is the ratio for ristretto?

The ratio for a ristretto shot typically falls within the range of 1:1 to 1:1.5.

This ratio implies that for every gram of coffee grounds used, a corresponding amount of liquid is extracted.

For instance, if you utilize 18 grams of coffee, the target would be to extract approximately 18-27 grams of liquid for a ristretto shot.

It is essential to understand that these ratios serve as general guidelines and can be adjusted to suit individual taste preferences.

The ultimate objective is to finely tune the espresso extraction process to achieve the desired flavor and mouthfeel.

Is a ristretto single or double shot?

A ristretto does not fall into the categories of single or double shots.

Instead, it is considered a “shorter” variation of an espresso, crafted by using less water and resulting in a smaller beverage size.

Do you put milk in ristretto?

Certainly, if you prefer, you can add milk to a ristretto.

Although ristretto shots are commonly enjoyed straight, the option to include milk or sugar is entirely based on personal preference.

Furthermore, ristretto shots can serve as a delightful foundation for lattes or cappuccinos, where the addition of milk harmonizes with the espresso’s inherent sweetness, creating a well-balanced and flavorful beverage.

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Jacob Harris

Jacob is a coffee enthusiast who turned his passion into a career. As the owner and editor of Karma Coffee Cafe, he shares his extensive knowledge and recommendations, captivating fellow coffee lovers.

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