What is a ristretto?

Images: Luisa Brimble

If you’re newish to the coffee world, all the jargon may get you a tad confused. You may nervously pop into your local ‘cool-hang’ cafe and scan the menu board for something you know.

A good place to start is the good old cappuccino or flat white but once you get a tad daring, then you can work out what you really like and order to your taste. If you like coffee a tad stronger, you may like to try a Ristretto, like those other cool coffee ‘kids’. But what the is a Ristretto?

Espresso vs Ristretto

Ok, for starters Ristretto in Italian means ‘restricted’ and that’s basically the difference between an Espresso and a Ristretto. More water is used in an Espresso than a Ristretto. And if you want to get really technical, the water to coffee ratio is as follows:

  • Espresso – 1:2
  • Ristretto – 1:1

This often means that a Ristretto is stronger than an Espresso because it is less diluted by water. The flavours that come through a shorter extraction are different to those of a longer espresso extraction. Not better, just different, although flavours that come through a Ristretto tend to be more balanced.

How to drink a Ristretto

Forget your frothy milk because a Ristretto is traditionally consumed as a black shot. But, having said this, you can use  a single or double Ristretto as a basis for your latte or capp.

How to make a Ristretto

Now we come to the exciting bit. If you’re a bit nervous about asking your local barista for a Ristretto, try making one at home. It’s just like making an Espresso, only less counting! Here’s our method:

  •  Grind coffee fresh to the same grind setting that you would for an espresso shot (this should be a moderately fine grind size)
  • Fill the portafilter to suit your machine. Typically a domestic Espresso machine takes a 12-14 gram portafilter. However basket sizes do vary, we would recommend filling up to the “line” in the portafilter.
  • Tamp with even and firm pressure.
  • Extract 15-20mls of coffee in 15 sec = half of a standard Espresso shot which is usually 30 ml in 30 sec.
  • Drink it black as a sweeter tasting single Ristretto or mix with milk and enjoy !

Which should you order?

In other words, which is better, Espresso or Ristretto? It’s all up to your taste, really. Whether you like the intensity of a Ristretto (or double!) or the smooth taste of an Espresso. It’s always fun to experiment with flavours and various methods of making coffee. Whatever you like, you like and that’s what coffee is all about.

Which part of making coffee at home do you find the hardest?

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