Ristretto vs. Espresso: What’s the Difference?

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Ristretto and Espresso are both concentrated coffee drinks that showcase the rich and intense flavours of coffee.

While they may appear similar at first glance, these two beverages differ in extraction method, coffee-to-water ratios, and resulting flavour profiles.

In this Coffee Expert guide, we will explore the distinctions between Ristretto and Espresso, their ingredients, and how to make and enjoy these classic coffee drinks.

Origins of Ristretto and Espresso


Ristretto, which means “restricted” in Italian, originated in Italy as a more concentrated and intense version of Espresso. This coffee beverage is created by extracting a smaller amount of water through the same amount of coffee grounds, resulting in a bolder, more flavourful coffee experience.


Espresso, also of Italian origin, is a classic coffee beverage that has become the foundation for many other popular drinks. Made by forcing hot water through finely-ground coffee at high pressure, Espresso is a concentrated, full-bodied coffee with a rich crema on top.

Ingredients and Ratios: Ristretto vs. Espresso


A Ristretto uses the same amount of coffee grounds as an Espresso but extracts approximately half the amount of water. This results in a smaller, more concentrated coffee shot, typically around 15-20 ml in volume.


An Espresso uses a specific coffee-to-water ratio, generally around 7-9 grams of coffee grounds for every 25-30 ml of water. This produces a standard 25-30 ml shot of Espresso, which is more diluted than a Ristretto but still concentrated compared to other coffee beverages.

Flavour Profiles: Ristretto vs. Espresso


Due to the reduced water volume, a Ristretto offers a more intense and concentrated flavour profile compared to an Espresso. It highlights the sweetness and fruity notes of the coffee while reducing bitterness and acidity, resulting in a well-balanced, full-bodied taste.


Espresso features a bold and robust flavour profile, with a balance of acidity, bitterness, and sweetness. The crema, which forms on top of the Espresso, contributes to its rich, velvety mouthfeel and complex taste.

How to Make and Enjoy Ristrettos and Espressos

Making a Ristretto:

  1. Grind 7-9 grams of coffee beans to a fine consistency, similar to table salt.
  2. Tamp the coffee grounds evenly in the portafilter.
  3. Attach the portafilter to the espresso machine.
  4. Extract the Ristretto, aiming for a 15-20 ml shot within 15-20 seconds.
  5. Serve immediately.

Making an Espresso:

  1. Grind 7-9 grams of coffee beans to a fine consistency, similar to table salt.
  2. Tamp the coffee grounds evenly in the portafilter.
  3. Attach the portafilter to the espresso machine.
  4. Extract the Espresso, aiming for a 25-30 ml shot within 25-30 seconds.
  5. Serve immediately.

Ristretto vs. Espresso: Which One to Choose?

When deciding between a Ristretto and an Espresso, consider your personal taste preferences and desired coffee experience.

If you prefer a more intense and concentrated coffee flavour with reduced bitterness and acidity, a Ristretto may be the better choice. However, if you enjoy a classic, full-bodied coffee experience with a balanced flavour profile, an Espresso might be the ideal option for you.

As with other coffee drinks, personal preferences play a significant role in determining which beverage you’ll enjoy the most.

It’s worth trying both Ristretto and Espresso to discover which one resonates with your taste buds and coffee preferences.

Ristretto and Espresso in Popular Coffee Drinks

Ristretto in Coffee Drinks

Due to its concentrated and intense flavour, Ristretto is often used as a base for certain coffee drinks, such as the Cortado or the Piccolo, where a smaller volume of coffee is desired. In these beverages, the Ristretto adds a rich, bold flavour without overpowering the drink.

Espresso in Coffee Drinks

Espresso serves as the foundation for many popular coffee beverages, including Cappuccino, Latte, Macchiato, and Flat White. The balanced flavour profile of Espresso provides a strong, full-bodied base that complements the added milk and foam in these drinks.

Our Conclusion on the Ristretto vs. Espresso

Understanding the differences between Ristretto and Espresso can help you appreciate the nuances and versatility of coffee. Both of these concentrated coffee beverages showcase the rich, bold flavours of coffee beans, but each offers a unique taste experience.

By exploring these two classic coffee drinks, you can further develop your coffee palate and knowledge, deepening your appreciation for the world of coffee.

So, go ahead and give both Ristretto and Espresso a try – you might just find a new favourite in the process!