If you’re a coffee drinker, you’ve probably heard the terms espresso and ristretto tossed around quite a bit. But what exactly is the difference between these two coffees, and which one is right for you?

In this article, I’ll answer all of your burning questions regarding the ristretto and espresso. After reading through this article, you’ll know the difference between the two coffees and how to brew them.

Are you ready to learn all about it? Grab some coffee and jump right into it!

Ristretto vs. espresso: differences explained

There are two popular small cups of coffee at the moment: espresso and ristretto.

However, many people find themselves wondering what the differences are between ristretto and espresso and if it’s worth making the change from one to the other.

Ristretto and espresso are two separate ways of brewing coffee. Ristretto is a stronger, shorter form of espresso that’s extracted by using less pressure and water.

The truth is, both are delicious coffee brewing methods. Your preference might come down to whether you prefer the stronger, more intense taste of espresso or the subtle tasting notes of ristretto.

"A ristretto shot in a tall glass."

When you think about coffee, the first thing that comes to mind is probably an espresso. It’s common to see “espresso” on coffee shop menus everywhere. But there is also the smaller, more subtle flavored coffee called a ristretto.

The difference only difference between the two coffees is the amount of water used to brew them. They both use the same amount of ground coffee to produce amazing coffee.

Did you know you can use these coffees to make some fantastic coffee recipes and much more? Read along to find out how to use these coffee versions.

How to use these coffees at home

The great part about brewing coffee at home is that you can use it to produce some amazing recipes or drink it as is. The choices are endless as you’re the boss of it. Your Dream Coffee is all about making the best coffee possible.

But how do you use a ristretto and espresso at home? To fully enjoy these coffees, you can drink them as is. The flavor profile of these coffees varies a lot, and it’s fun to try out the difference, but more on this later.

You can also use these coffees to prepare great-tasting coffee recipes, iced coffees, and red eye coffee.

Most coffee recipes either ask for brewed coffee like Chemex coffee or coffee made with the French press. However, for a strong coffee basis, the best way to make it a great tasting recipe is to use either a ristretto or espresso as the basis.

You can make so many recipes while using these strong-tasting coffees that the options are endless. To make it easy for you, I’ve listed a few recipes down below that might be of interest to you:

Now that you know how these coffees are best used, let’s move onto the amount of caffeine in them:

How much caffeine is in these coffees?

The caffeine content of coffee is one of the most important factors of brewing coffee at home. The amount of caffeine in coffee can change by a few factors like:

  • Run through time of water
  • Amount of coffee beans used
  • What kind of coffee beans are used

Espresso contains 68 mg of caffeine, while ristretto comes in just a bit lower with 63 mg of caffeine (source).

As you can see from the amount of caffeine in the coffees, there is not that much of a difference, which can be explained by the same amount of coffee beans used.

The only difference between these coffees is the amount of water that runs through the coffee beans; incredibly, this can make coffee taste so different from one another.

How much liquid do these coffees contain?

Ristretto and espresso are two names that you’ll hear a lot when it comes to coffee. While they’re both made up of the same ingredients, the result is very different.

The amount of water that runs through the coffee beans determines how much liquid gold you can eventually drink. The amount of coffee that is produced is as follows:

  • A ristretto has 25ml of coffee
  • An espresso has 30ml of coffee

This number can change depending on how long your barista lets the water run through the coffee. But it is an excellent estimate of how much total liquid they contain.

Below, you can see the difference in the total liquid between a ristretto (on the left) and an espresso (on the right):

"Ristretto vs. espresso comparison."

I have even seen ristrettos with just a bit more than 15ml total liquid and espressos with just under 25ml.

The most fun part about these smaller and stronger tasting coffees is that a regular cup of coffee is usually served in portions of half a cup (120ml) of coffee.

If you compare this to these smaller amounts of stronger coffee, you can see why they are sometimes called a shot of coffee.

What is a shot of coffee?

A shot of coffee is a small amount of coffee “pulled” from an espresso machine. An espresso machine makes extraordinary espresso and ristretto shots.

The shots are called like this because the amount of coffee that comes out of the machine is nothing like a regular cup of coffee. It is such a small amount of coffee.

As you’ve read above, the amount of coffee is just 25ml for a ristretto and 30ml for an espresso. These coffee shots can be drunk as is or used in the recipes that I’ve listed above.

What is the difference in taste?

A ristretto and espresso taste really different. Because of the smaller amount of water used to produce the ristretto, the coffee is a lot stronger-tasting.

While using the same amount of ground coffee to make these coffees, the only difference is the amount of water used to prepare them.

When you use less water to brew coffee, the liquid that does have to run through the coffee beans will take on more flavor from the coffee beans, resulting in a more robust coffee.

"Medium roasted coffee beans on a wooden plate."

Ristretto tends to be less bitter of flavor; this is because a ristretto shot is done in half the time that an espresso needs. The longer water runs through coffee beans, the more you risk over-extracting the coffee.

I also find more sweet coffee notes in a ristretto, and the burned and dark flavors of espresso are not there anymore, and you get to keep the same amount of caffeine; how amazing is that?

Is ristretto stronger than espresso?

Ristretto is stronger than espresso in taste. This is because less water is used in brewing the coffee, but the same amount of ground coffee is used. The amount of water used has an enormous impact on the flavor profile of the coffees.

I’ve written an article about the most commonly asked ristretto questions where I go more in-depth about this comparison. If you’re interested in learning more about it, you can check it out here.

How to make ristretto and espresso with a Nespresso machine

Did you know you can also produce great-tasting ristretto while using the espresso button on a Nespresso machine?

Not all Nespresso machines have three buttons to produce coffee. The most commonly found buttons are the lungo and espresso buttons. On the bigger and more expensive machines, there’s also a ristretto button.

The machine that I use at home comes with an espresso button, which is why I’ll show you how to brew the stronger tasting brother of the espresso while using a Nespresso machine.

Follow the below-listed steps to brew a ristretto at home using a Nespresso machine:

  1. Turn on the machine and make sure you have enough water in the reservoir.
  2. Grab a small cup and place it under the coffee machine.
  3. Press the espresso button on your espresso machine without adding a coffee cup. This will rinse the machine of any coffee particles and pre-heat it.
  4. Throw the water out and place a coffee cup of your choice in the cup tray.
  5. Now comes the fun part, you can “stop” the machine from pressing the coffee button again. By pressing the button, you will tell the machine to stop pumping water through the machine.
  6. After you’ve added your coffee cup, press on the espresso button and wait.
  7. Press again after your coffee cup has run through for about 5-7 seconds. This will leave you with a ristretto.
Note: the run through time can differ from machine to machine. You can calculate how much time you need to brew a ristretto by halving the time it takes to brew an espresso with your machine.

You are now left with a much stronger coffee than the Nespresso machine produces typically. The coffee flavor is far different from what you’re used to because less water is used.

It was an enjoyable experience to figure out how to stop the Nespresso machine and finish with a delicious ristretto shot. I highly recommend giving it a try yourself.

Conclusion

I think it’s impressive that you can make these robust cups of coffee very easy and that they differ so significantly in taste. The world of coffee keeps amazing me more every day.

To get back to the questions about which coffee is right for you, my answer is: it depends on how much you like strong coffee flavors in general. Let me explain:

Both coffees have a strong coffee taste, while ristretto tends to lean more to a sweeter taste with more punch. For me, both coffees are great, and I like to switch between brewing them from time to time.

For you, this might differ. But if you’re still unsure which coffee fits you, I would suggest comparing the flavors yourself. This way, you get to taste great coffee and make a final decision on which of the two you like most.

This article was all about comparing these small cups of coffee. If you’d like to learn more about coffee in general, you can check out the related coffee articles I’ve listed below.

Did you know of the differences I talked about in this article? Let me know by leaving a comment down below. If you have any other questions regarding coffee, you can also contact me directly by pressing the “Contact Me” button at the top!

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On my coffee blog you will find everything you need in order to start brewing coffee at home. Ranging from the basics; to the newest coffee recipes everybody talks about!

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