During the early hours of the morning, some coffee drinkers don’t know nor care to understand what makes up their morning brew. As long as they get their much needed caffeine kick to jumpstart the day, the flavor is irrelevant. However, there's a breed of coffee addicts who need their morning joe to be more than caffeine — they expect a tasty, dressed up version of your basic cup. Many of the most passionate coffee lovers still think all espresso is created equal.  However, what most people don’t know is that different kinds of espressos that exist. But what is espresso, and what is ristretto? Knowing these differences can take their preferences and palate to a whole new coffee loving level. 

What is Ristretto?

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Shelby Cohron

Ristretto is one type of espresso shot. In Italian, the word “ristretto” translates to “restricted” in English. It is thicker than a normal espresso shot, and is considered to have a stronger, sweeter taste. A ristretto shot is the first portion of a traditional sized espresso shot. Yes, it is technically less coffee and less caffeine, as it is a restricted amount of coffee, but ristretto shots are still very appealing.

How It's Made 

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Jocelyn Hsu

The richer flavor happens not because of a different type of bean, but because the shot is made with a different process. The same amount of coffee beans from espresso but a lesser amount of water is pushed through the grinder. What results is a more concentrated, sweeter, richer type of espresso shot. 

The extraction process also plays a significant role. Extraction is when flavor from the coffee beans dissolves into the hot water. Typically, 30 percent of organic materials in the beans are soluble in water. A huge aspect of getting the right cup of ristretto is the rate of extraction, which refers to the amount of time the water is pushed through the grounds. Since there is less water, brewing a ristretto shot should take a shorter amount of time than a regular espresso shot.

While espresso may take 18 to 23 seconds to extract, a ristretto shot may take only 12 to 14 seconds. The shorter amount of time is because only 18-22 percent of the flavor should be extracted to create that signature sweet, balanced flavor that ristretto is known for.  

The Appeal of Ristretto

Another major difference between an espresso and ristretto shot is that in a ristretto shot, the flavor is less intense and bitter.  The process is more delicate and the flavor is unquestionably better. You still get a jolt of coffee, only with this, you get to skip out on the jolt of bitterness.

Next time you hit up your local coffee shop, ask them about replacing the shot of espresso with ristretto. This simple switch has the potential to change your outlook on coffee altogether.