Ristretto vs. Espresso: Who wins?


Espresso is at the heart of many coffee lovers.

Known for its rich and exciting flavor, it has grown in popularity for people on-the-go and for those just looking to relax at home. However, most people are unaware of its “shorter” cousin, the ristretto.

I say cousin because when you look at them, they appear similar. But despite glaring similarities, they’re actually different. 

We’ll take a look at their differences 

Espresso overview 

white ceramic cup on brown wooden table

To help you absorb everything easily, we’ll start with the espresso. If you’re a longtime coffee fan, you’re probably familiar with it.

But just in case you’re not, we’ll go over how it’s made. 

An espresso is a strong shot of coffee created by forcing hot water through coffee grounds. 

This is carried out with an espresso machine. And by doing this, the water picks up the natural strong flavours that give espresso its attractive aroma.

It also has a longer extraction time and requires more water. This makes it more bitter and diluted.

Due to the larger amount of water required, it comes with a thick crema.

However, some people find espresso too bitter and if you’re one of those, then you can take a look at the ristretto below.


  • Rich strong flavors
  • Larger quantity 


  • Much bitter

Ristretto overview

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Ristretto stands for “restricted” in Italian. And as the name implies, it restricts the amount of espresso per ounce.

In the case of a ristretto, about half the amount of water used for an espresso is forced through coffee beans in half the time.

This results in a higher coffee concentration. However, due it’s faster brewing(or extraction) time, it doesn’t absorb some of those rich flavours an espresso is known for.

Also, while the espresso has a thick crema, it has a thin one.

A positive with ristretto is that it’s less bitter, making it more bearable for sensitive coffee drinkers.


  • Faster extraction time
  • Highly concentrated


  • Lacks some flavors. 

Ristretto Vs. Espresso

No matter your choice, you’re sure to get the most out of both coffee types.

They’re packed with the most flavours among the different kinds of coffee available.

However, a few things separate and uniquely define them. 

Let’s take a look.


You can simply differentiate them by looking at the brew size.

Because the ristretto requires smaller amounts of water, a shot is around ¾ ounce. 

An espresso on the other hand, is about 1 oz, making it significantly larger than a ristretto.

This won’t stop you from making more beverages if you’d like to though.

For an espresso, simply make double which will be about 2oz. 

Extraction process.

They both undergo similar methods that involve forcing hot water through coffee grounds. 

However, in the case of a ristretto less water and in turn less time is required. This shorter extraction time creates a higher concentrated beverage with deeper flavours.

On the end, the longer extraction time for an espresso results in a classic, naturally flavoured beverage.

Extraction time.

Get this part wrong and you could end up with a coffee drink you didn’t want.

Now, you probably know the ristretto has a shorter brew time, however you’ll need to be aware of the actual extraction time.

Ideally, brewing a ristretto takes you about 10 – 15 seconds. While an espresso is created in double time, taking about 20 – 30 seconds.


At the end of the day, it’s all about the flavours. 

Ristretto tends to have a bolder flavor due it’s short extraction time. However, it’s also lacking when it comes to natural and slightly chocolate flavors that coffee is known for.

An espresso shot delivers all the dark, rich and natural flavors of coffee. It also presents the thick aroma that soothes the nose of coffee lovers.

Caffeine levels 

Coffee lovers looking for an extra boost in productivity will pay greater attention to caffeine levels of both coffee types.

Since a single ristretto serving is smaller than espresso, it usually contains less amount of caffeine. 

But when you compare both beverages using the same volumes, you find out the ristretto contains more caffeine per ounce.

Our takeaway

Both coffee drinks are perfect choices for coffee lovers looking for a rich, strong and bold blend of coffee.

If you want to experience the natural flavours of coffee then you should get an espresso. 

On the other hand, if you’re looking for a deeper flavor with higher caffeine then ristretto will be a perfect match

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