Ristretto vs Long Shot: 5 Distriguishing Features

You’ve probably heard of a Ristretto and a Long Shot but can’t seem to pinpoint the difference. 

Well, a general answer is these two drinks are espresso variants differing only in coffee-to-water ratio and brewing time. But there’s more to explore.  

With this guide, you’ll discover the key differences between a ristretto and a long shot. We’ll talk about their proper servings, essential ingredients, and caffeine content, which other online articles seem to lack. 

By the end, you’ll be able to understand the charms each drink has and decide which one is right for you.

Let’s get started.

What is a Ristretto?

A ristretto consists of equal parts of coffee and water and is made in a similar way as its cousin, espresso. Ristretto, or “restricted” in English, owes its name to the two constraints responsible for its heavy, intense, and acidic flavor: coffee-to-water ratio and brewing time. 

The decreased water input and a shorter brewing time than an espresso also result in a less caffeinated cup of joe. It’s a common misconception, but just to make it clear: a ristretto has a lower caffeine content 

Coffee aficionados often use Ristretto as an alternative to regular espresso shots. This helps to strengthen drinks like Cortado and a flat white. 

If you are also interested in comparing cortado and cappuccino, read about it here.

What is a Long shot?

Long shot, also called Lungo, is an espresso drink with a coffee-to-water ratio of 1:3. The Italian word Lungo means “long,” referring to the practice of using more water and a longer brewing time to extract as many flavors and aromas from the coffee grounds as possible. 

“In a literal sense, a Long Shot is just a longer espresso shot.”

As a result, a long shot tastes milder and more caffeinated than a regular espresso. But because of the tendency to over-extract the flavors, it tastes slightly bitter. 

Although its first appearance was around the same time as an espresso, long shot wasn’t trendy until recent years when many people worldwide sought a milder alternative to the standard espresso drink.  

Ristretto vs Long Shot: The Main Difference

Although a ristretto looks like a very minute serving of a lungo, or vice versa, they are actually very distinct drinks. They taste and feel different. The difference lies between their varying coffee-to-water ratios and brewing times. 

ristretto vs long shot

Water Input

A ristretto has a 1:1 ratio of ground coffee to water, while a long shot follows a 1:3 ratio. This means that to make a long shot, we need three times more water than a ristretto for the same amount of beans. 

For example, pulling a standard ristretto and a long shot, you would need 16 grams of coffee grounds and 0.5 oz (~15mL) and 1.5 oz (45mL) of water, respectively. 

Brewing Time

The brewing time of a ristretto and a long shot was adjusted based on how an espresso was made.  So, it would make sense to set espresso as a basis for this. The standard time for pulling a single espresso shot is 25-30 seconds. 

A ristretto pulls for 15 seconds, while a long shot takes 45-60 seconds to brew. Just remember that a ristretto is a restricted version of an espresso, while a long shot is an espresso that takes longer to pull. 

Flavor and Texture

Ristretto and long shot are polar opposites when it comes to flavor and texture. 

While acidic, a Ristretto is famous for its robust, strong, and less bitter flavor. On the other hand, a long shot has a milder, less acidic, and slightly bitter flavor. 

If we speak of texture, a ristretto is syrupy and full-bodied, meaning it occupies your mouth as soon as the first sip. A long shot, however, is mellow and gentle, yet has some sort of crisp to it. 

Origin History

Both ristretto and long shot come from Italy. But the question was never really where it came from but how it came to be. 

A ristretto emerged as soon as the invention of the espresso machine in Italy in the late 19th century and is believed to be the original espresso. It is quite unfortunate that there is no exact documentation of its origin. However, a long shot has a better record. 

As espresso culture went viral during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, espresso lovers developed various brewing methods. The long shot was crafted for people who weren’t used to the intensity of a standard espresso.


There isn’t a single authoritative source that states how caffeinated a ristretto or a long shot is. While you may find other sources mention a number for it, most are personal measures. We are currently experimenting on this, and we’ll share our results soon. 

Meanwhile, let’s use a standard and some logic. 

Since a ristretto and a long shot are espresso variants, we set a shot of espresso with 62.8 mg of caffeine as out standard (1). Then, a ristretto shot would have less than 62.8 mg of caffeine while a long shot would have more. The numbers probably only deviate from the standard by about 5 to 10 mg.

If you are wondering why, it is because of the brewing time and the amount of water used. 

Although they are made with the same amounts of ground coffee, the only source caffeine, the shorter brewing time and lesser water input in ristretto isn’t enough to extract adequate caffeine to with a long shot or even an espresso. The opposite is true for a long shot.

Our calculation is based on the standard preparation, serving size, and the statistics from the USDA Food Database (2).

Ristretto vs. Long Shot: The Bottom Line

For a little recap, how do you choose the right one? 

If you prefer an intense, robust flavor and want less caffeine, go for a Ristretto. If you want something mild and mellow with a hidden caffeine kick have a Long Shot. It’s also perfect to try them both simultaneously to compare them. 

Happy Drinking! 

Want to know more about espresso drinks? Check out our article “30+ Types of espresso drinks”!


  1. Caffeine content in espresso
  2. USDA  food database
Photo of author


Mesphird Yang

I have been brewing and drinking coffee for almost 6 years now. At first, I was just dazzled by how baristas look and that's why I started learning. In the long run, I became obsessed with its charm. I have tried many coffee brewing methods, with different kinds of beans in various roast levels. If I could have more than 4 cups of coffee a day, I definitely would!

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