Ristretto vs Espresso: Are They The Same?

 Last Updated April 29, 2022

Ristretto vs espresso: do you know the difference between these two drinks? If not, don't worry! In this post I'll give a barista's explanation on how each drink is made and the key differences. But If you're looking for the short answer, the key difference is the volume of water passed through the coffee. Keep reading for more details.

Ristretto and Espresso

Ristretto on the left and an espresso on the right.

Ristretto vs espresso: what is the difference?

At first glace these two drinks appear the same. But they are in fact two different espresso based drinks, even though they're almost the same.

The main difference between these two drinks is the amount of volume of water passed through the coffee puck to make the drink. Every other stage of the coffee making process is the same - same amount of ground coffee, same prep, same pressure, and same water temperature. 

An espresso is 30ml of volume, while a ristretto is 15ml of volume.  A ristretto is literally half an espresso shot, as all it involves is cutting the extraction short half way.

Some might even say a ristretto is a "restricted" shot (get it...ha - that's the literal Italian translation). 

If you want a detailed guide on how to make an espresso, click here to check out our detailed guide. Just cut the shot halfway short if you want to make a ristretto.

volume of a ristretto shot of coffee

Birds eye view of the difference. Espresso on the left and ristretto on the right.

Why order a ristretto over an espresso?

But why would anyone want the same drink but with less water volume? Especially when you're going to be paying the same amount of money when ordering one at a cafe (those espresso machines don't pay for themselves!).

Well there are a few reasons why someone would order a ristretto over an espresso, which are:

  • The most common reason is that it is a "sweeter" shot. That is,  much of the bitter notes of espresso are found at the end of the espresso extraction. By cutting the shot short, you can avoid some of these tasting notes. 
  • Some people prefer less volume in their coffee, meaning less caffeine.
  • They simply prefer the taste.

If you haven't had one before I recommend trying it at home or at your local cafe!

If you have an espresso or latte maker at home, I recommend making an espresso and ristretto at the same time. Then you can easily taste both and compare the differences. See which one you prefer. 

In conclusion...

So there you have it! The main difference between ristrettos and espressos is the ratio of water to coffee used in each brew. Ristrettos are made with less water, while espressos are brewed with a higher water-to-coffee ratio.

Now that you know the difference, which one will you order next time you're at your favorite coffee shop? Or do you even think that a ristretto is worth while making compared to an espresso? Let us know in the comments below!

About The Author 

Ivan Bez

Ivan is the founder of Latte Art Guide and a barista with 10 years of experience. He loves coffee and aims to help people improve their coffee making skills.

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