Ristretto vs Espresso

Posted in  Coffee  on  April 16, 2021 by  Urban Bean Coffee Team

This is our ristretto vs espresso comparison.

These two drinks seem the same to you, but you'll find out this is far from the case. Despite their similarities, they're considered different drinks due to their different brewing times.

Keep reading to learn more.

What Is an Espresso Shot?

What Is an Espresso Shot

Espresso is a dense coffee beverage prepared under high pressure in an espresso machine. During brewing, water passes through the ground coffee, which sits in a metal portafilter. Crema forms on the surface of the espresso shot. This looks like foam and is formed from the essential oils that are found inside the coffee bean.

What Is a Ristretto Shot?

What Is a Ristretto Shot

Ristretto is a shortened version of an espresso. It's brewed in the same basic way—water flows under high pressure through ground coffee in a portafilter. However, the extraction time is shorter than that of espresso. A few seconds' difference makes ristretto a completely different drink than espresso.

Ristretto vs Espresso

As mentioned above, the principle of brewing espresso and ristretto is the same; the only difference is time. Other differences, even in taste, follow from this difference.

Below we will look at the parameters that show the difference between espresso and ristretto.

Brewing time

As a rule, espresso is extracted for 23-30 seconds from the moment the pump is turned on.

When preparing ristretto, the extraction time is 15-20 seconds.

Volume and coffee-to-water ratio

When using the same amount of ground coffee, a ristretto shot will always be smaller in volume than an espresso shot.

The average volume of an espresso is 0.8-1.2 fl oz (25-35 ml).

The average volume of a ristretto is 0.5-0.8 fl oz (15 to 25 ml). Because of a ristretto's small size, a double ristretto is often found on coffee shop menus.

As a result of their different extraction times and volumes, the drinks' coffee-to-water ratios also differ:


Ristretto — up to 1:1.5


Espresso — from 1:1.6 to 2.5

The ratio, when using the same grind size for both drinks, also affects the strength of the coffee.

Strength of coffee

The term total dissolved solids (TDS) indicates the strength of coffee. It shows the percent of substances dissolved in the drink based on its total weight.

TDS depends on two parameters. The first is ratio—the more coffee there is compared to water, the higher the TDS. The second is grind size—the finer the grind, the higher the TDS.

Ristretto and espresso use the same grind size but different ratios of coffee to water. Ristretto uses a higher coffee-to-water ratio than espresso, so it has a higher TDS, which means it's a stronger drink.

Here are the TDS values for these two drinks:


Ristretto — 12% and above


Espresso — 8% to 12%


The body of coffee—the tactile sensation of the beverage in the mouth—is determined by the quality of the coffee beans, the style of roasting, and the brewing method. Both espresso and ristretto are prepared under high pressure, so both drinks will feel sticky and syrupy. The main and most important difference between the two is in taste and aroma.

When preparing both drinks while maintaining the same parameters—grind size, amount of coffee, and water temperature—ristretto has more acidity and less bitterness than espresso.

When making an espresso or ristretto shot, substances from the ground coffee are extracted at different stages. First acids are extracted, then sugars, then bitter substances like caffeine and tannins. Because ristretto has as shorter extraction time, it has more acids and sugars and less bitter substances.

Caffeine content

Many people think that ristretto has more caffeine because it is stronger.

But this impression is misleading: in fact, there is less caffeine in a ristretto than in an espresso.

During brewing, the following parameters affect the amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee: grind size, brewing temperature, and brewing time.

The first two parameters are the same when preparing espresso and ristretto, but the brewing time differs. When brewing a ristretto, extraction stops before the caffeine is fully drawn out of the grounds, so there's a little less caffeine in a ristretto shot than in an espresso shot.

About the Author

Urban Bean Coffee Team

Coffee is part of the lives of everyone on the Urban Bean Coffee team. We are a group of professional baristas, coffee bean roasters, and coffee machine repairers. Coffee has connected us, and together we strive to provide the best information to our readers. Our responsibility is to provide advice on any and all coffee-related issues. And we know that to do this we must be experts in this field. The coffee consumption culture has changed dramatically over several centuries. New brewing methods, bean quality control methods, roasting methods, and much more have appeared. We are sure that coffee will change further, and we want to be involved in changing it for the better.

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