Ristretto is a less well known coffee drink because it is not something that is readily available in the well known coffee shops. A Ristretto is a shorter more concentrated version of an Espresso.
If you go into Starbucks or Costs or Café Nero and look on the menu of drinks that you can order from you will not see Ristretto as an option.
All coffee drinks in a coffee shop are derived from Espresso so to understand what a Ristretto is you first have to start with Espresso first.
Espresso is itself an intense concentrated “shot” of coffee that forms the base for all the coffee drinks that you can make yourself with an espresso machine.
Espresso comes as either a “single shot” or a “double shot”. The difference between the two is the amount of coffee that is used and the amount of water that is then pushed through the coffee at high pressure to get the final shot of espresso delivered into the glass.
It’s almost unheard of now to get a single shot of espresso because you wouldn’t want to turn a single shot into a cappuccino or a latte because it would be a small drink that would be finished within a few mouthfuls.
It would also be easy to add too much milk and that would just ruin the drink by diluting it into a milky coffee and you wouldn’t even be able to taste the coffee which defeats the point of going for a coffee in the first place.
If you are making espresso yourself with an espresso machine then always go for a double and if you are in a coffee shop check that they are giving you a double shot.
A double shot of espresso should be served with 20 grams of coffee and have 60ml of water pushed through it to get a perfectly balanced double espresso delivered in 25-30 seconds.
There is a lot more to it than that so we have produced a very specific detailed article on is espresso coffee?
How do you make Ristretto coffee?
All coffee and its various names originate from Italy and the word “Ristretto” literally translates as “Narrow” and that is exactly what a Ristretto is, a narrow espresso.
A Ristretto does not use less coffee than an espresso it just uses less water and because a double espresso is already a pretty short drink we would recommend only ordering a double ristretto in a coffee shop because a single will be a couple of sips and its gone!
Don’t be afraid to order one in a coffee shop, just ask and what they will do is just stop the coffee delivery early on their espresso machine so that you get a Ristretto rather than an espresso.
All of the coffee shops have their espresso machines set to deliver 60 ml of coffee for a double espresso so if they hit the water button early you will get less water pushed through and at about 30ml of water you’ll have a double Ristretto.
A Ristretto is simply an Espresso with the same amount of coffee but about half the amount of water of an Espresso.
You are now left with a much more concentrated coffee than an espresso and that has a significant impact on the flavour and also the amount of caffeine that is contained in the drink.
There is less caffeine in a double Ristretto than in a double Espresso simply because there is less coffee in the glass compared to an Espresso so if it’s a bit later in the evening and you are concerned that the caffeine in espresso may keep you up then going for a ristretto instead may remove any fears of being able to get to sleep.
Due to less dilution from the water, you will get a much bolder, heavy hitting coffee with a more intense flavour and also less bitter so if you like sugar you can ease of on it a little to enjoy the coffee more without any bitterness coming through.
What about milk?
All milk based drinks such as cappuccino or latte are normally made from a double shot of espresso with milk added in various ratios to get to your drink of choice so if you choose ristretto instead of espresso to make a cappuccino or latte then we would recommend using the same ratio’s to get a stronger more intense flavour.
For a cappuccino use 1/3 coffee, 1/3 milk and 1/3 foam and for latte use 1/5 coffee and 4/5 milk.
Here is an article that breaks down the difference between a cappuccino and a latte
If you add more milk you will end up getting a cappuccino or latte similar to the one you would get if you just used a double espresso.
Who is Ristretto for?
If you are already a fan of espresso or you just like a nice strong coffee then a Ristretto is definitely going to be the type of coffee you want to try.
With less water and more kick, you are going to be getting a different experience compared to a standard double espresso.
If you have not tried it before then it’s well worth a go.
What’s the best coffee machine to make a Ristretto with?
If you are intending to make your own espresso rather than get it from a coffee shop then you will need an espresso machine.
Don’t be put off by the huge monstrous contraptions that you see in a coffee shop. You don’t need anything like that and nor do you need to spend a lot of money to be able to make a decent Ristretto at home.
What you want to look out for is a coffee machine that you can program the amount of water that is delivered because a ristretto a very short drink and it will be hard to replicate the correct amount of water required each time if you have to manually start and stop the water delivery yourself each time.
Choose one where you can program it once and then it will repeat it automatically for you each time.
If you want a fully automated process then you can try the more expensive option but ultra-convenient bean to cup coffee machine. These machines grind the fresh coffee beans for you and deliver your coffee at the touch of a button.
To get the best flavour from a drink as intense as a Ristretto choose fresh coffee beans and grind them yourself.
How to make a Ristretto with a Nespresso machine
Most Nespresso machines have a default setting to deliver 40ml of water for an espresso and 110ml for a lungo.
If you want to turn your espresso into a ristretto then just reprogram the espresso setting to deliver less water.
With most Nespresso machines you press and release one button to deliver the coffee once the capsule has been inserted and your coffee is delivered.
To create a Ristretto with a Nespresso machine, instead of pressing and releasing the button, press and hold the button and only release the button when you have the required amount of water for a Ristretto.
When you release the button, that amount of water will automatically be delivered every time you press and release it so you can enjoy a Ristretto instead of an Espresso if that is your preference.
If you want to get it just right then put a small measuring jug underneath the coffee outlet and press and hold the button without putting a coffee capsule in. Once you have measured 30ml of water then you can release the button and your machine will be programmed for Ristretto.
Here is a short video showing that in practice