What is a Ristretto Anyways?

Written by: Raj Jana

What is a Ristretto Anyways?

For some people, when you ask them how they like their cup of joe, the most straightforward response was either “black” or “white.” Today people are ordering more than your grandparent’s typical cup of joe. Instead, we have seen the emergence of lattes, cappuccinos, short black, espresso. The list goes on. So to help make things easier for you the next time you order a cup of refreshing joe, here are some different ways to sip America’s favorite morning beverage and a closer look at one of the newest espresso drinks making a splash.

Simply put, ristretto means short or condensed. Pronunciation Ri-strét-to is a form of espresso originating from Italy that is made using less hot water. To make this condensed brew, stop the espresso shot before its bitter-tasting compounds begin to release. In the end, you are left with an espresso shot that is full of flavor with a condensed sweetness lingering on your palate.

But when you hear the phrase less water, what exactly does that mean anyway? Many people get confused and think stopping the shot means just stopping and pulling the espresso shot as you normally would. But this would be a mistake and leave you with a sour and bitter taste with flavors that are poorly extracted. But don’t worry, we will demystify this misconception for you. 

To better understand what is meant by the phrase less water, you must know the different Italian terminologies used to talk about espresso. When it comes to espresso, in Italian, it means knowing how to describe length vs. size. Therefore, when ordering an espresso, you would refer to its length and say lungo, ristretto, or normale instead of ordering by size. Whereas in America, we say single, double, or triple.

If measuring the difference between each size, a regular cup of joe or lungo will include 60+ millimeters of java per cup. However, a ristretto is only 20 to 30 millimeters, and a regular espresso shot contains 40 to 60 millimeters of liquid. 

When it comes to American cafe shops, when you order a single or even a triple shot, all the espresso is extracted as a double shot. If you want a single shot, they just split the double shot in half.

Where does ristretto come from?

Although ristretto originates from Italy, it was introduced to the US in Seattle by David Schomer, the Espresso Vivace owner. Ristretto dates back to the early 90s, where ristretto quickly became the standard due to the beauty this cafe espresso offered patrons.

Thanks to the sugar cane brewing process, ristretto can preserve the delicate fragrance of roasted beans and caramelized sugars, leaving you with a creamy and velvety texture in your mouth.

Why would anyone want a ristretto?

When you pull a shot using less water, the final result is a concentrated brew. Without offering a bitter flavor, a ristretto has remnants of caramel, chocolate, giving you a sweeter taste than you would get with regular espresso, maintaining its full-body flavors. Ristretto has a very different texture from espresso.

The final brewing process incorporates more water with espresso, whereas a ristretto skips this process and is more syrupy. Plus, the crema on top of a ristretto resembles a darker shade of brown than an espresso’s crema.

Since a ristretto is half the espresso volume, you will actually be getting a double ristretto when ordering in a cafe shop, which will give you a thicker and condensed type of espresso. But with a sweeter and bolder flavor that isn’t bitter. The next time you're ordering your next coffee club subscriptionpick up your favorite espresso blend and try your hand at making one of these Italian brews at home.

What is cafe ristretto?

Depending on what cafe you visit, it could be called cafè ristretto, or caffeè ristretto, or simply ristretto, which can be very confusing when trying to order this delicious beverage. However,  cafè ristretto is just the Spanish term for the Italian word ristretto.

What is a ristretto shot?

No fancy brewing here; a ristretto shot is just like it sounds, a shot of espresso. But in the US, when ordering a shot of ristretto, you will end up being served a double shot of ristretto.

What is a ristretto bianco?

The short answer is a smaller version of a  cafè latte only using ristretto instead of espresso. For those unfamiliar with what a latte is, it’s a sweeter cafe beverage that includes steamed milk, a shot of espresso, and a delicate layer or drop of foam on the top. 

If you prefer to order alate without the foam, this is called a flat white, although it is essentially the same thing. 

As mentioned earlier, in the US, a single shot of espresso is served as a double shot. 

Therefore, your lattes would generally come with a single, will include a double shot of espresso instead. A ristretto Bianco then is a cafè latte only made as a double shot of ristretto. You or your barista will add steamed milk and finally pour foam on top to complete the drink. 

Since lattes are known to be sweeter, adding a well-prepared ristretto shot will only make these flavors more enhanced. 

For many people, enjoying a well-made ristretto is the pinnacle of caffeine experiences. If you have been thinking about ways to upgrade your typical cup of joe, a ristretto could be the jolt of caffeine you could be missing. 

You owe it to yourself and your tastebuds to add a shot or two of espresso to your morning routine. Keep the sweet flavors of a ristretto in mind when looking for a new blend to add to your coffee club subscription. Your tastebuds will thank you!