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Difference Between Espresso, Ristretto and Lungo


Advancement of technology has lead to the freedom of imagination. This, together with the passion of baristas, had lead to the coffee market that we know and love today. Numerous java beverages have grown into the specific mix with syrups, various kinds of milk and cremes, ice creams and even biscuits. The classic, coffee-only beverages have also been advanced. With so many brews that look similar and that are made using the same machine, how can we tell the difference? 

The frequent cause of confusion between java-loving folks is the difference between espresso, ristretto, and lungo. Sometimes doppio and americano can confuse too. 

Let’s dive in and find out what makes each of those beverages special.


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This popular beverage is invented by Italians. It refers to the method of making a coffee shot. The water which is heated to a little under 100 degrees of celsius is expressed (which means that it’s put under pressure), and it goes through the beans.

This method of extraction results in the beverage whose density is bigger than the rest of the coffees. The lighter layer on the top of the beverage is crema. Since the process is very intense – the water is almost boiling and it gets expressed, the compounds that make it into a drink are actually very concentrated and make for an intense beverage.

Espresso is made with around 7 grams of ground beans and 25 ml of water, but these numbers can vary depending on the machine. It’s served in a 50ml cup. The top of the drink should be covered with crema – a thick layer of a slightly lighter brown foam that contains bubbles.


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Ristretto, or it’s french equivalent, café serré, can be a little complicated to remember, but it’s not confusing when it comes to the preparation process. It’s a very concentrated drink which is a characteristic that espresso has also.

It consists of an espresso shot which is made out of the grounds but the delicate part is this: The time that’s used for the extraction stays the same but it’s extracted by the amount of water that is “twice less” than what it would be for espresso, considering the amount of grounded beans used.

It’s logical that the name of the beverage, Ristretto, means “short”. In case you ever wonder how to make a ristretto, remember that for one coffee dosage, there is a twice smaller water dosage. 

When we think of the ristretto which is prepared with less water, we can’t fail to think about lungo. 

Lungo is a drink that, for the same amount of coffee that’s used for the espresso or ristretto, uses the doubled amount of water. 

Ristretto is a beverage that, because of its method of preparation which involves shorter brewing time, has lower caffeine levels than espresso does. The taste of Ristretto offers notes that you would find in an espresso shot, but they are more present and highlighted since there is less caffeine.

The ristretto shot is often used to produce other kinds of coffee-based beverages like Ristretto Bianco. Starbucks’ double ristretto is blended to create Cream Frappe. 


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Lungo literally means “long” in the Italian language. It’s also sometimes referred to as a long shot of espresso, even though that might be a little misleading in the terms of its preparation. 

The usual amount of the coffee that we’re mentioning through the article is around 16 grams. 

It’s a drink that’s made when one shot of espresso is mixed with twice as much water. There is a difference in serving times of espresso and lungo. While espresso may take up to half a minute, a lungo might take up to a whole minute to pull. It also takes up more volume – espresso can go up to 60ml while lungo can even go up to 170. The extraction time, which is an important variable, is specific to each coffee bean. It also depends on the machine that performs an extraction. 

Since it’s diluted in twice as much water, lungo is not as strong as an espresso, but it’s more bitter. The additional water in the lungo beverage is known to dissolve more compounds that wouldn’t be dissolved when espresso was made. Following this logic, more water means more bitter coffee. Fewer water results in a shot that’s fuller in taste, like a ristretto. Lungo, on the other side, has more acidic and dryer taste. 

Having less or more water pass through the beans means that different compounds will be dissolved. The chemical structure of the drinks is different, it’s not simply like the espresso shot is dissolved in twice the amount of water. Another significant difference in taste is produced by the fact that espresso is a pressured beverage. 

Frequently Asked Questions FAQs

Is Lungo Stronger than Espresso?

Lungo is not as strong as espresso. In the process of making Lungo, twice as much water is used. It’s also not a drink that you would get if you just added twice the amount of water in the espresso shot. Twice more water passes through the beans, which means that more compounds are dissolved and the result is a more bitter drink. Also, it’s more watery. 

Is Ristretto Stronger than Espresso?

Espresso is made with more water, which means that some compounds have more time to get dissolved. Ristretto doesn’t have as much caffeine, so generally, no, it’s not stronger.

What is Nespresso? 

Nespresso is a term that’s made out of two other terms: “Nestle” and “Espresso”. Nespresso machines make a coffee that brews coffee from capsules. Another name for the coffee capsules is “pods”. Those machines can be found both at homes or at professional coffee places since they are sold all over the world. Ground coffee is put in the, usually, plastic container. That container goes into the slot of the Nespresso machine where, after it enters it, the machine opens the capsule and releases water (the amount that’s enough for a single shot) is then heated. Nespresso machine offers different kinds of drinks: Ristretto Nespresso, Lungo, Espresso or coffee from capsules.
Nespresso beans are roasted in Switzerland. There are three factories, in Avenches, Orbe, and Romont. Some of the beverages that can be made include lungo leggero, meaning “long” and “big”, respectively.


Another thing to keep in mind is that there are different types of Nespresso pods, for example, the Nespresso machine is compatible with passione capsules. The size of Nespresso pods is usually 61 millimeters in diameter. 

Those were some of the differences and similarities that confused everyday life. With an understanding that all of those drinks are just other ways of using an espresso machine to produce a shot, you can make a clear difference between drinks. As of now, when someone asks you what you want to order, you will be equipped with enough information to quickly make your decision. There won’t have to be betting on what you will get, because now it’s clear: Full, concentrated taste means espresso. Aromatic, less caffeine taste means ristretto and if you are up for an acidic kick, you know that lungo is the appropriate choice.