Guide 2 Coffee

Guide to Coffee provides information on everything there is to know about coffee, different styles of coffee, machines, espresso, drinks and more. 

Ristretto Coffee - How it's Made

The ristretto shot is a coffee purists heaven, a truly enjoyable pour of coffee. But what is a ristretto and how are these highly debated shots made? 

Ristretto Extraction

What is a Ristretto?

The italian word Ristretto literally means restricted, defined as a drink of very strong, concentrated espresso (definition from Oxford Dictionaries). Understanding the meaning of the word Ristretto sheds some light on this wonderful drink, it is a small quantity of liquid which is very concentrated - but don't let this put you off! Let me explain...

The nature of how a Ristretto is prepared means that you are left with a drink that gives you all of the best qualities of the coffee, with very little of the negative qualities that come out with a longer extraction time. When it comes to extracting coffee under pressure all of the good attributes of the coffee are the first to come out, the longer an extraction lasts - the more negative flavours and qualities are extracted. So naturally you want to find a happy medium to maximise the good flavours - minimise the bad.

Making a Ristretto

Just like an espresso it is all about the pour, timing & grind of your beans. The reason the Ristretto seems to be so highly debated is the method of preparation for this drink. I will explain two methods you can use to create a Ristretto - dependant on the equipment you are using, I will only describe the method to create a double Ristretto, however if you have a single basket and group you can simply half the measurements used.

The Traditional (Best) Method

This involves brewing 30mls of coffee over the same pour time as a normal espresso shot. A traditional espresso uses approximately 14 grams of coffee for a double espresso. Here's a step by step:

  • Adjust your grind - you will need it finer than you do for a traditional espresso as you want to slow down the pour rate of the extraction.
  • Dispense approximately 14gms (you may like to adjust this more or less depending on what works for you) of coffee into your basket.
  • Prepare and tamp as usual
  • Time your extraction - 30mls of liquid should come out in between 25-30 seconds.

The Shortcut (Avoid if you can)

I include this method, not because it will give you a true Ristretto but because on certain machines like Super-Automatics or espresso machines with pressurised filters you will most likely not have enough control to use the method described above. This is why I say to avoid it if possible, but it will get you part of the way there. Here's how it's done:

  • Get your grind as fine as possible for the machine you are using
  • Tamp as usual
  • Start your extraction and let it run until you have 30mls of coffee for a double Ristretto

This method of preparation is simply going to give you an espresso that has been stopped half way through - so it will not be as concentrated or syrupy as a true ristretto but hey if thats all your machine will allow it's better than nothing!

So now go, give it a try! These are a great base for a milk based drink like a latte due to their rich flavour. Why not try make a Piccolo Latte - use a double ristretto and serve with latte textured milk in a smaller glass, enjoy!