How to Pull a Ristretto Espresso Shot

Pull a Ristretto Shot

Ristretto is the Connoisseurs Espresso Shot. Gourmet espresso lovers often prefer a ristretto shot to obtain the very finest tastes and aromatic qualities of the espresso. Here is some information that will help you how to make a ristretto shot.

Also sometimes known as a “Corto”, but not to be confused with “Cortado”.

What is a Ristretto Shot?

A Ristretto (“limited” or “restricted” in Italian) shot is simply the first half of a full espresso shot, measuring 1/2 fl.oz. (15 mL) rather than the full 1 fl.oz (30 mL). It still uses the same amount of coffee grounds (“espresso” grounds).

What is the Volume of a Ristretto Shot?

A ristretto shot size should be 1/2 fluid ounces (15 mL), while a double ristretto should be 1 fl oz (30 mL). It’s important to note that a double ristretto needs to be made using two separate espresso pucks – you pull one 15 mL shot using 7 grams, dispose of it, then pour a second 15 mL shot using 7 grams. This is different from a normal double espresso which would be about two ounces.

How many ounces in an espresso shot? 1 ounce (30 ml)
How many ounces in a double espresso shot? 2 ounces (60 ml)
How many ounces in a ristretto shot? 1/2 ounce (15 ml)
How many ounces in a double ristretto shot? 1 ounce (30 ml)

A double ristretto is the same volume as a classic single shot, but will take twice the work, and taste slightly less bitter. It will also have a much more syrupy mouth-feel. It’s a great way to make the espresso stand out in espresso drink recipes and alcoholic coffee drink recipes, but remember to use a double ristretto shot for every shot of regular espresso that a recipe calls for.

What is the Extraction Time of a Ristretto Shot?

With the equivalent amount of ground coffee as a classic espresso shot (aiming for 25-30 seconds extraction for 30 mL) but only aiming for 15 mL, a ristretto extraction time should fall around the 15 second mark.

By only using half the volume the hot water, less of the caffeine and other soluble coffee chemicals are extracted relative to the flavorful coffee oils.

How Does a Ristretto Shot Taste?

The body of a Ristretto shot is fuller and bolder than a normal shot, while at the same time being less bitter. This happens because the highest percentage of the coffee solids come out of a Ristretto shot in the first couple seconds, after which it becomes gradually more diluted. The bitterness is decreased because it’s mostly bitter compounds that are extracted towards the end of the shot.

The flavor of a Ristretto shot is said to be exaggerated compared to a typical espresso shot.

If I Order a Ristretto at a Coffee Shop What Will I Get?

Rather than run the shot until a full ounce is pulled (30 mL), only 15 mL is pulled, using the same quantity of coffee. Overall there will be fewer soluble compounds (caffeine, etc) in the shot, but it will be more concentrated.

How Do I Make A Ristretto Shot?

There are three basic ways that you can prepare an espresso shot that would be classified as espresso.

One way to prepare a Ristretto shot is to halt the extraction process sooner than normal so that less water has passed through the grounds than normal. This is commonly done in cafes as it doesn’t require the barista to grind a finer coffee.

Another way to make a Ristretto shot is to use a finer coffee grind size than normal while using the normal extraction time when you pull the shot.

The finer grind size allows less water to pass through the grounds, but the downside is the possibility of a more gritty tasting espresso shot if the grind size is so fine that the grounds, which are insoluble, are able to pass through the filter basket. This is more likely to happen if an inferior coffee grinder is used creating an uneven grind.

The third method that a Ristretto shot may be prepared is to tamp (compact) the roasted and ground coffee more firmly in the portafilter basket. The increased compaction of the coffee will allow the barista to keep the same extraction time as normal and no special grinding is required.

All of these methods will lead to variations in the overall taste of the Ristretto espresso shot because the soluble components of coffee including the fine tastes and aromas dissolve at different rates so each of these methods will result in different extractions.

Top 3 Coffees for Ristretto

While any coffee can technically be used to pull a ristretto, a few specialty single origins tend to stand out:

  1. Sumatra Mandheling
  2. Ethiopian Yirgacheffe
  3. Guatemala Antigua

Adding a robusta bean to a blend with any of the above will enhance the crema and caffeine content.

Espresso and Coffee Brewing Barista Tips

Espresso Coffee Guide provides detailed information on all of the world’s top Gourmet Coffees as well as tips for preparing Espresso Drinks. We also teach you how to Pull A Perfect Espresso Shot and provide a comprehensive How to make Lattes and Cappuccinos.

If you prefer brewed coffee instead of espresso then check out our section on Coffee Brewing. The Espresso Coffee Guide Coffee and Espresso Glossary will explain coffee terminology, and to learn about coffee’s intriguing past visit the World’s Best History of Coffee.


3 thoughts on “How to Pull a Ristretto Espresso Shot

    1. Hey Mike!

      Technically an ounce is 28 grams (actually 28.3495 grams).

      However, when dealing with fluids, a fluid ounce is used, which is 30 milliliters (actually 29.5735 ml).

      At some scale the fractions of a gram/ml make a difference but for the purpose of coffee and espresso, rounding is fine.

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