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How to Make a Ristretto – The Ultimate Step-By-Step Guide

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Ristretto shots are made using roughly half of the amount of water used for a standard shot of espresso but it contains more caffeine and flavour.

Making a ristretto can be tricky though, as it requires some special techniques that many people don’t know. But don’t worry.

In this blog post, I’m going to show you how to make a ristretto at home step by step – no barista skills required!

How to Make a Ristretto - The Ultimate Guide

What Is a Ristretto?

Ristretto is a concentrated espresso shot that uses less water than a regular shot, resulting in a smaller but more intense drink.

Ristretto is made by using the same amount of coffee as a regular espresso shot but only about half the amount of water. This means that the resulting shot is thicker, stronger, and more flavorful than a regular espresso shot.

Ristretto is often described as having a sweeter and smoother taste than a regular espresso shot due to the reduced amount of water used in the brewing process.

The flavour of the coffee is also more pronounced, as the concentration of the drink highlights the nuances of the beans used.

The term “ristretto” comes from the Italian word for “restricted,” which refers to the limited amount of water used in the brewing process.

How to Make a Ristretto?

Making ristretto is an espresso drink that requires precision and expertise. It involves grinding the coffee beans finely, loading the grounds in a single basket portafilter and extracting the coffee in a specific manner.

Special thanks to Breville’s YouTube channel for this video.

Here are the detailed steps to make a ristretto:

  1. First things first, select a high-quality blend of espresso beans that suits your taste buds. Once you’ve got the beans, grind them to a fine consistency, as you would normally do for an espresso shot.
  2. For a single shot, start with 14 grams of ground coffee in a single-basket portafilter. However, you can always adjust the quantity as per your personal preference and taste.
  3. Now, tamp the grounds down as you would typically do for an espresso shot. It’s essential to use the right amount of pressure for tamping, as it affects the flow of water during extraction.
  4. Once you’ve tamped the grounds, attach the portafilter to your espresso machine. Now the fun begins! Switch on the espresso machine and begin the extraction process.
  5. The extraction time for a ristretto is shorter than for a regular espresso shot. While a standard espresso shot requires water to extract the coffee for around 25-30 seconds, ristretto only needs around 15 seconds.
  6. So, keep an eye on the extraction time and make sure that you stop the process once it hits the sweet spot, which should be around 15 ml of ristretto for a single cup, which is the perfect measure for making ristretto.
  7. Finally, the key to a perfect ristretto is in the crema – the thick, caramel-coloured layer that sits on top of the espresso shot. The crema should be smooth and glossy, indicating that the coffee has been extracted properly and at the right pressure.
Ristretto Crema

At this point, you may be wondering what’s the difference between regular espresso and ristretto shots.

Well, the difference lies in the way the water is forced through the coffee grounds. In a ristretto shot, less water is used and is forced through the coffee grounds at a slower speed, resulting in a sweeter, smoother and more concentrated flavour.

What Do You Need To Make Ristretto?

To make a delicious ristretto, you will need a few essential components:

  • First and foremost, an espresso machine is essential, as this will allow you to properly extract the coffee with the right amount of pressure and temperature.
  • Next, you will need freshly roasted coffee beans. The quality of the coffee beans will greatly impact the final taste of your ristretto, so it is important to choose a high-quality blend that has been freshly roasted.
  • Furthermore, a quality burr grinder is also essential for making ristretto. This is because ristretto requires a fine grind. A burr grinder will also ensure that the grounds are consistent in size, which is important for a balanced shot.
  • A tamper is another key piece of equipment needed for making ristretto. You will have to tamp your beans nicely and evenly before you can start brewing.
  • Another important ingredient for a ristretto is clean and filtered water. The water used in brewing your ristretto should be free of impurities and minerals, as these can affect the flavour and quality of the espresso.
  • Lastly, you will need a shot glass or a demitasse cup to serve your ristretto. The small size of the cup allows for the concentrated and intense flavour of the ristretto to be fully appreciated.

What Type of Espresso Machine Is Best For Making Ristretto?

When it comes to crafting the perfect ristretto, using the right espresso machine is crucial. While there are several options on the market, a manual espresso machine with a pressure gauge and high-quality portafilter works the best.

Making Ristretto Using Espresso Machine

Manual espresso machines offer greater control over the brewing process, allowing you to adjust the pressure and extraction time to achieve the perfect ristretto shot.

The pressure gauge on a manual espresso machine allows you to monitor the pressure during extraction, ensuring that you stay within the optimal range (9 bars) for crafting the perfect ristretto shot.

In addition to the pressure gauge, a high-quality portafilter is also important. A portafilter with a fine mesh sieve and a well-designed basket will ensure that the coffee is evenly and thoroughly distributed, resulting in a rich and flavorful shot.

We have created a list of the best manual espresso machines if you are interested. Our top choice is La Pavoni Professional. Another great choice for making a ristretto is Flair.

Alternatively, a semi-automatic machine such as the Gaggia Classic Pro is another good way to make a ristretto at home.

What Coffee Bean Is Best For Making Ristretto?

When it comes to making the ristretto, the beans you use are just as important as the roast. While it is true that any coffee bean will do the trick, there are some favourites.

One of the best options for making ristretto is a dark roast coffee bean. This is because dark roasts have a lower acidity level than lighter roasts, which makes them more compatible with the concentrated and thick nature of the ristretto shot.

Dark Roast Coffee Beans for Making Ristretto

Additionally, the darker roast gives the coffee a stronger and more complex flavour profile that can hold up to the reduced volume of water used when making a ristretto.

Some specific bean varieties to consider for making ristretto include Brazilian Santos, Sumatra Mandheling, and Guatemalan Antigua. These beans are known for their chocolatey, nutty, and spicy notes, respectively, which can add depth and complexity to a ristretto shot.


There you are, now you know how to make a ristretto! I always like to say that making a ristretto is an art form in itself. To do it right, you need the right equipment and coffee beans, as well as a steady hand.

One thing you should keep in mind is that it takes time and practice to get the timing and grind size right for optimal extraction. The steps above will help you to get it right, but don’t be afraid to dial in your shots until you achieve perfection!

In the end, making a ristretto is all about experimenting with different variables until you get it just right. As you hone your skills, making the perfect cup of ristretto will be easier and more rewarding than ever before!


What is the ideal coffee-to-water ratio for making ristretto?

The ideal ratio for making ristretto is 1:1. For example, if you want to make a 1 oz. ristretto shot, you would use 1 oz. of finely ground coffee and 1 oz. of water.

How long should I brew the ristretto shot?

You should aim for a brewing time of around 15-20 seconds. If the shot takes longer than this, it may be too watery or bitter.

How should I grind the coffee for the ristretto?

The coffee for making ristretto should be ground very fine. This helps to achieve a concentrated and creamy shot characteristic of this classic Italian drink.

What should the crema look like on a ristretto shot?

The crema on a ristretto shot should be thick and creamy, with a reddish-brown color. This is a key characteristic of a well-made ristretto shot.

How should I serve the ristretto?

Ristretto shots are usually served in small cups, often accompanied by a glass of water to cleanse the palate.

Can I add milk to a ristretto shot?

Ristretto shots are traditionally consumed without milk. However, some people may prefer to add a small amount of milk or cream to their ristretto shot.

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Author: Ivan Brozincevic

Ivan fell in love with everything about espresso while he was in college back in 2010, so much so that he decided to quit his education and pursue a career as a barista. Today, Ivan has extensive knowledge about espresso, espresso gear, and everything else related and loves sharing it with others who share his passion.

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