Terminology - espresso and ristretto

I have not been able to find the distinction between a double espresso and double ristretto.

I have read on many web sites that a single espresso uses 7-9 grams dose to make about 25-30 grams of coffee (in about 25-30 seconds).

From above I presume that a double espresso uses 14-18 grams dose (and up to 21 grams) to make ~50-60 grams of coffee.

Can someone please explain to me what a double (and single) ristretto terminology is?

Does ristretto take exactly half the extraction time compared to espresso to make half the volume?
Or half the volume in the same time as espresso i.e. a slower rate of extraction?

In other words if double espresso makes 50 grams of coffee in 30 seconds from 18 grams dose, does it mean that double ristretto makes 25 grams of coffee in 15 seconds from the same 18 gram dose?

many thanks

Definitely would like to know, myself. Ristretto means “restricted” in Italian, right? And some say it’s half the time of extraction so 15sec or sometimes even 10sec in some cultures. And a ristretto single espresso is shorter than a normal single (around 3/4 of an ounce), so with that logic, my guess would be that a double ristretto seems like it would be something around 18g dose / 20± seconds / 45± g out. Idk. What I do know is that even pros may not agree on what an espresso is or should be.

To further complicate things, when you split a double shot through a double spouted portafilter into two separate cups, should you call those now single shots? But that will taste different from a single shot traditionally made with half the amount of coffee, right?

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these terms are definitely debatable and espresso brewing has evolved quite a bit since the old italian days when terms like ‘doppio’ (double shot) and ‘ristretto’ (narrow / reduced) were coined, as they relate to espresso. so do the terms still apply to what we’re doing on the forefront of espresso extraction? i would say no. if you’re brewing with a bottomless portafilter i.e. no splitter, are you pulling a ‘double shot’ or are you just making a shot of espresso?

i vote for ‘just making a shot of espresso’.

but in keeping with traditional italian terminology i would say a ‘normale’ (normale meaning basic, not ristretto or lungo) single shot is a 7g dose with a beverage weight of around 25g within whatever time that produces a tasty extraction / solubles yield. (let’s say around 25 seconds) a basic double shot is something close to a 14g dose and a beverage yield of around 50g, in an amount of time that (with the same coffee) produces a very similar solubles yield as the single shot (similar percentage of your dose dissolved into the cup) while a triple shot would be nearer to a 21g dose and 60g yield.

a ristretto would be any of those recipes with the final beverage made denser by decreasing the amount of water used. maybe anything noticably smaller and denser could be considered ristretto, but it sounds like the italians considered a ristretto any of the above recipes with the final beverage mass cut in half. however! a traditional ristretto is not accomplished by simply stopping the shot early. you are still attempting to reach a similar solubles yield for a balanced extraction, but with less water used, so one must fine the grind. so say your original normale shot uses an 18g dose and makes a beverage of 50g in 30 seconds, which gives you a solubles yield of 21% that happens to be the tasty extraction balance for your particular coffee. your traditional ristretto of that would be an 18g dose and 25g beverage, but if you simply stopped the shot half way to get your 25g beverage, it would only have extracted something like half the amount of coffee, leaving you with a short, strong, but severly underextracted tasting shot. so you fine up the grind, increasing surface area, and try to get a fully extracted shot (something close to 21% for that particular coffee) with half the water. however long this new ristretto shot takes to pull is how long it takes, but it will surely be more than half the time of the normale shot since the finer grind is restricting the water flow. you would have to taste test it for balance or measure your extraction using a refractometer to decide how much to fine the grind.

a traditional lungo (long) would be a single, double or triple normale with the water in the final beverage doubled. again, you want to still be reaching a similar solubles yield, so you must make the grind coarser to avoid over extraction of the dose. a lungo is aiming for more water in the cup, but about the same amount of coffee solids.

as far as splitting a shot, traditionally no, that doesn’t produce two single shots. if you dose 14g and pull to a yield of 50g but have split the beverage into two 25g beverages, each of those would be half of a double shot.

i would like to push for dropping traditional espresso terminology. some more recent trends have been closer to a 20g dose and 30g beverage yield, with many of us still calling it a double shot. but really, what’s double about it? according to italian tradition, it would be a lot closer to a triple ristretto shot. i would just call it a 30 gram shot of espresso. if you want to be more specific, it’s a 30g espresso brewed at a 2:3 ratio. or to be even more specific you could call it 20g in, 30g out, at x number of seconds.


…this is an interesting thread and opens up further discussion to respect to not only how ‘we’ define the parameters of espresso, but also other standard (…maybe not) beverages (ie. long black vs. americano, gibraltar vs. cortado vs. piccolo vs. macchiato, etc.).

As a general rule of thumb, I would say that many decent coffee shops with solid equipment and trained staff are pulling ristretto-type espresso. For some, this is further aided by AV + ABR machines programmed to relatively low brew ratios. For me, I intentionally try to avoid the word ‘shot’ when talking about espresso; regardless of whether it’s considered a ristretto or lungo, I’m aiming for the best balance of flavour depending on the coffee I’m pulling and constantly changing the parameters if I think I can get a little more or less of any specific cup trait.

I’ve seen a number of menus in cafes and coffee shops state that ‘all shots are doubles’ as a way to try and clarify to the general coffee-buying public; maybe this is done to limit some of the “I’ll have a double {insert pretentious drink here}”, or maybe it’s a little bit of marketing in that the perception is they’re getting the best bang for their buck. To me though, this at least tells me they have a recipe and have thought about dose + yield with respect to the drinks they’re preparing. This is generally enough for me to at least order a couple of drinks and draw my own conclusions, after all, when it comes to coffee, taste > preparation.

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I am curious (having recently returned from trip to Italy).

Does anyone know what dose I get when I walk into a good coffee bar in Italy and order ‘cafe espresso’??

Are they likely to serve up 7-9 grams dose, in a single basket, single shot, with 25-30 grams of beverage?
I can see the size is about 30 grams but I can not really tell the size of the dose and basket used.

Grazie tutti !! 8^)

Yes! I’m definitely for dropping the term “double shot.” It seems unhelpful and doesn’t accurately reflect what shops are generally pulling these days. For instance, at the shops I’ve worked at, one well-extracted shot of espresso ranges from about 18-21 grams in and 36-44 mL yield out, depending on the coffee.

It’s always been confusing having to explain to customers that the shots are doubles, but then only pulling one for their drink. Or saying that we can’t really give them three shots, but only two or four, when in reality, I’m only putting one or two shots in their drink. I’d much rather call one shot, one shot! If the customer wants an extra one or two, we pull that many more.

Perhaps we can start explaining shot size in terms of volume (“our shots are this many ozs/mLs”), that way the customer has a more solid idea of what they’re getting in the cup.

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wow, interesting that you avoid the word ‘shot’ when referring to espresso. is it because it denotes a certain quantity at all? as in one shot, two shots, three shots?

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of course a problem with dropping the term ‘double shot’ exists in how that translates to customers.

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…professionals need to be extra careful not to patronize or alienate people. our job is not so much to ‘re-educate’ people as to understand what people want and make them feel understood without unnecessary confusion. if i want to describe the espresso i serve as 30-40 grams when i’m the one talking about it, this doesn’t mean i need to correct a customer for using the language they are familiar with. i would be apprehensive to even ask for clarification except in special circumstances. it seems that less frequent customers sometimes feel uncomfortable trying to order in a new shop, and are ready at the drop of a hat to find a reason why that is the fault of the shop. i’d say it is a good thing to make an ordering experience as comfortable as you can in any shop.


@joe …for me, it’s just a personal preference. I think for most everyday coffee drinkers, the term shot indicates the volume of espresso in a drink and by correlation, the perceived ‘strength’ of the beverage. While this may be an important factor in a 16 oz. drink (:hushed:), it doesn’t translate well to specialty coffee and, just as an example, a well made 6 oz. cappuccino.

Instead of focusing on the volume of a ‘shot’, I want to chase the quality. If that means I can enjoy an amazing espresso at 18/36 one day and a different coffee at 18/50 the next, then I think it makes espresso simpler and doesn’t bog it down in terminology. Of course, I’m assuming here that the grinder and volumetrics have been dialed-in adequately and someone’s actually tasted an espresso well in advance of a customer…