Knowing which espresso shot will save you a lot of time when following recipes or experimenting with new drinks.
The most common espresso shots are regular espresso, lungo, and ristretto. However, there are variations, and I’ll also go over those in this port.
However, the main focus is the distinction between each espresso shot size and what it means for your coffee.
An espresso shot’s general structure
First, we need to define what a regular espresso looks like because we’ll use it as a comparison/guideline.
Some may already be aware of this, while others may not. As a coffee connoisseur, brushing up on your espresso knowledge is always a good idea.
When you make an espresso shot, you’re passing very hot water (typically around 93 C/200 F) through a small coffee puck.
Typically, that puck contains 7 to 9 grams of very finely ground coffee, and the resulting brew is 1 oz/33 ml, crema included.
What matters most, in this case, is when you stop the water or close the shot.
Some espresso machines are now programmed to calculate and use water. In addition, some allow you to pull the shot and stop it at any time manually.
However, the majority of them are almost entirely automated, and all you can do is press the ‘cancel’ button when the espresso shot appears to be about right.
My parents’ old espresso machine, for example, had to be manually stopped, or it would continue to draw water until it ran out.
So. All of this means that you, the home barista, must keep a close eye on your espresso shot if the machine is not or cannot be calibrated to pull an exact amount of water.
Anything over 1 oz/33 ml with the same amount of ground coffee deviates into lungo territory, which we’ll discuss in a moment.
The standard espresso shot contains 7 to 9 grams of ground coffee and 1 oz/33 ml of brewed coffee with crema. This is what you’ll typically get in coffee shops when ordering espresso-based drinks such as latte, cappuccino, flat white, and so on.
A lungo is a longer, weaker espresso.
The espresso lungo comes next. This is a longer version of a regular espresso. In Italian, it simply means “long.” I know, it’s shocking.
When you order an espresso lungo, you get the same amount of ground coffee – 7 to 9 grams – but in twice the amount of water.
So, instead of a 1 oz/33 ml drink, you’ll get a 2 oz/66 ml cup of coffee with a milder flavor than a regular espresso. Of course, this assumes you use the same type of coffee for all of your coffee shots.
Lungos are typically served as-is or, in some cases, as a base for an Americano. Because it’s too mild, you won’t see lungos in drinks that call for milk or flavorings. Unless you specifically request it.
A ristretto is a smaller, stronger espresso.
When you order a ristretto, you will receive a very small drink. It honestly looks ridiculous at times.
It could come in a demitasse, as some people call it. That’s the world’s smallest porcelain cup, usually less than 3 oz/99 ml. Because these are very small, concentrated coffee servings, you’ll also see them when ordering Turkish or Greek coffee.
A ristretto will use the same amount of ground coffee as a regular espresso but half water. So 7 to 9 g of ground coffee, but only 0.5 oz/15 ml of brewed coffee. This gives the drink its flavor.
The stronger the coffee, the less water used (usually)
Something to keep in mind here: the strength of your espresso shot, how strong the flavor is, and how bittersweet it ends up is determined less by the amount of water and more by the coffee beans themselves.
Some coffee beans, such as Robusta, have a stronger flavor. As a result, most coffee companies, especially those specializing in espresso, offer a blend of Robusta and Arabica. And no two coffee bags will ever be the same.
The weather during the growing season of the coffee plant and the quality of the soil will have a significant impact on the flavor of your coffee.
However, if you use more water, you will get a weaker cup of coffee on average.
As a result, a ristretto will typically taste stronger or more concentrated than a lungo. But it’s not much different from an espresso, which is also a pretty strong coffee.
In reality, the difference in strength between a regular espresso and a ristretto is less than that between an espresso and a lungo.
If you want a really strong coffee in your latte, it doesn’t matter if you ask for espresso or ristretto, but it does matter if you ask for more double or triple shots.
A doppio is two regular espresso shots combined.
Let’s talk about the doppio while we’re on the subject of double shots. That’s what a double shot of espresso is called, but you’ll commonly find it on the menu with just ‘double.’
What’s the best part? It has twice the caffeine and is twice the size of a regular espresso.
So you’re getting about 120 mg of caffeine (give or take) for 2 oz/66 ml of coffee.
Do you want to hear some more good news? You have the option of making it a triple shot. This will increase caffeine levels in 3 oz/99 ml of coffee to around 180-190 mg.
Double or triple shots are frequently used in large or milky drinks, such as lattes, flat whites, and frappuccinos. Perhaps an iced coffee as well.
To make a double or triple shot of espresso, add more coffee to the portafilter and let more water run through.
For a doppio/double shot, for example, add anywhere between 14 and 18 grams of ground coffee. Allow twice as much water to pass through, and you’ve got yourself a double shot.
A triple shot (which is less common than a double-shot) requires 21-18 grams of ground coffee and three times the amount of water.
Not every portafilter can handle that much coffee. Most will only allow you to do a double shot, so measure yours at home. Remember that the ground coffee is measured after tamped into a thick, dense puck.
You can also make a double ristretto if you want to be extra fancy. Fill the portafilter halfway with enough coffee to make two shots and pass it through with only 1 oz/33 ml of water to complete the process.
With a triple ristretto, you can do the same thing but stop at 1.5 oz/45 ml.
A red-eye espresso is a completely different beverage.
So, how about that red-eye? Let’s start with the fact that it goes by many different names but is essentially the same coffee.
Red-eye is a standard shot of espresso poured into a cup of regular drip coffee. That is, you will receive a cup/mug of filter coffee with an additional shot of espresso.
Some establishments perform the procedure the other way around, with the filter coffee being put into the espresso. In terms of taste, there isn’t much of a difference between them, but they will look different.
The espresso-first method preserves the crema on top of the coffee, whereas the other method may result in almost no crema at the end.
You now know almost every method for preparing an espresso shot. Of course, it’s up to you whether you want a single or triple shot in your latte, but I recommend trying them all at different points to see which one you prefer.
One shot of espresso is adequate for me, and I prefer to drink it black, ristretto, rather than with milk, because I am not a big fan of the espresso flavor.
But, as I’m sure you’ll agree, a nice espresso never hurt anyone.