There is nothing more challenging than a tongue which knows precisely what goes into a demitasse. While many of us mere mortals rely on tattoo-laden baristas in snazzy coffee shops for that early shot of ristretto, some coffee demi-gods simply do not take anything haphazardly done. Out of spite for such elegant arrogance, if there really is such a trait, here’s a comprehensive take on how to make a ristretto—and hopefully, drink it like how Athena and Hera do in their heyday.
What You’ll Need
Making a ristretto on your own is no rocket science. Ristretto, in its purest sense, is the first ¾ ounce of espresso upon extraction. Dubbed by many as the “original” or the “perfect” espresso, it uses almost the same ingredients only with less water. Thus, for every single shot, you will need the same ingredients as a double espresso shot:
- 14 to 18 grams of coffee ground
- 30mL water
- handpressed machine or automatic espresso maker
- Burr grinder (for whole coffee beans)
- a heated demitasse
Knowing how to make a ristretto is akin to finding out a best-kept secret. Think about all the astounding qualities of coffee in such a diminutive demitasse. Do remember that when it comes to coffee extraction under pressure, all of its flavorful attributes usually come out first. This is why when it comes to making ristretto, it is all about the “pour, timing and grind” of the coffee beans.
To make the best ristretto, the traditional way is highly recommended.
- Use finer coffee grind. It is essential to adjust the coffee grind into something finer than the usual espresso. This allows a much slower pour rate making extraction more intense.
- Use approximately 14g of finer coffee grind and place it carefully into the basket. Feel free to add more if you want something stronger. If you want something lighter than usual, 10g of coffee grind will do, too. It all depends on your personal preference.
- Tamp as usual. Never forget tamping your ristretto. This process distributes coffee in the filter basket evenly to make compression balanced. Be reminded that brewing ristretto largely depends on how heated water pass through coffee grind to optimize extraction of flavor and oils.
- Extraction should be no longer than 30 seconds but not shorter than 25 seconds either. Color on your demitasse should be between dark chocolate and umber.
When time is of essence, an automated espresso machine will do. Though it may not be as glorious as the manual way of making ristretto, you can simply program it to extract in the shortest time possible and hastening the filtering process. Simply prepare a cup to accommodate 30mL of double ristretto instead of just a short demitasse.
Quick tip: Heat the demitasse before pouring a ristretto for that full-flavored aromatic experience.
Ristretto vs. Espresso
Before you go amok on making one, it is important to differentiate a ristretto from an espresso. Aside from a fuller and bolder shot but with less caffeine, a ristretto tastes less bitter and more exaggerated than a typical espresso shot. The goal behind ristretto brewing is to allow hot water to come in contact with the coffee grind in a much shorter time possible.
This somehow lessens extraction of caffeine relative to the more savory-sweet oils. In a way, ristretto is all about body and sweetness, a restricted way of brewing espresso cutting the usual 30sec:30mL into a more flavorful 15sec:15mL single shot.
It is also important to note that a ristretto cools down much faster than an espresso. This is why an optimal temperature is required for its extraction which is not religiously practiced in making an espresso shot. To recap, ristretto is often mistaken as espresso’s twin only bolder, sweeter and more flavorful—and less caffeinated.
Pleasure Like No Other
So now that you know how to make ristretto, it is time to practice it in your own way. It takes quite some time to master the art of perfecting this concoction. Once you do, you can move up to using this extraction method and then, as base coffee for all those lattes, macchiatos, cappuccino, mocha or flat white. Bevi!