Americano and ristretto hold a special place in the hearts of coffee fans, especially espresso enthusiasts.
You’re probably here because you want to learn about what sets these drinks apart from each other. Rest easy, because I’ll walk you through everything you need to understand regarding Americano and Ristretto, including their ingredients, ratios, flavors, and more.
Once you get through this piece, you’ll be familiar with the nuances that separate these beverages just like a pro.
What is an Americano?
The origins of the Americano take us back to World War II. It was invented by American soldiers stationed in Italy who longed for a less robust espresso, one more similar to their usual cup of joe back home.
Creating an Americano involves brewing the usual espresso shot using 7g for each (9g for third-wave coffee), yielding a 1 oz serving of espresso or twice that for a 2 oz double shot. This espresso is then combined with two portions of water.
An Americano’s serving size using the standard single shot of espresso is about 3 oz (90 ml), poured into a glass or ceramic mug that can hold around 120-150 ml (4-5 oz). You can expect about 60 to 80mg of caffeine and 2 calories from every espresso shot used.
The appeal of an Americano comes from its balanced taste, with the espresso’s robustness mellowed down by the water. This extra water also gives your coffee a smoother consistency while retaining some hints of the rich, bold texture of expresso.
This is why it’s the ideal choice if you want reduced intensity on your espresso.
Here’s how you can make an Americano:
- Prepare to make a shot of espresso as usual.
- Brew your espresso into a mug.
- Add 2 oz of hot water to your shot of espresso.
For a detailed recipe, read my step-by-step guide on how to make an Americano.
Now let’s take a look at ristretto.
What is Ristretto?
Ristretto means “restricted” in Italian, referring to how the amount of water is restricted in this variant of espresso. Instead of the usual 1:2 to 1:3 brew ratio of espresso, a ristretto uses less water at a 1:1.5 ratio.
A ristretto uses 7g of coffee grounds (or 9g for third-wave coffee) just like in an espresso, but you reduce the water and the extraction time. The result is a smaller volume of 0.7-ounce (20 ml) espresso you can serve in your 2 oz to 3 oz (60–90 ml) demitasse cup. Each shot has 60 to 80mg of caffeine and 2 calories.
I remember it took me some time to fix a proper ristretto, but it felt great being able to make a significant difference in my final cup with just a few tweaks. You don’t need to change your grind size, just the length of extraction. I also like to increase my brewing water temperature a bit to compensate.
What about its taste and texture? Compared to the standard espresso shot, a ristretto is far more potent, but still highlights the sweet and aromatic elements while pushing aside any unwanted bitterness. The texture is also thicker, although it has a reduced crema layer.
So why restrict yourself? 😉 Try making this coffee by following these steps:
- Grind coffee beans to the usual espresso grind size.
- Place the coffee grounds in the filter basket.
- Tamp the coffee grounds.
- Lock the portafilter in your espresso machine.
- Pull a shot for 15-18 seconds only.
For a deeper dive into brewing this concentrated drink, you can explore my guide on how to make a Ristretto.
Americano vs Ristretto: What Sets These Two Drinks Apart?
Let’s put the Americano and Ristretto side by side to see how they stack up against each other:
|Taste and Texture||Mellow and nuanced flavor profile; smoother and more fluid texture||Concentrated and bold; dense and syrupy texture|
|Coffee-to-Water Ratio||1 part espresso to 2-3 parts water||1:1.5|
|Ingredient Ratio||2 parts water mixed with 1 part espresso||Just coffee with less water than an espresso|
|Typical Serving Size||3 oz (90 ml)||0.7 oz (20 ml)|
|Caffeine Content||60-80 mg per 1 oz shot of espresso||60-80 mg per shot of ristretto|
|Calories||2 calories per shot||2 calories per shot|
|Bean Roast||Light to medium roasts||Medium roasts|
Now, I’ll break the comparison down further:
- Ground Coffee Weight & Ratios: Like an espresso, the Americano uses 7g of coffee grounds (9g for third-wave coffee) with a 1:2 to 1:3 brew ratio. It’s after the brewing that 1 part of espresso is combined with 2 parts water.
While Ristretto also has 7g of coffee, it only uses a 1:1.5 coffee-to-water ratio to make a more potent coffee.
- Taste: The Americano offers a mellow and nuanced flavor profile, balancing the boldness of espresso with the subtleness of black coffee, creating a gentler espresso that’s still packed with flavors.
In contrast, the Ristretto creates a more concentrated espresso, emphasizing the coffee’s sweet and aromatic notes while reducing the bitterness. Ultimately, it offers an intense, slightly sweet, and somewhat acidic taste.
- Volume, Calories, & Caffeine: Because of the amounts of water used, an Americano is larger at 3 oz (90 ml) per serving while a Ristretto is only 0.7 oz (20 ml). Since both drinks use the same amount of coffee grounds, the caffeine content for both drinks is 60 to 80 mg while the calorie count is only 2.
- Bean Roast: For Americanos, I always use light to medium roasts because they bring out the vibrant acidity and complex flavors of my coffee. Ristretto shots find the perfect balance with medium roasts, which lets the coffee’s intense, slightly sweet flavor profile shine. Some of my barista friends swear by dark roasts for ristretto, reasoning that the bitterness from the roast is not extracted. This is true, but the roast profile takes a lot of the origin taste away, and for me (and most people in specialty coffee), that’s a big no.
- Serving Suggestions: I go for Americano when I crave an espresso that’s less intense but still stronger than pour-over. If you’re going for Ristretto, savor it with small sweets like chocolate truffles and cookies, you’ll thank me later.
As you can see, the Americano is a watered-down espresso while the Ristretto is a more potent variant, making these two drinks very different from each other. To start your espresso-based drinks right, be sure to use the right beans. Check out my list of the best espresso coffee beans in 2023.
So which of these two drinks wins in my book? Personally, I like Americano’s mellow and refreshing characteristics better compared to the concentrated ristretto. I will have a ristretto every now and then, but only after a large meal. If I crave strong coffee, a shot of pure espresso is my top choice.
But this is just my preference. How about you, which drink do you like better? Let me know in the comment section below.