When you sit down at a café, you’re likely most of the menu items you see will be familiar from all the other coffeehouses you’ve been to.
The ristretto and mocha might not be that familiar though, since they aren’t as popular as a cappuccino or an espresso.
That is why in this article, I will compare these drinks in detail, so you can order with confidence 🙂 So let’s get started!
Key takeaway: What’s the difference between a Mocha and a Ristretto?
The Ristretto is a concentrated espresso with a shorter brew length and a coffee-to-water ratio of 1:1.5, offering a bold, intense, slightly sweet, and acidic flavor profile. In contrast, the Mocha combines 1 part espresso with chocolate and 3 to 6 parts steamed milk, delivering a rich blend of espresso and chocolate with a creamy texture.
Here are the details of each.
What is a Ristretto?
Ristretto, which means “restricted” in Italian, is a concentrated form of espresso. The idea is to use the standard amount of coffee grounds but reduce the water and extraction time, leading to a smaller, bolder shot.
The coffee-to-water ratio for a ristretto is 1:1.5, and requires 7g of coffee grounds if you’re going traditional while third-wave specialty coffee uses 9g.
The final yield will be around 0.7 oz (20 ml) and is served in a regular espresso demitasse, which has a capacity of 60–90 ml (2–3 oz). Each ristretto shot packs 60-80 mg of caffeine per shot.
Being more concentrated than espresso, the texture of ristretto is thicker while its flavor is bold and intense with a vibrant and slightly sweet flavor burst. It can be more acidic, but the bitterness that’s associated with longer brew times is also reduced in this one.
Here are the steps to brewing a ristretto:
- Grind coffee beans to your standard espresso grind size.
- Place the coffee grounds in the filter basket.
- Tamp the coffee grounds down.
- Lock the portafilter into your espresso machine and initiate the brew.
- Let the shot run for just 15-18 seconds.
For more detailed instructions, read my full article on how to make a ristretto.
Let me discuss the mocha next.
What is a Mocha?
Caffé Mocha’s name is a nod to the port city of Mokha in Yemen, which used to be a central hub of coffee trade for 200 years. This espresso-based beverage combines coffee with steamed milk and chocolate, so it’s like a sweet treat and coffee in one drink. Chocolate and coffee pair wonderfully, so this is a must-try drink if you like the ingredients separately.
This drink is based on an espresso, but you can actually use faux-espressos like these as well. That 1 part espresso is combined with chocolate syrup or powder and 3 to 6 parts steamed milk.
A mocha is 5 to 16 oz (150 to 480 ml) in volume, but the larger sizes will have a double, or even a triple shot of espresso. It is served in a ceramic or glass latte mug with a capacity of 240-300 ml (8-10 oz). A typical 240 ml serving comes with 180 calories and 60 to 80 mg per espresso shot used. The calorie count also depends on the milk, which is usually full-fat milk but alternatives like soy, almond, or oat milk also work.
As for the taste of mocha, it’s a nice combination of the bold espresso, the creaminess of milk, and the chocolatey sweetness of cocoa. Some even top it off with some whipped cream, and drizzle chocolate syrup on it to make it a more luscious treat.
Here’s an overview of how you can make a mocha:
- Prepare a single or double espresso shot.
- Blend the espresso and chocolate syrup.
- Fill a steaming pitcher with cold milk up to the spout’s base.
- Steam the milk till it’s around 160 degrees Fahrenheit and aerate to achieve a silky texture with microfoam.
- Pour this milk over the coffee-chocolate mix.
- You can also add whipped cream or a sprinkle of chocolate powder.
You can also read my detailed guide on how to make a Caffé Mocha at home.
Ristretto vs Mocha: Comparing Concentrated and Chocolatey Coffee Drinks
Here’s a table comparing the features of the ristretto and mocha:
|Taste and Texture||Bold, intense, slightly sweet, and acidic. Dense and syrupy.||Rich blend of espresso and chocolate, creamy.|
|Coffee-to-Water Ratio||1:1.5||Espresso component: 1:2 to 1:3|
|Ingredient Ratio||Just coffee with less water than an espresso||1 part espresso, 3-6 parts steamed milk, & chocolate|
|Typical Serving Size||0.7 oz (20 ml)||5 to 16 oz (150 to 480 ml)|
|Caffeine Content||60-80 mg per shot||60-80 mg per 1 oz shot of espresso used|
|Calories||2 calories per shot||About 180 calories for a 240 ml Mocha|
|Acidity||High acidity||Moderate acidity|
|Brewing Difficulty||Intermediate||Home barista|
|Bean Roast||Medium roasts||Medium-dark roasts|
Below is a more detailed breakdown comparing the two coffees:
- Ground Coffee Weight & Ratios: Mocha and ristretto both require 7g of coffee grounds for a single shot and 14g for a double shot (9g and 18g respectively for third-wave coffee).
Ristretto has a more concentrated brew ratio of 1:1.5 while mocha uses the same 1:2 to 1:3 ratio for its espresso. After that, the coffee is mixed with chocolate powder or syrup and 3 to 6 parts milk to make a mocha.
- Taste: Ristretto offers a vibrant, intense flavor that’s slightly sweet and acidic, with minimized bitterness due to the shorter extraction time. In contrast, Mocha offers a rich blend of bold espresso, milk, and chocolate, balancing the espresso’s bitterness with the sweetness of milk and chocolate.
- Volume, Calories, & Caffeine: A ristretto comes in small servings of 0.7 oz with just 2 calories. Since mocha has milk and chocolate syrup, the serving size is 5 to 16 oz with 180 calories. Both coffees have 60 to 80 mg of caffeine per shot of coffee.
- Bean Roast: I use medium roasts for the ristretto, which results in a balanced cup without going too bright. Light roasts are too acidic when used for the ristretto in my opinion. As for mocha, I recommend medium to medium-dark roasts, which nicely contrast the sweetness of chocolate.
- Steamed Milk: Unlike the straight ristretto, mocha uses steamed milk to make a creamier drink. The usual pick is whole milk, but I also suggest you try alternatives like soy, almond, or oat milk. The impact on flavor that these milks impart is worth checking out.
If you want to perfect your steamed milk, my guide on how to steam milk for espresso-based coffees can help.
- Serving Suggestions: Because of its concentrated flavor, I like to pair my ristretto with small sweets like chocolate truffles and cookies. Mocha has chocolate and milk already, so drinking it is like a kick of caffeine and a slice of dessert rolled into one.
Each drink has its unique charm, catering to different palates. Ristretto is for bold coffee enthusiasts while mocha appeals to the sweet-toothed coffee drinkers.
Don’t forget though, since both these drinks are based on an espresso, you can greatly benefit from choosing the best espresso coffee beans this 2023.
If both cups of ristretto and mocha were placed in front of me and I had to pick one, I would choose ristretto. I love sweets, but when I crave coffee, I want it bold and intense. But then again, on a nice lazy afternoon when I want something comforting and there are no sweet treats nearby, I’ll get a mocha without thinking twice 🙂
How about you, do you have a favorite or does it depend on your cravings? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.