Drinking coffee is an enjoyable experience. It can serve as a cold treat on hot days, but it can also be a good way to wake up on cold or early mornings. However, it can also be confusing.
As drinking coffee has gotten more and more popular in recent years, there are many different flavors and types to choose from. That can cause people to order the wrong style or, not know exactly what they want. In this article, we will help shed some light on some of that confusion by explaining the difference between three similar, but distinctly independent, coffee types.
How a Ristretto is Different from a Lungo
The first type of coffee we are going to explore is the ristretto (“limited” in Italian). This coffee is traditionally created by using a finer grind to make a short shot of espresso coffee. That then builds a concentrated shot that gives it a strong punch.
A lot of people mistake ristretto for espresso. However, while the cup is made from the same amount of ground coffee, it brews in 15 to 20 seconds instead of the typical 25 to 30. That difference may not seem like much, but it makes all the difference. The shorter time creates a much more concentrated flavor, a thicker texture, and a strong aftertaste. Though pulling a normal shot may seem like a ristretto, that method produces a weaker brew that does not have the same punch.
Ristretto differs from coffee made with a full-length extraction for three reasons. The first is that it is much more concentrated. It also has a deeper color that sits between dark chocolate and umber, while the tail end of the shots are much lighter shades of tan.
Another key difference of the ristretto is its balance. Unlike traditional coffee, the drink has a greater relative proportion of faster extracting compounds, which changes the way it tastes. Fewer total coffee compounds are also extracted into ristrettos when compared to full length shots.
The above properties are key to understand because they affect how a ristretto is made. You can have straight ristrettos, which are full, bold shots, or you can have a normal ristretto, which is often diluted in a cup of water or milk.
The Intricacies of Creating a Lungo
The opposite of a ristretto is a lungo, a drink that is similar to traditional espressos but has double the shot volume. While ristretto means limited, lungo means long. That name reflects how the drink is made. To create a lungo, you use an espresso machine with any Italian-style coffee and a lot of water to create a larger, fuller coffee.
As with so many coffee drinks, the lungo differs from other beverages based on time. While the ristretto has a short brew time, the lungo has a much longer one. It takes up to a minute to pull, which is particularly long when compared to the 25 to 30 seconds needed for an espresso shot. However, the full extraction time will often differ depending on bean variety, grind, and machine pressure.
Another key difference of the lungo is in its taste. The longer pull typically means it has a thinner body with a dry, or more acidic flavor. It also typically has more caffeine than a ristretto or espresso, which is one of the main draws for people who enjoy an extra buzz.
The Unique Qualities of Americano Coffee
The final coffee type explored in this article is an americano coffee. Like the above two examples, an americano comes from an espresso shot. However, instead of pull time, it differs in the ingredients.
At its base, an americano coffee is simply an espresso with added hot water. That is a subtle shift, but it gives the drink a strength similar to traditional coffee with a distinctly different taste. That flavor, for those who want to change it up, will shift based on the number of espresso shots as well as the amount of water added.
This drink is made by first making an espresso, then adding hot water. This changes the small shot into a much larger, weaker cup that is much more similar to drip coffee. However, it does not taste like drip coffee. Rather, the changes in water temperature, water-to-grounds ratio, grind setting, and brew time extract flavors differently. In general, americanos have fuller bodies and richer tastes, but each cup will be different.
The Importance of Differentiating Between Coffee Types
Coffee is delicious, but knowing exactly what type you want can be a bit tricky to learn. Many different styles, including the three different ones in this article, come with their own tastes, textures, and consistencies. Now that you have extra knowledge, you will be able to better order coffee, as well as branch out and try some new ones you may not have heard of before.