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Byron Shire
April 21, 2021

Espresso not ristretto, please

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Espresso lover Caroline takes Australian baristas to task.

We’re really fortunate in Australia to have some of the best and most consistently good coffee in the world.

But why do Australian baristas serve ristrettos as espressos?

I love my coffee but cannot get what I want.

Espresso or short black, I generally discuss my order with the waiter and reassurance is given in return. My order rarely arrives as requested.

I’d like 75–80ml, ie a filled espresso cup, but cannot get the barista to hold the button on for a little longer.

Recently, at the suggestion of another disgruntled coffee drinker, I asked for a small jug of hot water, only to be informed that hot water doesn’t come with an espresso order!

In Spain, France, Switzerland, Holland etc a single espresso is generally about 75–80ml.

In Australia the lessees of Italian coffee machines are giving us ristretto coffees instead. A single ristretto here is usually about 30ml. A double shot is less than half an espresso cup.

The coffee baskets of these machines are generally 18g instead of 23g, so requiring a double shot if more than two tablespoons of liquid is desired.

All other coffee variations seem to be fulfillable, but not a basic short black coffee, whether it be called that or espresso.

Luckily we have our own machine and can make it just as I like but it means we have to go home to have it.

What else does it take for a cup that is designed for espresso to be filled?

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  1. Hi Caroline,
    there is a reason why Australian baristas are considered amongst the best in the world and that is because they understand and care about the treatment and extraction of this most delicate of beans. Extracting 70 – 80 mls of espresso from either an 18 or 23 gram basket would result in an overextracted and bitter experience. Believe me, you do not want this. Why not just trust in the experience and knowledge that has brought this amazing uplifting drink to your lips – every single step involved in growing, harvesting, roasting, packaging and extracting is concerned about keeping the intrinsic special flavour of the wonderful coffee bean as clean and delicious as possible. Perhaps consider ordering a long black next time. In my experience, coffee in Australia is at the top of its game and we are a lucky country at least in this arena! Cheers Ron

  2. Hello Caroline,

    You have my agreement that ristrettos aren’t great, even if my reasons are a little different. There is however a lot of misinformation in the coffee industry, and I feel the need to make a point.
    Firstly, the Australian and Italian coffee industries are very difficult to compare as Australian and Italian consumers have very different demands and expectations.
    Secondly, millilitres are a highly inaccurate way to measure espresso. Yes I know volume is convenient, but these days specialty coffee professionals will define a ristretto or an espresso by the ratio of dry coffee dose in grams to espresso beverage weight (or yield) in grams. So a ‘brew ratio’ of 1:1 (20g coffee grounds : 20g yield) up to a brew ratio of 1:1.2 is generally considered to be ‘ristretto’. With a 1:2 ratio being a fairly common ratio for ‘espresso’. It is also worth noting that a 1:1 ratio shot and a 1:2 ratio shot made from the same coffee are likely to taste best if they are both extracted for a similar amount of time. What this means for a barista is that if they are running 1:2 shots and get asked for a ristretto, they must make a large adjustment to the coarseness of their coffee grinder and waste large amounts of coffee ‘dialing in’ the grind for a ristretto (or cheat, which is more likely).
    So what you are asking of your barista is not to just “hold the button on a little longer” but completely change her recipe, which she is likely to have spent a fair while tasting and perfecting. Now this isn’t to suggest that you as a consumer shouldn’t be able to get the drink that you would like to have, but it might be worth putting in the effort to find yourself a cafe that serve coffees at a 1:3 (or similar) ratio. This might be a little difficult in the Byron Shire, but is fairly common in some of the more reputable sydney specialty cafes (my recently new home). Finally, a half full espresso cup allows the liquid to cool faster increasing the perceived sweetness of the espresso. I often serve my espressos in a flat white cup to help speed up the cooling process. I ask a little tolerance of the espresso cup half full types, it is the Byron Shire after all.



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