Like everything else in life, coffee continues to evolve. And in our thoroughly modern times, as well as espresso, you’ll often see lungo and ristretto on a coffee shop or coffee machine menu. So, if espresso means expressed, doppio means double, and cortado means short, then it’s a fair bet that lungo means long.
What Is Lungo Coffee?
Well, like so many of our favorite coffee drinks, a caffé lungo starts with a good espresso coffee blend. A shot of espresso is made by forcing around 1.5 fluid ounces of almost boiling water through espresso coffee. The coffee has been finely ground and firmly packed or “tamped”. It normally takes around 30 seconds to produce espresso.
For a lungo coffee, you need to pretty much double that brewing time. You use the same amount of ground coffee as for a single espresso shot, but around twice the amount of water.
It takes longer for the water to filter through the grounds, and the resulting beverage has a rather more bitter edge to it. In terms of size, a lungo is about the same as a doppio or a double shot of espresso. It’s a larger drink in terms of volume of liquid, but with a much more bitter flavor. Think of it as a larger, bitterer espresso.
Lungo: The Bigger And Bitterer The Better
That bitter edge is the whole point. Many coffees are very mild in flavor. But when it comes to a lungo, the more bitter the flavor, the better the drink.
So why is a lungo more bitter? Well, it’s all in the extraction method. The longer the time it takes for water to filter through the ground coffee, the stronger the taste.
How To Prepare A Caffe Lungo
It all starts with the beans. You might already know that there are two main types of coffee beans grown around the world, from the gentle shores of Hawaii to the misty mountains of Columbia. Arabica beans usually produce milder coffee, while, as their name suggests, Robusta varieties generally result in very strong roasts.
So select your beans carefully; the fresher the better. If you have a grinder, then whole beans are an option. Alternatively, look for a local coffee merchant or supplier where you know the coffee supplied is as fresh as it can be.
You might not realize it consciously, but it’s all about the math when it comes to making the perfect cup of coffee. While tastes and approaches do vary around the world, the general rule is, for espresso, the finer the grind the better. The same applies to a lungo. Use the same amount of coffee as you would for an espresso, but double the amount of water.
For the perfect cup of espresso, lungo or ristretto, use the following ratios. For a lungo, use around 1 part coffee to 4 parts water. For espresso, use 1 part coffee to 2 parts water. And for ristretto, use 1 part coffee to 1 part water.
Or you could just pop a pod or capsule from one of the major single-serve manufacturers like Nespresso. Especially if time is of the (coffee) essence.
Flavor Differences And How to Use Them
Wondering why a typical lungo tastes rather more bitter than an espresso, or even a ristretto? It’s all to do with the extraction. It’s not only about the math, it’s also about the chemistry. Essentially, the components of the coffee that result in a bitter flavor dissolve later in the brewing process. So the longer the brewing process, the more acrid the flavor.
Not only do lungos usually have a more bitter taste than espresso, but you also often get slightly smoky undertones. As with any other crop, the final taste of coffee beans from a particular location depends on many factors.
The general advice is that darker roasts are more suitable for espressos, lungos, and ristrettos. So bear this in mind when you’re selecting those coffee beans. When you’re sniffing out a blend for the perfect lungo, your palate is unique. Some of us prefer flowery flavors or hints of citrus; others like a nuttier or more chocolatey aroma.
Difference Between An Espresso, Ristretto And A Lungo
So just how do you understand the difference between espressos, lungos, and ristrettos? After all, they’re all forms of espresso, right? Well, yes and no. The brewing method makes all the difference to the result, as does your choice of beans.
One of the joys of an espresso is the glorious crema on the top – that lovely, brownish foamy crown. An espresso is your basic strong coffee drink; a lungo is a larger, more watery, more bitter espresso variant; and a ristretto is a shorter, more viscous variation on the espresso theme, often fruitier-tasting.
Nespresso Lungos: The Lowdown
Speaking of variations on a theme, Nespresso now offers several. The vivalto lungo is a mid-range, mid-roast blend of Arabicas from South America and East Africa, with hints of cereal, flowers, and wood.
If that’s not quite the flavor mix you were looking for, and you’d rather have a milder option, the linizio lungo will suit you well. The predominant note in this blend of Brazil Bourbon Arabica beans and Arabica from Columbia is cereal.
Vivalto lungo is crafted from a slightly more intense roast than the linizio lungo. This beverage combines Arabicas from South America and Ethiopia, with a Brazilian “Cerrado” providing the lovely bitterness characteristic of lungos.
If it’s an ultra-intense flavor you’re seeking, might we suggest the fortissio lungo? The name hints at the sheer strength of this beverage, which combines Arabicas from southwest India and Columbia for a smooth, malty toasted taste.
Since we all know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, you might like to consider an envivo lungo for your morning cup of joe.
Gran Lungo, Espresso Longo or Caffee Lungo?
The gorgeously intense flavor of this full-bodied, beautifully bitter blend with its hints of caramel will help you start the day bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. You can also choose from a gran lungo, a lungo espresso, and a caffe lungo.
Lungo vs Espresso vs Ristretto: Which is Strongest?
So which of these three dark delicious drinks is the strongest? Well, it depends very much on the beans. Espresso is strong and sturdy. Ristretto has the thickest consistency and strongest taste overall, with a tendency towards a fruity flavor. The lungo is the weakest-tasting, but also the most bitter.
The beans also affect the caffeine content. A typical 8 ounce serving of, say, Americano coffee usually has around 100 milligrams of caffeine.
A typical single espresso shot usually has around 30 to 50 milligrams of caffeine. Due to its small size, despite its intensity, a ristretto is usually the lowest in caffeine of the terrific trio of espresso variants we’ve been exploring.
Lungo Coffee Conclusions
So, to sum up, an espresso is the classic coffee base for many variations of the world’s favorite drink. A ristretto is smaller and more intense-tasting, about half the volume of an espresso. And a lungo is a longer, more watery coffee. It tastes more bitter due to the brewing time.
So whether you’d rather enjoy an espresso, relish a ristretto, or luxuriate in a lungo, it’s over to you.
Hi my name is Larry, a coffee aficionado from the US. I have already visited Colombia, Sumatra, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Ethiopia and Jamaica in my pursuit of finding the best-tasting coffee beans. I currently write from Bali and enjoy the relaxed life that you can find only in Indonesia. Welcome to my coffee world!