Anatomy of a Triple Ristretto
By Jeremy Gauger | Mar 17, 2009
A triple ristretto is the shot type of choice for our Leftist espresso. A "ristretto" refers to how we restrict the extraction range of the shot to maximize its flavor potential.
In the intial stages of extraction, the shot contains the most suspended solids, making it thick and syrupy. At this point the flavors are very acidic, and the color dark reddish-brown.
As the shot begins to flow steadily, the quantity of suspended gases increases, as you can see from the appearance of bubbles on the surface.
Through the middle stage, the gas content peaks and sweet flavors begin to balance the acidity.
The release of gases becomes less violent and the texture of the shot grows finer. The dark golden color of the stream begins to show on the surface of the shot.
As this stage ends, the stream contains less and less solids, which dilutes the shot and softens the mouthfeel from the suspended solids and gases.
The final stage occurs just before the stream turns watery and pale yellow, as a small portion of bitter flavor compounds balances the acidity and sweetness of previous stages, but stops short of overwhelming them and diluting the shot too far.
This overextracted shot, only seconds longer than the previous, shows how quickly the rapid flow and thin stream at this point can ruin a shot, if not stopped by the barista at precisely the right moment.
"Single", "Double", and "Triple" refer to the size of the basket, and therefore the quantity of ground coffee that the shot is extracted from.
Those terms derive from the use of spouted portafilters, where a shot from a traditional 14 gram basket is divided into two streams, thus "Double". From this we get a 7 gram "Single" and a 21 gram "Triple".
However, as you can see, even a "Double" shot is still just one shot, that is, the extraction of one basket of ground coffee.
Here, a "Triple" shot is being pulled from a bottomless, or naked, portafilter. Still one basket, one stream, one shot.
Using a "Triple" dose of coffee allows us to achieve more volume in the final shot, without extracting beyond the ideal "ristretto" range.