What Is Long Espresso (Lungo)?

While you are most likely familiar with a regular shot of espresso and espresso-based drinks that revolve around it, did you know that espresso also has different variants of its own? 

Even though it may seem surprising that it’s possible to customize a simple drink such as a shot of espresso, it is indeed possible. If you’re wondering what you can change in an espresso shot to make it different, we got the answers for you.

As you know, a certain amount of water goes through coffee grounds when a shot of espresso is brewed. Since the amount of water used is a determining factor for the extraction level of coffee grounds, changing it causes a noticeable difference in the taste of the drink. 

Since it’s possible to either increase or decrease the amount of water, a different espresso variant is created depending on the choice. Espresso that is brewed with a smaller amount of water is called a short espresso (ristretto), while espresso that is brewed with a larger amount of water is called a long espresso (lungo).

Simply put, a long espresso is an espresso variant that is pulled with a larger amount of water (1:3-1:4 coffee to water ratio), creating a drink that is larger in volume and more bitter in flavor due to the increased amount of water.

Long Espresso

Long espresso, also known as lungo (Italian for “long”), caffè lungo, or café allongé (French),  is one of the two espresso variants, with the other one being short espresso, also known as a ristretto

Compared to a regular espresso that is brewed with a 1:2 coffee to water ratio in roughly 30 seconds, the water and brewing time required for a shot of lungo is almost doubled.

To clarify, brewing a long espresso requires roughly 120 ml (2 oz) of water and 30 grams of coffee. Since the amount of water is increased, the espresso machine needs to take more time dispensing the water, which is why it takes roughly a minute for a long espresso to be ready.

Taste

You will notice that the taste of a long espresso is weaker and more bitter compared to espresso. Since the amount of water is the only difference between the two, we can attribute the difference in taste to the effects of water on coffee extraction and strength.

As you know, increasing the amount of water that goes through coffee grounds increases the extraction level of coffee. Since coffee extraction is divided into stages where acids, oils, and bitter components are extracted in respective order, it’s natural for a long espresso to contain a higher level of bitterness than an espresso. If you enjoy a very bitter coffee to the point where the taste of espresso isn’t bitter enough for you, you will definitely enjoy a lungo.

Aside from the difference in extraction, a lungo is more diluted than espresso as it contains more water with the same amount of coffee. Even though a lungo is more bitter (which most people wrongly associate with strength) due to the difference in extraction level, you’ll notice that the flavor of coffee in a lungo is less prevalent when compared to espresso. 

Caffeine Content

As the amount of caffeine is largely tied to the amount of coffee and the type of coffee beans used, you won’t be noticing a big difference between these two drinks considering that an identical type and amount of coffee is used for both of these drinks.

Even there is room for an argument being made about the effect of extraction level in caffeine extraction, which would cause a long espresso to have more caffeine, the difference is negligible.

If you’re looking to increase your caffeine intake, a double espresso is a much better option than a lungo as it contains double the amount of coffee.

How to Make a Long Espresso

To brew a long espresso, you will first need to find out how to adjust your espresso machine for it. If you’ve never brewed a long espresso with your espresso machine before, it could be helpful to read the manual to find out.

  1. Start by filling the portafilter with coffee grounds, just as you would when you brew espresso.
  2. Place your cup inside your espresso machine.
  3. Turn your espresso machine on, and activate the setting that allows it to brew a long espresso instead of a regular espresso.
  4. Start the brewing process.
  5. Turn your machine off when the brewing process is finished, and enjoy your coffee!

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Is long espresso the same as americano?

Even though it may look like a long espresso is the same thing as an americano, there is a key difference that separates these two drinks.

In the case of an americano, a regular shot of espresso is pulled first, and water is added on top afterward. While an americano is weaker than espresso due to coffee being diluted with water, the coffee extraction level stays the same as water isn’t added during the brewing process but after.

On the other hand, the extra water goes through the coffee grounds while a long espresso is being brewed, meaning that there is a difference in flavor between a long espresso and a regular espresso that is caused by the difference in extraction level. For this reason, you’ll notice that the taste of a long espresso is more bitter than the taste of an americano.

What’s the difference between long and short espresso?

Short espresso is the opposite of long espresso, brewed with an equal ratio of coffee to water, whereas a long espresso is brewed with a coffee to water ratio of 4 to 1.

The difference in the amount of water causes a short espresso to be much stronger and concentrated than a long espresso as it’s less diluted.

Alongside a difference in strength, both of these drinks have different flavor profiles due to the difference in coffee extraction levels. While a short espresso has a sweeter flavor profile, long espresso is known for its bitterness. 

Is long espresso the same as a double espresso?

While a long espresso contains the same amount of coffee as a regular espresso but double the amount of water, a double espresso can be thought of as two separate espresso shots, meaning that it has double the amount of coffee and water compared to a regular espresso.

For this reason, a double espresso is stronger than a long espresso and contains twice the amount of caffeine.

Conclusion

You can think of a long espresso as the more bitter brother of espresso, so feel free to give it a try if you already enjoy espresso but wouldn’t mind an extra touch of bitterness.

On the other hand, if you are someone who enjoys sweetness, and even the bitterness of espresso is too much for you, long espresso isn’t your drink.

Have a great day, and enjoy your coffee!