Lungo is a little-known variation on the espresso that gives you the intensity of the popular Italian drink with more nuanced tastes and a slightly larger size.
What makes a lungo more nuanced, and why is it popular with those in the know?
Let’s look at what makes a lungo different from other espresso drinks. And I’ll share with you my recipe for making lungo at home.
What Is Lungo Coffee?
Lungo means long in Italian.
A lungo is the long shot in the world of espresso, made with more water and a longer pull.
Let’s call it a cousin of espresso. It’s made of the same DNA: finely ground coffee, an espresso machine, and lots of pressure. At times it’s even called lungo espresso.
The difference is the amount of water. Just how much more water goes into a lungo? At a ratio of 1:3, a lungo has more than a third more water than a regular espresso shot.
Some people mistakenly think that a lungo is simply a double espresso shot with double the amount of coffee.
But a lungo isn’t just a double espresso; it varies quite a bit from a typical espresso in extraction, grind size, and taste, which I’ll tell you all about in this article.
A lungo espresso drink is not the same as a Caffe Americano, which is a regular espresso that gets more hot water added after the brewing process.
A lungo is made entirely during the pull, and no extra water is added at the end.
At times a lungo is called a long black (if you’re in Australia or you’re at an Australian-style café) or a café allongé (if you’re in France).
But the difference between a lungo and espresso isn’t just in the amount of brew you get in the cup. Flavor plays a big role in a good lungo.
Lungos are known for having more bitter notes.
They’re less intense, with a deep body. They can have smokey notes and are almost never sour. Let’s talk about why the lungo has that flavor profile.
- Since a lungo shot is extracted for longer, it’s more bitter
- Since it has more water, it’s less intense
- The longer extraction time makes for a more complex brew
- Lungos aren’t sour since it’s hard to under extract a coffee in such a long extraction
I love lungos because they provide a bit more coffee while still giving me an intense taste. Any extra bitterness can be offset with milk or by adding a bit of sweetener.
A longer shot, well done, can open up more flavors in coffee.
Coffee beans with a lighter roast, which are at times avoided when brewing espressos, can be coaxed to new heights with the longer extraction of a lungo.
When we refer to strength in coffee, there are several ways to look at it:
- Intensity of flavor
- Caffeine level
Where does a lungo shot stand in these three aspects?
- The extraction process creates a coffee that is more complex but also more bitter. More bitterness can make a lungo seem strong.
- Since a lungo has double the water but the same amount of ground coffee, it can seem weaker (less intense) than a standard shot of espresso.
- Since lungo is based on one espresso shot, the caffeine level is nearly the same in both drinks.
How To Make a Lungo Coffee
You don’t need to go to a coffee shop to try a lungo shot. Making a lungo coffee at home is easy. I’ll walk you through each step so we can brew one together.
Note: Instead of using an espresso machine, you may decide to use dedicated lungo pods and an automatic machine.
What you will need
- Espresso machine or brew method
- Cup or coffee mug
- Sweetener if desired
Weigh out 18 g of coffee beans for a double shot.
Adjust your grinder to slightly coarser than you would normally use for espresso.
Grind the coffee into the portafilter.
Level the coffee grounds in the portafilter and tamp to remove air pockets and level out the grinds.
Pull the shot for 35-40 seconds. Since the grind is coarser, the flow rate will seem different than a regular shot.
Make sure to keep an eye on the timing so there is no over-extraction. An over-extracted drink will result in overly bitter coffee.
Add steamed milk or sweetener as needed.
Note: When preparing coffee, feel free to experiment with the grind size and coffee dose to get to the sweet spot of optimal flavors in relation to bitterness.
You can start with a slightly coarser grind size and lower the coffee dose. It might take several tries to dial in, but the results are worth it.
Lungo VS Espresso
Espresso and lungo are very similar. After all, a lungo is based on a shot of espresso.
A normal espresso is a concentrated brew where water is forced through finely-ground coffee in a short time, less than 30 seconds.
The high pressure coupled with the finely ground coffee makes the coffee extract fast.
Espresso shots are made with an espresso machine.
To apply the necessary amount of pressure, you need espresso machines, whether manual or automatic espresso machines, that are designed to create that pressure.
When you compare a typical shot of espresso to a lungo, there are several distances: grind size, serving size, and pull time.
In a lungo, the grind size might be coarser, the serving size is double (roughly the size of a doppio), and the time is about 15-20 seconds longer when compared to an espresso.
But a lungo is not just a half-strength shot of espresso, and the amount of water is not the only difference.
The pull time also varies, as I mentioned. To make an espresso, the pull lasts from 25-30 seconds. For a lungo, the time is extended to 35-40 seconds.
Since a lungo shot is made with the same amount of coffee as espresso shots, it has almost the same amount of caffeine.
Extracting for a longer time will extract a bit more caffeine, but it’s not a considerable amount of caffeine.
What’s the difference in flavor when you compare a lungo vs an espresso? The main difference is the increased bitterness in a lungo shot.
We already talked about how a lungo gets extracted for 15-20 more seconds than an espresso. For a coffee drink with such a short overall brew time, this is significant.
In those last seconds of brewing, you’re extracting the bitterness. So if you’re a fan of bitterness, a lungo shot is perfect for you.
Ristretto VS Lungo
In the world of espresso variants, ristretto and lungo are on the opposite sides of the spectrum. Both drinks start with the basic recipe of an espresso.
The differences come in when you talk about the amount of water and the extraction time.
- Ristretto is an espresso shot that uses less water and a shorter extraction
- A lungo shot gets more water and the longest extraction
What does an espresso ristretto taste like?
The limited amount of water and shorter extraction means that it’s a concentrated shot with intense flavor.
An espresso ristretto is a short shot that is smoother and less bitter than a lungo, and the finish is generally sweeter. It’s overall less complex than a drink with a longer pull time.
A lungo shot has that extra bitterness, but it also has more complexity than a ristretto.
Try both ristretto and lungo with steamed milk. You might find you love lungo with milk, since the intensity of coffee does come through, and the bitterness goes well with the sweetness of the milk.
Lungos are more than just a double shot of espresso.
If you want a more bitter yet more complex version of espresso, lungos are the way to go. Also, if you love the larger mug size of drip coffee, a lungo shot might be ideal.
It gives you those familiar tastes of an espresso drink in a larger serving size without changing the caffeine level.