What is Lungo? – Here’s What You Should Know

In this article, we’ll explore lungo in more detail to help you discover if it could be your new preferred choice.
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Last updatedLast updated: September 20, 2021
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According to statistics, more than 50% of Americans, age 18 plus, drink coffee every day. This means that there are more than 150 million daily coffee drinkers in the USA alone. If you enjoy a good cup of coffee, you may be more than familiar with lattes, cappuccinos, espresso and other great coffee drinks, but what about Lungo?

No, “Lungo” is not the latest board game the kids are playing, it is a coffee drink. In this article, we’ll explore lungo coffee in a little more detail and help you to decide if you want to move away from your Nespresso machine to a more unusual coffee drink.

What is Lungo?

Lungo takes its name from the Italian. If you’re wondering what does lungo mean, it translates as “long shot”. Essentially, it is a form of espresso made with more water than the standard espresso recipe. While a typical espresso recipe has a ratio of 1:2 or approximately 18 grams of coffee for each 36 grams of coffee, the typical range for lungo is 1:3 or even 1:4. This is almost the polar opposite of a ristretto that is made with less than standard amounts of water. So, a lungo is typically twice the size of your typical espresso.

What is Lungo? - Here's What You Should KnowHow is it made?

Since lungo coffee is made with more water, it requires a longer pull. A typical espresso shot pulls approximately an ounce of water, so it takes 18 to 30 seconds. However, with double the amount of water, it can take as long as a minute to pull a lungo.

If you’re trying to make a lungo at home, you’ll find that the best Nespresso machines make it easy with dedicated pods to make them. However, the best espresso machines usually have a lungo preset.

If your espresso machine doesn’t have a preset, you will need to adjust the pull time and the volume of water. You can leave the temperature and amount of coffee grounds the same as you would for espresso, just adjust the water and increase the pull time to achieve a lungo without over extraction.

What does it taste like?

During coffee extraction, the first thing to be extracted is the fruit acids, followed by the sugars and then the bitter components. Espresso magnifies this, so you get all three of these elements in balance.

The lungo size means that there is more water in this drink, so it is more diluted than your typical shot of espresso. However, as the flavor compounds are still extracted, the flavor is more developed. You may find the roast flavor is deeper, which is why Italian coffee shops tend to use a lighter roasted coffee for their lungo shots. Lungo shots tend to be a little more bitter as the bitter causing coffee components are dissolved later during the extraction process.

To assume that a lungo tastes like a half strength shot is an oversimplification. While it is more diluted, the brewing and longer pull changes the flavor profile to create more smoker, roasted flavor notes.

How much caffeine is in lungo?

Since there is the same amount of coffee as in an espresso, lungo contains relatively similar amounts of caffeine. The drink is more diluted and the caffeine is weaker by volume, but you’ll still get the same amount as in a regular espresso.

According to Consumer Reports, the typical shot of espresso contains 63 milligrams of caffeine in one shot. However, if you’re using Nespresso capsules, the amount of caffeine could vary according to the specific capsule.

Espresso vs lungo

If you’ve just mastered using your new Delonghi espresso machine to make a great espresso shot, you may wonder whether it is worth the effort to mess with the settings to create a lungo.

An espresso shot features the earthier, darker and nuttier flavor tones that exist in good quality coffee. The crema gives a smooth chocolatey, creamy flavor that finishes off the shot. This is radically different tasting to a lungo. A lungo has a more developed flavor, where you can detect the roasted flavor. In fact, if a lungo was not so diluted, it may be hard to deal with the smokey flavor. The fact that it is more diluted, means that you can savor the flavor without it being too harsh.

What is Lungo? - Here's What You Should KnowRistretto vs lungo

A ristretto is almost the opposite of a lungo, since it is made with less water than a standard espresso shot rather than more. Since less water is forced through the coffee grounds and the extraction time is shorter, there is a more concentrated and sweeter flavor. So, while it may seem like you would find a ristretto far more intense than a lungo, it actually has a far different flavor profile.

Lungo vs americano

When you think about an espresso shot with extra water, you may assume that a lungo is the same as an Americano, but this is not the case. An Americano requires pulling a standard espresso shot and then adding more water. But, this water is added after the brewing, so the drink has a weaker strength, but a different flavor.

An Americano is closer in flavor to a conventional drip coffee, while a lungo coffee has the smokey, roasted flavor notes we discussed above.

What is Lungo? - Here's What You Should KnowFinal thoughts

If you enjoy trying new coffee flavors and want to experiment at home with your espresso machine, a lungo is well worth trying. While it is not a common option at coffee houses here in the U.S, it may also be worth asking your local barista if they can prepare one for you.

It is easy to assume that simply adding more water to your espresso will create a watery coffee, but there is a subtle process that occurs during brewing that alters the flavor of the drink.

If you find that you struggle to pick up the roasted flavor of the beans in your espresso, you may be pleasantly surprised at the effects of brewing a lungo. This is far different than simply adding more water to dilute your espresso shot to make an Americano or latte.

So, instead of sticking with your standard espresso shot, why not give a lungo or a ristretto a try, you may just find your new favorite beverage.

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