What is a lungo?
Lungo, meaning “long shot” in its most basic sense, is an espresso made with more water than typical (as opposed to a ristretto, which is made with less hot water than normal). A “typical” recipe for an espresso is about 1:2, or 18 grams of coffee to 36 grams of coffee. While this can range, a lungo usually has a ratio in the range of 1:3 to 1:4 coffee to water. This means that a lungo is usually twice the size of a typical espresso.
So what happens when an espresso is made with the same amount of coffee as usual but more water? While the amount of caffeine will stay relatively the same, the drink becomes more diluted and actually weaker by volume than a regular espresso.
History of the lungo
While “lungo” is a Italian way of describing coffee, café allongé is the French term. You will likely not find these terms at speciality coffee shops in the US, but depending on the barista, you may encounter a longer than typical shot, ranging outside of the typical 1:2 ratio.
What does it taste like?
In coffee extraction, fruit acids are extracted first, then sugars, and finally bittering components. Espresso is a magnification of this, and the best espresso has all three components in balance.
Since there is more water in a lungo shot, it’s going to be more diluted than a typical espresso shot. Yet, since the flavor compounds are still being extracted, a lungo shot is more developed. The usage of more water magnifies everything about the coffee, including the roast flavor. Therefore, depending on the coffee shop, there will be a tendency to see longer shots with lighter roasted coffees.
Similar drinks and variations
While the lungo has often become confused with the americano or the long black, it’s distinctly different. While both of those drinks consist of a 1:2 espresso with water added to the cup before or after brewing, a lungo is greater than 1:2 and composed entirely of espresso.