Do you love the taste of espresso but sometimes want something a little bit more? That’s why the espresso lungo has been invented. Lungo is a longer coffee than the normal espresso shot, making it less concentrated, but maintaining the same unique, rich flavor that we associate with espresso. In this blog post, we will teach you how to make a lungo at home and explain the differences between lungo and espresso.
What is a Lungo?
In Italian, “lungo” means “long,” while in coffee shop jargon it refers to a “long shot.” The lungo is made similarly to a normal espresso, but it uses more hot water, thus getting a longer drink.
Lungo is one of the three pure espresso drinks: Ristretto, Normale, and Lungo. Ristretto is the shortest drink, and the most concentrated, normal espresso is in the middle, and Lungo is the longest and the mildest drink out of the three.
How Does a Lungo Taste?
A Lungo shot is 45-60 ml, which is considerably more than a normal espresso shot. Lungo tastes different from a normale, or a ristretto: it has more soluble solids and a bit more caffeine than the other espresso variants. The taste of the lungo is a bit smoky, with a light body, and an acidic and dry flavor profile. The longer extraction time will allow more roasted notes in your final cup.
Since lungo can be prepared in more than one way, depending on the preparation method, your shot can taste differently from barista to barista. But more importantly, if you are a lungo person, you will pull better shots at home than your local coffee shop barista does. But we’ll talk about preparation later in the page.
A well prepared lungo looks very similar to a normal shot, except the volume. Crema might look a bit lighter but only because it gets diluted more into the drink. However, if your lungo doesn’t have crema at all, is not a well prepared shot.
How to Make an Espresso Lungo at Home?
Here’s what you’ll need to make a lungo:
An espresso machine: An excellent espresso machine is the most crucial piece of equipment for producing a decent lungo. A pump driven espresso machine with an overpressure valve calibrated for 9 bars of pressure is what you need.
Don’t think you can use espresso substitutes; you’ll wind up with just a stronger coffee that tastes like a coffee, and not like espresso. You can make a great AeroPress brewed into a lungo, but it will taste like an AeroPress. Oh, Nespresso doesn’t have good lungos, by the way.
There are lungo-ready automatic espresso machines. So all you have to do is push the button, and the machine takes care of the rest. If you had one of those you probably wouldn’t read this. But I recommend using a semiautomatic espresso machines anyway, since they allow for greater customization, as you will see in a minute…
A coffee grinder: You will need a good coffee grinder so you are grinding just before brewing. Espresso brewing requires burr grinders, so that you get an uniform grind size. Lungo is more sensitive to the grind quality, and the grind size. You can’t make a lungo with pre-ground coffee, unless you are incredibly lucky. We’ll touch on this a bit later in the post.
Water filter/bottled water: If you use spring water, you don’t need a water filter. However, depending on the quality of your city’s tap water, you may need to use a water filter. If you can afford it, I recommend investing in a high-quality water filter.
A kitchen scale: Weighing your ground coffee is critical for getting the right pressure in the brew group. The dose is the third most important variable for nailing the perfect pressure.
Tamper: I recommend a stainless steel tamper, or if you can afford it a calibrated pressure tamper.
Tamping mat and espresso leveler/distribution tool.
When I explained what a lungo was, I said that we can prepare it in more than one way. The important thing is to get a longer and more diluted drink, without adding hot water at the end, like with an Americano.
If you know how to make an espresso, you are half way towards knowing how to make a great lungo.
The two main ways to prepare a lungo is by extending the extraction time, or by increasing the flow rate.
When we extend the extraction time, we go beyond the 25 seconds recommended for a normale. The extraction time will vary, depending on the desired volume/strength, and it could be between 30 and 40 seconds. This method is not the ideal way to prepare a lungo, because it introduces a lot of biter flavors, and tannins.
The bitter compounds in coffee are dissolved later in the extraction process. This is why ristretto is a sweeter drink, compared to a normale, or a lungo. The longer we keep the coffee grounds in contact with the water, the more bitter flavors we get.
When we adjust the flow rate, we adjust the grind size so that water passes faster through the coffee grinds, thus producing more espresso. By grinding slightly coarser, we lower the pressure in the coffee bed. Think about pouring water in a glass full of pebbles, vs poring it in a glass full of sand.
Because we maintain the extraction time under 25 seconds, we avoid extracting the bitter compounds. This method has the disadvantage that it needs a well calibrated grind size, and it’s not feasible in a coffee shop setting.
This problem becomes even bigger if you take in consideration that the single shot lungo requires a grind size, and the doppio lungo requires a different grind size.
We said earlier that lungo tastes more bitter than a normale. The bitterness is stronger for the time extended shot, than for the adjusted flow method. The longer extraction time will increase the amount of bitter compounds in your cup. The flow adjusted method will have some more tannic acids compared to a normale, but it’s just enough to be in the “strong” zone, and not in the over-extracted zone. With all the geeky details explained, we can now get to work and pull a lungo. This guide is for the home barista that owns a semiautomatic machine and wants to pull lungos. There are also super-automatic machines on the market, that will have a one button option for a lungo, but most of them pull bad lungos.
How to Make an Espresso Lungo with the Adjusted Flow Rate Method
Here are the instructions for pulling a lungo using the flow rate adjusted method:
- Grind 7-9 grams for a single shot lungo, or 14-18 grams for a double lungo. Your filter basket has marked on the side what dose it takes. If you don’t see the dose marked on the basket, ask the basket manufacturer. If unsure, start with 7 grams for a single, or 14 grams for a double basket.
- The grind size is slightly coarser than your regular espresso grind size. I assume you pulled espresso shots with your machine, and your grinder is calibrated for that. Dial the grinder for a slightly coarser size.
- If the shot flows to fast adjust your grind finer, if the flow is still within normale range, adjust the grind coarser. You will need to experiment with this since every grinder is different, so I cannot give you the exact setting for your grinder.
- Put the coffee grounds in the filter-basket, with the filter basket on the scale set to zero. Measure 7-9 grams for a single, and 14-18 grams for a double, as explained in the first step.
- If the grounds are heaping, slightly knock the portafilter on the counter to pack and level them. A tamping mat is the perfect way to protect your kitchen counter. If you have a leveler, use it now to prep the dose for tamping.
- Once the coffee grounds are leveled, proceed to tamp them. Apply enough pressure, so that the coffee puck compresses in the basket-filter, and you have about 3 mm empty space in your basket.
- Lock the portafilter in the machine, and turn the brew button ON, to start the extraction.
- Time your shot to pour for about 20 to 25 seconds. You should obtain around 45ml drink for a single shot lungo, or 90 ml for a double lungo. The exact quantity is not as important as the extraction time. But if your shot is way off, you should tweak your grind size.
- If your shot pours an extra 1 or two seconds over, and you like it that way, don’t over stress about it. The most important is to make a better one than in the coffee shop.
Enjoy your espresso.
How to Make an Espresso Lungo by Extending the Extraction Time
We made a point of recommending the grind size adjustment method. That’s because extending the pull time we over-extract. However, as I always said, coffee taste is subjective and personal. And I know many people who love the over-extracted lungo from the local coffee shop.
So, here we go, the instructions for pulling a lungo using the adjusted extraction time method:
- Grind 7-9 grams for a solo lungo, or 14-18 grams for a doppio lungo.
- The grind size is exactly the same as your regular espresso grind size. If you pulled espresso shots with your machine, your grinder is probably calibrated.
- Place your portafilter on the kitchen scale, and set the scale to 0. Add the coffee grounds in the filter-basket measuring 7-9 grams for a single, and 14-18 grams for a double.
- Slightly knock the portafilter on the counter to pack the coffee grounds and level them. If you have a leveler, prep the dose for tamping.
- Tamp the coffee grounds, applying enough pressure, so that the coffee puck compresses in the basket. You should have about 3 mm empty space in your basket after tamping.
- Lock the portafilter in the machine, and start the extraction.
- Time your shot to pull for minimum 30 seconds, but probably more like 40 seconds. You will obtain a 35-45 ml drink for a single shot lungo, or 70-90 ml for a double lungo.
- If your shot pours very slow, you can lower the dose just a bit, to increase the flow.
Enjoy your lungo.
All things equal, the amount of caffeine in a lungo is slightly higher than in a normale, or a ristretto, but is negligible. And this is valid for both ways of brewing it. To put it in perspective, the coffee beans you are using, could be a source of a bigger caffeine difference.
Caffeine is one of the most soluble compounds in coffee, so it gets extract first. So there is not much caffeine variance between a 25 seconds extraction at 9 bars of pressure and a 40 seconds extraction.
Just a note on caffeine content. If you read my posts, you know I am not a big fan of over-caffeinating you. However, if you need more caffeine, just pull another shot.
Lungo vs Americano & Long Black
There is a bit of confusion regarding the the three espresso beverages. They are not the same drink, they taste different, and they look different. While the three coffee drinks are diluted versions of the espresso, the preparation is what makes the different. With Long black and Americano, we just add some hot water in the drink. We add the water first for the Long black, and we pour the water after the shot was pulled for an Americano. A lungo require that the whole amount of water used to pass though the coffee grounds. You cannot add hot water to a lungo. This little detail changes the drinks flavor a lot. The roast notes we mentioned in the taste section, are found in a lungo but not in a Long Black or Americano.
Lungo in Milk Drinks
This mix up is due to the names rather than similarities between the drinks themselves. A latte is an espresso and milk based drink that involves pouring steamed milk and milk foam over a shot or two of espresso. Meanwhile, a lungo is an espresso variant.
So, while these are typically two separate drinks, you could potentially replace the typical shot with a lungo IN a latte if you wanted to explore a different flavor profile.
- 1 tamper
- 1 kitchen scale
- 1 espresso leveler/distribution tool optional
- 7 grams medium-dark roast coffee beans up to 9 grams depending on the filter basket
- filtered, or spring water
- Finely grind 7-9 grams of coffee beans slightly coarser than espresso grind size.7 grams medium-dark roast coffee beans
- Place your portafilter on the kitchen scale and set the scale to 0.7 grams medium-dark roast coffee beans
- Place the coffee grounds in the filter-basket, and weigh 7-9 grams according to your filter-basket.7 grams medium-dark roast coffee beans
- Slightly knock the portafilter on the counter to level them. If you have an espresso leveler, use it now.7 grams medium-dark roast coffee beans
- Tamp the coffee grounds firmly. There should be about 3-4 mm empty space in the basket after tamping.
- Lock the portafilter in the espresso machine, and start brewing.
- Pour your lungo shot for about 25 seconds.
We hoped that we answered all of your lungo questions.
The important message I want to convey, is that you can make a better lungo at home, than your local barista. Not because they don’t know how to do it, but because the commercial setup is just not good for pulling flow adjusted shots.
If you’re into the smokier notes of espresso, the lungo from your local coffee shop is perfect for you, and so the time adjusted shot, when you make it at home.
If you are looking for the sweeter flavors of espresso, maybe ristretto is a better variant for you, though it will be a very small drink.