Café Lungo – What is it and how to prepare it?

You may have seen the word lungo on a coffee shop menu before, but do you know what it means?

What is lungo coffee?

The “Lungo” or Espresso Lungo is a very popular drink in many specialty coffee shops and an undisputed favorite among those who cannot live without espresso.

So, the lungo, which means “long” in Italian, is an espresso made with more water than usual (as opposed to a ristretto).

To give you an idea of what a lungo is, imagine the following:

  • The usual ratio for a regular espresso is 1 to 2 between coffee and water, which means that 18 grams of coffee is used for about 36 grams of water.
  • In contrast, a lungo espresso usually has a 1 to 3 or 1 to 4 ratio between coffee and water, so the coffee takes a little longer to brew.
  • Therefore, the end result is a cup of espresso that is 2 times larger than normal.
  • On the other hand, once in the cup, the lungo has the same contents as a double espresso.
  • The amount isn’t the only difference between regular espresso and lungo though, because although the caffeine content is basically the same, the coffee concentration is lower.
  • This results in the drink being more diluted and therefore having a weaker flavor than a traditional espresso.

The popularity of lungo coffee is increasing

As lungo coffee becomes more popular, it can be seen that several of the best espresso machines include the preparation of this recipe in their presets.

Nespresso machines even offer “Lungo” capsules already filled with the exact amount of coffee needed to prepare that recipe, so there’s no need to worry about the coffee-to-water ratio.

However, the machines are not for everyone

Despite the simplicity and convenience of the “Lungo” capsules, coffee purists prefer to prepare this recipe with their trusted espresso machine.

Some find that traditional espresso machines require a little more skill, but at the same time allow more control over the preparation.

In addition, the advantage of preparing lungo coffee in a normal espresso machine is that you can play with the proportions and thus personalize the recipe even more.

The taste of lungo coffee

In general, a lungo coffee tastes slightly more bitter than a traditional espresso or ristretto.

This is due to the longer extraction time, i.e. the coffee has longer contact with the hot water and the aromas (especially the bitter ones) are released more.

However, with prolonged contact with the water, many “high” or sweeter notes such as chocolate, nut and caramel flavors will be more pronounced compared to a regular espresso.

Therefore, the taste of the lungo can be described as more bitter, smoky and with stronger high (sweet) notes.

So, if you like a coffee with a strong bitter taste, you’re sure to love the Lungo.

On the other hand, many coffee shops prefer a medium or mild roast to make a lungo because of the strong bitterness.

How is a lungo coffee prepared?

Basically, a lungo is an espresso with a larger amount of water and a longer preparation time.

Some recommendations

You can add cream or milk to your Café Lungo, but experts say make sure you don’t use more than 20ml of milk. This way you will get the best results.

However, if you are looking for the real lungo experience, do not add anything, leave the coffee without additives and drink it black.

A fine grind can make it easier to extract the coffee. If possible, grind the beans yourself.

Note that lungo coffee tastes more bitter and has a higher caffeine content due to the longer brewing process.

You should also watch the brewing process closely, because the more water flows through the ground coffee, the more bitter the cup becomes.

On the other hand, you can make the process easier if your espresso machine offers more customization options.

Make sure you can adjust the extraction time and the amount of water used so that the coffee to water ratio is between 1:3 and 1:4.

In this way, the machine extends the extraction time of the coffee.

Café lungo compared to other coffee presentations

You might think that, at least in theory, there isn’t much of a difference between café lungo and preparations like café americano, espresso, ristretto, and others. In truth, however, there are differences that we will explain to you.

Cafe lungo versus espresso

The taste of these two preparations is different due to the different extraction times.

Because lungo takes longer to extract than espresso, it often tastes tart and bitterer than espresso.

Although the taste is more bitter, lungo is less intense than espresso.

Yes, it sounds strange, but when you think about it, espresso is much more concentrated, allowing the sweet, bitter, and sour flavors to be felt more strongly.

Also, the espresso has a lot more foam or crema, which is probably what espresso lovers like best.

A lungo, on the other hand, is prepared with twice as much water as an espresso, although it should be noted that the amount of water varies, but the amount of coffee remains the same.

With the lungo you can taste the roast better

You could say that the main difference between these two types of coffee is that with the lungo you can taste all the nuances of the coffee more clearly.

In addition, the lungo allows the characteristics that the roasting gives to the beans to be better tasted.

With the Lungo, aromas such as caramel and nuts as well as the natural bitterness of the coffee can be better tasted.

Lungo has more caffeine

Since the extraction of the Lungo takes longer and the water comes into contact with the ground coffee for more time, the caffeine content is higher than in a conventional espresso.

However, the difference is not too big.

Lungo versus ristretto coffee

It is true that both lungo and ristretto are variants of espresso.

However, the main difference between lungo and ristretto is that lungo uses more water, so the flavor is more intense and nuanced, although the bitterness is less.

To be precise, only half as much water is used for the ristretto as for an espresso.

In addition, compared to the ristretto, the lungo contains more caffeine per serving.

Café lungo versus café americano

Unlike the lungo, the americano is prepared by adding hot water to a shot of espresso after it has already been poured into the cup.

Also, an americano is around 6-8 oz (177-236 ml) in size, while a lungo is 3 oz (88 ml).

It’s true, however, that the two drinks are easy to confuse, as both the lungo and the americano are essentially an espresso with more water.

Another important difference, however, is that when making an americano, the hot water is added after the brewing process, which means the flavor of the drink is less pronounced.

With the lungo, on the other hand, the water is used during the brewing process, so the extraction is more pronounced.

Caffeine and lungo

It is difficult to determine the exact caffeine content of a cup of lungo as there are many factors that affect the concentration of the alkaloid.

Variables such as the origin of the coffee, whether Arabica or Robusta coffee, can determine the caffeine content of the brew.

It should be noted that Robusta coffee can contain up to twice as much caffeine as Arabica coffee.

Also, keep in mind that the amount of lungo per serving is larger compared to espresso or ristretto, and the larger the serving, the higher the caffeine content.

That’s because caffeine is water soluble and is one of the first components extracted from coffee.

And as we already know, the lungo preparation has a high degree of extraction because the water is in contact with the coffee longer, which leads to an increase in the concentration of caffeine in the final product.

Therefore, we can confidently say that a lungo has a higher caffeine content than a smaller ristretto or espresso.

More details on the lungs

Do you remember that there are Nespresso capsules for making lungo coffee?

Well, the average amount of caffeine per serving in one of these capsules is between 77 and 85 mg of caffeine.

However, the caffeine content can also be higher, because if the Lungo is prepared with Robusta coffee, each serving contains between 125 and 160 mg of caffeine.

Lungo coffee is not for everyone

The taste of the Lungo is not for everyone, because in contrast to preparations such as cappuccino or milk coffee, which almost everyone likes, the taste of the Lungo takes some getting used to.

This is because the strongest and most easily distinguishable flavors are often the toasted and smoked notes.

People who are not used to these aromas therefore often stop asking for this coffee after tasting it, as they find it too “dry” and bitter.

Good coffee is the secret of good lungo coffee

If you want to make a good lungo coffee, you should first buy a coffee that has a medium roast in the beans, as this will give them a more balanced flavor.

Medium or medium-dark roasts are ideal for this type of espresso.

Additionally, coffees with floral and chocolaty notes are safe bets for a balanced taste.

Citrus notes and a medium to low acidity, on the other hand, can be suitable for the preparation of a lungo.

However, it is advisable to mainly use coffees that have a dense body and a sweet taste, as they can soften the excessive bitterness of the lungo.

Finally, coffees with herbal notes can also help balance the strong flavor of this brew.

Now that you know what lungo coffee is and how it differs from espresso, you might want to give it a try?