If you are serious about making good quality espresso at home, then a good quality coffee tamper is going to be one of the main tools that you will need to invest in. While there are several different items that you are going to need if you want to make great espresso at home, an espresso tamper is certainly one that should never be overlooked. Many espresso machines might come with a cheap, plastic tamper included, but this isn’t the best quality option out there and it can have an impact on the overall result of your espresso shot.
If you’re wondering why it’s worth investing in the best espresso tamper rather than simply using the plastic tamper that came with your machine, simply using the two side by side and noticing the differences in the extraction will usually surprise you. If you are going to do this, make sure that all the other variables with the espresso shot are exactly the same so that the only differences in the final result can be due to the tamper used.
What to Look for When Buying an Espresso Tamper
What is an espresso tamper? A good espresso press tool shouldn’t just look the part or be made from the best materials. When looking for the right one, look out for one that has an ergonomic design, a suitable base, and a handle that easily fits snugly in your hand and molds to your grip.
When looking for the right espresso machine tamper, the base is likely to be the most important part to consider since it adds weight to the tamper and helps to level the puck correctly. You should choose a tamper that is easy and comfortable for you to hold while still being heavy enough to get the best results and makes achieving a level top easy.
Making sure that the base is the perfect size for the filter basket is the most important detail when purchasing the best tamper. Buy one that is a tight enough fit to make sure that the edge seal is just right. Anything over 200g is an ideal choice as a good espresso tamper will have a bit of weight to it. Most of the time, the standard sized tampers you will find are designed to fit a 58mm basket, so it’s often easier to find a tamper 58mm, but there are several other popular sizes to choose from, so look around and make sure that you’re getting the best coffee tamper for you.
Choosing the Right Espresso Tamper Shape
There is not usually any noticeable difference in the extraction of the espresso as a result of the shape of your coffee tamper. However, some people do believe that the base of the tamper should be chosen to match the arc at the bottom of the basket, if there is one present. However, don’t worry too much if yours does not, since there hasn’t been any testing or solid proof of this, and is generally down to a matter of opinion and personal preference.
Baristas who use a convex tamper agree that the slight incline makes it easier for the coffee to be pushed to the edge of the portafilter. As a result, this can be the best shape to go for if you want to prevent channeling as it will help to prevent water from pooling along the sides since the path will be blocked by the coffee.
If you use a flat tamper, on the other hand, this can give you the same results as long as you are using the proper technique. A flat tamper is also likely to produce a tamp that is slightly more flush, which some baristas argue will result in a more even extraction.
While there are several different shape options to consider when choosing your tamper, it’s important to bear in mind that the differences between them are very subtle, and there is no need to overthink which one you get – just go with your personal preference and check out coffee tamper review pages.
Convex Vs Flat Tampers
You’ll usually notice that the two main varieties of tamper on offer are convex and flat. Convex tampers will have a surface that is slightly rounded, leaving a mild indentation in the coffee puck after you tamp in. This is used with a flat portafilter, that compacts the coffee evenly.
Channeling happens when water flows through areas of the espresso pick that have unevenly tamped grinds or cracks, leading to lower back pressure. In the event of channeling, the extraction is not even, since water will follow the path of least resistance.
Should You Get a Calibrated Tamper?
A calibrated espresso tamper has a spring-resistant mechanism that is sandwiched between the handle and the tamper base. A calibrated coffee tamper 54mm can be an ideal choice if you are new to tamping coffee and want to make it easier for you to achieve a consistent tamp. They are also a good choice for coffee shops that have several different baristas using a machine, since the tamper allows the team to get a uniform, consistent coffee tamp no matter who is using it. However, a calibrated tamper is not an essential, since a good, heavy tamper that is used with the right technique should produce the same results.
How Much Can You Expect a Tamper to Cost?
Deciding on your budget for an espresso tamper is another factor that comes down to personal preference. As long as the tamper is the right size and has the best features, it shouldn’t really matter how much you paid for it, since you will usually get the same results.
How to Use a Coffee Tamper
Tamping your coffee might seem easy enough to do, but it is a step in the process that can take some practice to get right. While it is a simple enough process, you might need to practice a few times to get a tamp that is completely even and compact. The steps include:
Load the Portafilter: Put your portafilter on your espresso machine, and make sure that it is clean by running some hot water through it. Then, use a dosing coffee grinder, scoop, or spoon to fill it with the right amount of espresso. Two shots of espresso will usually take around .05lbs of coffee grinds, but this might depend on the size of your portafilter basket.
Get the Tamp Even: Holding your coffee tamp at an angle is the most common mistake here, since doing this will actually lead to an uneven coffee puck with one side thinner than the other, leading to an uneven pull. Typically, the portafilter will have two spouts, and one major sign that one is pouring more than the other is that the tamp is uneven. Because of this, some grinds are going to be over-extracted, and others under-extracted. As a result of this, you will have bitter and sour shots, so taking your time to make sure that the grinds are evenly compressed is crucial.
Get the Amount of Force Right: How hard to tamp espresso? Ideally, tamping your coffee down will use around 40-50lbs of force. You can see what that weight feels like by using a scale to test your push. While many people believe that tamping coffee is simply about pushing as hard as they can, this might end up making the coffee grounds too tight, leading to the shots pulling slowly and a bitter taste. Along with this, grounds that are too tight can make it harder for your espresso machine to generate the pressure needed to break through the beans, which leads to the water backing up.
Pulling Your Shot: After you have tamped the coffee, pay attention to how your espresso shots pull. If you are new to making espresso and tamping coffee, it’s a good idea to become familiar with how your process actually affects the extraction of the coffee. Ideally, it should take no less than twenty seconds and no more than thirty seconds for you to get an ounce of espresso per shot. If the shot is taking less or more time, it might be because it has not been tamped correctly. Once the shot is pulled, take note of the overall taste – ideally, the shot won’t be too acidic or too bitter.
Cleaning the Tamper
Finally, it’s important to make sure that your espresso tamper is maintained properly. It needs to be fully clean and smooth, so spend some time maintaining it rather than simply getting the grinds off by tapping it on the counter. Make sure that no grinds get caked onto it, since this can increase the risk of denting it and make it impossible to tamp coffee correctly when you are next making espresso. To thoroughly clean your tamper, start by running it under water, removing the excess grinds using your fingers, and finally using a paper towel or rag to wipe it clean.
While a coffee tamper might not seem like the most important piece of kit that you need for making espresso, the one you choose and how you use it can actually make a lot of difference to your final coffee.