It’s time to jazz up your coffee tamper.
It doesn’t matter how much you spend on your home espresso machine, the tamper that is usually included is pretty bog standard.
And if you’re taking your role as home barista seriously, you’ll want to upgrade your trusty tamper.
It’s not just a style and design thing either, a coffee tamper can seriously increase the quality of your espresso.
So, let us guide you through what makes a good tamper and how to choose the best coffee tamper.
A coffee tamper is a piece of coffee equipment that is used in making espresso. It is used to press the ground coffee beans that are caught in the portafilter basket into a condensed coffee puck.
This enables the espresso machine to exert pressure (9 bars as per the Instituto Nazionale Espresso Italiano) onto the espresso grounds to create an optimal extraction.
There are a number of different types of coffee tampers. The most common type is the classic tamper, a heavy cylindrical base (usually stainless steel) that is attached to an ergonomic handle. These come with a flat or convex bottom.
There are now other styles of coffee tamper on the market, such as a distributor tamper which sits on top of the portafilter basket and gradually tamps the coffee as you spin the top layer.
There is also the dual head tamper, which as the name implies, has two bases for tamping which can be of different sizes.
You may have also heard of the weight-calibrated tamper, which exerts a specific force behind the tamp.
There are also a number of automatic coffee tampers that look like small coffee grinders and can be programmed to tamper the coffee with the exact amount of force.
After spending numerous years working in various coffee shops across the globe, I have gained ample experience in tamping espresso.
The humble coffee tamper is an essential tool for any barista, as it is indispensable in producing those velvety espresso shots.
Whether you work in a fast-paced coffee shop, dealing with high volumes of customers, or have your own coffee bar set up at home, having a subpar coffee tamper can be frustrating.
While espresso tampers are generally durable and robust, they can occasionally break but more commonly become misplaced (many coffee tampers have met their fate by falling into the knock tube).
If you're not in the market for a replacement tamper, you might be interested in upgrading your current one.
If, like me, you value good design and aesthetics, investing in a handcrafted coffee tamper can significantly enhance your coffee-making experience.
Here's a quick look at what you need to look for when choosing a quality coffee tamper:
The first thing that you need to do when purchasing a new coffee tamper is to make sure you have the right size. Functionality and design are irrelevant if the tamper doesn’t fit your portafilter. There are a few ways you can figure out the size of tamper you need:
This depends, of course, on preference, budget, and experience.
There are now many different shapes and sizes of espresso tampers.
The classic tamper is still the most popular but there are coffee tampers that are spring-loaded, cylindrical, and even automatic.
If you are just starting out and don’t want to spend a fortune on a tamper then opt for an ergonomic classic tamper.
If you have a larger budget and are striving for perfection then take a look at a Push tamper, a high-end tamper with pressure regulation. If you are running a coffee shop and experience high volume plus have various staff making coffee then maybe opt for an automatic coffee tamper.
I would be lying if I said that I don’t appreciate a well-designed product.
Coffee tampers are one of those pieces of coffee paraphernalia that brands have taken to adding a touch of class and flare to people's coffee bars over the last few years (they make great coffee gifts too).
Personally, I am a fan of a wooden handle with a stainless steel tamper, however, design is all about preference!
Here are some tips so you can tamp coffee grounds like a pro!
Pssssssst...Are you struggling to pull that coveted perfect espresso shot? We got you, check our espresso extraction guide!
The size of portafilter baskets can vary among espresso machine brands. The size of an espresso machine’s portafilter usually ranges from 49mm to 59mm in diameter. It may be possible to adjust the basket size slightly on your machine.
Before buying a tamper, we recommend measuring your basket's diameter. Then, look for a tamper that is slightly smaller to ensure it fits inside. For example, if your basket measures 54mm, a 53mm tamper should work.
Note that some smaller single-shot baskets may be tapered, requiring an even smaller tamper.
Here are some popular espresso machines with a recommended tamper size.
Tamper Size Guide:
For a beginner, I would recommend opting for a classic style flat base tamper and learning the art of espresso. Your first few tamps may be a little ‘off’ but with a bit or practice you will gradually see your espresso extracting better.
However, what tamper you should start with does depend on your preference and machine.
Personally, I would check the weight of the tamper and if it feels robust. Although you don’t want the tamper to weigh a ton, you still want it to be solid and to bear enough weight onto the ground coffee beans so you don’t have to exert yourself too much on each tamp.
You should look for the material to be solid and the fewer breakable, moving parts the better.
Yes, a good tamper tool can make a huge difference in the quality of espresso shots.
Tamping is a crucial step in the espresso-making process as it helps to distribute the coffee grounds evenly in the portafilter and create a uniform surface for water to pass through during the extraction.
A well-designed tamper ensures that the coffee grounds are compacted evenly, which results in a more consistent extraction and a better-tasting espresso shot.
Moreover, a comfortable and ergonomic tamper can also help reduce the risk of barista injury or strain when repeatedly tamping coffee grounds throughout the day.
Therefore, investing in a high-quality tamper can be a wise decision for any serious barista or coffee enthusiast who wants to improve the quality of their espresso.
A good coffee tamper should weigh around 1 to 2 lbs. Look for tampers made of quality and heavy materials such as stainless steel. Avoid flimsy ones made of plastic or other light materials.
Hopefully, you now have enough pointers to choose a coffee tamper!
As with all coffee paraphernalia today there are lots to pick from but as long as you find one that fits your portafilter basket you are on the road to that perfect espresso.