Coffee Tamper Types & How to Choose the Best Coffee Tamper

Updated on: August 31, 2023
Author: Nick
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How to choose a coffee tamper

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.

What Is a Coffee Tamper?

What is a 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.

Coffee Tamper Types and Sizes

Types of coffee tampers

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.

coffee tamper types - automatic coffee tamper

How to Choose the Best Coffee Tamper - Buying Guide

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.

What to look for in a coffee tamper

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:

  • Right size

  • Functionality

  • Design


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:

  • Check the user manual of your machine or search online for: “name of espresso machine” basket size. It will usually be in mm and be around 50-60mm.

  • Simply measure the basket size of your portafilter. Make sure you take into account the lip though which can add on a mm or two.

  • Even easier (if you have one), measure your current coffee tamper if you are replacing it. 


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!

Coffee Tamping Tips for Beginners

coffee tamping tips for beginners

Here are some tips so you can tamp coffee grounds like a pro!

  • Don’t bend your wrist when tamping. Try and hold the tamper so that when you tamp your forearm runs perpendicular to the portafilter.

  • Don’t tap the portafilter with the tamper. You may have seen baristas do this after they tamp. It will only break the puck which will lead to channeling and an under-extracted espresso.

  • Practice distributing out the coffee grinds with the middle finger of your tamping hand before you tamp. This will lead to fewer air pockets and an overall more consistent extraction.

Pssssssst...Are you struggling to pull that coveted perfect espresso shot? We got you, check our espresso extraction guide!

How do I know what size tamper I need?

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:

  • Gaggia Classic 58 mm

  • Delonghi Dedica & Specialista 51 mm

  • La Pavoni 51.5 mm

  • Smeg 51 mm

  • Breville 54mm

  • Breville Oracle & Oracle Touch 58 mm

  • Rancilio 58mm

Related Reads:

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best tamper for beginners?

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.

Does a good tamper make a difference?

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. 

What is the best weight for a coffee tamper?

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.

what is a tamper used for

Bottom Line

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.

Nick loves coffee... Actually, he NEEDS coffee! So, he has dedicated his time to learning all he can about this magical bean. He can make a mean latte, is obsessed with flat whites, and is always up for a cup of java!
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