Crafting a perfect espresso is not everyone’s cup of tea for it involves an incredible amount of folk-knowledge. The art of espresso making is largely related to coffee tamping. Poorly tamped, your espresso will be watery! Now you must be wondering why we are talking about ‘Tamping’ here. What is it exactly and what is it used for? If you’ve ever watched a barista make an espresso, you would have noticed him/ her pushing the coffee down with a little instrument that looks more like a stamper.
That is called the coffee tamper, a tiny tool that is used to pack (or “tamp”) espresso grounds into the basket of an espresso machine. A coffee tamper’s purpose is to evenly pack the coffee grounds for a quality shot. It can be a bit of trial and error to get this right but it’s worth it.
Coffee Tamping is Important
Beyond the grind and the timing, proper tamping is the key to pulling a quality shot of espresso. Baristas put a lot of effort into perfecting their tamp. There’s a science behind coffee tamping.
When we tamp the coffee grounds, it’s necessary that the water should force its way through the pile in order to get an even flow. This means that the water is interacting with the coffee longer and running through the entire cake of grounds. This union of time and distribution results in a fuller flavour for the espresso shot.
Types of Coffee Tampers
Coffee tampers are made from lightweight metal that matches the size of the basket and portafilter you are tamping. If you have more than one basket, you may require more than one tamper or you can use a two-sided tamper.
It’s important to know the size of your espresso basket and purchase a tamp whose base will fit. Any space left between the tamper and the walls of the basket will result in loose grinds. Those will have a negative effect on the taste of your coffee.
Dual-Head Tamper- A dual-head coffee tamper looks like tilted dumbells with two flat ends, one of which is a little smaller than the other. It is great for home baristas for achieving a uniform tamp every time.
Handle Tamper- This coffee tamper resembles an old-fashioned rubber stamp with a convex bottom and round knob handle. It allows you to add more force to the tamp and is preferred by professional baristas.
Calibrated Tamper- This is super-helpful for new baristas because it indicates precisely the right touch with the portafilter and tamper. It has a built-in mechanism that allows the user to do this without fail by not having to rely on how much pressure they "feel" like they're applying.
Puck Tamper- This kind of coffee tamper is a great tool for ensuring consistent, level tamps and improving the shot quality even when you’re in rush. It is flat and has a much smaller handle and you grip it more like you are holding a ball.
So, don’t worry about how much pressure you use to tamp the coffee, instead focus on good technique and the consistency of your tamp pressure. Just give it a whirl and if you have any questions, give our team a call!