The tamper is used when brewing espresso, whether in the machine or the espresso machine on the stove. This small tool is essential for packaging coffee grounds to get the best espresso. It is not difficult to use, but there are appropriate techniques and several types of tampering to choose from.

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What is Tampering?

A tamper is a tool used to load (or “tamp”) espresso coffee grounds into the espresso machine basket. The purpose of the tamper is to wrap the coffee ground to obtain high-quality espresso shots evenly. Essentially, you take it out of a pile of loose “quantity” powder cakes and place them on a tightly compressed cake in a basket.

Why is Tamping Important?

Tamping has a specific purpose, and baristas have put much effort into perfecting their tasting. In addition to grinding and timing, proper mashing is the key to making high-quality espresso. Behind the consolidation is a science.

Pressurized water will pass through the filter into the basket filled with coffee powder when the lens is pulled. If these grounds are piled loosely together, the water will pass directly through them, usually finding cracks or the easiest route, and avoiding the more difficult parts. This is far from the ideal choice to get the full flavor of coffee beans.

When the coffee grounds are compressed, the water needs to be forced through the coffee grounds. This means that the interaction time between water and coffee is longer and runs through the entire coffee powder. This combination of time and distribution makes the espresso more intense.

In short, the purpose of compaction is to make it harder for water to rush through the ground.

Tamping can also fully compact the coffee powder, leaving a little room for the coffee to expand when adding water. This is a secondary purpose, although it does help keep the machine head clean.

Four Types of Tampers

A good tamper is made of lightweight metal to match the size of the basket and portable filter you are tamping. If you have multiple baskets, you may need numerous rammers or use double-sided rammers.

There are debates about which round (convex) or flat-bottomed tamper is better. However, generally speaking, there are four basic styles of tampering.

Choose the Right Tamper

If you extract a lot of espressos, it is essential to find the right tamper for you. As we all know, professional baristas feel pain and strain on their hands and wrists due to excessive compaction. Sometimes, the remedy is as simple as choosing a different weight, strength, or style rammer.

Need Espresso Tamper?

Need an espresso tamper? Maybe the coffee tamper that came with your machine didn’t cut it? Whatever the reason; for many reasons, a high-quality compaction tool is essential; the main point is that it can help you brew a fantastic, crema-rich espresso.

Understand the Espresso Tampers

An espresso tamper (same as a coffee tamper) is a simple tool to press finely ground coffee into a basket/portable filter. Tamping is a small but critical step in brewing high-quality espresso, and using high-quality tamping makes this process easier.

Why do we need to consolidate in the first place? When the coffee grounds are not the same size (and never been), we need a way to ensure that the water passes through the packaged coffee grounds evenly. We do this by pressing them. As the uproarious people at Barista said:

The density of the coffee powder is not always uniform, so we need to compress them together to eliminate void space.

Can you tamp an espresso without a tamper? Of course. You can press the grind or small glass with your thumb. These will work in a pinch, but if you want to make a great espresso, please adjust it,  just keep the wine glasses.

A good tamper, coupled with a bit of skill, will make it easier for you to make the perfect espresso.

How to choose a tamper

Tamping espresso takes time to master and maybe messy at first, but using a good espresso masher will speed up the process (2), and using an espresso mash pad will help prevent staining. You already have a great espresso machine, so a good blender may be just the missing piece of your puzzle, which can brew incredible crema-rich espresso. To choose the correct tamper, remember the following specifications:

The Size of a Tamper

Espresso tamper sizes range from 48 to 58 in millimeters, and most brands use 58 mm tamper size.

Many tampers include the size of the basket in the name (i.e., Motta Professional Coffee Tamper, 58 mm). Still, lost? It is best to check out an Espresso Tamper Sizing Guide so that you can choose the perfect tamper size for your machine.

Tamper weight

Your tamper needs to weigh about 1-2 pounds to apply the correct pressure.

Your goal is 30 pounds of pressure, which is easier to achieve with a heavier tamper. 

Avoid tampering with devices made of plastic, and choose tampering devices made of heavy materials such as stainless steel. According to professional baristas, a masher of about 1 pound seems to be the best.

Don’t look for things that are as heavy as possible; the most important thing is to use comfortable things:

The pressure used for compaction is not aggressive, as long as it is consistent.

Convex or flat?

The surface of the convex tamper is slightly rounded, while the flat tamper (you guessed it) is completely flat. It is said that the convex stamper can help prevent blow-by by pushing the coffee slightly up to the sides of the filter.

For home brewing, both are fine.

Should you use calibrated tampering?

The calibrated tamper has a handle separate from the bottom of the tamper. When pushed to 30 pounds, the handle and base will connect with a “click” sound. The calibrated pressure bar is perfect for barista beginners or professionals who want to be 100% sure to apply the correct pressure.

Does style matter?

Like the carved wooden handles on most Motta rammers? Or want to be more luxurious and get an engraved coffee masher or even a customized coffee masher? Want to! They all have a unique appearance-choose something that appeals to you.

How much are you willing to spend?

The primary plastic version of the tamper is $4, while the expensive Pullman Barista tamper may be in the range of $200 (yes, just for tampering!). The tampered prices reviewed below are all over, so you have a choice no matter your budget.

How to Tamp Coffee Grounds?

Make sure your coffee is under the correct pressure.

Once upon a time, the consensus was that coffee powder should be compacted under a pressure of about 30 pounds, which is difficult to achieve consistently and requires mechanical assistance or sustained magical power.

This number is used as a guideline, and many people in the coffee industry believe that about 8 pounds of pressure are enough to compress coffee properly.

Tamping is essential because it compresses the ground material into evenly distributed discs. Hot water is forced through the coffee grind under high pressure during the extraction process. The water will always find the path of least resistance, so it is indispensable to ensure that the coffee powder is fully compacted and evenly compacted to achieve appropriate extraction.

We will not allow the water to escape from the coffee bean head by tamping quickly. On the contrary, it will absorb all the flavors in the roasted bean before it flows out of the coffee bean head spout-this process is called “coffee extraction.”

Therefore, we hope to be consistent with our consolidation to obtain good extraction repeatedly. Getting uniform compaction is much more important than solid compaction.

Grind your coffee into your handle and shake it gently to grind evenly.

Use slightly curled fingers to spread out the ground to flush with the top of the handled basket.

Tamp down twice. For the first ramming, apply light pressure to form the shape of the puck, and for the second use, apply more force and press down to remove any apparent space between the grinds.

While applying the last bit of pressure, you can rotate the stirrer 720° to leave a smooth, uniform surface for the compacted coffee powder-this process is called “polishing”-but it is not required. The importance here is to create a soft, uniform puck.

Check the disc to make sure there are no visible gaps or cracks.

Step-by-step guide

  1. Shake your group handles quickly.
  2. Place the combination handle on the espresso tamping rack or a clean surface or tamping pad.
  3. Use light pressure to compact the coffee powder a bit.
  4. Let the ice hockey rest for a while.
  5. Now use about 8 pounds of force to compact the coffee powder again.
  6. Optional: Rotate the tamper to “polish” the lens.
  7. Withdraw to reveal a smooth, uniform, and compacted puck.

The Nutation Method

The 2009 World Barista Champion Gwilym Davies offers an alternative method called “nutation”-rotation around an axis.

This method starts with uneven tamping and is achieved by rotating the ram in the filter basket and tilting it 360° before lightly pressing the tamped surface.

The theory here is that the coffee disc is tightly packed in the center and slightly loose at the edges, and when the water is forced outward, the extraction is more even.

Once you are satisfied with its quality, place your hand in your espresso machine and start making your espresso.

Tamping coffee: does this still matter?

As baristas, we like to think that our technique is different. We tell people that making good coffee is a combination of “art and science.”

But is this consolidating?

In this article, we will answer the most common questions people have about tamping, and we will introduce some practical tips to get the best results from your coffee.

When we train baristas on the basic principles of making espresso, some questions about mashing keep appearing:

1. How hard should you tamp the coffee?

Some people say you need to tamp hard, while others say that pressure does not matter. Some people say 15lbs/6kgs. Some people like to change their tamping pressure every time.

Who is right? This sounds like a scientific job.

For our first test, we wanted to know whether harder tamping would change the flow rate of the espresso or whether it improved the consistency of each injection.

To ensure that our results are consistent, we use Puqpress. Puqpress is an automatic compaction machine that compacts with precise pressure every time.

We extracted a total of 25 cups of espresso with tamping pressures of 10, 20, and 30 kg to average the results. We used three different styles of espresso blends in these tests to ensure that origin or roast characteristics are not a factor.

In short, we found that higher compaction pressure does not affect extraction. The extraction time of 30 kg compaction is no longer, and the time of each shot is not more consistent-they are the same.

So, if there is no difference in tamping harder, what is the point of tamping?

This is about removing air bubbles and forcing the water to flow evenly through the coffee bed.

If water can find an easy opportunity to overcome one of these gaps, this is what we call “channels.” If we don’t tamp the coffee, we will see this happen. You will see holes in the used coffee bed, the espresso will flow faster, and it may taste bad.

Therefore, our goal is not to press hard but to provide a compact surface to ensure correct waterworks.

This brings us to our next question.

2. Is the level of tamping fundamental?

Most barista trainers will carefully point out that you should always be level with the basket.

But we want to test whether it has a measurable effect on the flow or consistency of our espresso when we are not doing it right.

Unfortunately, our robotic tampering can only consolidate the level, so we have to use old-fashioned humans for these tests.

For this test, we brewed a series of espresso with an extreme compaction angle of 10 degrees and then brewed another batch at an angle of 20 degrees. To understand how they compare, we compared these with espresso made from briquette with the same pressure level.

This time, the difference was immediately apparent.

Compared with the horizontal tamp test, the test where an angled tamp was used had a more unstable flow rate. The used coffee also showed apparent signs of tasting-most importantly, in our blind tasting test, the espresso made with inclined briquettes did not taste good.

The negative results are more pronounced at 20 degrees than at 10 degrees, so the conclusion is obvious: the higher you maintain the level of tamping technique, the better your coffee will be.

Of course, there are many devices to ensure that you are always firm, so this is one way to solve this problem, or you can make sure you pay attention to your technique and align the tamping level with the basket before you press.

3. How to tamp coffee properly?

Now that we understand the results, let’s run some practical tamping techniques to get consistent results with your coffee and avoid repetitive strain injuries.

First, make sure that the way you hold the tamper does not pressure your wrist. For most people, it’s best to keep it like a tennis racket, or if you prefer to have a microphone.

You want to wrap four fingers around the handle and place your thumb on the base as support. It’s usually best not to hold the seal like a letter. This is the secret of pain along the way.

If this feels uncomfortable, I also recommend this method as an option.

I like to place my fingertips on the edge of the tamper. I touch the tamper and the basket while tamping.

This “feeling” method helps you maintain an even and level of compaction.

Next, I suggest you put the group handle on the corner of the bench and avoid using the nozzle, as this will damage the nozzle or even pick up any loose sand on the court and transfer it through the extraction to the cup.

Then, stand on the bench with your elbows up. This will ensure that your wrists are straight and your shoulders contact your shoulders.

Remember, as we have shown before, you don’t need a lot of pressure. Just lean gently on the body, and the force of crushing the kiwi is enough.

A few things to avoid:

1. Tap the basket

Some people feel that they have to tap the handle after tamping to loosen the coffee from the basket wall.

In addition to damaging the tamper and handle, it can also create a gap at the point of impact of the coffee bed, which makes the passage more likely.

If you are worried that the coffee will stick to the wall of the basket, you can buy a slightly larger indenter, which fits the basket better.

This will ensure that the coffee is compacted to the edge from the beginning.

2. Distortion

Some baristas add a twist to the compaction movement to “polish” the coffee bed.

To be fair, this is unlikely to cause any problems with the extraction, but it is not a necessary action, especially if you have to make hundreds of cups of coffee a day.

3. Change your Tamp to control the flow

This is another solid idea that often appears in training courses:

“I can change my tamping pressure to increase or decrease my shooting time throughout the day.”

Although the pressure you exert during the ramming feels excellent, it looks pale and weak compared with the water pressure of the machine pump. The effect of harder tamping is impossible to change the flow rate.

The real solution is to adjust the grinder coarsely or finely to keep the formula unchanged and the compaction pressure as consistent as possible to prevent channeling.