Did you ever wonder what is a tamper for espresso? A tamper is a simple tool used to compress ground coffee into a portafilter and ensure the smooth and consistent level of the ground before brewing an espresso. While it may sound undoubtedly simple, the art of tamping is a skill any budding baristas should learn and develop.
Some say that a tamper should be considered as an extension of your hand considering the role in plays in the espresso brewing process. Knowing that coffee grounds should not have any form of gaps or air bubbles when brewed, it is crucial to have the right tool to come up with a quality brew.
Types of Tampers
There are different kinds of espresso tampers available in the market, depending on the size, shape, and even weight of the tool. Choosing the right type of tamper for your needs is important to be able to tamp your coffee grounds into the portafilter properly.
- Domed or Conex Tampers – Adomed or Conex tamper features a slightly curved base. This type of tamper is used to imprint some border on the edge of the portafilter basket.
- Flat Tampers – Flat tampers are the most commonly used tamper in the industry. It is characterized by a straight flat base that tamps the ground in a smooth and level manner.
- Calibrated Tampers – Calibrated tampers were only recently introduced. It features a built-in mechanism that automatically applies the ideal 30-pound pressure on the coffee ground. This tool instantly erases the possibility of the barista to tamp the grounds too loose or too tight.
- Dual-Head Tampers – A dual-head tamper features a tool with two base heads and with no designated handle at all. Usually, the two tamper heads are of different sizes so that it can be easily used on different espresso machines.
What is a Tamper for Espresso: Why Tamp at All?
An espresso shot is made by running finely ground coffee beans in high pressure. Compressing the beans allows the brew to extract the full and robust flavor of espresso that we love. But where is tamping in that equation?
The tamping of the grounds occurs right before you plug the portafilter handle into the machine to brew. After putting the proper doses of coffee ground in the portafilter, the ground is tamped firmly to rid the powder of gaps and air bubbles. A properly packed ground is necessary to produce a brew that is not bland or too bitter. A loosely packed puck of coffee grounds will allow the water to course through without getting most of the coffee flavor. On the other hand, putting too much pressure on the grounds will result in a slower pull that would make the espresso taste bitter.
Tamping Tips and Tricks
- It’s hard to measure and accurately apply the ideal 30 pounds of pressure used for tamping. What you can do is practice inserting a consistent and level amount of pressure for every time you need to tamp when making espresso. Continue practicing until you reach a level where you can recreate it with no-fault.
- Tamping may sound like a simple task, but repetitive strain may cause injury in the long run. Make sure that your form is proper whenever you tamp. The correct way is that you should have your wrist perfectly straight and your elbows bent at about 90O angle. Insert force coming from your shoulders and triceps and avoid letting all the pressure fall on your wrist.
- To know what a certain amount of pressure is supposed to feel. Take a weighing scale and gently press down the scale with the tamp until it reaches your desired numbers. Practice reaching your target pressure in one swift press and let muscle memory take over when doing it on an actual puck of ground of coffee.
- The ideal pressure for tamping isn’t precisely fixed at 30 pounds. The amount of weight you should apply could depend on the type of coffee ground used. The idea is that a finer ground with require less tamping pressure while a coarser grind would need more. Practicing would allow you to be more flexible and consistent with your tamp regardless of minor changes in-ground type.
- Always clean your tamper every after use. The base should be clean and clear of any residuals from previous brews. Brush away or wipe the left coffee grounds and avoid getting the tamper misshaped or dented.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Tamper?
Tamper head size
It is essential to buy a tamper that hast the appropriate size for your portafilter basket. Since not all espresso machines have the same filter or basket size, make sure to look into the right measurements for your basket and choose the tamper with the appropriate size. Generally, tampers come in sizes from 56 or 57mm to 58 or 59mm.
For non-calibrated models, the weight of the tamper plays a vital role in properly handling the coffee grounds. Heavier tamper models would require less force and effort than using lighter ones.
Aesthetics and Ergonomics
Tampers can be made with a variety of materials. Plastics are considered as the cheapest of all the materials as it is light and often gets easily dented. Most baristas choose wood or metal tampers. They are regarded as go-to’s as they require minimal maintenance and can do the job pretty well. Aside from being aesthetically pleasing, it is also important that the ergonomics of the tool is best and ideal for your style and use. Find out more about espressos.
All Tamped Up
Just like any part of the complex process of brewing espresso, learning the whats, hows, and whys of tamping is essential to fully grasp its role in making a perfectly good shot of espresso. For beginners, questions like what is a tamper for espresso and how long to tamp for espresso are common. Tamping is a skill that requires practice and knowledge to master the art of brewing espresso ultimately.