One always looks for ways to improve coffee when they are in love with it. There are number of different coffee recipes, however, an espresso is the most important one. A number of other coffee drinks such as latte or cappuccino are prepared from espresso shots in different concentration. When brewing espresso, whether using a coffee machine or manually, for example, on the stovetop, you need a tool such as a coffee tamper.
Coffee lovers, especially those who are new to this experience, are unaware of this tool. Similarly, others know about coffee tampers, but they don’t know about the usage and different types of coffee tampers. If you are one of them, you don’t have to worry as in this detailed guide, we have covered everything from the basic definition to all the types and usage of coffee tampers.
What is Coffee Tamper?
A coffee tamper or more specifically an espresso tamper is a tool that is used for tamping or packing the coffee grounds in to the basket of a coffee machine. As both terms refer to the same tool, coffee tampers and espresso tampers are often used interchangeably. A quality espresso shot requires even packing of the coffee grounds. A loosely packed coffee ground will create an uneven concentration, resulting in low-quality espresso shots. The purpose of an espresso tamper is to pack the loose coffee grounds evenly inside the basket or, in other words, to compress or tamp them evenly.
Purpose of Coffee Tamping
Coffee tamping is one of the most important step in making coffee. As explained above, tamping compresses and concentrates the coffee grounds in to an even distribution. In this way, during the extraction process, the coffee grounds offer more resistance to the water. Therefore, all of the coffee grind is soaked up during the coffee extraction process to bring out the true taste of the coffee beans. Moreover, due to compression, more space is available to coffee grounds to swell properly. That is why a good extraction always require an excellent coffee tamping process. With good even tamping, you will be able to perform the coffee extraction process in a superb manner.
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Attributes of a Best Coffee Tamper
These days, you will always find a coffee tamper inside the package of an espresso machine. However, some of them are of low quality and serve no useful purpose. Therefore, you need to invest in some best coffee tampers if you really want to enjoy a perfect cup of espresso.
You will find hundreds of coffee tampers available in the market, each having a different type and attributes. It is really confusing to search for a best coffee tamper, but if you know about all the attributes and features of a good coffee tamper, then you will be able to make the right decision. Explained below are some of the main attributes and features that you must look in a best espresso tamper:
Coffee tampers are constructed from a variety of materials that determine their durability and longevity. It is quite obvious that coffee tampers built with some high quality materials will serve longer. In addition, such materials do not react with coffee, therefore they do not spoil the taste of coffee and are easy to clean.
In contrast to other low-quality materials, stainless steel is more preferred due to its hygiene and food-safe characteristics. However, coffee tamper made of steel or any other metal are a bit bulkier. Professional baristas prefer a lighter tamper due to extensive usage.
Weight of tamper is one of the most crucial attribute, because in tamping you are going to need a certain amount of force to ensure proper tamping. With more weight, it is quite clear, you will achieve more compression and thus better extraction. However, more weight of a coffee tamper is going to exhaust you more due to its bulkiness.
On other hand, if a coffee tamper is too light, it is not going to achieve the desired compression. Likewise, a lighter coffee tamper requires you to push harder, which may strain your muscles. Therefore, always choose a medium-weight tamper that is neither too heavy nor too light.
Different espresso machines may be compatible with different types of tampers. Similarly, people will have different preferences when it comes to the shape of a coffee tamper depending on the ease of use, compression level, etc. The shape attribute plays an important role here.
There are a number of coffee tampers having a different shape especially the shape of handle and base. So, choose the one that goes with your style and machine.
Handle is one of the most important part of a coffee tamper. You will be using your coffee tamper by grabbing and holding it from the handle. Therefore, it is important to look for the weight, material and freedom of movement of a coffee tamper’s handle.
When it comes to different types, these are available in two main styles, calibrated and non-calibrated. There is a detailed explanation of both of them in the later part.
Every espresso machine is equipped with a portafilter, which have a certain diameter. Initially, all portafilters of espresso machines had a universal size of 58mm. However, you will also find a number of coffee machines with smaller sized portafilters as well. Some of these sizes are 49mm, 51mm, 53mm and 57mm.
One must make sure that diameter of a coffee tamper matches the diameter of a portafilter for an even tamp. In case of mismatching, you will not get a perfect all-around coffee tamping.
When it comes to different attributes, base of a coffee tamper is the most important one. In addition to different colors, sizes, and designs, coffee tampers are available in various base options as well.
Each base type serves a specific purpose and influences the type of tamping that can be achieved with espresso shots. You can find detailed explanation of different types of bases of coffee tampers in the below section.
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Coffee Tampers – Different Base Options
We know that tamping is achieved by using the base of the coffee tamper. In terms of choosing a coffee tamper based on the base, there are several different options. Given below are some main details of each type:
1. Flat Coffee Tampers
Flat coffee tampers are the ones that have a flat or completely leveled base. This means that once you are tamping your coffee grounds, the whole base or face comes into contact with coffee grounds. Therefore, you will have maximum tamping, fully compressing the coffee grounds in a flat manner. Different techniques can be used to achieve maximum or minimum tamping for coffee extraction as per requirements.
2. Convex Coffee Tampers
As the name suggests, convex coffee tampers are not completely flat at the base, but rather in a convex form. From the center, there is a certain level of bevel up to the top of the edges. Most people prefer this coffee tamper over flat, because it fits the portafilter perfectly and no water can escape. Thus, you will not be ruining your perfect espresso by even a slightest leakage of water.
Once you apply this convex tamper, you will get compressed coffee in a slightly convex shape. The only disadvantage here is, more concentration at the center as compared to the edges.
3. C-Flat Coffee Tampers
C-Flat coffee tampers lie somewhere in the middle between flat and convex coffee tampers. Though, these coffee tampers are not very popular, however, still some baristas and coffee lovers opt for these. The C-Flat or Convex Flat filter is a hybrid of flat and convex coffee tampers. Here the edges are slightly curved whereas the center is flat. Therefore, at the inner walls as well as the center of portafilter, you will have more compression as compared to the convex coffee tamper.
4. Rippled Coffee Tampers
If you want to create ripples at the surface of coffee grounds to ensure even distribution of water throughout, always go for ripple tampers. You will have an even saturation of coffee grounds and no ground will get inside the portafilter. This method is preferred by baristas that want to add some special effects to the espressos. However, a major disadvantage over here is the cleaning and maintenance. These coffee tampers have smaller grooves that gives it the rippling effect. Grooves are hard to clean once they have become dirty.
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Calibrated vs. Non Calibrated Coffee Tampers
From above section, we know that coffee tampers can also be classified on the bases of their handle types. These are known as calibrated and non-calibrated espresso tampers.
Calibrated Coffee Tampers
Calibrated coffee tampers are those in which the base and handle of the tamper are disconnected from each other. This means though the handle and the base are connected, however, once disassembled, both of these are separate parts. The calibrated coffee tampers are named so because they provide the most optimum required force for tamping.
For coffee tamping, the perfect pressure is about 30lbs. Calibrated coffee tampers are perfect in providing this prime pressure for tamping. These tampers are perfect for newbies or new baristas due to their optimal pressure, consistency and ease of use.
Non-Calibrated Coffee Tampers
In contrast to calibrated tampers, the non-calibrated espresso tampers are the ones where both base and handle are physically connected. It means that handle and base are integral parts of one body, rather than distinct parts. These tampers are perfect for experienced coffee makers and baristas to provide the required amount of tamping pressure.
Quick Coffee Tampering – How to Guide
To prepare a flavorful and best espresso shot, you must know how to do perfect tamping. Below you can find a quick guide on how to perform coffee tampering flawlessly:
- Place the coffee tamper properly inside a portafilter. You can use your thumb, index and middle fingers to support it.
- Once the tamper is in right position, bend your arm at right angle in such a way that your forearm is directly vertical to the tamper.
- When the tamper is properly positioned, push downward with enough force to feel a little resistance inside the coffee tamper.
- Twist the tamper to flatten the coffee grounds correctly.
- Do not push hard. Apply a consistent force to ensure an equal amount of force is applied.
Best Espresso Tampers – Top Picks
A list of top 7 espresso tampers is given below:
|LuxHaus 58mm Calibrated Pressure Tamper||Check on Amazon|
|Wingjip Calibrated Coffee Tamper||Check on Amazon|
|BlueSnail Stainless Steel Coffee Tamper||Check on Amazon|
|Metallurgica Motta Olive Wood Tamper||Check on Amazon|
|Beymill Dual Side Coffee Distributor Tamper||Check on Amazon|
|MATOW Dual Head Coffee Distributor/ Tamper||Check on Amazon|
|De’Longhi DLSC058 Coffee Tamper||Check on Amazon|
The following is a brief description and list of features of each of the recommended coffee tampers:
- Available in 04 different sizes
- Food-safe stainless steel base
- Ergonomic handle
- Calibrated compression
If you want perfect espresso tamping at all times, then LuxHaus calibrated pressure tamper is a perfect choice. This coffee tamper is well suited for all coffee machines having 58mm portafilter. Thanks to its ergonomic and comfortable handle that perfectly fits in one’s hand, the coffee tamper is convenient to use. Moreover, the tamper has a steel base, which is non-rusting, hygienic as well as food-safe. Therefore, you will have a smooth and perfect coffee compression using LuxHaus calibrated coffee tamper.
LuxHaus Calibrated Pressure Tamper are also available in three other sizes .i.e. 49mm, 51mm and 53mm.
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- Available in 03 different sizes
- Red and Black handle options
- Professional standard steel
- Optimum 30lb. pressure
Wingjip Calibrated Coffee Tamper is a professional espresso tamper having an adjustable ergonomic grip. The base is constructed with a shiny food grade hygienic 304 stainless steel material. Handle wise, the design is not only ergonomic and easy to handle, but the high quality aluminum alloy ensures its durability as well. Moreover, the handle is rust and stain proof and very easy to clean with just a damp cloth. Wingjip Coffee Tamper is a calibrated coffee tamper and provides with a perfect 30 pound pressure due to spring compression mechanism. The tamping is carried out professionally in an even and smooth manner.
Calibrated coffee tampers by Wingjip are available in enchanting red and black colors with three different sizes .i.e. 49mm, 51mm and 53mm.
- Suitable for 51mm portafilters
- Stainless steel construction
- Budget coffee tamper
- Strong and durable
Some coffee makers have a low quality or plastic coffee tamper, which is good for nothing. In such cases, you need some premium quality coffee tamper such as BlueSnail Stainless Steel Coffee Tamper. Construction is done using stainless steel on the outside and iron on the inside. The BlueSnail coffee tamper provides with perfect pressure required to pack and tamp the fresh coffee grounds before brewing. This coffee tamper has a base of 51mm and height 80mm.
- Dense olive wood handle
- Authentic Italian coffee tamper
- 304 food-grade steel base
- 30 days money back guarantee
A unique coffee tamper having a blend of high quality olive wood handle with flat stainless steel base. The olive wood is of premium quality, very dense and resistant against any odors and stains. Similarly, the stainless steel is 304 food grade high quality steel, which is completely hygienic. In addition to the design being perfect, the flat heavy base provides for even tamping of grounds. Metallurgica Motta is an authentic Italian coffee tamper having a 30 days money back guarantee as well.
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- 2 in 1 design (Distributor + Tamper)
- Anti-rust steel tamper
- Works with 58mm baskets
- Adjustable height
If you need a distributor (leveler) as well as a coffee tamper, you don’t need to buy them separately. Beymill 58mm Dual Side Coffee Distributor Tamper is a combination of both tamper as well as distributor. One side is completely flat whereas the other side is tri-lobal which serves the function of distributor. The flat base is made of high quality 304 stainless steel which is of food grade, durable and rust resistant. With simple screw mechanism, the height of both sides can be adjusted to fit different baskets easily. Beymill dual side distributor tamper works perfectly with machines having a 58mm portafilter.
- 2 in 1 design (Distributor + Tamper)
- Works with 53mm baskets
- Also works with tapered Breville 54mm
- Adjustable depth
For coffee lovers having a 53mm compatible portafilter, the MATOW dual head coffee distributor and tamper is premium choice. It has dual sides, each one specialized for distribution or tamping operations, respectively. This dual coffee tamper works perfectly for tapered portafilter baskets such as Breville 54mm, even though it is primarily designed for 53mm portafilters. The tamper depth is adjustable, so you can easily set it according to your desired tamping pressure and depth. For perfect and optimum tamping, it is always recommended to fill the basket up to its full level. Distribute the coffee grounds evenly using the distributor/leveler side, and then flip it over to the tamper side for even and uniform tamping.
- Stainless steel base
- Natural wood handle
- Works with 51mm baskets
- Compatible with all pump espresso makers
From expert coffee machines manufacturers, De’Longhi DLSC058 Coffee Tamper is one of the best coffee tampers. This coffee tamper is calibrated, so it is perfect for new users to perform an even tamping with optimum required pressure. For base, stainless steel is used, whereas handle is constructed using high quality natural wood. The coffee tamper is a right choice for all espresso machines having portafilter of 51mm diameter. With right pressure and easy usage, you will get an even and uniform tamping of coffee grounds every time.
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Best Coffee Tampers – Final Thoughts
Coffee tampers are one of the most critical accessories to brew a perfect cup of espresso. In this detailed guide, we have discussed everything from basic definition to attributes and then recommending some of the best coffee tampers. Tell us in the comments what your favorite coffee tamper is and how you prefer to tamp coffee grounds.