Tamping is the process where the barista compacts the ground coffee in the portafilter into a uniform “puck” before pulling the espresso. This is an essential part of the espresso making process and often one of the most overlooked aspects of crafting a delicious coffee. While the process is quite simple, it can take a long time to perfect and often is the main reason for a bad tasting drink.
Why do we need to tamp?
One of the reasons that espresso is so strong and can be brewed so quickly is that it relies on using pressure to push the water through the coffee grounds at great speed. Having perfect density is essential to control the speed of the water passing through, which can alter both the strength and the flavour profile of your espresso. Equally as important is that the density is even throughout, as any unevenness can result in an effect called “channelling”, meaning that the water can pass more freely through some spots than others, making some of the espresso under-extracted and some over.
Different types of tamper
Tampers come in a whole range of different shapes and sizes, but the 2 main types that most baristas use are flat or convex tampers. As the name suggests, flat tampers have a flat bottom to them, whereas convex tampers curve to a slight point at the bottom.
Which one to use is largely down to personal preference, but flat bottom tampers tend to be the most common. Those who favour these types of tampers claim that the flat bottom helps to ensure that you’re applying even pressure throughout the coffee, which will result in a more uniform puck. The convex tamper advocates prefer how the shape pushes coffee towards the edges of the basket, which reduces the risk of channelling. While some people may have very strong opinions on which type is best, ultimately the biggest factor is the skill and experience of the barista.
How to tamp perfectly
Below are our tips on how to correctly tamp your espresso shot.
- To begin with, make sure you’re using the correct amount of coffee, and the correct basket for your portafilter. While this may vary depending on your equipment, a good rule of thumb is about 6-7 grams for a single shot, or 12-14 for a double.
- Evenly distribute the coffee in the basket, without packing the grounds or leaving any breaks or spaces, particularly around the edges.
- Grip the portafilter handle in one hand and the tamper in the other. With the portafilter resting on the counter top, press the tamper straight down onto the coffee with about 30lbs of pressure, ending with a slight twist.
- Carefully brush away any coffee grounds on the rim of the portafilter and inspect the puck to check for gaps and any unevenness. If all looks well the portafilter is ready to go, if not you will need to remove the coffee and start over rather than trying to re-tamp the same puck.
Is there an easier way?
Tamping is one of the skills that can make all the difference between an average and a great cup of coffee, but do you really have to employ a professional barista in order to get the best out of your brew?
Thankfully, there is a simpler way. WMF coffee machines automatically tamp your coffee perfectly every single time, providing you with consistently delicious beverages. From the classic stylings of the WMF Espresso to the compact yet reliable WMF 9000 S+, we have something to suit the needs of any business.
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