When it comes to crafting the perfect shot of espresso, every detail matters. From the quality of the beans to the precision of the grind, each element contributes to the symphony of flavors in your cup. One often-overlooked yet crucial component in this process is the espresso tamper. Choosing the best espresso tamper can make a significant difference in the extraction process, ultimately affecting the taste and aroma of your espresso.
In this article, we delve into the world of espresso tampers and highlight some of the best espresso tampers on the market.
What Is An Espresso Tamper?
An espresso tamper is a simple but essential tool for espresso making. Comprising of a handle and a flat, circular base, its primary function is to uniformly compress coffee grounds within the portafilter. The goal of tamping is to ensure the hot water from the espresso machine penetrates the coffee evenly, producing a well-balanced and flavorful shot.
Why Do You Need To Tamp?
Tamping has several functions in espresso making. As mentioned above, tamping is necessary to produce an even extraction. When you fill the portafilter with coffee, there is a lot of air between the grinds. Tamping compresses the grinds to remove all the empty space and produces a uniform barrier for water to pass through. This uniformity promotes consistent water flow through the coffee grounds during the brewing process, leading to a more balanced extraction.
Tamping also helps establish the right amount of pressure. If you pulled a shot without tamping, the water would speed through, and you would get a very under-extracted and unpleasant shot. Tamping helps produce the right amount of resistance for water passing through the coffee grounds. Water from the espresso machine will consequently have to force its way through the grinds, which allows time to extract flavor and (in theory anyway!) produce that rich shot of espresso you are looking for.
Finally, tamping helps ensure that each shot of espresso you brew has a similar density and resistance, producing the consistency and precision required to achieve high-quality espresso shots.
Best Espresso Tamper 2024
Below, we have compiled a list of the best espresso tampers on the market, from the cheapest to the most expensive.
MATOW Dual Head Coffee Leveler And Tamper
Best Value Espresso Tamper
The MATOW Dual Head Coffee Leveler And Tamper stands out as a budget-friendly and highly popular two-in-one tool, serving as both a leveler and espresso tamper. Featuring a dual-function design, one side is equipped with fins for even coffee distribution, while the other side serves as a push tamper. Using the palm of your hand, you can press down to tamp the coffee and automatically level it. Both the tamper and leveler come with adjustable depth settings, providing control over tamping pressure and catering to various portafilter basket depths. The MATOW espresso tamper is conveniently available in a 53mm size for compatibility with most Breville espresso machines and a 58mm size tailored for prosumer espresso machines.
Flat bottom tamper sizes: 51mm | 53mm | 58mm
LuxHaus Espresso Tamper
The LuxHaus espresso tamper is an excellent choice for beginners. This calibrated espresso tamper features a spring-loaded base, ensuring a consistent tamp for your espresso. Its affordable price point makes it an ideal option for those on a budget. Beyond its budget-friendly appeal, this stylish espresso tamper not only looks good on your bench but helps you produce consistently good espresso. Crafted with an ergonomic BPA-free plastic handle and a flat stainless steel base, it is available in four different sizes. Calibrated to apply between 29 and 35 psi to each espresso shot, the LuxHaus comes with a complimentary red pouch, making it a good gift for coffee enthusiasts.
Rattleware Rounded Handle Tamper
The Rattleware Espresso Tamper has a simple, classic design with a stainless steel base and rounded handle. Renowned for its durability and practicality, this espresso tamper boasts an ergonomic design that guarantees a comfortable grip, helping produce consistent and even tamping. The option of choosing between a small handle, catering to individuals with smaller hands, or a larger handle adds to its versatility. Weighing just under 1 lb and exclusively available with a flat base, this espresso tamper is both practical and reliable, offered at an attractive price point.
Normcore Spring-Loaded Espresso Tamper
The Normcore Spring-Loaded Espresso Tamper is another versatile espresso tamper designed for precision and ease of use. The tamper has a sleek, black design and comes in a huge range of sizes. With a spring-loaded mechanism, this espresso tamper ensures consistent and even tamping pressure. The tamper includes three interchangeable springs (15 lb, 25 lb, 30 lb) for adjusting the pressure and features an auto-leveling plate to minimize channeling. Suitable for both novice and seasoned baristas, the Normcore Spring Loaded Espresso Tamper eliminates the need for manual force, delivering high-quality, repeatable results.
Flat Base Sizes: 45.5mm | 49.7mm | 51mm | 51.5mm | 53.3mm | 58mm | 58.5mm
Barista Hustle Espresso Tamper
Designed by world champion barista Matt Perger, this espresso tamp is marketed as being designed by baristas for baristas. It is a durable, practical tamp intended to last with an easily replaceable base and a zip-up case to protect it when not in use. It is made of military-grade aluminum with a stainless steel flat base. With a 58.4mm tamping surface it is designed to work with most precision baskets like those made by VST, IMS, and Pullman.
The base also features suction technology which eliminates the vacuum created by a traditional base to reduce channeling and provide more stable puck extractions. Weighing only 0.5lb, this tamp is the most lightweight on this list and is designed to reduce the strain from repetitive tamping. The Barista Hustle Espresso Tamper is perfect for that hipster barista with a sleek all-black body and will look great next to any espresso machine.
Flat tamp size: 58mm
Espro Calibrated Tamper
The Espro Calibrated Tamper stands out as a popular choice among coffee enthusiasts. Available in various sizes and offering both flat and convex shapes, it allows users to find the perfect match for their portafilter. Particularly well-suited for beginners, this espresso tamper is calibrated to click audibly at 30 pounds of tamping force, ensuring uniform and consistent compression of coffee grinds. Built with a stainless steel base and an aluminum rounded handle, it weighs 1 lb, offering a sturdy and reliable feel. With a build quality that surpasses that of the LuxHaus espresso tamper, the Espro Calibrated Tamper is a solid tool that helps users consistently achieve the perfect cup of coffee.
Flat Base Sizes: 53mm | 57mm | 58mm | 58.35mm
Convex Base Sizes: 49mm | 51mm | 57mm | 58mm
Pullman Big Step
The Pullman Big Step Tamper is a sleek espresso tamper that comes in an impressive range of colors and designs. Carefully engineered for optimal balance and weight, this tamper makes it easy to achieve a flat and consistent tamp each time. The rounded handle ensures a comfortable grip, fitting nicely into the palm of your hand. Included with the Big Step tamper are three spacers (2mm, 5mm, 8mm) that can be customized to accommodate various hand sizes.
Designed with an oversized base, the Big Step espresso tamper snugly fits into VST-style baskets, ensuring a wall-to-wall tamp that leaves no residual grinds. The name “Big Step” refers to the small stepped edge on the base, which prevents suction, and eliminates the risk of vacuuming during tamper removal. The Pullman Big Step is a stunning espresso tamper that you would be proud to display, however, it does come with a premium price tag.
Flat base size: 58.55 mm (to fit VST baskets)
The Best Espresso Tamper
Finally, the Force Tamper comes in at our top spot, but also with the most premium price tag. The Force Tamper is a new espresso tamper that has a unique design. Unlike conventional espresso tampers, the Force tamper generates most of the force required for tamping itself through a spring mechanism. The mechanism can be set to an adjustable pressure from 20-40lbs, you then do a light push downwards, and the base punches down, tamping the coffee effortlessly. The unique design means that it will produce a consistent and precise tamp every time, no matter who uses it. There is also the option to upgrade to a tamper with a built-in distributor. This espresso tamper looks amazing (did we mention it won the Red Dot Design award in 2017) and will make a beautiful addition to any espresso setup, whether home or commercial. The only downside is the eye-watering price tag.
Flat base sizes: 53mm | 54mm | 58mm | 58.35mm | 58.5mm
Thirteen optional bases can be added on with everything from convex to ripple to curve.
The Verdict- The Best Espresso Tamper
An espresso tamper is a vital tool in your coffee kit, to help you craft exceptional espresso. The MATOW Dual Head Coffee Leveler And Tamper is a versatile tool that not only levels but also tamps your coffee, delivering impressive value for money. The Force Tamper takes the top spot on this list, effortlessly providing a consistent and level tamp with minimal effort – and let’s not forget, its stunning design.
Any of the espresso tampers featured on this list will serve as fantastic investments, paving the way for consistent cups of coffee. When making your choice, choose one that is comfortable to hold, is a decent weight, and aligns with the aesthetics of your brewing equipment. Other than that, it comes down to personal preference!
What To Look For In An Espresso Tamper
When looking for an espresso tamper, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the sheer number of options. While your budget will play a large part in your decision, the most crucial consideration is finding one that is the right size to fit into your portafilter. Beyond that, it boils down to personal preference. Opt for one that feels comfortable in your hand and is heavy enough to do most of the work for you. Here are a few things to consider when selecting an espresso tamper:
Size Of The Espresso Tamper
Espresso tampers come in a wide variety of sizes ranging from 48mm to 58.4mm. The most common size is 58mm, which fits a commercial-sized basket. If you use a VST or IMS basket, you will need a slightly larger tamper around 58.4mm. Many home espresso machines, like the Delonghi Dedica and Breville machines, have smaller portafilters which require a smaller espresso tamper. If you are not sure what size to get, measure the inside diameter of your portafilter basket and get a slightly smaller tamper. The espresso tamper should be a tight enough fit to achieve a good seal around the edge of the puck, but not so tight as to risk sticking or creating suction when removing it.
Type Of Espresso Tamper: Manual, Calibrated, or Automatic
As you will have seen from our list of the best espresso tampers, there are two main types of tampers to consider: manual or calibrated.
Manual tampers, the more popular choice, provide greater control over the force applied. These tampers are generally less expensive but require you to learn the correct tamping technique to achieve consistent results. Manual tampers suit experienced baristas who can skillfully gauge and apply uniform pressure.
Calibrated tampers, on the other hand, feature a built-in mechanism that audibly clicks when a specific tamping force is reached. This is great for beginners who want to make sure they are applying the right amount of pressure. It is also good if you have multiple people using the same espresso machine, helping you achieve a consistent tamp. It takes tamping out of the variables you need to alter when dialing in beans. However, you do pay a premium for the calibration.
Finally, automatic tampers, like the Puqpress, streamline the process further. With an automatic tamper, you simply insert your portafilter filled with ground coffee, and the machine automatically senses when it is in position and tamps. An automatic tamper is a bit of an overkill for the home barista, but a genius idea for a commercial setup, ensuring a consistent, flat, and level tamp every time. It is worth noting that this technology is being introduced into some espresso machines now like the Breville Oracle.
Weight Of The Espresso Tamper
The more an espresso tamper weighs, the easier it is to achieve the 30 lbs of pressure required when tamping. Ideally, it would help if you opted for an espresso tamper weighing around 1-2 pounds, preferably made from stainless steel and definitely not plastic.
Shape Of The Base
If you are new to the art of tamping, you may not have come across the debate in the coffee world regarding the preferred shape of an espresso tamper. To keep it simple, there are generally two schools of thought: Flat vs. Convex.
A flat tamper is just that – flat! These tampers are straightforward to use, creating a level and uniform surface across the entire coffee puck. On the other hand, a convex tamper has a base that curves slightly outwards. The rationale behind this is that it helps push coffee toward the edges of the portafilter, minimizing the risk of channeling along the sides. It can be a bit more difficult to apply pressure evenly with a convex tamper.
Your traditional espresso tamper will have a handle making it easy and comfortable to hold. In recent years push tampers have risen in popularity, with some finding them easier to use and get a level surface. Consider which option would be most suitable for you. If you opt for a handle, you will also have to consider the size and material you would like; wood, stainless steel, or some bespoke design… the options are endless.
Espresso tampers come in various materials, from low-quality plastic (please avoid!) to stainless steel. It is best to opt for stainless steel, which provides a smooth surface for tamping, lasts longer, and is just better in every imaginable way.
An espresso tamper is fondly known as barista jewelry. They come in every size, shape, and color to suit your style or setup. Do you want your espresso tamper personalized with an engraving or a bespoke carved wooden handle… you want it; they got it! There are endless options for espresso tampers, so choose one you will love for life!
Finally, your budget will play a large part in what espresso tamper you opt for. Espresso tampers vary in price from as little as $4 to up to $200 for a custom-made one. Don’t just go for the cheapest one; get one that is solid and well-finished.
While tamping is a necessary step in espresso brewing, you don’t need to overcomplicate it. The key to a good tamping technique is to ensure your tamp is level and to be consistent.
The most important thing is that your puck needs to be as level as possible when it comes to tamping. If you tamp unevenly, with one side more compressed than the other, the hot water won’t flow through the coffee evenly but will find the path of least resistance. This will result in coffee that is both over and under-extracted, which will taste bitter and sour… not exactly what you are looking for!
To help ensure you get a level puck, we recommend you distribute your grinds in the portafilter before tamping. When coffee is added to the portafilter, it typically forms a mound at the center of the basket. Tamping in this state can result in uneven distribution, with more coffee in the center than at the rim, creating gaps and increasing the risk of channeling. This is why it is important to distribute the grounds before tamping. To do this, you can get a range of different distribution tools like a WDT tool or else give your portafilter a gentle tap on the bench before tamping.
After tamping, assess how level your tamp is by leaving the espresso tamper in the portafilter and holding it up to observe how the tamp is sitting. If the puck is not compacted correctly, don’t double-tamp. Just tap the grounds out and start over.
The most important skill a barista can have is to distribute the coffee evenly before tamping.Scott Rao
The second most crucial aspect of tamping is the pressure you use for the actual tamp. While many people say you should aim to tamp with around 30 lb. of force, the actual pressure used doesn’t matter so much as the consistency with which you do it. Using a consistent pressure when tamping means that when you dial in beans, the grind size will determine the rate of flow rather than tamping.
Problems That Can Occur When Tamping
Water will always try to take the path of least resistance. An unevenly tamped portafilter will have less dense regions, allowing water to make a path through it (channeling) easily. The problem with this is that part of the grinds will be over-extracted while other parts will end up under-extracted. A properly tamped puck should present an undifferentiated front to the water. Channeling can happen if you don’t tamp the coffee evenly, as one area of the portafilter will end up being more heavily compacted than the rest. Alternatively, if you knock the portafilter after tamping, this creates air pockets at the edges.
If an espresso tamper is too tight a fit in the basket, it can have a suctioning effect when removing the tamper. If you pull the tamper out too quickly, it pulls the compacted puck out as well. This means that the compacted coffee grinds are disturbed, which, in turn, produces air pockets. To counteract this, some coffee tampers, like the Big Step, have a ridge on the side.
How to Tamp Properly
The key to mastering the art of tamping lies in consistent practice. Discover the technique that suits you best and stick with it to refine your skills over time.