You have just invested in a new espresso machine, but it comes with one of those cheap plastic tampers that feels like it cost about $2 to make; what do you do? Well, you chuck it in the bin and invest in a decent one, of course. Espresso is hard enough to make as it is, so don’t make it even harder for yourself by trying to do it with a cheap tamper!
If you begin to look, you will quickly realize that almost innumerable espresso tampers are available in literally every shape, color, and size. We have summarized what we think are the best espresso tampers of 2021.
What Is An Espresso Tamper?
An Espresso Tamper is a simple but essential tool when it comes to espresso making. It is used to evenly compress coffee grinds in the portafilter. Tamping is pretty simple; you aim to compress the grinds until the tamper stops moving and keep it level to promote even extraction.
Why Do You Need To Tamp?
When you fill the portafilter with coffee, there is a lot of air between the grinds, if you pulled a shot without tamping, the water would speed through, and you would get a very under-extracted and unpleasant shot. Tamping compresses the grinds to remove all the empty space and produces an undifferentiated front for water trying to pass through. Water 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.
The Most Important Things For Tamping:
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 grinds 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, it is recommended to distribute your grinds in the portafilter before tamping. To do this, you can get a distributor or give your portafilter a gentle tap on the bench before tamping. After you tamp, you can evaluate how level your tamp is by leaving the espresso tamper in the portafilter and holding it up to see how level the tamp is sitting on the portafilter.
The most important skill a barista can have is to distribute the grounds 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 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. This means that the compacted coffee grinds are disturbed, which, in turn, produces air pockets. To counteract this, some coffee tampers have a ridge on the side
What To Look For In An Espresso Tamper
When looking for an espresso tamper, the most important thing is to get the right size. After that, it all comes down to personal preference! Get one that feels comfortable to hold and is heavy enough to do most of the work for you. The shape of your tamper is inconsequential (despite what some devotees may say) and will have little impact on extraction.
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, however, 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.
Weight Of The Espresso Tamper
The more a coffee tamper weighs, the easier it is to achieve the 30lbs of pressure required when tamping. Ideally, it would help if you opted for a tamper weighing around 1-2 pounds, preferably stainless steel and definitely not plastic.
Shape Of The Base
If you are new to the world of tamping, you may not have come across the debate in the coffee world over what shape of coffee tamper works best. To keep it simple, there are generally two schools of thought: Flat vs. Convex. A flat tamper is exactly that… Flat! Whereas a convex tamper has a base that is slightly bulged out. The idea of this is that it helps push coffee towards the edges of the portafilter preventing channeling along the sides. Here at The Coffee Folk, we use a flat tamper, but a convex tamper works just as well.
Your traditional espresso tamper will have a handle making it easy and comfortable to hold. In recent years puck tampers have risen in popularity, with some finding them easier to push down 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, some bespoke design? The options are endless.
Calibrated Tamper Or Not..?
A calibrated tamper has a handle separated from the base; when tamping down, the handle and base connect and click when pushed to the calibrated amount of pressure. 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 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.
Espresso tampers come in various materials, from low-quality plastic (please avoid!) to stainless steel. It is best to opt for stainless steel, which 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 engraved handle 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!
Espresso tampers vary in cost 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.
Best Espresso Tamper 2021
We have compiled a list of the best espresso tampers, from the cheapest to the most expensive.
Rhinoware Coffee Tamper
Best Value Tamper
The Rhinoware coffee tamper is an excellent buy. It has a timeless, classic design that will pair well with most espresso machines and is available in a wide range of sizes. It has a stainless steel base and an aluminum handle- weighing in at 1.1lb- this baby is built to last! It is both comfortable to use and durable. This is for the person looking for a basic but high-quality tamp.
Flat bottom tamper sizes: 53mm | 57mm | 58mm | 58.4mm
The Beginners Tamp
A LuxHaus espresso tamper is a great option for the beginner. Similar to the Espro below, it is a calibrated coffee tamper, helping you achieve a consistent tamp. It comes in at a great price point- ideal for those who don’t want to break the bank buying a tamper! This stylish coffee tamper not only looks good on your bench but helps you produce consistently good espresso. It is made with an ergonomic BPA-free plastic handle and a flat stainless steel base. It comes in 4 different sizes and is calibrated to apply between 29 and 35 psi to each shot of espresso.
Barista Hustle Tamper
The Hipsters Tamp
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. It 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 designed to reduce the strain from repetitive tamping. This tamp is perfect for that hipster barista with a sleek all-black body and will look great next to any machine.
Flat tamp size: 58mm
Rattleware Round Handle Tamper
The Value Tamp
The Rattleware Coffee Tamper has a simple, classic design with a stainless steel base and rounded ABS handle. The tamper comes with the option of a small handle (great for people with smaller hands) or a larger handle. It weighs just under 1 lb and is only available as a flat base. This is a quality and well-made espresso tamper at a great price.
Espro Calibrated Tamper
Best Espresso Tamper
The Espro Calibrated Tamper is a popular tamper. It comes in a range of sizes and both flat or convex shapes so that you can find the perfect match for your portafilter. This is an ideal tamper for beginners. It is calibrated to click at 30 pounds of tamping force, ensuring the coffee grinds are pressed down uniformly and consistently. It is a solid tool with a stainless steel base and aluminum handle, weighing 1 lb. The build quality is a step up from the LuxHaus tamper. It will allow you to produce that perfect cup of coffee every time.
Best Puck Tamper
The Push Tamper is a puck-style tamper that took the world by storm when first introduced in the 2015 World Barista Championship. This style of tamper has grown in popularity in recent years, as its design makes it easy to produce a level and consistent tamp- using the basket rim as a leveling mechanism. The Push tamper has an adjustable base with markings so you can set it up precisely. It is well-made and available in multiple colors. Overall the Push tamper is stylish and easy to use to produce a level and repeatable tamp.
Size: 58.5mm- fits all precision baskets or 58mm portafilter baskets.
Pullman Big Step
The Enthusiasts Tamper
Pullman is very much an established and trusted name in the tamper industry. The Pullman Big Step Tamper is a slick tamper that comes in a variety of colors. It has a decent weight, making it easy to achieve a flat and consistent tamp each time. The Pullman tamper has been carefully designed with a stepped base to reduce channeling and suctioning. The handle has a soft rubber grip that is comfortable to hold. It also comes with three different handle spacers to adjust the handle height. This is a pretty sweet piece of gear that you would be proud to display.
Flat base size: 58.55 mm (to fit VST baskets)
Effortless Coffee Tamper
The Force Tamper is a new coffee tamper that has a unique design. Unlike conventional 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 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.
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
We believe any of these espresso tamps are great options to invest in and will help you on your way to producing that perfect cup of coffee every time! Remember to choose one that feels good to hold and is a decent weight. Other than that, it comes down to personal preference!