It’s 2014 and everyone wants to achieve the “perfect espresso.” But unless you know what you're doing, your ‘perfect cup’ can end up bitter and overpowering to taste. There are many elements that combine to produce the “perfect espresso” and tamping is one of them. Keep reading to find out all about espresso tamping, why it is so important and how to find the perfect tamper for you.
What Actually Is Espresso Tamping?
Tampers are used to pack ground espresso into baskets. The aim of a tamper is to create a tight ‘puck’ of coffee, through which hot water from the espresso machine can penetrate evenly. Correct tamping allows water from your espresso machine to absorb all of the goodness from the coffee puck.
It starts with grinding & dosing
Best results always come from fresh coffee beans ground just before use. Choose from a number of different grinders - manual grinders, timer grinders, auto grinders and on-demand grinders. On-demand grinders such as Macap, offer the perfect solution as the correct dose of coffee is ground on-demand as required. Whatever choice you make once the basket in the filterholder is ‘over full’ with coffee right to the edge, tap it gently 3 times to settle the coffee and scrape the excess coffee with the back of a knife to give an evenly filled basket and a flat coffee surface.
Choosing a Tamper
There are many different tampers on the market today: plastic tampers, tampers with wooden or aluminium handles and calibrated or dynometric tampers which exact a pre-specified force (e.g. 30lbs of pressure). You can choose from a number of different bases – flat, convex or curved – which alter how the coffee puck is shaped and how the water flows through the coffee. Don’t forget to choose the correct size base for your filter basket – e.g. 53mm or 58mm.
The tamper you choose depends upon budget, volume of coffee’s being tamped and of course personal preference. Always feel the weight of a tamper in your hand. Make sure it’s not too heavy – fatigue can be an issue when producing high volumes of coffee. How does the tamper feel once pressure is applied? Does the tamper sit well in your hand is it comfortable?
For best results the top of the range Pullman tampers deliver every time. They are perfectly balanced and weighted and the base is inlaid with an ergonomic rubber compression zone to minimise fatigue for high-volume users. Each tamper is supplied with 3 height adjustment spacers allowing the tamper to be customised to the barista's hand. The lower part of the tamper has “TrueTamp” rings around the base – a visual aid to help you tamp to exactly the same point each time - giving greater consistency across your drinks.
Using the Tamper
To tamp, rest the filterholder on a tamping mat, tamping station or place it on the edge of a bench. Apply firm even pressure to compress the ground coffee. There are many different ways to hold the tamper (a couple are shown below). Start off slowly and aim to use between 10-15kg of force. Tamp onto a set of bathroom scales to get a measure for how this feels the first few times. Once completed release the pressure and spin the tamper about 90 degrees to give the ’puck’ a clean, smooth surface. You can now load the filterholder into the machine and make your espresso.
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