When you buy an espresso machine, you get an espresso tamper along with it. So, why bother buying one separately? You might break your old one, lose it, or you might feel it’s not up for the job. Not all tampers are created the same, hence not all of them will give you the same level of consistency and flavor in your drinks.
Therefore, you need to do some research before purchasing a tamper and make sure it caters to your tampering needs.
What Is a Tamper?
A tamper is an espresso accessory that packs coffee grounds into the basket of an espresso machine. Doing so, it turns a loosely dosed quantity of coffee grounds into a condensed cake, which is essential in brewing a perfect cup of coffee. Baristas refer to this whole process as ‘tamping’ which in turn yielded the name tamper.
Why Is Tamping Important?
Tamping is an essential procedure to perfect a shot of espresso. The primary purpose of tamping is to make the water interact longer with the coffee grinds and distribute the coffee more consistently across the filter basket. This is imperative in drawing out the full flavor of the coffee beans.
The secret to making a great shot of espresso lies in your ability to extract the inherent natural oils of the coffee grinds. The more you can absorb these to the water, the more aromatic and delicious your coffee would be. Tamping is a proven technique that can help you in achieving that goal.
When we run hot water through the portafilter, it ends up in the basket with the coffee grinds. Now, if the coffee grinds are not well packed, the water will easily pass through them, which is not ideal. We need this water-grind interaction period to be longer so that the beans can have more time to release their inner minerals into the water.
Upon tamping, the grinds form a thicker cluster and become more resilient to water passage. This results in an even distribution of water in the grinds and accommodates ample time for the water to absorb all the flavors the beans have to offer. Without tamping, it would be impossible to get the best out of any coffee grind.
4 Types of Tampers
Based on their duties, tampers vary in design. Here are four common variants of them-
- Dual Head Tamper: As the name suggests, dual head tampers have two heads or bases, instead of one, and are joined together by a uniform handle. This type of tampers looks like a dumbbell. These tampers often have two different head sizes, which makes them quite versatile to use.
- Handle Tamper: Many professional baristas choose to use handle tampers. These tampers look like a light bulb or a rubber stamp. The tamping end could either be flat or convex. Some users prefer the convex base because they feel they can get finer grinds with them. While others pick flat base tampers, which distributes the pressure more equally among the grinds.
- Weight-Calibrated Tamper: If you prefer an exact amount of tamping force, you can use weight calibrated tampers. These are mainly hand tampers, which are specifically made to enact a certain amount of pressure while tamping. For example, a weight calibrated tamper marked ’30 pounds’ will produce 30 pounds of pressure every time the handle and base connects.
- Puck Tamper: Puck tampers resemble the shape of an ice hockey puck. You need to grab them like a ball and then stamp them over the grinds to tamp. In recent times, puck tampers have rapidly grown in popularity, and they do outweigh old fashioned handle tampers in terms of utility. It’s easy to maintain level tamps with these tampers, as they are easier to grip than others.
Choose the Right Tamper for You
If you spend a lot of time pulling espresso shots, using a high-quality tamper is an absolute must for you. Many baristas have reported having to deal with hand and wrist pain, and most of these cases stem from regular tamping. Switching to a different tamper can often alleviate these sufferings and increase your efficiency as a professional espresso maker.
- The Default Espresso Machine Tamper Might Not Be Good Enough: Many modern espresso makers have an integrated tamper. In most of the cases, the tampers hang down from the body of the machine, which is far from comfortable to tamp with. So, it would be better to get a dedicated temper to get the desired tamping performance.
- How Much Should I Expect To Spend: You can get a professional-grade hand or puck tamper within the range of $25-$40. For household use, you can get dual head tampers for $10 or less.
- What Size Should I Pick: Tamper bases are made in various diameters. Mostly, they vary within the 49-59mm range. You should pick a tamper size that fits with the size of your machine’s filters.
Best Espresso Tamper (Overall)
LuxHaus 58mm Calibrated Pressure Tamper
Lux Haus calibrated pressure tampers are very popular among baristas for their performance and reasonable price. Available in three different size iterations (49mm, 51mm, 58mm), we chose the 58mm version as the best espresso tamper since it’s more commonly used than the other two.
The pressure-sensitive design of this tamper guarantees the correct pressure in every tamp you attempt. As you push the handle down, the coffee grinds in the handle get packed as soon as you hit the 30-pound mark. This is a very practical feature to confirm constancy when you need to pull regular shots at minimal intervals.
- Food grade stainless steel base for ensuring finer tamping without any health risks.
- Calibrated pressure mechanism for consistent 30-pound tamping force.
- Comfortable handle.
- The handle might feel a bit short to some.
Best Dual Sided Tamper
RSVP International Dual Sided Coffee Espresso Tamper
RSVP International Dual Sided Coffee Espresso Tamper is an economic tamper that doesn’t cost much but can offer you a lot in terms of utility. The dual sized heads make the tamper fit for use in a 51mm and a 58mm portafilter. So basically, for the price of one, you would be getting two tampers.
The tamper is strongly made to withstand the acidic reaction of caffeine. The aluminum die-cast makes the tamper incredibly resilient to corrosion, and if that wasn’t enough to convince you, you must know that this tamper has been designed by a barista to provide sky-high tamping efficiency.
- Industrial aluminum alloy for greater durability.
- Easy to wash.
- Low price.
- Not dishwater friendly.
Best Stainless Steel Tamper
BlueSnail Stainless Steel Coffee Tamper
BlueSnail Stainless Steel Coffee Tamper has a stainless steel shell enclosing an iron core. The tamper sacrificed a stainless steel-only build to keep the price unbelievably low. This is the best ground tamper you would find at this price point. If you compare performances, this tamper can give many high-end tampers a run for their money.
For those of you who consider your coffee endeavors as artistic pursuits, this BlueSnail apparatus could be just the touch of elegance your current arrangement is deprived of. It’s hard to overlook the subtle beauty of the tamper, which boasts a glossy stainless steel finish. If you have been thinking about ditching your plastic tamper for a stainless steel one, the BlueSnail Stainless Steel Tamper would be our obvious recommendation.
- Beautiful design.
- Low price.
- The electroplated stainless steel outer layer wears off after repeated use.
Best Wooden Handle Tamper
Diguo Elegance Wooden – Flat Espresso Tamper
The combination of wood and metal always makes for an irresistible aesthetic appeal. The wooden handle in the Diguo Elegance Wooden-Flat Espresso Tamper looks gorgeous atop a silvery base as well as gives a comfy grip to the user while tamping. Functionality and user satisfaction has been the key priorities in designing this piece.
The unmatched ergonomics of the handle, easily makes this Diguo tamper the best wood temper known to us. The 18/8 stainless steel crafted base is as durable as they come and it has been certified completely free of toxic chemical components. Anybody on the hunt for a lightweight tamper should check this tamper out.
- Dual height adjustability for optimum user comfort.
- Ergonomic wooden handle.
- Elegant design.
- Hard to wash.
Best Round Handled Tamper
Rattleware 53-Millimeter Round-Handled Tamper
This round handled tamper incorporates a joystick-like design, which makes it very convenient to grab. The ABS plastic handle has a soothing texture, which adds to the tamper’s grip quality. The base is crafted of pure stainless steel which makes the piece quite durable and effective in delivering persistent press.
Getting the pressure on the money is the key to unlocking the true taste of a shot of espresso. The one-pound weight of this tamper is just about right to generating adequate pressure without exhausting your hand muscles. This particular attribute comes in handy for café employees, who need to satisfy hundreds, if not thousands, of espresso loving customers every day.
- Easy to handle.
- Comfortable grip.
- Ideal for users with smaller hands.
- Not suitable for users with larger hands.
How to Choose a Tamper?
Size of the Tamper
As we were just saying, tampers are available in a variety of sizes. 58mm is somewhat of an industry standard, but not all machines are compatible with 58mm tampers. Breville Espresso machines, for example, require 54mm tampers.
Consult the manual of your espresso machine to find out the exact size of your portafilter baskets, so that you can pinpoint the perfect size of tampers you need to buy.
Weight of the Tamper
Weight is a very important factor to consider while shopping for tampers. There is no universal weight number that makes everyone feel comfortable. To apply the correct amount of pressure, a tamper weighing between a pound or two would be perfect, but this doesn’t take into account the individual comfort factor.
The best espresso tamper for you is the one that feels easy on your hand. You don’t want the tamper to be too heavy, because it would be a hassle using it for prolonged periods. If the tamper is too light, on the contrary, you will not get a sufficient level of pressure to tamp the grinds properly.
Therefore, make sure you feel comfy with the tamper weight to assure maximum ergonomics.
Convex vs. Flat Bottom
Just like the weight issue, the shape of the base is also largely associated with individual preference. There is no definitive proof to suggest one type has the upper hand on the other. This is a debate that has been dividing coffee lovers for a long time. We will leave the final decision to you, but beforehand, we will let you know what admirers of each type have to say about their base of choice.
Flat bases have a smooth bottom surface. This enables them to release the same amount of pressure throughout its grinding territory. Convex base tampers have a spherical bottom, which facilitates a stronger pressure point around the central region. These tampers are also said to be good to avoid channeling.
Should You Use Calibrated Tampers?
Calibrated tampers connect the handle and base of a tamper through a spring. When you assert a certain amount of pressure on the handle, you will hear a click sound. This mechanism ensures you impose the same level of force, every time you tamp. If you want to ensure uniformity in each of your tamps, getting a calibrated tamper would be a great idea.
Many beginners tend to think, all you need for a perfect shot of espresso is to invest in a state-of-the-art coffee machine. But as we pointed out above, without a capable espresso tamper, you can’t expect to achieve the desired results. So, buy one of the best tampers and make your barista ventures meaningful.
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I’m Liam & I’m the guy behind COFFEE MINISTER. In my blog, I share my expertise and help you with your coffee-struggles. I can read coffee like the back of my hand and brew it like it is in coffee shops.