Coffee Tamper – What is it and how to choose?
Coffee tamper is a hand press that is used to tamp ground coffee in an automatic coffee maker filter. How does tamper affect the quality of the finished drink and why do professional baristas attach great importance to this accessory?
What is a coffee tamper and why you need it?
Every professional barista or a real fan of quality espresso in a home kitchen has a tamper. It is not a whim and not a fashion statement. Tamper has important functional value.
Tamper compresses coffee in a portafilter, condensing coffee powder and forming a coffee tablet. Tamping is necessary to slow down the water flow through ground coffee as well as to improve the equitability of wetting coffee. The even flow of water through the entire coffee mass ensures optimal extraction and, as a result, the high quality of the finished beverage. If the water flows too quickly or unevenly, the coffee will turn out weak, watery, with excessive acidity.
The professionalism of the barista is the stable taste of each cup of brewed espresso. A good tamping compresses each coffee tablet ensuring uniform flow of water at low speed.
Tamping is so important in the barista business that there are special workshops and classes that are dedicated specifically to tamping techniques. There are also special educational materials: books, lectures, and video courses. And they all directly indicate: the temper sets the quality of the tamping. That is why this small accessory is a must-have tool for a good barista or an espresso fan.
Coffee tampers: form, type, materials
For a long time, tampers have been made from simple and cheap plastic, untill the American Rage Barber, dissatisfied with the inconvenience of working with plastic models and the quality of tamping, decided to take matters into his own hands. He began production of weighty tampers with comfortable, ergonomic handles. Now his company is the industry leader, and Barber’s brand tampers often offered as prizes in professional competitions.
This market niche was quickly filled by other manufacturers of coffee accessories, continuing and developing the idea of a convenient and weighty tamper. Today they are made from different materials, with platforms of various sizes and shapes.
The shape of tamper platform
It can be flat or curved. Baristas and experts still cannot come to the conclusion which shape is better.
- The flat platform allows you to create a uniform coffee tablet.
- Curved tampers condense the middle of ground coffee, leaving the side walls of the tablet slightly higher.
Each option has its followers. Whole monographs have been written about the advantages of one or another shape of the platform. Emotions apart, it can be noted that flat platforms are suitable for double portafilters, and convex tampers give a good result for single ones.
Flat tampers can have a smooth platform or a convex pattern in the form of concentric circles, which leave traces on the ground coffee. Experts agree that there is no functional difference between a smooth or patterned platform, this does not affect the quality of tamping.
- Plastic is the cheapest material; is used for low-quality tampers.
- Aluminum is better than plastic, but it is susceptible to corrosion in a humid environment and too light for good tamping.
- Steel is the best material for tamper platform, as for its weight, durability, strength, it does not oxidize or rust.
- Wood is used for making handles of the best tampers but not for platforms.
There are two important dimensional parameters – the diameter and height of the tamper platform. For branded industrial models, the diameter of the platform is usually standard: 53, 57 or 58 mm, height – 7-10 mm. For made by hands tampers, these parameters are calculated during the manufacture and depend on the size of a portafilter. The ideal tamper diameter should be 0.5-1 mm less than the diameter of the filter. If the holder has a conical shape, then the diameter of the platform is calculated for the narrowest part.
Manufacturers and prices
Accessories are produced by many manufacturers of coffee equipment for barista: Motta, Tiamo, Brewista. The cost of steel tampers with wooden handles ranges from 30-35 dollars. Tampers exclusively made from steel are cheaper – from 20$.
Non-branded accessories will cost from 15 dollars.
Brand tamper from Reg Barber cost from 65-80 dollars. But there is an opportunity to assemble a custom accessory by choosing a handle and a platform separately to your own taste and size.
How to choose a tamper?
The tampers with a steel platform and a wooden handle are considered to be more convenient and functional. They are reliable and serve for a long time. You can buy a ready-made or a customize accessory.
When you choosing a tamper keep in mind all features your coffee maker offers.
- Portafilter diameter. The tamper should only be slightly smaller in diameter of the narrowest part of the filter. If the tamper is too small, it will be hard to tamper the coffee.
- Double or single filter in the coffee maker. Experts advise to buy a flat tamper for double portafilter and you can choose a platform to your liking for a single portafilter. If you just started working with coffee, it is better to take a flat tamper, it will allow you to achieve a uniform tamping quickly. However, only a barista himself can give an unambiguous answer on the preferred shape of the tamper.
Coffee tamper: our conclusion
- It is necessary for uniform tamping of ground coffee in the holder (portafilter).
- It can have a flat and curved platform, a barista decides what is better.
- The best tamper has a stainless-steel platform and a wooden handle.
- The diameter of the tamper platform should be 0.5-1 mm smaller than the diameter of the filter of the coffee machine.
- Produced by many manufacturers, but Reg Barber accessories are considered to be premium products.
- Cost starts from 30 dollars.
- Can be custom made.