Talking about the espresso tamper. We’ve been learning a lot about coffee on this blog. At least I hope you have. Because I have been learning a bunch to new and exciting things that are making my coffee journey that much more fun and enjoyable. I’m also getting to try different coffee beans and different coffee makers and different styles of coffee drinks that I wouldn’t have tried otherwise. But it’s one thing enjoying your coffee from a coffee franchise or your favorite independent coffee shop, it’s quite another enjoying those same quality beverages at home. And this is where the espresso tamper comes in. Today we’ll talk about the coffee tamper or espresso tamper. We’ll answer questions such as, what is an espresso tamper? How does an espresso tamper work? What is an espresso tamp and also the biggest question of all which is, what size espresso tamper do I need?
As you become accustomed to your new manual cappuccino machine. And I’m saying manual here, because if you have a super automatic espresso machine then this article is only of passing interest or curiosity to you. If you own commercial espresso machines then I’d assume you already know this information but perhaps you will glean a nugget or two of value. That is my hope.
Finding accessories like an espresso tamper
So you have a manual espresso machine and perhaps so far you’ve been using the coffee pods and espresso pods to brew your favorite beverages. This sure is a quick and handy way to enjoy your latte or other espresso based beverages, but I gotta tell ya, the best flavor extraction of your coffee beans will come from grinding them fresh every day in something like a KitchenAid coffee grinder or manual coffee grinder. The main point is that you are using a burr coffee grinder.
You are also using a good quality coffee machine, with a sturdy portafilter. But perhaps the most important thing is using a good quality espresso tamper that is comfortable in your hand and is the right size espresso tamper for your machine. Okay, so what is an espresso tamper? And espresso tamper is used to tamp or push the coffee grounds that are in the portafilter into a compact puck of coffee. There is art and learning required in order to do this right. You need the Goldilocks approach when using the force (Luke!) from your espresso tamp to compress the beans. Too much, and the water will stagnate in the espresso puck and extract too much bitterness. Too little pressure and the espresso puck will be too loose and you won’t extract the best flavor profile from your beans. The best guide that I’ve found can be seen at the Coffee Research Org.
Good choices for an espresso tamper
The Reg Barber tamper or the Rattleware tamper (shown to the left) works because it has a flat, horizontal metal disc and a handle that is used to grip while you press the cylindrical disc over the ground coffee beans. This cylindrical, horizontal disc creates even pressure over the beans in order to compress them tightly together. When you get a feel for the right way of tamping your beans you will be very pleased with the flavor extraction from coffee and your barista skills.
Okay, now onto the espresso tamper sizes. The most common, which I hope will become the standard as there is no standard yet is the tamper 58mm size. Though the 49mm tamper as well as the 53mm tamper are also popular sizes. So as much as there is no real standard size for espresso tamps, you will find that my espresso tamper size will fit my machine, and yours will fit yours, if you take a moment to read the instructions or if there aren’t any there, then to measure the espresso tamper that came with the espresso machine. All tamper sizes are in metric so you need to convert or use a metric ruler when measuring.
The sizes of espresso tampers range from 49mm tamper to the 58mm tamper with the 51mm tamper, the 52mm tamper, the 53mm tamper being other sizes that are fairly common. As a quick rule of thumb, the DeLonghi espresso machine will most likely take a 51mm espresso tamper. Most Gaggia home espresso machines like the Gaggia Baby will take a 58mm espresso tamper as will the Rancilio espresso machine. The manual Saeco coffee machines like the Saeco Aroma will take a 53mm espresso tamper.
The key takeaway is that you want to spend a little bit of money on a decent, high quality espresso tamper. You’ll find that the best espresso tamper that you can afford will be well worth the money. And they’re not really all that expensive. Expect to pay between $50 and $100 for a good tamper that will last a lifetime. Some of the better known brands include Reg Barber, Vaneli’s stainless steel tamper and the Torani professional espresso hand tamp. You might also want to consider getting a knock box to go along with that too. We’ll talk about the espresso knock box another time. This is the right hand man to your espresso tamper.