How To: How Do You Tamp for Espresso?

by Whole Latte Love Updated: August 25, 2023 3 min read
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In a minute, I’ll give you my take on tamping and tell you about one of the best ways to evaluate your tamping. But what I’m hoping for is to hear from you. I really want to know how you tamp. Is there a specific technique you use? Do you have a favorite tamper? Use the comments and let’s talk about it.

Now go back five or ten years and a common tamping recommendation was to use about 30 pounds of force. But as Bob Dylan says in one of my favorite songs: the times they are a-changing. Lately a fairly common thought in regards to tamping is the actual pressure really doesn’t matter all that much. As with all things espresso you want to be consistent shot to shot with the force you use, but really no need for tamping to be part of your morning workout routine!

So here are a few of the tampers I’ve collected over the years. And of these, the one I use most often is this Espro calibrated tamper with a convex base. Doing as many espresso videos as I do, I liked how it made it very easy to be consistent with tamping force and hopefully take that variable out of the equation. It has a spring that gives at about 30 pounds of force so it makes it super easy to be consistent.

At the other end of things is my friend Todd. He’s in charge of machine technology here at Whole Latte Love, and responsible for the development of Expobar’s Brewtus dual boiler machine. Now he’s a lighter tamper. In most cases using just enough force to compress the coffee - nowhere near the force I usually use. Now using that lighter tamp might allow him to use a slightly finer grind or a larger coffee dose to change the character of an extraction.

So Todd and I have very different tamping styles. But one thing we do agree on is distribution of coffee in the portafilter and a nice level tamp is probably more important than actual tamping pressure. The main goal is a uniform distribution of coffee and even tamp to prevent channeling of brew water through the coffee.

So I promised to tell you about the best way to evaluate your tamp. In my opinion it’s with a bottomless or naked portafilter. Use the link up here to see a video where I do a series of 12 shots thru a naked portafilter on a Profitec Pro 800 Lever machine - I learned a lot and found I had a consistent defect in my tamping while doing that video - something I never would have know using a spouted portafilter. So be sure and check out that video to learn how to evaluate your tamping using a naked portafilter.

Again, I’d like to hear your thoughts on tamping. Is there’s a specific technique you use - there’s a bunch of them? Do you have a favorite tamper? Use those comments and let’s talk about it.

Thanks for reading and be sure to come back soon for more of the good stuff on everything coffee brought to you by Whole Latte Love.