Along with things like grind and dose, tamping is another variable that plays a role in espresso preparation. But what is the right way to tamp? Or maybe we should be questioning if there is a right way at all.
You know, It’s one of those espresso techniques that you can ask ten pro baristas about and get ten different answers. Even a finishing polish with a twist of a tamper is controversial. So if you’re new to espresso it all gets very confusing. So let’s put it in perspective. The goal of tamping is to create a uniform surface of coffee that brew water flows through evenly.
One fairly consistent recommendation is to use about 30 pounds of force when tamping. But many question that and recommend a lighter tamp. In our view, it’s not the pounds of force that’s important as much as it is being consistent with your force. Now maybe one reason 30 pounds gets mentioned is the theory that a firmer tamp makes up for other problems.
If grounds are a little clumpy, you’re using a grinder of lesser quality or distribution in the portafilter isn’t perfectly even that extra force may help smooth over some problems. At least that’s the theory.
So our recommendation, especially for those newer to espresso is to start with something around 30 pounds. Get a feel for that and try to be consistent. If something is a little off, that extra force might help. But focus more on creating a level surface in your portafilter so water flows through the grounds evenly. This means dosing and leveling evenly and keeping your portafilter and tamper even when applying pressure.
Once you’ve got the basics down, go ahead and experiment. Maybe a finer grind and a lighter tamp works for you or a particular coffee. In the end, the right way to tamp is what works for you.
I’m Marc. Thanks for reading and come back soon for more on everything coffee.