Tamping is a technique used by baristas to press ground coffee. This small action can have a big impact on the final result of your espresso. The tamper is a simple tool to use, however, it is also easy to tamp wrong. In this article we explain how tamping works, and how to do it.
Let’s start at the beginning. When you go to make an espresso, you grab your portafilter and grind the amount of coffee you want to use. Once this is done, grab your tamper to compact the coffee. Why does this have to be done? Well, there is a thought behind it. The goal is to press the coffee particles evenly to allow the water to flow through evenly and properly. What you are doing is combining many loose coffee flakes into a compact coffee ‘cake’.
If you were not to tamp, the water, which is being forced through the coffee at high pressure, will find the easiest way down. We call this phenomenon ‘channeling’. When this happens, not all the flavors are extracted from your coffee since the water does not pass through all your coffee. If you were not to tamp, the water, which is being forced through the coffee at high pressure, will find the easiest way down. We call this phenomenon “channeling. When this happens, not all the flavors are extracted from your coffee since the water does not pass through all your coffee.
When you tamp your coffee, the water is forced to go past all the compacted coffee in your portafilter. Your water will be in contact with the coffee longer and you will therefore get more flavors out of your coffee. In summary; tamping should make it harder for the water to get through all the ground coffee.
How to tamp?
But how do you properly and consistently tamp? A few steps. Start by distributing your coffee in your portafilter. You can do this by gently tapping your portafilter with the palm of your hand. Another option is to use a leveler. This tool will distribute your coffee perfectly over your portafilter, but after this, tamping is still necessary.
Next, place your portafilter on a stable surface. This can be a tamping mat or a stand, or the edge of your work surface. Your portafilter should lie flat so you can apply pressure straight down.
You can now start tamping your coffee. The pressure you should use is open to debate. What we think is important is consistency, and making sure you are tamping straight down. Don’t apply excessive force; make sure you stay comfortable.
After tamping, wipe any coffee residue from the edge of your tamper. You can now start making your shot of espresso!
Any questions or would you like to find out more about roasting and coffee? Check out our knowledge base.