How to do Espresso Tamping at Home?
What is Tamping?
Tamping is a technique used to ensure the full flavor during the espresso extraction process. Espresso is known for having a very distinct, potent flavor. This flavor is achieved by tightly and evenly packing the coffee grinds into a porta-filter with a tamper.
It is important to avoid areas of least resistance, or in other words spaces between the grinds. The properties of water cause it to move through the spaces first and it will avoid permeating the grinds themselves and move around them.
Preparing the Grounds
The freshest coffee is achieved immediately after grinding the coffee beans. All essential oils will be released from the wall of the bean and will add flavor to the cup of espresso.
Of course we know that grounds are sold in stores and have a great taste. So if you're looking for a quick cup of espresso without much of a hassle, purchasing the grounds would be best for you.
If you decide to grind the beans it is important to have a quality grinder. Although grounds are not usually uniform, it is a good idea to make sure that they grounds are small enough to be easily packed together. The smaller they are they can be packed with standard “tamping pressure”.
Grinders range in price, but the more expensive ones seem to have better quality. If you want longevity, it may be of your best interest to make a bigger investment.
A standard and less expensive grinder is the Breville BCG600SIL Dose Control Pro-Coffee bean grinder. It cost about $200.00 on Amazon. It has a basic design and the grinds fall directly into the portafilter for easy brewing.
A more expensive grinder cost about $800.00. It is called the Baratza Forte All Purpose. This grinder can be used for personal as well as commercial use and is known for is durability and longevity.
How to do Espresso Tamping at Home
After the coffee grounds have been placed into the basket of the portafilter, grab your tamper firmly in the palm of your hand. Your wrist should be straight and the tamper should be an extension of your arm, creating an even application of pressure.
Press the tamper down on the grounds with 5lbs of pressure for a few seconds, and then lift up the tamper. Gently tap the sides to allow any grounds that stick to sides of the basket to fall it the flat surface. Press down again, but this time use 30lbs of pressure and then turn the tamper 720 degrees while still applying the pressure. This turning of the tamper creates an even, polished surface.
This pressure can be measured with a bathroom scale for beginners. After some practice, you’ll be able to apply the correct amount of pressure without it. Once the smooth, tightly packed grounds are achieved, it is ready to brew.
The Right Tamper
Tampers come in many different sizes and shapes. You’ll need to find a tamper that has a diameter that is small enough to fit your portafilter. Amazon.com has many different kinds of tampers that you can use. This site is helpful because you can be specific in your search and it will list many different options.
There is slight controversy with whether convex ones are better but the difference isn't too substantial. It all depends on the basket of your particular portafilter.
There no need to be very extravagant with choosing a tamper. They cost as little as $10.00, or they can be $100.00 or more, it all depends on what you desire. It’s probably a good idea to spend more money on the actual espresso machine than it is on the tamper. But if you’d like to splurge on the tamper, why not? I’m sure it’ll be worth the quality and last a lot longer than the cheaper ones.
A less expensive option found on Amazon is the BlueSnail Stainless Steel Coffee Tamper Barista Espresso Tamper. It is 51mm, which is a standard size, so it should fit many portafilters. It is very simple in style yet very effective.
The goal is consistency, making sure that every cup brews with the same potency as the last and the water moves evenly while brewing. And as always practice makes perfect!