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How to Correctly Tamper Coffee

How to Tamper Coffee like an Expert

Nothing can be as refreshing as starting your day with a cup of coffee. To create a good quality coffee the correct way, coffee grounds need to be compressed, so that water passes through in a constant and uniform manner. This helps the aroma oils come out and brings the incredible taste of coffee. To tamp coffee properly, you need to have a good coffee tamper and know how to use the tamper.

barista with portafilter and tamper in coffee shop

barista with portafilter and tamper in coffee shop

Get a good coffee tamper

In the search of good quality coffee, an important tool has been overlooked – the coffee tamper. Though many machines come with their inbuilt tampers, many people choose tampers separately to fit their preferences. Due to numerous varieties of coffee tampers in the market, the first-time buyer may get confused on which tamper to buy. Below are the characteristics of a good tamper.

1. Choose the tamper made from the best material

The most common materials that make tampers’ include, stainless steel, aluminium or brass. Aluminium is subject to dents in the long run. It is also difficult to get a smooth and even tamp. However, it is light weight. Brass and stainless steel tampers are heavier than aluminium. However, they are more durable and are also good conductors of heat. With them, it is much easier to obtain a smooth and even tamp for better quality.

2. Choose the correct tamper size

For compatibility choose a tamper of the same size as your machine. The size of the tamper is an important determinant of the quality of your coffee. If you choose tampers that are too big, they wont fit your filter basket. Again, tampers which are too small won’t ground the coffee evenly. For a fine and even tamp, choose the right size.

3. Choose a tamper with a good handle

If you enjoy using the tamper, chances are high that you will brew good quality coffee. The choice of handle will determine the ease with which you use the tamper. A good quality coffee tamper should have an adjusting nut at the base to allow for adjustment of the handle. 

How to correctly tamper coffee

Once you have chosen the right coffee tamper. You need to know how to use it. The following tips will guide you on how to tamper coffee the right way for excellent results.

1. Keep a straightened wrist

When tamping, your elbow should point to the air and your bicep and forearm should form a right angle. Hold the tamper with your thumb while the index finger touches the base. This will help you achieve total tamping control and also help to maintain the level of your ground coffee.

2. Move your wrist

For better results, apply 40-50 pounds of pressure to 12 grams of coffee grounds. To feel the 40-50 pounds, use the bathroom scale. Use the scale until you can apply the pressure without any strain. Hygiene is important. Always wash the tamper after using the bathroom scale. Apply the same pressure to the filter basket and give a quarter twist. Pull the tamper out of the basket as you continue with the twist. Twisting ensures that no grounds cling to the tamper.

3. Tap with the right speed

Speed is important when tamping but care should be taken not to bump the filter basket. Uneven hits will result to uneven distribution of coffee grounds. This creates short cuts for water passage. The area where most water is passing will be over extracted at the expense of the rest. This results in a white creme.

Tamping coffee

Process of tamping the coffee for espresso preparation

4. Getting a fine polish

If you wish to get a fine polish, don’t twist the tamper when applying a downward force. Twisting under pressure disturbs the carefully arranged coffee that is already packed in.

5. Clean it up

To protect the portafilter basket and keep your machine clean, brush away any coffee grounds that could be remaining at the top of the basket or the portafilter. You can either use your index finger or your palm to do the clean up.

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