Espresso Blog

How To Tamp Espresso Like a Pro

by Julie Beals on August 30, 2018

If you want to make the best espresso, you’ll need to pack the perfect puck.

A good tamp creates resistance (with evenly compacted coffee) that makes the brewing water work hard to saturate the grounds and extract all of that great coffee flavor. The water pressure pulls oils from the grounds and creates the bold taste and rich texture your customers expect from a quality espresso.

But if the coffee grounds are loose and uneven, water will find the gaps and move through them instead of extracting flavor, and your brew will be watery and flavorless.

To avoid this, follow these easy steps. Before you know it, you’ll be a pro:

1. Level the grounds

  • Put the measured coffee into the portafilter. Run your finger across the top, pushing off any excess grounds.

  • Make sure the coffee is even and level before putting any pressure on it, or you’ll get an uneven extraction—and less flavor.

2. Use good form

  • Turn your tamping-side hip toward the counter.

  • Keep your wrist straight and your elbow bent at about a 90-degree angle to help you maintain control while tamping. This also helps the power to come from your body rather than your wrist, and to avoid a repetitive stress injury.

  • Hold the tamper like you're grabbing a doorknob with your thumb and index finger touching the base. This provides two points of contact with the tamper base and helps maintain a level bed of coffee grounds.

3. Apply about 15 pounds of pressure

  • 15 pounds of pressure will help you begin to form a puck shape with the ground coffee. You can learn to apply the right amount of pressure by standing on a bathroom scale while pressing down on the counter and watching your weight decrease. Or, if you have a calibrated tamper, it will tell you.

  • Even-handed pressure is as important as the strength of force.

4. Apply 20-30 pounds of pressure, and polish

  • Once the puck is formed, push down harder to form a compact and sturdy puck. Baristas often recommend 30 pounds of pressure, but some do as little as 20 pounds. More and more are finding that tamping pressure is overrated—it's hard on the wrist and cause an over-extracted, bitter brew.

  • Use a twisting motion as you pull up to “polish” the puck. Just be sure not to twist as you push down, which will disturb the packed coffee.

5. Inspect the puck and clean the portafilter

  • Make sure there are no gaps or loose spots in and around the coffee.

  • Wipe off any coffee grounds that spilled around the edges of the portafilter. This step protects the portafilter gasket and reduces espresso machine maintenance.

Keep at it, and soon it will be second nature!

 

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