A good quality coffee tamper is a must-have tool if you’re serious about making espresso at home. There are many other items that you’ll also need, but the tamper is one that shouldn’t be overlooked.
For most of you reading this you might be content with the cheap plastic tamper that comes free with your espresso machine, but this is far from being a quality piece of kit, and it will show in your extractions.
If you have any doubt about the importance of a good tamper over the plastic tamper you got with your machine try this simple test. Take your plastic tamper and pull a shot as you normally would.
Now repeat the process using a better quality coffee tamper (not plastic) and observe the difference during the extraction. Of course, both variables will have to be the same, and both shots will have to be pulled as consistently as possible to see the proper results. However, the differences with each extraction should be easy to identify.
Simply put, If you want to make a great tasting espresso with the perfect crema the best espresso tamper is a must-have tool, ask any barista and they will tell you the same.
What To Look For In A Good Quality Tamper
A good tamper isn’t one that merely looks the part or is made from the best materials. The best tamper will be ergonomically designed and will have a suitable base and handle that will mold and fit snugly in the user’s hand.
The base of a coffee tamper is probably the most important part not only will it add weight to your tamper but the flat surface also helps to level your puck. Choose a tamper that is comfortable to hold, heavy enough to do most of the work for you and one which makes it easy for you to get a level top.
The most crucial detail when buying an espresso tamper is the base must be perfectly sized for your filter basket, it should be a tight enough fit to ensure a good edge seal, get the wrong size and you’ll have a nice new paperweight.
Also, it should have a bit of weight to it, anything over 200g is recommended. Typically the standard commercial-sized group handle fits a 58mm basket; however, there are several other common sizes so choosing the right one can be tricky.
What About The Shape, Flat Or Convex?
When it comes down to the shape of your coffee tamper from my experience, there isn’t any noticeable difference in the extraction. With that being said, some people believe that the base of the tamper should match the arc of the bottom of the basket (if there is one), but this idea isn’t supported by any solid proof or testing.
Those that prefer a convex tamper all agree that the slight incline on convex tampers helps to push coffee to the edge of the portafilter and in turn, helps to prevent “espresso channeling”, which prevents water from finding a path of least resistance along the sides of the coffee puck.
People that use a flat tamper say that as long as you have proper technique, a convex tamper doesn’t matter; furthermore, a flat tamper will produce a slightly more flush tamp which may arguably result in a more even extraction. Some of the most popular shapes of tampers are the American Curve, the C-Flat, the Flat, and the Euro Curve (not as popular).
As you can see these are very subtle differences. So when it comes to a flat, convex, or even rippled it’s very much a matter of personal preference. Most baristas will also agree that having a level tamp is one of the most important facets of tamping and not the shape of the tamper.
Are Calibrated Tampers Better?
If you’ve not come across a calibrated tamper before, basically they contain a spring-resistant mechanism sandwiched between the tamper base and the handle.
There are only two reasons I would recommend a calibrated coffee tamper.
- If you’re new to tamping coffee and want to be able to achieve a consistent tamp.
- If you own a coffee shop and have many baristas using a machine, the calibrated tamper would allow your team to have a uniformed tamp of coffee across the board – which is ideally what you want.
But to be honest, a good heavy coffee tamper used by a skilled barista will produce the same results.
How Much To Spend On A Tamper?
Deciding how much money to devote to a new espresso tamper is also a matter of personal preference.
I’ll be honest, A $20 tamper will have the same performance as a $70 tamper with the same base diameter, as long as it’s the right size, it’ll work. The only reason people like to spend more on a tamper is for the aesthetic appeal, “barista jewelry”.
Below I have handpicked some of the best antique coffee grinders to bring a bit of old into your hectic modern life. Take your time and appreciate coffee the way it’s meant to be, slow.
Top Rated Espresso Coffee Tampers
Even though the tamper is an essential piece of any coffee kit when it comes to making a decent espresso shot, finding a good one can be a challenge. Even your local coffee supply store will most probably only have a limited selection.
So where to buy an espresso tamper? Online, in my opinion, is going to be the best place, not only can you browse through hundreds of tampers but you can do it from the comfort of your home.
Below I have picked out some of the best 58mm espresso tampers all of which can be found at Amazon.com. I decided to keep with the 58mm size since this will fit almost all home espresso machines; also I kept things simple and stuck with a flat base.
However, most of the below tampers will have a variation in size and base once you click through to Amazon if you need a different specification for your machine.
Espro Calibrated Flat Tamper, 58mm
Before you continue reading let me warn you that this is the most expensive tamper I have on the list, but it demands a higher price for good reason. Let’s take a closer look.
Unlike most of the other coffee tampers, the Espro is a factory-calibrated tamper that has been designed to deliver exactly 30 pounds of pressure on each tamp. When you press down with the Espro you’ll feel a subtle but distinct click when you have hit the required 30 pounds.
This factory calibration does take the guesswork out of tamping and allows you to concentrate more on the other brewing variables of your espresso shot. But as I mentioned above in this article I would really only recommend purchasing this type of tamper if you are new to home espresso brewing or if you run a small team of baristas and you’re looking for uniformity.
The base of this Espro tamper is stainless steel, and the handle has been crafted from black anodized aluminum. The total weight is 16 ounces.
Motta 8100/B Professional Flat Base Coffee Tamper, 58mm
This attractive Artisan made flat-based tamper is a good quality budget tamper that costs almost half the price of the above Espro. However, this coffee tamper isn’t calibrated, so you’ll be doing all of the guesswork when applying the required pressure.
The Motta has an agronomic handle that has been designed to fit the average palm. Because of the special attention to the handle design you can use your index finger and thumb to push down rather than pushing with the handle alone.
The base of the Motta has been made from stainless steel and the handle is crafted from ash wood that’s been stained black. Weighs around 14 ounces.
Rattleware Round-Handled Tamper, 58mm
If your hands are on the smaller side this espresso tamper could be just what you’re looking for. Standing slightly smaller than the average tamper the Rattleware is competitively priced and makes a great step up for those of you looking to replace your plastic tamper.
The durable impact-resistant handle has an ergonomic design that offers just the right amount of grip but at the same time gives you plenty of control. If you own a Gaggia Classic espresso machine this tamper is a must-have.
The handle has been made from durable ABS plastic, and the base of the tamper is stainless steel. It weighs 13.5 ounces.
Devereux Espresso Coffee Tamper, 58mm
If you are looking for something a little different why not take a look at this ceramic tamper. Available in a range of colors from black, gold, red, yellow, and white I’m sure there is a color combination for you.
The handle design may put you off at first glance but don’t let its looks fool you because this tamper is surprisingly comfy. The unique square-shaped design actually aids in better control and grip while applying pressure.
Handmade in England from high-grade stainless steel combined with ceramic. This is a relatively heavy tamper, weighing 15 ounces.
Motta 620 Professional Flat Base Aluminum Coffee Tamper, 58mm
The last barista tamper on my list has a more contemporary style than the ash-handled version on my list. The aluminum handle has been merged with a flat stainless steel base giving the illusion of one piece of cast metal.
It’s a little bit heavier in your hand than some of the others on my list, so those of you with slightly bigger hands may find this tamper a better fit.
Made in Italy, you know you’re getting quality with the Motta. It has a flat stainless steel base and an aluminum handle. Weighs just over 14 ounces.