Espresso Tamping is an art that is often neglected in espresso preparation.
The goal is to create a pellet of coffee through which the
hot water from the espresso machine will penetrate evenly.
Since the water from the espresso machine is under pressure,
the espresso pellet must be hard and evenly tamped.
The water only knows how to go from a region of high pressure
to a region of low pressure. Therefore it is important
to prevent paths of least resistance in the coffee pellet
and force the water to evenly permeate and extract the coffee.
chapter assumes that one has read and understood how to
dose the coffee properly. After the ground coffee
has been dosed into the porta-filter it is unevenly distributed. Hold the porta-filter in one hand
while using the other hand to quickly, but gently level
the coffee. This is usually accomplished by pulling
the coffee to one side of the basket with a slightly curled
pinky, then pushing the coffee back to the opposite side
of the basket (Picture 2). The key is to evenly distribute the
coffee without pressing into the grounds or leaving any
empty space on the sides of the basket.
Correct Espresso Tamping
you are done distributing the grounds, it is time for the
first tamp. Without moving the porta-filter, hold
the espresso tamper so that the base of the handle fits into the
palm of your hand. Your wrist should be straight,
and the espresso tamper should be a straight extension of your arm.
Press gently on the coffee with five pounds of pressure
You will notice that some of the grounds will stick to the
side of the basket. Therefore, one must gently
tap the basket with the handle on the porta-filter to knock
the grounds onto the flat pellet you just formed (Picture
The next step is to apply the
finishing espresso tamp (Picture 5). The shape of the pellet has already
been formed, and the finishing tamp confirms this impression.
With the tamping tool held as before, press on the pellet with
thirty pounds of pressure. It is useful to tamp espresso on
a bathroom scale until you become comfortable with the amount
of force necessary to achieve the appropriate pressure.
After tamping, turn the espresso tamper 720° while continuing to
apply pressure to polish the surface. Make sure you
tamp evenly. An uneven espresso tamp will result in an uneven
above steps should be carried out in about thirty seconds.
Although speed is important, it is necessary to be careful
not to bump the basket during this process. Sharply
hitting the basket will unevenly distribute the grounds
allowing shortcuts for the water to pass through.
As any scientist can appreciate, the path of least
is preferred. If there are any weak spots or holes
in the espresso pellet the water will push through this
area, over extracting this portion of coffee while under
extracting the rest of the pellet. Improper espresso tamping
will result in a twirling pour or white crema.
the spacing above the espresso pellet and below the dispersion
screen. You can do this by dosing, distributing, and
tamping as described above. Then insert the porta-filter
and remove it. Does the screen or screw press down
onto the coffee? If so, the coffee will not have enough room to expand as it is brewing. On the other
hand you want to have between 16-18 grams of coffee in the
basket. Experiment with these two factors until you
achieve a good height for the espresso pellet.
Choosing the Correct Espresso Tamper
Just as correct espresso tamping is essential, so is the use of a proper espresso tamper. The first action you should take is
to throw away the plastic round bottom tamper that you currently
have. The espresso tamper should be made of aluminum or similar
light metal and should have a diameter so it fits firmly into the basket. Marzocco baskets are 58mm,
so order the appropriate size. Without a flat packing
surface, you create indents which cause uneven extraction.
You may order your espresso tamper from Vivace's which sells several
different size pistons to perfectly fit your basket.
Currently, Vivace's has recommended the use of a round bottom
coffee tamper rather than the traditional flat bottom tamping machines.
This suggestion is welcome to further discussion.
Currently, my observations do not support the conclusion
that the rounded bottom tamper is better. Initial
crema is thicker, but overall crema is less. I will
continue tests with other espresso machines and with other
espresso blends. You should also order the book "Espresso
Coffee: Professional Techniques," a great
book on espresso preparation.
Video of tamping process: Large
(6.72 Mb) or Medium (929