How to Tamp Espresso

If you love espresso and always wish to make a great one, it is essential you get a good tamp. If you do not know how to tamp, you will need to learn how to; it is the art and science of correctly pressing down your grounds to get an effective extraction as your result.

Tamping is not easy as you need to get certain things right to achieve an even tamp. Below are the steps to follow to achieve the perfect tamping.

What is Tamping?

The reason for tamping is to build resistance when you are using the compacted coffee; the resistance doesn’t allow water to pass through the ground easily. The reason why this is done is to extract the flavor in the ground.

To get the taste you want when making espresso, it is essential that you get your tamping right and learn how to pack your ground into the portafilter. Tamping allows the water’s pressure to pull oil from the ground, which gives you the rich taste and texture you desire.

If the tamp is not tight and not evened, the water will find the gaps in your ground and move through; this will prevent your water from pulling enough flavor out from the grounds.

To prevent loose ground, you need to push down on your grounds inside the portafilter, producing a compressed puck. If you are a newbie at tamping, the first few times you tamp can be a bit of trial and error but don’t worry, you will get the hang, and it will be worth it.

Items Needed For Tamping

When you are ready to tamp, you will need a ground espresso, a portafilter, and a tamper. If you own an espresso machine, it’s possible your machine came with a plastic tamper; do no use those. Purchase a tamper with a decent weight.

When you get the tamper you think you want, check the bottom to decide the type you wish to purchase; you can either get a convex or flat bottom. Other items you will need to tamp your espresso include:

  • A good espresso machine
  • A grinder that can grind your beans for espresso
  • A scale to help you maintain accuracy when loading your ground.

Bear in mind that your grind size is what makes the difference between a delicious and bitter espresso.

If you do not own a tamper, you can still make your espresso, but you will get a less than ideal taste. You can make use of any item that fits your portafilter and can withstand pressure; a good example is your spice or salt jar. This option should only be used in case of emergency as it will not be a good choice for long-term use.

How To Tamp In Steps

Confirm that your portafilter is clean and dry

Your portafilter must be clean; you can also be rinsing and wiping your portafilter between shots. After a couple of use, ensure you do extensive cleaning and soaking of your portafilter and the basket.

Pour your ground espresso into the portafilter’s basket.

You can ground your expresso and pour it directly into the portafilter, or you pour your espresso from another container. For single shots, the weight of your ground should be around 7 grams, for a double shot, approximately 14 grams, and for a triple shot, about 21 grams.

For each shot, you can get an exact basket size. The most popular basket is the double shot. The weights stated above are the standard; you can experiment by adding more grams to your basket, referred to as up dosing.

Owning a very good coffee grinder will go a long way in producing consistency in your espresso shots. Some of the best grinders on the market for this purpose are the Rancilio Rocky, Baratza Virtuoso, and the Mazzer Mini.

When pouring your ground into the basket, aim at creating an even bed of grounds. Ensure your espresso mounds above the portafilter base; this is done in order to have enough coffee when you even and tamp out the grounds.

Even the ground with your finger

After putting your ground into the portafilter, use your index fingers to smoothen by running it across the top of the portafilter. Doing this pushes off any extra grounds. Do not begin to apply pressure until the surface of the ground is even and level. If you add pressure before getting a smooth surface, you will end up with an uneven extraction, leading to a poor taste.

Place your tampon on a leveled surface

After evening your grounds with your finger, place your portafilter on a flat surface to level – some portafilter comes with a benchtop for leveling. Place your wrist straight and keep your elbow bent. Doing this will ensure power comes from your body rather than your wrist.

Apply light pressure

Apply a little pressure at first to ensure your ground coffee forms the puck shape; your aim is to create a flat surface. An uneven surface will not get you the espresso taste you want. Begin with about fifteen pounds of pressure to get things going.

Tamp the shot

The aim of the tamp is to place even extraction with about thirty pounds of pressure. If you own a bathroom scale, you can use it to measure how much weight you are exerting on your tamp. It’s more important that you achieve consistent pressure in your tamp than it is to attain a pressure of thirty pounds.

Keep your arm straight while tampering to ensure the tamper makes contact with the coffee bad evenly.

Check for a flat, level surface

Double-check to see if your puck has any gaps or space. You want a compact, solid puck of coffee that has no gaps or loose spots.

Polish the shot

While applying your final pressure, you can spin the tamper; this process is called polishing – it is the final step. Some people say this last step is necessary for evening the tamp, while others say it is not; they believe it to be more of a show-off move.

Clean up loose coffee grounds

As part of your finishing ritual, take a cloth and clean off any excess coffee grounds around the edges of your portafilter. You want your portafilter going into your machine clean and nice.

And that is how you tamp. Now, you are ready to brew.

FAQ

How long will it take to brew an espresso shot?

Typically, an espresso shot should take about twenty minutes to brew; if your timing is shot, you need to look at the grind size of your coffee, the weight, and the tamping method.

My espresso is watery; why?

The reason for your watery espresso is because your ground is too coarse. If you didn’t attain a fine enough ground, water would rush through the portafilter without extracting enough flavor from your espresso ground.

How do I attain a perfect espresso shot?

You can achieve the perfect espresso shot by using the right equipment and technique. The perfect espresso shot depends significantly on your ground’s fitness, the weight of the coffee, your tampering skill, and your pour time.

How to Perfect Your Tamp (Video)

Conclusion

learning to tamp an espresso shot is not rocket science; after your first attempt, your aim should be to do it consistently. With enough practice, you will be able to incorporate your tamp technique when working with a new coffee, and you can also teach other people your technique.