Making good coffee with Espresso Tamper


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Apr 9, 2008
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Correct tamping is important for consistent coffee, but it's not the only variable. Other areas of importance are:

fresh beans
there's no substitute. Buy beans from a good coffee retailer who only sells fresh beans and consistent blends (for example, Coffee for Connoisseurs)
fresh water
use filtered water if possible, which won't add any unpleasant flavours to your coffee
the right temperature water and equipment
if you assemble the portafilter and filter basket to the group and allow it to all warm up together, then pump some water through the machine before adding the coffee, the temperature will be as stable as it can be. In general, cheaper aluminium thermoblock machines will have difficulty maintaining constant temperatures and producing consistent results compared to more expensive machines with steel or brass groups and boilers
correct level of extraction (how long you run the water for)
avoid running the pump longer than necessary, as this will lead to bitter and overextracted coffee
correct grind and tamp pressure
espresso is best brewed with a fairly fine grind (due to the high water pressure compared to dripolators and plungers). The tamp should be even across the whole surface of the coffee, and tamp right to the edges of the filter basket. The 'ideal' pressure depends on the bean roast level and the grind, but it does need to be quite firm (one popular figure is 30 pounds - push down on a set of bathroom scales until it comes up to about 15kg, and that's about what's suggested). If the water flows too slowly, try a lighter tamp or a coarser grind.
a clean machine you wouldn't prepare a Sunday roast on a dirty tray which had been used three times already and was covered with old fat and seasoning; so why do the same with espresso? It's important to regularly clean the showerscreen and group area to prevent the build-up of old coffee grounds and oils which can lead to inferior tasting brews. The technique varies from machine to machine, but is generally not difficult. This is even more of an issue if you don't tamp, as the point above shows.