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Guess what!? You can tamp properly with pretty much anything whether its teaspoon or an expensive professional tamper as long as the other steps in the coffee-making process such as grind size, the machines water pressure, the bean freshness are all up to standard. If they are, you can apply the right amount of even pressure, pretty much anything will work to get a good tamp.
It’s great to hear because tamping properly is an essential step in getting a high-quality coffee. The process works by water evenly applying pressure to the puck. Sometimes, this doesn’t go to plan because water is skilled in being able to find the path of least resistance through the grinds, which creates a gap called a “channel”. If you get a channelled shot, it won’t taste great and you will need to restart the process over again, so that’s why it’s crucial that what you are using to tamp works!
Building a proper technique that works is vital for achieving consistently good coffee shots. Here’s a system we recommend!
- Measure out the grind into the basket. It should fill to be 1-2g more than the basket size. For example, for a 22g basket, we recommend measuring 23-24g of grinds.
- Use the back of your finger to strike off excess grinds, levelling them out and making sure they are evenly distributed in the basket (Don’t tap the side of your portafilter to do this!)
- Place portafilter on a flat surface and tamp evenly, making sure you are creating a flat surface with no gaps and that you are applying a pressure that isn’t too hard (or the puck will be too dense) and that you aren’t applying pressure to gently either (it won’t extract well)
- Before removing the tamper, twist your wrist, so the tamper gently interlocks the grinds, creating a good level of resistance for the water to pass through
- Remove the tamper and wipe away any excess grinds
- Gently place the portafilter into the group-head and make your coffee!
With tamping, the key is maintaining an even pressure and even level at all times and not creating channels by tapping on the side of the portafilter! If you remember these rules, you’re tamping should be perfect and consistent!