How to tamp properly (using anything)

If you follow us on Instagram you might have seen some of our “Does it Tamp?” series, where we test out various household and office objects to determine if they can successfully tamp ground coffee into a decent tasting cup.

Much to our surprise, using things like beer bottles, pestle and teaspoons to tamp your grinds can make just as delicious a coffee as using our $200 hand-crafted professional tamper. As long as all the other parts of the process are running smoothly, such as the grind size, water pressure in the machine and the freshness of the beans, you can pretty much use anything to tamp, provided you’re using the right technique.

Tamping is an absolutely imperative part of the brewing process because when the water pushes down into the puck, it’s subject to major pressure and as such, has an incredible ability to find the path of least resistance through the grinds. If these channels are found, the water rushes through, over-extracting the coffee around the channels and underextracting the coffee in the channels. This will make a coffee taste both flat, bitter and astringent. But with firm and even tamping, the water will soak through the puck evenly, bringing out the best of the flavours in the coffee.

Now, explaining how to tamp over a blog post is a difficult task, but here is a (lengthy) explanation of Ryadan’s tamping technique that he has perfected over the years.

  1. Measure out and grind your coffee beans into the basket, filling it all the way to the top.
  2. Use the back of your finger to strike off the excess grinds from the top, levelling them out and making sure the grinds are evenly distributed in the basket.
  3. Lay the basket flat on a surface, then pop your tamper into the basket and press down, making sure you are creating a completely flat and even surface, no slopes around here.
  4. The tamper should generally press down about 5mm into the basket.┬áDon’t press too hard, or the puck will be too dense for the water to soak through, don’t press to gently or the water will just flow through, and not extract enough of the delicious flavours, trying and testing this is the only way to find the right pressure.
  5. Before removing the tamper, while still pressing down, twist the tamper gently so the grinds interlock, this creates resistance for the water to pass through.
  6. Remove your tamper from the basket and have a look. It should be flat and smooth. Don’t tap on the side of the basket, this creates a space around the puck and the basket for the water to pass through. Instead gently blow on the puck to remove any little grinds that are sticking out.
  7. Gently press the basket into the portafilter, or if it’s already in there, wipe away any excess grinds from it.
  8. Again, very gently insert the portafilter into the group-head, being sure not to knock or bump it while inserting.
  9. Make your coffee as per usual and delight in your perfect tamping technique.

If you’re curious about whether something will tamp, give it a go and let us know! We’d love to hear about your adventures in coffee brewing. Check out our last “Does It Tamp” post here.

If you have any other tamping tricks or tips leave them in the comments section!

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