How Much to Spend on a Tamper?

Recommendations for espresso equipment buyers and upgraders.
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Postby Bezman » Dec 13, 2011, 3:31 pm

I have recently bought the Nuova Simonelli Oscar paired with a Hey Cafe HC-600 grinder and would like to get a tamper which will allow me to produce the best coffee the rest of the rig allows for.
What I currently have is

I have recently become aware of an ebay store called "Precision Tamper Maker" and it seems that they have tampers of wildly different prices. I would like to know what is to be gained from getting a $50 tamper compared to a simpler, $25 one taste-wise. I don't particularly care about looks.

Also, I saw there are both flat and convex tampers, as well as serrated flat or convex tampers. I understood that a convex tamper is more forgiving, but could not find any information regarding serrated tampers.

Any information will be very appreciated!

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Postby jsolanzo » Dec 13, 2011, 3:41 pm

as long as it's the right size, it'll work. People spend extra money on a tamper because of the aesthetic appeal. That's all. A $30 tamper has the same performance as an $80 tamper with the same base diameter. It really depends on your budget.
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Postby cafeIKE » Dec 13, 2011, 4:07 pm

I have a whole range of tampers from 57mm to 58.xx in various curves.
The favorite is the FLAT 57mm, also the oldest and cheapest.
All the others are counter bling.

Many here think a tight fitting tamper is a PITA.

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Postby Randy G. » Dec 13, 2011, 4:23 pm

I used a 58mm one-piece aluminum tamper for about 6 years. Still have it. it worked fine.
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Postby ethiopie » Dec 13, 2011, 4:36 pm

A very long time ago I bought a Faema Family. It came with a plastic tamper. I still use it and it works fine. So my personal answer is: spend nothing on a tamper.

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Postby Mark08859 » Dec 14, 2011, 11:35 am

A more expensive tamper tends to (but not always) have more weight. For instance, Reg Barber tampers tend to weigh ~ 1 pound. The main thing is to NOT use the plastic tamper that comes with most machines and to have a good fit. A budget minded individual can easily find quality tampers in the $15 range.

Other than that, I agree with jsolanzo regarding aesthetic appeal.

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Postby mitch236 » Dec 14, 2011, 11:42 am

I own quite a few tampers. Some feel better than others but there is no way to know that unless you actually touch them. I have two identical type RB tampers and one is my favorite while the other just gathers dust. I can't really explain the difference but one feels better to me than the other.

I have recently replaced the base of my favorite tamper to jump on the "must have the perfect size base to match your VST basket" train and do notice a cleaner looking tamp but have no proof it tastes any better since my shots were good to begin with.

I like buying tampers just because I'm crazy. To be honest though, if you search the boards here and are willing to read all the replies to tamping questions you will realize that tamping is one of the least important tasks (as long as its level).

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Postby Bezman » Dec 14, 2011, 1:46 pm

Very interesting replies.
The tamper I currently have is slightly smaller than my basket and is also convex and tends to leave a "wall" of grinds stuck to the side of the basket. This "wall" doesn't easily come off and adds to a messy looking basket.

I think I will consider getting a tamper with a removable base (flat for now) so I can exchange for something with a tighter fit/convex face later on.

Does anyone have a tamper with a serrated base who can say if it actually affects anything?

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Postby boar_d_laze » Dec 14, 2011, 2:23 pm

Alla time same same.

Rattleware tampers are heavy, comfortable and well made, and under $35. sells similarly reasonably priced tampers, beautifully machined, and with more variety. For a $9 up charge, they will mill a tamper to whatever custom size you desire. If you want a 58.3mm tamper, you can have it for under $45 delivered.

The major differences between those and expensive tampers is mostly vanity. I like Concept Art, very attractive and very expensive.

The same can be said of Reg Barber tampers. Those and quite a few other brands are much better made than needs be.

I especially like my Concept Art Technic which clicks at a given pressure, not because of the click but because of the looks, weight and feel in the hand. The Technic doesn't make coffee any better than using the same (interchangeable) 58mm base on a wood handle (have one of those), or my old Rattleware for that matter.

Cafelat are also very popular and well made. Their price/quality just about splits the difference between Reg Barber/Concept Art and Rattleware/Coffeecomplements/ChrisCoffee (OEM). Like Concept Art, Cafelat makes an extensive line of other, high-quality coffee accessories.

I know a few people who swear by Reg Barber ripple bases, and a great many more who say "no detectable difference." It might be a different story if I already had an RB handle, but don't think the experiment is worth the price. Similarly, I'm highly skeptical that a 58.35mm tamper would perform better in my Strada baskets than my 58mm bases to the extent of a positive difference in the cup.

As long as the tamp is level and consistent* you're good to go. A little bit of heft seems to make that easier for most people, and so does an appropriately sized and shaped handle.

*Any tamp pressure that's sufficient to bring the grinds together into a puck, but not so great as to clog the flow will work. But you want to keep your pressure fairly consistent to eliminate one variable in flow resistance, and use time of pour to help judge whether your grind is correct.

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Postby compliance » Dec 14, 2011, 2:45 pm

In general I think the tamper is not all that important as long as it is a "real" tamper and not one of the plastic ones. That said I recently got a really nice one as a gift after using a cheap aluminum Vaneli's tamper for the last couple years. I like the increased weight and the bottom of the tamper is nicely polished so it spins smoothly in the basket. I wouldn't say that it is any better in the cup, but it is nicer to use and just feels better. That can be worth the cost depending on your outlook. I know would be sad to go back to my old tamper.