Tampers, WDT Tools, & Leveling Advice

Recommendations for buyers and upgraders from the site's members.

#1: Post by Elemsee »

Hi everyone! I just ordered a Flair 58, to begin my espresso journey. I've read some posts/watched some videos, but would love some advice and feedback on espresso preparation tools / my line of thinking. Feel free to answer any parts of this post, any advice is appreciated!

1. Tamper - since I'm new to espresso, I am assuming a calibrated tamper would be best for me to ensure consistency. Is that a reasonable way of thinking? I'd also like to keep my budget below $100, BUT, if I will see noticeable differences in output from a more premium option (Pullman, Espro, Force, etc), I'm open to it.

Here are my current options I'm deciding between - open to others as well

---- Normcore V4 Calibrated: https://www.normcorewares.com/collectio ... upgrate-v4

---- Barista Hustle: https://baristahustletools.com/north-america-shop

---- Newton Tamper: https://www.mugshotnyc.com/shop/p/newton-tamper

---- Luxhaus Calibrated: https://lux-haus.net/products/luxhaus-5 ... ng-pitcher

---- Decent Tamper - a bit out of my preferred budget, but I trust this company: https://decentespresso.com/tamper

2. WDT Tool - if the needles are within 2mm-5mm, does the build really add much of a difference? Will I get similar results from these options?

---- Etsy - 4mm- saw a coffee professional post about this, and I love the stand it comes with: https://www.etsy.com/listing/977629464/ ... la=1&gao=1&

---- Normcome - 2mm - https://www.normcorewares.com/collectio ... on-tool-v1

---- Decent - the founder said this is meant to only rake the top of the grounds however, so I will likely not buy this one - https://decentespresso.com/rake

---- open to others

3. Leveler - does this actually help? I've heard these typically don't add much, but then again, I frequently hear advice to ensure grounds are level before tamping. Would love suggestions if you recommend I purchase

For more context, I currently have a Comandante C40 with Red Clix - at some point over the new few months, I'll get an electric grinder, and will likely decide between a Niche, Baratza W+, Eureka Silenzio, or the AkiraKoki with SSP burrs (budget option) after seeing Lance Hedrick's latest video.


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#2: Post by Jeff »

Square-to-basket tamper is far more important if you haven't developed the skills to keep it squared by feel. Unless you've got limitations in hand strength or dexterity, a "calibrated" tamper isn't a big advantage. Tamping pressure, as long as reasonable, isn't going to change your shots that much.

The LeverCraft WDT tool is excellent. To the point that it has been copied many times. The LeverCraft tool is one of the few prep devices I think is a net positive. On a limited budget, 0.4 mm acupuncture needles in a cork are a good option. (0.25 mm may be good, I haven't tried them myself.)

I think levelers are snake oil for home baristas. They address a specific judging criteria (puck appearance, not taste) in barista competitions, might be useful in a production setting, and potentially make the prep worse though uneven density.

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#3: Post by cafeIKE »

Jeff wrote:I think levelers are snake oil for home baristas.
I'd agree except a custom one can be a dream. I generally eschew all the falderol, and while I have 5 tampers of various shapes, they were purchased in the interest of science. 3 9's of the time, I use generic 58mm flat.

The collar allows me to grind direct into the PF from the Niche Zero and get most of the coffee in the basket :roll:

The custom leveler in various depths for different doses/coffees allows me to get a perfectly distributed prep every time. A counter tap to settle & I'm done.

Cut out a Koonan Leveler from the PDF, tape to an old credit or ??? plastice card and trim to fit.


#4: Post by Quester »

I have a Decent v2 tamper and a v4. Coffee sometimes sticks to the bottom of the v2, but that issue is mostly resolved with the v4. Overall, the Decent tamper works well.

I also have the Barista Hustle tamper. It's a joy to use, but you have to have great technique since it's not self-leveling.

In the Decent espresso community, a lot of people like the Force tamper. You can get different bases, and it's self-leveling. It's a "sudden force" tamper, so it works a bit differently. There are Youtube videos if you want to see it in action.

Years ago I used a Londinium WDT. It looks nice, but the wires are too thick. After that, I printed the body for a WDT and got 0.4mm needles from Amazon. The whole thing was about $14 finished. I gave that one to my daughter, so now I have the LeverCraft WDT. For me it's worth the money.

I agree with Jeff on the levelers. I get a better result with careful WDT.

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#5: Post by Pogo007 replying to Quester »

I'm planning to purchase the Decent tamper v4 but, as yet, know nothing about the Force tamper. Have you used both and, if so, do you have a preference?

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#6: Post by SteveRhinehart »

Here are my thoughts in general regarding all of the above:

1. Tampers - Leveling tampers can be helpful for learning to tamp consistently. Tamping off-level is one of the most common mistakes I see among baristas and enthusiasts. It can be corrected by tamping more carefully and using your fingertips to check how level the tamper base is with the rim of the basket, but if you're making a brand new purchase and a leveling tamper is within your budget I'd say go for it.

Spring-loaded tampers still feel unnecessary to me. I've never found that changing tamping pressure matters for extraction if the puck is fully compacted. Press until you feel the puck "press" back and you've done it. Excess pressure does not appear to lead to differences in shots, meaning that if you tamp at 15 lbs for one shot and 25 lbs the next you should have the same result. I've tested this manually and with a Puqpress and found the biggest difference is that if you really bear down when tamping manually you have a higher chance of shifting the puck off-level. That said, I'm not sure the spring mechanism is at all harmful, so for the example of the Normcore it's still a reasonable choice IMO for the leveling plate.

2. WDT - I'm a proponent of WDT for espresso. I don't see them as necessary per se, in that great coffee can be achieved without them, but I do value mine in my home workflow. I've seen it improve shot quality with clumpy grinders, and improve shot consistency even with a unimodal P64. For home use I think it's a high-value upgrade considering tools are about $10. I use the EAF "People's WDT" tool designed by JKim, but others are surely just as good. 0.4 or 0.2 mm needles are both good options. FWIW even if Decent doesn't say their "rake" is meant for full depth WDT, it's still constructed the same as most other WDT tools out there.

I would recommend a dosing funnel when using a WDT tool. Even with a properly set dose for your basket, the needles can fluff (and fling) grinds up beyond the basket walls. The funnel makes for a cleaner workflow.

3. Levelers - For home use, I don't see the advantage over WDT. They serve as a cleaner and more consistent alternative to finger leveling in a cafe workflow. WDT is too slow for many cafes - and I have heard a few cafe owners say that even the extra couple seconds spent with a spinny leveler is too much when accumulated across hundreds of shots per day.


#7: Post by pdx-climber »

I would reinforce 100% SteveRhinehart. The Normcore seems 100% good enough based on reviews/feedback - mine comes soon from Amazon. I hoped to snag a Decent V3 at closeout price but it went before I pulled the trigger. I have an Espro calibrated (got it 1/2 price on Amazon used) and like it a lot but the leveling feature would be nice. I'm a bit against the spinning 'levelers' now after personal experience and Lance Hendricks opinions... I kinda trust him more than the dozens of ppl selling the devices. WDT/rake + good tamping feels much better to my engineers brain. I'm fairly good at tamping (3mo as a barista now) but who not get a Normcore. I have a Apexstone 'leveler' and used it a bit - Im not against it and know lots of ppl using it but I think Id rather WDT+leveling tamper.

Print as JKim WDT tool... if you dont have 3D printer access check with local library or local online 3D printer group... I found a local guy who printed stuff up for me for materials cost. Needles are <$10 from Amazon (or much less from China... hell just PM me and I'll send you a pack. (If ordering I'd recommend 0.3mm). All the expensive ones are way too much to make sense. JKim's (esp with base) is excellent. Or just send him $8 and he'll send you one once he gets needles in stock.


#8: Post by Quester »

Pogo007 wrote:I'm planning to purchase the Decent tamper v4 but, as yet, know nothing about the Force tamper. Have you used both and, if so, do you have a preference?
I have not used the Force. One thing I like better about the Force is the thinner tamping head. With the thicker one on my Decent and super fluffy grounds from the MAX SW, I disrupt the coffee bed when placing the tamper on the portafilter. Having said that, it works pretty well overall.


#9: Post by LewBK »

Got this one recently and it seems to work well: https://www.etsy.com/listing/1081482558 ... cs_2&crt=1

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#10: Post by wrichad3 »

Coffee Catcha Espresso Dosing Funnel. $65
4 wire Baolide Espresso Coffee Stirrer. $35

yogurt cup and toothpick $0.01

This site is paying for itself , bigly
Thought the extra 3 wires might really save me time and energy
so I put some toothpicks in a cork , though it quadrupled my costs
One more jolt, Warden. He's still twitching.