What do you look for in a good tamper?

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HB
Admin

#1: Post by HB »

I have collected several tampers and prefer different qualities of each. As part of a mini-review I would like to start later this week, I'm mulling over what qualities and features baristas consider when selecting a tamper. Below are my first thoughts:
  • Ergonomics, including appropriateness for various hand sizes
  • Availability of different piston sizes and contours
  • Durability / quality of materials and construction
  • Weight and balance
  • Good choice for those who like to tap the portafilter with the tamper
  • Appearance
  • Unique features (e.g., training tampers, tamp level lines)
  • Cost
Others?
Dan Kehn

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Teme

#2: Post by Teme »

A pretty comprehensive list. I only have one thing to add (and this could also possibly fit under "unique features" or "appearance"): availability of related accessories (e.g. PF handles, machine knobs and handles etc) from the same material as the tamper handle.

I am thinking a lever machine with wooden handles and matching tamper (preferably in custom size). I only know of two manufacturers who currently do this Cafe-Kultur and Les / Thor Tamper, but these are great if one wants to customise their machine...

Br,
Teme

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malachi

#3: Post by malachi »

I'd say that more important than the list is the weighting applied to each attribute.
"Taste is the only morality." -- John Ruskin

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chelya

#4: Post by chelya »

Repeatablility (for training and controlled environments) - (clicker, espro, macap).
As a beginner I tried to reduce the number of variables and therefore this was very important and helpful.

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cannonfodder
Team HB

#5: Post by cannonfodder »

Fit and feel (ergonomics). Like a good kitchen knife, the best one in the block is the one that is comfortable to use. The prettiest tamper in the world is useless if you never use it. It has to feel good in the hand and enjoyable to use, and it obviously has to fit you basket.
Dave Stephens

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HB
Admin

#6: Post by HB »

malachi wrote:I'd say that more important than the list is the weighting applied to each attribute.
Not sure that I'm following you. Let me offer a little more background...

Over the past six months, some HBs have suggested that I write a "tamper shootout" article. However, I think the notion that winner(s) can be determined for something that's very much an individual preference is a non sequitur. Similarly weighting of each attribute is dependent on the individual's preference. My intent was to call out some of the noteworthy strengths for each offering without judgement, in the hope that a few paragraphs of prose plus a photograph would be a good start towards helping someone making their choice (I did however order the list above in order of my own selection priorities). That prompted me to ask what people consider in their selection, i.e., my intent isn't to create a table where tampers earn a score for each attribute.
Dan Kehn

Kelpburger

#7: Post by Kelpburger »

I tend to agree that the when it comes to a tamper it's what you personally like. With practice, anyone can get equal pressure and distribution with the majority of the tampers out there as long as they correctly fit your portafilter basket. IMHO, with practice you can get the same great pour using the plastic tamper that came with your machine that you would get with that $80 Impod or Espro. I just don't like to use the plastic tamper because it feels flimsy and just doesn't look like a quality tool sitting on my counter. Of course if you're a professional barista a good tamper could reduce arm and wrist strain but for most of us "Home-Baristas" this is not a major concern.

I recently started a thread over at CG that discussed the need for one of those beautiful $$ tampers. Some individuals posted some impressive pours using just that little plastic tamper that came with their machine. http://www.coffeegeek.com/forums/espres ... ral/159908 I've also heard many people say that they threw away their plastic tamper because they expected it to break. I don't know what plastic they were using but the ones that came with my machine and grinder are not going to break under normal use. In fact, I tried as hard as I could to break one with my hands and I couldn't even bend it. I even stood on it and it didn't break!

Getting back to high quality tampers. When you get down to it, the bottom quarter inch of these tampers which actually come in contact with the coffee are essentially the same. If you took all the fancy tampers out there and cut off the bottom face of the tamper would be able to tell which is which? I don't think I could and I spend WAY too much time fiddling with espresso tampers.

For me it boils down to what I like. I want a tamper that has some weight to it and looks good on my counter. I have to admit that my tamper choices are also functional status symbols just like my Illy alien and bodum cups.

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malachi

#8: Post by malachi »

There is a great article on tampers in the new Barista Magazine.
"Taste is the only morality." -- John Ruskin

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HB
Admin

#9: Post by HB »

Thanks for the reminder, I peruse the ones at Counter Culture Coffee and keep forgetting to subscribe. Some familiar names in this month's articles: Note that Barista Magazine offers the first issue at no cost.
Dan Kehn

Kelpburger

#10: Post by Kelpburger »

Darn, the tamper article sounds very interesting but it's not online. I went ahead and ordered my free copy but I doubt I'll get that issue.