Are tampers overrated? - Page 2

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks for making espresso.
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#11: Post by HB »

zin1953 wrote:Keep in mind it remains an "important contributor," not an unimportant one.
Let me put it another way: A raw newbie with 10 minutes of qualified instruction will tamp properly; they might need a refresher the next day requiring an additional 5 minutes. Other than that, they're pretty much good to go for life. The same newbie with an hour of instruction will struggle to diagnose the cause of an uneven extraction without assistance. The same newbie with an additional hour of instruction will still struggle to diagnose the cause of common taste defects.

Bottom line: If you're having trouble getting the tamp right, you've really got a problem. :?
Dan Kehn

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#12: Post by RapidCoffee »

Gus wrote:An el' cheapo wrench will turn a nut just as well as a Snap-on.
The analogy to a wrench is appropriate. It takes just about as much skill to tamp a puck as it does to turn a nut.

I agree with Dan: other mechanical aspects of puck preparation and shot pulling require much more skill than tamping. Diagnosis and correction of taste defects, via adjustment of grind, dose, brew temp and pressure, is far more difficult. I still consider myself a novice in that arena.

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#13: Post by espressoed »

zin1953 wrote:Perhaps you weren't lurking enough . . . :wink:
Are you trying to suggest my lurking was in some way deficient? Dude, I lurked long and I lurked hard. Where I come from they call me Dr. Lurkenstein, King of all lurkers.

zin1953 wrote:For me, when Gus writes, "I think there is way too much focus on gear and not enough focus on practice," it makes perfect sense to me. Then again, since we're not all living in the same dorm, it's a bit difficult to comment on each other's techniques . . .

Thus, we talk about gear -- so much so, in fact, that there are times when it may seem that the "fourth M" (Mano dell'operatore) is unimportant, when it is actually the most important. Indeed, we spend more time talking about machines, rather than grinders, more about grinders than the beans, and more about the means than ourselves.

Seems to me there's a pattern there . . .
That's an overt pattern to be sure, but isn't there also a hidden pattern? Doesn't our conversation regarding the three other "M's" and their ancillary topics on HB frequently include discussion of the "fourth M" within?
zin1953 wrote:Just my 2¢ -- worth far less, I'm sure - keep the change.
Don't ever discount yourself, Jason. :wink:
All the coffee in Ethiopia won't make me a morning person.

clausbmortensen (original poster)

#14: Post by clausbmortensen (original poster) »

I'm glad my question spawned some vivid discussion among both lurkers and non-lurkers.

I still say that even though the piece of plastic that came with my machine is "a piece of crap" I still find that it gets the job done. If someone gave me a better tamper for my next birthday the plastic one would probably end up in the bin though...

My next post will be "Are grinders overrated or are a pestle and mortar good enough, really?"



#15: Post by Theodore »

I think that worse is,other than not doing the job, a danger with those plastics,that they may break,and injure your hand.
It was for this reason,when I changed to a RB,some years ago.
Espresso uber alles.


#16: Post by Vater5B »

Marshall wrote:For home baristas, they are pure jewelry. For professional baristas, who deal with repetitive stress injuries, the ergonomics come first, and then the jewelry side.
I second this statement. You can get by with darn near any tamper, but after five days of eight-hours of serving drinks, you'll start to feel it if your tamper isn't ergonomically sound.

That's why I love RB. :)

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#17: Post by cannonfodder »

But this is also Home barista not pro barista. In your average home it is far less important but having said that. I turn my own handles on the lathe so they fit my stubby ham hock of a hand just right. I have 3 or 4 tampers and appreciate the craftsmanship that went into each one, but they are all still just a fancy coffee hammer.
Dave Stephens

Ken Fox

#18: Post by Ken Fox »

Five minutes ago I pulled a 14g shot (of Ethiopian Bonko) on my rotary machine. For the first time in my recollection, I completely forgot to tamp, at all, and only realized what I'd done after I locked the PF in the machine. Thinking of this thread, I decided to just go ahead and pull the shot with no tamp whatsoever.

It was a normal looking gooey shot that poured out of the bottomless PF in my machine. It tasted just fine, also. There is no way I could have distinguished that shot from any other I have pulled with the benefit of tamping, at least not since I started dosing in this vicinity.

What, me worry?

Alfred E. Neuman, 1955

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#19: Post by another_jim »

Here's another tack ...

The tamper makes a fine distribution and leveling tool. Just roll the piston around its edge (and basket edge) once or twice, and the cake is distributed. For the technically minded, this is called nutation. Now use your ring finger and thumb at the piston sides to gauge the depth of the piston and rotate the basket or PF 180 degrees, making sure its the same depth all round. Now you're level. If you want to give it a light press after that, no sweat.

If you distribute and level without using a tamper, IMO, you may as well use the plastic one on the doser.
Jim Schulman


#20: Post by zin1953 »

Danger! Danger! Warning, Will Robinson! Boring philosophical thread drift ahead!
espressoed wrote:That's an overt pattern to be sure, but isn't there also a hidden pattern? Doesn't our conversation regarding the three other "M's" and their ancillary topics on HB frequently include discussion of the "fourth M" within?
Far be it for me to be a contrarian, but . . .

Let's make vast over-generalizations and -simplifications for a moment and proclaim there are only three types of people on this site: lurkers and true newbies, true experts and/or professionals, and the rest of us -- who possess varying degrees of experience ranging from a "10" to a "90" on some mythical scale; with the lurkers being a 0-10, and the pros being 90-100. (This is a variation on the famed "80-10-10 Rule.")

It often seems to me that, in terms of importance, the "Four M's" are typically listed in reverse order of importance: rather than Macchina espresso (machine), Macinadosatore (grinder), Miscela (blend of coffee beans), and Mano dell'operatore (us -- the people who pull the shots), it should be the other way 'round. And yet, it is that order which dominates the discussion . . .

Thus, it is distinctly, possible if not probable, that many new people to espresso focus too much on the equipment and not enough on the coffee itself and upon the technique . . . that's all I'm really saying here.

A morning without coffee is sleep. -- Anon.