Are tampers overrated?

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks.
clausbmortensen

#1: Post by clausbmortensen »

I'm sure I'll be opening a can of worms with this question - but the obsession that many coffee enthusiasts have with tampers is a bit beyond me.

So, how necessary is a "good tamper" really?

With the exception of the choice of flat vs. curved it would seem to me that it's really a question of "what you do with it" and not the size, make and shape etc. I've been using the simple piece of plastic that came with my old Gaggia Classic (or was it the MDF grinder?) and it seems to do the job just fine.

If you do a lot of cups every day a nicely ergonomic handle would be better of course, but beyond that?

Cheers

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HB
Admin

#2: Post by HB »

I've said it before: The tamp is near the bottom of my list of important contributors to exceptional espresso. But I'm a fan of craftsmanship and well-made tampers showcase good craftsmanship. Are they overrated? Sure. By the same token, so are Motta pitchers, illy collection cups, and many other expensive pieces of top-notch barista kit. The surface of a coffee puck doesn't know the difference between a prefabricated Made in China tamper or a TORR tamper skillfully made with rare wood and precision machining; but I do.
Dan Kehn

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cafeIKE

#3: Post by cafeIKE »

Tampers are Barista Jewelery

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Marshall

#4: Post by Marshall »

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.
Marshall
Los Angeles

clausbmortensen

#5: Post by clausbmortensen »

cafeIKE wrote:Tampers are Barista Jewelery
Well I certainly don't want to tread on any Barista toes by dissing their bling-bling :-)

Just wanted to make certain I wasn't missing something.

Cheers,
Claus

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shadowfax

#6: Post by shadowfax »

cafeIKE wrote:Tampers are Barista Jewelery
No, they're not. Ever tried a shot of espresso through a diamond-crusted grill? You'll change your mind about iced espresso! :twisted:
Nicholas Lundgaard

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cannonfodder
Team HB

#7: Post by cannonfodder »

I have said it before, a bad tamp will ruin a good dose, but no amount of tamping will fix a bad dose. The tamp simply insures there is an even puck of coffee void of air pockets. Having said that, I do appreciate the artistic work that goes into some tampers and I am no good at pulling shots without one although that is the norm in Europe.
Dave Stephens

Gus

#8: Post by Gus »

cannonfodder wrote:I have said it before, a bad tamp will ruin a good dose, but no amount of tamping will fix a bad dose. The tamp simply insures there is an even puck of coffee void of air pockets.
Dave's right

Quality craftsmanship can never be over appreciated, but I think tampers in general receive way too much critical discussion. I am particularly amazed and amused by how much attention is given to the topic of custom fit, with clearance specs befitting a Ferrari engine, and relative price tags to match. I do think a quality tool makes the job more enjoyable. But the skill in the execution of this seemingly perfunctory task will have greater impact on the result than the tool will. An el' cheapo wrench will turn a nut just as well as a Snap-on. It is the skill of the mechanic that will determine how well the engine runs.

Learning to tamp skillfully is much more important than what you are tamping with. It is a simple task that is surprisingly difficult to execute, and technique and tool vary greatly. I guess I can see how people get hung up on the subject, just not why. I think there is way too much focus on gear and not enough focus on practice. There is certainly a minimum tool kit, but the best possible results will only come from logging serious hours in front your gear, not the gear itself, and certainly not the tamper. Get what you want, but don't get hung up on it; it's a coffee ground compactor that's it.


Gus
Gus

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espressoed

#9: Post by espressoed »

Gus wrote:I guess I can see how people get hung up on the subject, just not why. I think there is way too much focus on gear and not enough focus on practice.
To each his own, to be sure. But in all my time lurking and posting on HB I never thought I'd read a post suggesting that there is not enough focus on any element of espresso herein. More like downright remarkable that anyone could think so.
All the coffee in Ethiopia won't make me a morning person.

zin1953

#10: Post by zin1953 »

espressoed wrote:To each his own, to be sure. But in all my time lurking and posting on HB I never thought I'd read a post suggesting that there is not enough focus on any element of espresso herein. More like downright remarkable that anyone could think so.
Perhaps you weren't lurking enough . . . :wink:

I would think most of would agree that espresso isn't a function of "one size fits all," meaning there is only one "right" way to produce a great espresso. Some people use double-boiler machines and get great results; some don't. Some may use HX machines and pull great shots; some don't. And some pull great shots on open boiler lever machines . . . and some don't. Let along the variations in grinders (the type and size of the burr set), the coffee beans (all Arabica? some Robusta? how much, and from where? roast level? and so on), and the individual pulling the shots.

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 . . .

When it comes to tampers, most of us would agree that the plastic ones you get for free with nearly every new machine are crap. But beyond that . . .
HB wrote:I've said it before: The tamp is near the bottom of my list of important contributors to exceptional espresso.
Keep in mind it remains an "important contributor," not an unimportant one. But I'm with Dan -- as long as it gets the job done, the rest is all "extra."

Just my 2¢ -- worth far less, I'm sure - keep the change.

Cheers,
Jason
A morning without coffee is sleep. -- Anon.