How to choose a tamper?

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks.
EspressoGirl
Posts: 79
Joined: October 6th, 2008

Postby EspressoGirl » Feb 26, 2009, 6:14 pm

Since these seem to be primarily available by mail order, I need some help from experienced users.

How does one choose a tamper when one cannot try it/hold it first?

I have some RSI problems from typing, so ergonomics are crucial to me. I held a high-quality aluminum one from David Schomer that had a long "handle" at a local coffee bar, and I liked the lightweightness of it, but maybe the lightness is not good. I had always thought heavyweight stainless was best. I held a heavy stainless one at same coffee bar and it had shorter "handle" too. Both its weight and shortness seemed awkward for me. But maybe it is just a matter of getting used to?

What are the things to take into consideration before buying?
Is there a way to determine right size of tamper "handle" compared to the size of one's hand or fingers?
Is stainless steel and/or heavy weight more likely to provide a better tamp (or does that make it easier to do so)?

BTW, I have a 58mm basket in a Gaggia Classic. Are the 58 mm sized tampers all a true 58mm, or can that vary slightly as well? I saw a site tell people to measure their baskets before ordering...

Help--I don't know where to begin....

Thanks.

EricL
Posts: 206
Joined: December 15th, 2008

Postby EricL » Feb 26, 2009, 6:24 pm

There are probably as many opinions as people, but this thread
/knockbox/hb-roadshow-espresso-tamper-reviews-t1912.html
looks at a lot of choices & members giving opinions.
In a nutshell, no they're not all the same size. 58mm may mean 57.7 to 58.1 or so.
That may or may not matter depending on who you read.
It's largely a personal choice.

I used a Vivace Ergotamper for years, just switched to a Reg Barber with a wooden handle, which I like better. I find it easier to get level.
But read the thread, and maybe you'll come up with some more questions.

EspressoGirl
Posts: 79
Joined: October 6th, 2008

Postby EspressoGirl » Feb 26, 2009, 6:51 pm

Thanks. I'll be reading all that later. I already have a new question: since there is some minor size variation, how tight a fit should it be? There has to be enough space to move, so... but how much space is too much? what can you say about this issue?
thanks.

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danetrainer
Posts: 530
Joined: February 20th, 2008

Postby danetrainer » Feb 26, 2009, 7:17 pm

I can answer your question about the size issue (I hope you have a digital vernier caliper) I just waited 8 months for a custom sized tamper from Germany, I requested 58.8 to allow .2mm (equates to .008"). The size that arrived actually measures 58.6mm, it has more clearance than necessary in my basket that measures 59.0mm. Hope this helps...

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roastaroma
Posts: 174
Joined: February 2nd, 2008

Postby roastaroma » Feb 26, 2009, 7:32 pm

Ciao Sarah,

I can't say which tamper you ought to buy, but I can give a caveat about "generic" tampers like the one I once had (in the photo): about $40, stainless steel, wonderfully heavy, large ball-end, all stuff I like. The one big snag: it actually measured 57 mm, so big a gap that I had to do the Staub (NSEW) tamp all the time. Now that I have a custom Thor tamper (for my new macchina), the fit is perfect. I think that if you have ~.2 mm of clearance, the piston shouldn't get stuck, but there could be a bit of friction as coffee grinds catch in between. No biggie.

Ergonomically, I think large rounded handles are the way to go. My hands are not big, but as long as my fingers can reach the piston, I reckon that's a good fit.

Image

At the risk of opening a jumbo can of worms re tamping, I believe you can take it easier on your hand/wrist by not doing Schomer's Holy 30-lb. Tamp, and letting your grinder do the hard work, i.e., grind finer & tamp lighter. Like the Italians, only not quite as casual. :wink:
"Non è la macchina, è la mano."
LMWDP #223

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cafeIKE
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Joined: June 27th, 2006

Postby cafeIKE » Feb 26, 2009, 7:34 pm

EspressoGirl wrote:Thanks. I'll be reading all that later. I already have a new question: since there is some minor size variation, how tight a fit should it be? There has to be enough space to move, so... but how much space is too much? what can you say about this issue?
thanks.

Anything tighter than 0.5mm is a PITA.
Between 0.5mm and 1mm is ideal.

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danetrainer
Posts: 530
Joined: February 20th, 2008

Postby danetrainer » Feb 26, 2009, 7:57 pm

Anything tighter than 0.5mm is a PITA.
Between 0.5mm and 1mm is ideal.


Certainly depending on your basket, ridged types (and tapered sides) this would be true, but if it has straight sides and is ridgeless this much clearance is unnecessary. All this has to be taken into account.

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cafeIKE
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Joined: June 27th, 2006

Postby cafeIKE » Feb 26, 2009, 8:21 pm

Sorry, but I disagree. I have ridgeless, straight-sided baskets and half a dozen tampers varying from 57.7 to 58.5mm.

Anything tighter than 0.5mm is a PITA.

EDIT : Handle shape can be completely irrelevant

Image

EricL
Posts: 206
Joined: December 15th, 2008

Postby EricL » Feb 26, 2009, 8:42 pm

And then, just to complicate matters, she has to consider flat, euro curve, us curve, C-flat, rippled or non rippled :twisted:

A qualified 'most' think the US curve is best, but the difference isn't that great. My RB is a flat.
But do go for stainless over aluminum, or something heavy like copper/brass.

[edit] or WOOD!, in the case of the Thor tamper.

zin1953
Posts: 2529
Joined: December 27th, 2005

Postby zin1953 » Feb 26, 2009, 8:54 pm

EspressoGirl wrote:How does one choose a tamper when one cannot try it/hold it first?

Welcome to the World of Espresso, Sarah! :twisted: :roll: :wink:

Seriously, not being able to touch, feel, or try out a tamper before you buy is a problem, but at least it's less of a problem than buying an espresso machine or a grinder without trying it! You've already been referred to the Home-Barista Roadshow Tamper Review . . . definitely worth reading. Keep in mind, too, that most of the tampers can come with different handles. For example, Bumper tampers can come with four different handles on either flat or covenx 58mm bases (let alone their other sizes). So with Bumper alone, you have eight options . . .

Personally, I have two Bumper 58 mm tampers, both convex -- one for my Elektra and one for my La Valentina. I also have a flat 49mm Compressore Tamper with a round Cocobolo handle for my Olympia Cafferex., and a 45mm tamper for my Arraex Caravel.

The largest selection of tampers that I know of is at Espresso Parts NW, but they don't carry everything by any means. For example, you can get Thor Tampers direct; they are beautiful works of art. And Reg Barber tampers can be ordered from various vendors (including Espresso Parts NW), but they will also make custom tampers just for you (and your machine).

The bottom line is you have to try them . . . and you may end up owning a couple . . . you can always sell them (or make sure of the return policy before you buy!).

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

 
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