"Real" ristretto tamping technique

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks.

Postby Concentration » Feb 07, 2019, 9:01 pm

Hi all,

Been very concentrated into espresso making for many years. I have developed a technique for tamping to get the desired ristretto I love (and need). Of course the grind is very fine and I am using a Baratza Forte and brew with a Profitec Pro700 machine.

I have searched many times all over the web for ways to get that rich, thick, complex ristretto that I have rarely had at a shop. Of great importance of course is finding the right beans to get to that ristretto. It is strange to me that the definition of ristretto, i.e. what actually arrives in the cup, has been lost and baristas can not be trusted to give me what I am looking for. the best examples and my targets were a cup I had once in Berkeley, CA, but way before that, in Venice, Italy.

So...the technique is my own invention and some, maybe most, out there will not think much of it. It surprisingly takes some practice to get the results; not as simple as it looks. For the open minded (and ristretto hungry) I submit to you all my technique.

The pictures attached show what I now describe: With the 14 gms of very fine coffee in your portafilter and leveled, just set the tamper lightly on top of the grinds. No need to push on the tamper. Then with your thumb and forefinger tamp lightly while moving where your digits hit on the base of the tamper, so that you are move your hand back and forth around the tamper, all the while tamping lightly. See the pictures.


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Postby yakster » Feb 07, 2019, 9:14 pm

Concentration wrote:the best examples and my targets were a cup I had once in Berkeley, CA

Was that at Scarlet City? I've been there several times.

LMWDP # 272

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Postby Radio.YYZ » Feb 07, 2019, 9:25 pm

Looks good! I will have to give this a go, 14g dose. I will try with your technique.

When you are making your drink, what does your final ratio end up being?
Good Coffee: Technique/Knowledge > Grinder > Beans > Water > Machine


Postby Concentration » Feb 07, 2019, 10:39 pm

Unfortunately I was never able to find the Berkeley cafe again. But I tried quite a bit.

Regarding the ratio question, I find that stopping by color is the best index. It is a good question, but it seems that the results are always excellent to great with the right beans of course. The espresso comes out of the spout at between 20 and 40 seconds. The grind is selected for that result of course. I don't worry if it takes even 50 seconds to start dripping that thick luscious coffee. If it takes to long to hit the cup there is an oily look to the liquid of course, which doesn't really taste "bad", but it has some harshness to it.

The ristretto is to our taste, so the tamping technique just came out of desperation to get that perfect ristretto I had had. Whatever works is my philosophy about espresso making. Everyone who has had the resulting coffee also loves it. Maybe insignificant to say, but who knows? After I stop the pour, I pull out the cup and put a paper napkin under the portafilter. I look at the drop pattern on the napkin. In crime forensics, the term is "ghost drop", which is what I look for. If I stopped at the right time, there will be ghost drops on the napkin. The drop has a slight bit of foam in the shape of a circle within a flatter round coffee drop on the napkin. I am assuming that that is a bit of crema there. If I stop the shot and the napkin shows no ghost drop pattern whatsoever, it seems that the coffee is a little less Great, but it is excellent to be sure!

I am using Filicori Delicato blend and also Masini blend by Essse Caffe. Like the Delicato somewhat better, but both beans make great ristretto, rich, and flavorful,and they are not temperamental or difficult to get the grind right. The two blends I mentioned come vacuum packed. I put the beans in separate bags that are vacuum packed by me and then frozen. Then I fill up a one pound canister and keep it refrigerated as I use it up. Never seems to get stale as I'm using it. Four double espressos a day.


Postby Concentration » Feb 07, 2019, 10:59 pm

Forgot to say. Never have I read anywhere, maybe it is out there, but I have never read where someone makes an espresso ristretto style
and the shot takes a long long time. What I mean by that, and it goes along with what I have said before here on this thread, is that
the time for the shot can be anywhere from 45 to 100 seconds. Now, I do have consistent method, so my shots get finished on average
at 60 seconds. But I have done shots even 120 seconds long and they were great. So, although this is not the conventional thought,
I am doing whatever it takes to get the result.

The result is a sweet, complex, fully flavored ristretto with superb mouth feel.

So this goes beyond the tamping technique that I came up with, but the details can maybe give a range of how to get what you want.
To go back to the standard method and results of espresso making would bypass all the flavor and mouth feel that I get from great
beans (dark, not oily at all), very fine grind that doesn't give a drop until 30 seconds or so and takes another 40 seconds until I stop it,
and in the end makes great ristretto,......like I had in Venice.

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Postby yakster » Feb 08, 2019, 4:41 pm

Concentration wrote:Unfortunately I was never able to find the Berkeley cafe again. But I tried quite a bit.

I thought it would have been Scarlet City, they only serve espresso and they only serve it ristretto.

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Postby Concentration » Feb 08, 2019, 5:31 pm

Hi Chris, I will have to check Scarlet City for sure. We have found that getting good coffee let alone a ristretto is near impossible
in the UC Berkeley city. very weird. we just visit there. my home is in Chico, about 2.5 hours away from Scarlet in Emeryville.

thanks for the tip.

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Postby Moka 1 Cup » Feb 08, 2019, 5:42 pm

Very interesting. Especially for me that I like to drink ristretto but I am a beginner as well.
So, if I understand correctly you tamp "the 14 gms of very fine coffee" very lightly.
Is there any way to better explain what 'very fine' means, in this case?

(currently I am drinking CCC Forty Six, and I am using a Lido E set at 5, and I brew 14gr in 21-23sec to obtain 26-30 gr of coffee, with a "standard" tamping method).
four minutes to make an espresso? really?


Postby Hp23 » Feb 08, 2019, 6:14 pm

First day on the forum!
Second generation American from Milan.

No tamp shorts - I pull shots with a La Pavoni lever P16 and have been trending with the Italians. I grind with a Mazzer for a target of a low pressure 10sec preinfuse and a 10sec flow (20 sec total shot time) producing a 40ml double.

The grind needs to be fluffy in the basket, if your getting any clumps your going to need to help it -use a tooth pick to probe the finished dose, this evens thing out and maintains the fluffy texture. I'm looking for consistent throughout (soft and fluffy) in the portafilter with a somewhat leveled top. The difussion screen is providing the tamp and the preinfusion is expanding the coffee mass. I vision during the preinfusion the particles are flowable since their not packed in and finding their place, perfectly consistent density is what I envision. I have the optic that when the water hits with pressure and starts the flow after this low pressure preinfuse the coffee mass has become completely homogeneous during the initial saturation and expansion. The pull, it acts like a perfectly tamped traditional shot (no channeling) and yes - grind a notch finer you'll end up choking the flow all together. I like the taste, it's plenty packed with good flavors. What's next?

I'm guessing, this no tamp trend will continue, I see no down side except my OCD carnal need to tamp and pull too much liquid, both are fun and ruin this shot. Note: High volume shots don't seem to work well with this method - they go nasty fast. Low volume (Ristretto) shots seem to be the theme of this thread, I think a long duration ristretto gives a more mellow shot, maybe the coffee cooks a bit (not burns) cooks like any vegetable and that's one more trick up our sleeve to get our perfect fix. I couldn't agree more on the low volume shot. If you want a normal shot or a long add water to the short after the pull.

I'm not a participant yet, of grinding and placing the mounded up portafilter in the machine like some Italians do, seems too simple. I'm pretty certain that it would not matter, their shots are generally spot on (grinders are top end so no clumps). Preinfuse (low pressure) has got to be the magic acting on very loosely packed coffee particles that are free to move to their natural homogeneous density as they expand with the water before the high pressure flow starts. I can testify that few of my shots channel, certainly seems like they should. Also shot volume regardless off time it takes less is more with this technique.


Postby Concentration » Feb 08, 2019, 8:31 pm

Great question. As you have or will find out, "fine"ness is an experiment (like making espresso isn't?).

So the way I find the right grind (and there are certainly other better explanations on this wonderful site)
is to get the grind (of 14g dark roast, try the brands/blends I have linked on this thread) fine so that, just
laying the tamper on the dose, after a good distribution of the grinds in the portafilter of course, and looking
at the surface of the puck it should look grainless.

So, grind finer than you think you should, put it in the portafilter, level evenly, lay the tamper onto it wihtout
any pressure from your hand, lift the tamper off and look at the coffee surface. It should be smooth without
any grain, like a flat surface. Then use the tamping technique I described at the start of this thread.

Checking fineness by finger touch or looking at it just after the grind may work for some, but it never works for
me. So I have found that the ristretto results I want start with the visual fineness I describe above.