Tamper lighter with finer grind or tamper heavier with a coarser grind?

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks.

Postby bobroseman » Dec 19, 2017, 1:27 pm

Which do you do? Does it make a difference?
Sleep is a symptom of caffeine deprivation. ~Author Unknown

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Postby cimarronEric » Dec 19, 2017, 1:28 pm

Cimarron Coffee Roasters

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Postby HB » Dec 19, 2017, 1:43 pm

I'm with Eric. If tamp pressure makes a difference, I've never noticed it. Not everyone agrees though. From Espresso pour speed of heavy vs. light tamps:

AndyS wrote:Surprised you say that, Bill. Many people have observed that, given an initial "preinfusion period," there is little difference in the average flow rate when heavily-tamped shots and lightly-tamped shots are compared.

For instance, at the 2006 SCAA show, Michael Teahan did a short presentation on his experiment comparing 10lb tamped shots to 250lb tamped shots. No difference in shot timing or average flow rate.

And more recently Tamp pressure does matter:

Charlene wrote:After first ensuring the grinds were indeed uniformly distributed prior to tamping, the problem [of an uneven pour] remained. Then, a corrective action was taken to increase the tamp pressure from 30 pounds to 32 pounds.

That was just enough tamp pressure increase to eliminate that problem.

redbone wrote:There has been some testing done on this by Socraticoffee that concluded "Tamping pressure, in the given range we assessed (5-20 kg) yielded no significant impact on TDS nor did it significantly impact the extraction itself". http://socraticcoffee.com/2015/07/the-impact-of-tamping-pressure-on-espresso-extraction/

mike guy wrote:Another resource on tamping pressure. Maximum density pressure seems to indicate minor pressure adjustments wouldn't matter.

I remain skeptical that anyone can demonstrate a difference in a blind test, but hey, never hurts to revisit old assumptions! Any takers?
Dan Kehn


Postby RyanJE » Dec 19, 2017, 2:17 pm

Ill do the drinking if its someone else prepping and using their coffee!!
I drink two shots before I drink two shots, then I drink two more....

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Postby redbone » Dec 19, 2017, 2:41 pm

The goal to tamping should be to insure a uniform spacing between grinds.

It would make sense that larger grinds offer more resistance requiring greater tamp force in order to achieve the same result.
This shouldn't be a huge difference between grind sizes with a acceptable range.

I now use a Macap CPS Dynanometric Tamper which tamps consistently and have not noticed any difference between grinds as long as they are within the ideal espresso grind range as observed by whatever machines I'm using.

Gorilla tamps would lead to slower time to achieve the same volume and over extraction affecting taste.
Between order and chaos there is espresso.
Semper discens.

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Postby bobroseman » Dec 19, 2017, 3:33 pm

I've read that tamp pressure doesn't influence taste but with a palm tamper clone, adjusting the depth by one turn took my 32 gram extraction time up by 5 seconds. I'll probably just leave it alone until I get a naked portafilter.

So do you do gorilla tamps, feather tamps or calibrated 30lb tamps?
Sleep is a symptom of caffeine deprivation. ~Author Unknown


Postby Marcelnl » replying to bobroseman » Dec 19, 2017, 5:31 pm

none of the above, I do a medium tamp since I got a palm tamper. I find it difficult to use the depth setting to get a consistent tamp, maybe due to the fluctution in environment on the grounds/beans..I'm not sure about that yet but it was enough to skip that idea quite fast. BUt I have to say that the amount used could be a factor there, my usual dose is 16-17 g.
LMWDP #483


Postby Espresso_Junky » Dec 19, 2017, 6:10 pm

For years I've achieved the best results by grinding a bit finer and tamping less, likely 12-15# at most. To be sure I don't apply too much pressure I tamp only with my thumb/index fingertips.

When I did grind more coarse and tamp heavier in the past I noticed there is only so much one can compress the puck regardless of pressure applied.

I say find something that works and stick to it, no right or wrong, just whatever works for YOU.

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Randy G.

Postby Randy G. » Dec 19, 2017, 7:00 pm

First, I have to repeat myself, that tamping to a set depth makes little sense, particularly in a home environment. Tamping to exceed some minimum force makes sense, but tamping to a depth is like asking, "How many inches do you weigh?"

Can a preset depth setting work? Yes. Will it work every time regardless as to grind and dose? No. Not without depth adjustments to the tamper. Can some specific force of tamp work? Yes. Will it work every time regardless as to grind and dose? Within reason, yes, and without adjustment to that force. Sure you can come up with some specific set of circumstances that contradict that, but if choosing a force or a depth, I feel the choice is clear.

Over the last 17 years there have been plenty of opinions as to tamping. It is an easy test. Tamp to about 15 to 20 pounds. Remove and replace the tamper and tamp to 40 pounds. Do you notice any compression? Try at 80 pounds. Many of us know Barry Jerret and he advocat(ed?)s a handstand tamp and he is just s bit smaller than a smart car.

Distribution is so much more important than tamping force, and next comes a level tamp. Beyond that, I think that the force is not worth further mention.

All this from a guy who uses a tamper that distributes, tamps level, and can be set to a specific force. I have tried the force setting at its lowest and at its greatest setting and found no discernible difference. All unscientifically, mind you.
Espresso! My Espresso!

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Postby bluesman » Dec 19, 2017, 7:01 pm

redbone wrote:It would make sense that larger grinds offer more resistance requiring greater tamp force in order to achieve the same result.

I think there's more to it than that, Robert. Particle size and shape are probably completely independent variables. The shape has to affect how tightly and how easily they'll fall into place, and the surface "finish" affects how easily they'll pack. These factors are probably more important than simple size in determining how closely together they can be packed and how much force it will take to achieve maximum compression. We know that some grinders produce "better" grinds than others. I suspect this has at least as much to do with absolute shape plus uniformity of shape and other characteristics of the ground coffee as it does with simple particle size (however you choose to measure it, since they're not perfect spheres so diameter is probably a poor measure).

If grounds were all the same size, perfectly round, and uniformly adhesive & cohesive, their size would be a major determinant of the force necessary to tamp to full compression. But they're not perfectly round and they're not perfectly uniform in shape. If some particles of the same maximum diameter (or weight or whatever you use to compare "size") have more - and, thus, smaller - facets than others, what we might call microdistribution will be drastically different from that of particles all of which have similar shapes and surface irregularities. And if the particle surfaces in those facets are rough (microscopically), they'll be harder to push against each other than if the facets are perfectly smooth.

If there's a high proportion of smaller particles (fines or larger - it doesn't matter, as long as they'll fit easily in the interstices among the big ones), the process of packing a tight puck will take less force even if many / most of the particles are large. There are now optical devices available to compare particle shape, and I suspect that they'll reveal a lot about the nature of grinding and tamping that we don't know.