Tamping Ergonomics

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks.
Anthony

#1: Post by Anthony »

I have recently noticed a pain in my right inner shoulder that at first I attributed to other activities (change in bikes for winter cycling, off-season workouts, etc.). It finally became apparent that this pain occurred every time I began to tamp. I pull about 8-10 shots a day--so not that much of a repetitive problem; I grasp the tamp as if I were to shake someone's hand, slightly rotate my elbow out, and tamp. The problem seems to be that I am tamping at the kitchen counter height, and this now appears to be too high. Why this is showing up just now, I am not sure. While it is a bother, I temporarily moved my "tamping station" to a lower surface, that this seems to have helped a lot.

So my question: Does anyone have suggestions as to a proper tamping height? Of course, it does not make sense to have an objective height in terms of a fixed measurement because the proper height will have to vary according to the stature of the barista. But perhaps some of you have advice about optimal flex is elbow or how high the platform should come up relative to the knee or hip .... My next goal now is to fashion a proper tamping area!

Thanks

Theodore

#2: Post by Theodore »

Follow me.
Macap CPS automatic tamper,like the one I have,and no more pain.Trust me.
I think the piston, is 57.5mm.
Espresso uber alles.

Anthony

#3: Post by Anthony »

Thanks Theodore. But sometimes I alternate between a flat tamper and a convex tamper. And also, part of the "fun" for me is tamping, getting one's hands messy, watching/tasting extractions (good and bad) dialing in tamping techniques, pressures, etc.

EricL

#4: Post by EricL »

I honestly used to tamp until I felt a creak in my shoulder. That was my internal 'espro' point. But it was probably 60 lbs or more. I've tried to back off to closer to 30-40 lbs. Chances are you are tamping too hard. A lower table will help too. David Schomer sets up his cafe's at a specific height, but I can't find it right now.

chipman

#5: Post by chipman »

My opinion, and I could be wrong (usually am) that consistency in the tamp is more important than the amount of pressure. Why not grind a little finer and tamp a little lighter and see what the results are. If the pain is still there maybe a different diameter handle might help?

You're a cyclist, correct? You know the stress that a death grip on your bars cause, maybe the same is happening with your tamping style.

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RegulatorJohnson

#6: Post by RegulatorJohnson »

i went from a home barista pulling 5 or so shots a day to shop owner pulling 50 or more shots a day.

i get the barista elbow pain from squeezing the tamper during the tamp. i sometimes will tamp without the gorilla grip for a day and it helps. i noticed that when i wring out a sponge or the milk towel that my elbow hurts. YMMV.

jon
jon stovall
--
coffeetoolsapp.com

Anthony

#7: Post by Anthony »

chipman wrote:My opinion, and I could be wrong (usually am) that consistency in the tamp is more important than the amount of pressure. Why not grind a little finer and tamp a little lighter and see what the results are. If the pain is still there maybe a different diameter handle might help?

You're a cyclist, correct? You know the stress that a death grip on your bars cause, maybe the same is happening with your tamping style.
Thanks. Could be. Yes, a cyclist. In the spring and summer I am a wanna-be trackie, racing on fixed (200m sprints). In the winter I spend time in the gym in part for upper body strength. That is why I thought originally I had injured my shoulder somehow. But I am more and more convinced it is due to the height (and position) of the countertop.

Also--and I defer to others--but I don't think that the tamp pressure correlates to finer grind. Given the experiments done and posted here on HB, it appears that 30-40lbs of pressure or less does not make a decisive difference when hundreds of pounds of pressure hit the puck at 9 bar. Tightening the grind (with same humidity) will lead a normale to a ristretto, and a ristretto to, well ... not much. The "death-grip" you mention [edit: and the "gorilla grip" that Jon mentioned!] might be an issue, however. I will have to watch that.

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malachi

#8: Post by malachi »

1 - hip height tamping surfaces are the dream (in case you don't know - I'm short and have suffered with too-high counters a lot).

2 - make sure your forearm is vertical when tamping. This seems to reduce strain on the shoulder.

3 - 30lbs is probably about half what you think it is. You really don't need to tamp any harder than this and in fact you don't need to tamp hard at all for the most part (tamping really is just about preserving the bed - not crushing the coffee).

4 - check out your wrist angle when tamping. A lot of tampers have handles that are too long for my hand size and force my wrist to a weird angle. Others are too short - which also creates a weird wrist angle. The goal is to find a tamper that allows a neutral wrist position while tamping.

The above are for shoulder strain while tamping. Not all are universal for wrist or elbow problems from tamping.
"Taste is the only morality." -- John Ruskin

thaxton

#9: Post by thaxton »

Right Schomer: the whole arm should be as a straight line (including the wrist)
Wrong (or outdated) Shomer: 20 pounds tamp pressure. I think half of it with respectively fine ground is enough.
And the tamper with handle lenght suitable for your palm size.

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timo888

#10: Post by timo888 »

Reminds me of that stupid childhood joke...

Why did the fool keep tapping himself on the forehead with a hammer?

ANSWER: !deppots eh nehw feiler a hcus saw tI


Tamp lightly. Adjust grind.

Regards
T