Espresso Tamping

Today we’re going to talk about some beginning tips for tamping for espresso.

So tamping is one of the really unique parts of making espresso. It’s essential that you really compress that puck of coffee to create the necessary restriction for that interaction to actually happen.

So, tamping can be unpredictable, difficult or complicated and it has really big implications on what comes out of your machine. That’s why I ran out some beginning tips for you to start doing this.

So, first, let’s go ahead and dose some coffee. Something that’s often overlooked when you’re tamping is where it starts and it really starts with- even distribution and packing starts when you grind.

Portafilter Tamping

So, as I dose this portafilter I’m going to be doing my best to make sure that as the coffee leaves this puck here it’s really evenly settling here.

I don’t want it to blast against one wall and pack up there, I want it to settle really evenly. So I’m going to move this as I actually dose. I’m going to weigh that just to make sure I’m being consistent.

Helps in consistent preparation with the dose and everything. So, about nineteen and a half grams, which just fine. So at this point, I have a loose pile of coffee grounds in the basket.

I did my best to make sure they’re settled evenly in there. I’m going to give it a little bit of a shake just to make sure they’re settling, even more, get rid of that big mound before I press.

I use my finger to push them back and forth. This part is like when you’re measuring flour into a measuring cup as you bake. It forms an air pocket and if it doesn’t settle evenly it’s not dense enough to fall that way.

So, we just move this around, use your fingers just to make sure it’s nice and even before you even press. So we have pretty evenly distributed coffee in there and now we’re going to get ready to tamp.

You can use either a normal tamper like this, which has a vertical handle or a prima tamp which is what I’m going to use, which has an adjustable handle right there. You do want to make as you’re tamping that base of your tamper matches the actual diameter of the basket here.

So this is VST basket, which means it’s just over fifty-eight millimeters, so 58.35 or so and that’s actually the diameter of this base here.

So, I’m just going to mix really well, it’s going to be very flush against the wall so that we’re getting all the coffee compacted. So, it helps to use the tamping mat, it keeps things stable. I’m going to put my portafilter on the mat here and I’m just going to very gently set the tamper inside of the basket.

Not really applying any force here, just setting it inside and I’m going to put my fingers around the base so that I can actually feel the edge of the basket and just make sure that it’s level. Then, while still feeling that edge, I’m going to get in position with my thumb and pointer finger around the base,

I’m going to line up my hand, wrist, arm, all the way to my elbow trying to make sure that everything is in line all the way through the elbow and then I’m going to press firmly with roughly thirty pounds of pressure. Press right there and then I’m going to lighten up and twist. That twist right there is going to help settle loose grounds and polish that puck so that it’s nice and even and ready to be extracted.

So, I mentioned as I was pressing, I use about thirty pounds of pressure. One thing that’s very important to emphasize is the much higher importance of evenness over the intensity of your strength or force.

So thirty pounds is good in certain places. You can actually use a bathroom scale to get to know what that feels like. What’s more important is that you’re pressing consistently with the same amount of force and you’re evening that puck.

So, a puck that’s evenly pressed with 25 or even 45 pounds of pressure is okay. A puck that’s been tilted like this is not okay. So, you really want to be emphasizing that evenness. That’s just one reason that you align everything; hand, wrist, arm up to your elbow so you have this even motion right there is going to help make sure that the puck itself is even.

So, that’s been pressed and polished. Right after that, you can go ahead and gently lock it in the group head. I say gently because if you knock the portafilter anywhere after you’ve tamped accidentally hit the brew or you tap with your hand or something, you’re actually disrupting the integrity of that puck and it’s not going to be as evenly compact anymore. At that point, you can go ahead and brew your espresso.

If I have done this well, which is still possible that I’ve not, you’re going to see a really nice, even stream after it starts to drip. So you can see that drops are forming into one. I’m using a bottomless portafilter so I can actually see how it’s flowing and it’s just about in the middle. There actually is one spraying that indicates some channeling, which means a couple of things.

It could mean that the coffee grounds are clumping too much, it could mean that I have tilted the tamp a little bit or it could mean that I didn’t distribute well when I was first grinding. So here’s our shot.

After you tamp, I’m just sort of troubleshooting, you can check out the wet puck so you can actually see what went wrong here. I’m really glad this happened so you can see what mine looks like. You can see there’s this little pocket here where something uneven that attracted the water to that spot so it shot right through.

So, that’s actually a really good example of what you can look for when you’re troubleshooting afterwards. If you’re not tamping evenly or something is wrong with the grounds or consistency of the clumping, then you’re going to be able to see that just by looking at that wet puck.

It’s really helpful. Again, I do recommend using a bottomless portafilter for that very reason. It helps you to diagnose or troubleshoot while you’re brewing. So, that’s just sort of jumping right into tamping. Give it a few tries and let us know if you have any questions. Thanks.

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