7

For someone without an expensive machine that can regulate the pressure when tamping, how can I know how hard to tamp, and if I'm tamping too hard?

I make espresso with a counter-top machine, and I tamp with a hand-held tamper like this:

enter image description here

Should I put my whole weight on it, or just a little? Does twisting while I tamp have an effect?

7

Each new bean becomes a bit of an experiment with each new machine you use.

A rule of thumb is to grind just enough to fill the portafilter so the beveled edge of the tamper becomes flush with the edge of the portafilter using about 15kg of pressure.

A crude diagram:

    ||||||     < Tamper
| [||||||||] | < Tamper 'head' flush with portafilter edge (note, it's flush)
| .......... | < Tamped coffee
| .......... |
+------------+
    /    \     < Goodness pours out here

But how much coffee that is, and just how much over 15kg you need to apply in order to tamp that much coffee to get the right pressure to pull a great shot is a matter of science that you'll need to do. You might want a finer grind instead of more pressure, you have to experiment.

Start with your usual espresso grind setting, a dose appropriate for the size of the filter you're using and then work from there.

You can get grinders that auto tamp for you based on your settings, so when you hit that 'eureka!' moment, you can reproduce it somewhat reliably using the same equipment. For home use? Just be ready to experiment with the first few filters full when you get beans you haven't tried before.

There's no real 'rule' here, other than you want as much coffee as you can get in the filter with the tamper sinking flush given about 15kg-ish of pressure. It varies wildly from there.

5

When i started brewing espresso some years ago i started out with placing a robust scale on the counter and applying pressure while reading the weight in order to measure how hard i tamped my coffee. By doing this i was also able to experiment with the weight in order to determine the actual significance of the pressure applied to the puck.

  • ...and what were your findings? – fredley Jan 28 '15 at 9:43
  • 2
    That even if i tamped exactly as the theory describes it wont be perfect, because the grind, temperature and pressure of the espresso machine also has an impact on the shot. You can use the 15kg pressure as a null-point. And then adjust one parameter at a time (grind or tamping weight). Most importantly taste the end product and don't rely 100% on the technical parameters. – JavaCake Jan 28 '15 at 9:47

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