For the true coffee aficionado, there’s nothing like a well-made cup of espresso. Getting to that cup takes a number of carefully thought-out and executed steps, including tamping the grounds into a solid puck. Using the right espresso tamper can make all the difference in the quality of the brew that ends up in your cup.
Why use an espresso tamper? Ground coffee needs to be packed firmly in a portafilter basket and a tamper is how it gets done properly. You need to find a one that fits the portafilter that comes with your espresso machine. The right-sized espresso tamper will do the job more effectively to produce that perfect shot.
Of course, aside from being the right size and price, the overall aesthetic, the material it is made of, ease of use and how it feels in your hand are some other important factors to consider before buying an espresso tamper.
We features six espresso tampers you can purchase online. Read on to find the one that suits you best.
1. Top Pick Best Versatile: RSVP International (TAM) Dual Sided Coffee Espresso Tamper
Many espresso machines do not come with a tamper, so if you want to create perfect shots, it’s best to purchase a good tamper. Before you do, you must measure the size of your portafilter, so the tamper actually fits and goes its job correctly.
The great thing about this dual-sided coffee tamper is that each side is a slightly different size, which makes tamping easier and more accurate. Both ends of the tamper will evenly distribute, compress and level your coffee, resulting in a richer and more flavorful brew.
Made from a heavy die cast aluminum alloy, the two flat tamping sides measure 51mm (2-inches) and 58mm (2-1/4-inches), and measures 2-3/4-inches by 2-1/4-inches by 2-3/4-inches overall and should fit most commercial espresso machines.
With no chemical coating on the tamper, the alloy will resist corrosion from the acids often found in coffee. It’s easy to clean, too. Simply hand wash with warm soapy water and dry thoroughly.
- Dual sided
- 51 mm and 58 mm
- Made of a die cast aluminum alloy
- Should not be cleaned in the dishwasher
2. Top Pick Best Budget-Minded: Apextone Coffee Tamper 51mm Espresso Tamper
If you are looking for a nicely weighted, 51mm espresso tamper that won’t break the bank, then consider this one from Apextone.
Made from chrome-plated, rust and corrosion proof solid iron, this tamper will fit nicely in your hand and give you enough heft to tamp down freshly ground espresso coffee beans. At 51mm, the tamper will fit most commercial espresso machines, although it’s always good to measure your portafilter accurately before purchasing a tamper.
Attractive with a shiny silver color, this coffee tamper will not only look good beside your machine, it will make tamping easy so your single or double shot will come out aromatic and smooth every time.
- Made of solid iron
- Chrome plated
- Rust and corrosion proof
- Two-pieces sometimes feel loose
3. Top Pick Best Easy-to-Use: CoreReplace Coffee Distributor and Leveler
This espresso tamper doesn’t look a lot like some other models, but don’t let its low-profile design fool you. The base is designed to work with 53mm portafilter baskets.
The advantages of using this coffee tamper is twofold: it allows you to better distribute the grinds in the portafilter to provide a larger flat surface area, and then using the palm of your hand to twist the top, you have greater control and consistency over the final product. As well, instead of exerting downward pressure like with other styles, it takes less energy to compress your coffee grinds.
You can adjust the height of the damper using a screw-type mechanism to suit different doses or baskets. The base is made of solid food-grade 304-stainless steel, with an anti-slip alloy handle to give you a secure grip.
For ease of use and consistently solid tamping, you really can’t go wrong with this espresso distributor/tamper. When it’s time to clean the tamper, it’s best to gently wash it with soap and water.
- Anti-rust, low profile design
- Adjustable height
- Base made from food-grade 304-stainless steel
- Does not work with all espresso machine portafilters
4. Top Pick Best Spring Loaded Model: LuxHaus 53mm Calibrated Espresso Tamper
While it may seem as if all espresso tampers look alike and do the same job, the reality is, looks can deceive. Depending on your hand and arm strength, and how hard you want to work on tamping down on coffee grinds to make a firm puck, the heft and weight of an espresso tamper will determine the ease in which you get the job done.
With this calibrated espresso tamper, you don’t have to work very hard to ensure a good, hard-packed product to then slip into the machine to make that perfect cup. And if you are a perfectionist when it comes to making espresso, then this tamper is for you.
Designed to fit portafilters on most commercial espresso machines for home use, this tamper is spring-loaded and pressure sensitive, so when fully compressed, the coffee grounds in the portafilter are compacted with consistent pressure every time. That means to get the right pressure every time, you just have to push down on the handle. You don’t have to rely on how you are feeling on a particular day or guess when it’s done, as the tamper really does all the work for you.
This coffee tamper has an ergonomic BPA-free calibrated compression handle and a food grade, 100 percent stainless steel rust-resistant perfectly flat base, with no chemical coating to flake off or dull the finish. It comes with a lovely red velvet pouch in which to store the tamper when not in use. To make sure you get the right size for your machine, it’s recommended to use the tamper sizing guide to measure your filter.
This espresso tamper, with the red velvet storage pouch, makes an ideal gift for the espresso perfectionist in your life.
- Takes the guesswork out of tamping
- Calibrated tamper
- Made from 100 percent stainless steel
- More expensive than other models
5. Top Pick Best Gift Set: KYONANO Wood Espresso Tamper 51 mm
If you’re looking for a cool gift for the barista in your life or if you want to pamper yourself with a special addition to your new espresso machine, check out this great wooden-handled espresso tamper, silicone tamper mat and sleek milk pitcher.
The base of this 51mm tamper is made of food-grade stainless steel that won’t corrode or rust, and a gorgeous dark-grain stained African sandalwood, ergonomic handle that won’t crack or degrade. The set also includes a handy little silicone mat so when you’re done tamping, you can rest the tamper on the mat until you need it again.
And since the handle of the coffee tamper can be removed easily from the base, cleanup is a breeze, since the base of the tamper and the milk pitcher can be popped into the dishwasher.
If you’re tastes lean more to cappuccino or lattes, then you’ll love the 12-ounce milk pitcher that comes with the set. Made of high quality stainless steel, it is perfect for creating a beautiful milky froth.
The elegant polished edges of the pitcher’s handle offers a comfortable grip while you’re frothing milk, and the spout makes for a steady, slow controlled pour into the cup with less chance of spilling. With a measurement scale etched on the interior of the milk pitcher, miscalculating the right amount of milk you need to use will be a thing of the past.
- Tamper is made from stainless steel with a sandalwood handle
- Base can be removed from the handle or easy cleaning
- Comes with a silicone tamper mat and a milk pitcher
- More expensive than just a tamper on its own
6. Top Pick Best Unique Design: The Original Gourmet Espresso Tamper
For something completely different in terms of design, this espresso tamper breaks the mold on anything you’d ever expect to see. Unlike most tampers with flat-bottom bases, this espresso tamper has a unique concave structure.
Made from an anodized alloy with a glossy black finish, each side of this espresso tamper is concave, with one size measuring 50mm and the other side 55mm. Each side is also accented with a genuine Swarovski Austrian crystal that has been carefully positioned in the center to prevent the ground coffee from riding up on the inside of the portafilter.
Designed to fit all brand-name espresso portafilter baskets, this affordable tamper is heat resistant and can be put in the dishwasher, but to maintain the shine, it’s best to gently hand wash. The low profile design of this espresso tamper is ideal for anyone with arthritic hands who may have trouble gripping and pressing down on a traditionally designed coffee tamper.
- Unique concave design
- One 50mm side and one 55mm side
- Shiny finish may come off in the dishwasher
What to consider when looking for an espresso tamper:
Why buy an espresso tamper? The most common reason is that the espresso machine you purchase may not have included one. As well, even if one came with your machine, it could have broken, got lost, or you just may not find it comfortable to use. For any of these reasons, you may one day find yourself on the lookout for an espresso tamper and wonder what to thin about before making a purchase. The following is a short guide on some of the factors to consider to be able to make an informed decision.
Size: As mentioned earlier, perhaps the most important factor to consider is the size of the coffee tamper. If the base of the tamper is too large, it will not fit into the portafilter and will be useless. If it’s too large, it will take more energy to get the job done, plus getting a really air-free, solid result may not be possible, or may not be consistent every time. Many brands of espresso tampers have a sizing chart as a guideline to help you measure the size of your portafilter.
Portafilters range in size from 48mm to 58mm, with 58mm being the most common size. The first step to determining the right size espresso tamper for your machine is to measure the portafilter across the diameter. Use a measuring tape that has millimeter increments. If you only have one with inches, then you can convert the inches to millimeters by multiplying the size of the portafilter by 25.4. For example, if the diameter of your portafilter measures 2.33 inches, then multiply it by 25.4 to get 59.18 mm. Once you find out the size, them purchase a tamper that is .75mm smaller. In this case, then, it would be 59.18 – 0.75 = 58.43mm.
Design: Espresso tampers come in a variety of designs, most of which work well to get the job done. Some are made of two pieces comprised of a handle and a base and can be taken apart, which can be convenient for cleaning. However, sometimes, if the tamper is not constructed well, the handle can feel loose on the base, which can affect how well it functions. That’s why some people prefer a one-piece, solid design.
While many tamper designs have a handle, others have a low profile design that consists mainly of a base. This is placed on the portafilter and is then rotated back and forth to compress the coffee grounds. This method is sometimes easier for people to use as it requires less energy (or heft) to operate. For variety, some tampers have two sides that are different sizes, which is convenient if you have more than one espresso machine, or if you change machines and the size of the portafilters are different. Finally, some of the low-profile designs also distribute the coffee evenly into the basket before the tamping begins.
Aside from aesthetics, choose a design that best suits your barista style, how much control you want to have over the final product and the ease in which it takes to get the job done.
What is an espresso tamper? What is it used for?
An espresso tamper is a weighted press that you use to compress espresso grinds in the cradle of your coffee maker. Tamping is an absolutely essential part of making espresso. Regular coffee is, generally speaking, ground to a medium coarseness. Espresso is ground so fine as to almost resemble sand in texture. To fully extract the espresso’s flavor tamping is key as this process slows the movement of water through the ground beans. Although every coffee bean is unique specialty coffee makers aim for this process to happen within 20-30 seconds, although slow extracts of up to 38 seconds are also possible depending on the brewer’s knowledge.
How do I properly tamp down coffee beans?
The key elements of tamping are position and care. Contrary to popular belief, weight and pressure seem to have a minimal impact when it comes to tampers. Rather it is much more important to make sure that you create a perfectly flat ‘puck’ when tamping your espresso grinds. This is done by first distributing the grounds through lightly tapping the cradle with your finger. Try to distribute the grounds as flatly as possible before continuing. Next, push your tamper into the cradle while keeping it parallel to the grounds. Use a couple of quarter turns to smooth out the top, and voila – tamped espresso.
What is the difference between an espresso tamper and a leveller?
Simply put, a leveller is a tool that you can use pre-tamp to even out the grounds through rotating three fins. As mentioned above, proper tamping form involves rotating the tamper by quarter turns to produce a similar effect. However, the leveller is designed specifically for this purpose. It takes professional baristas hundreds upon hundreds of hours to tamp espresso consistently with a tamper. For those of us at home this makes levellers an appealing way of adding consistency to our coffee with ease.
Can you tamp coffee without a tamper?
Espresso used to be tamped with a minimum of 30lbs of pressure. These days these values have shifted. Although weight is still important you can get away with a 5lb tamper easily. Weight and pressure are now seen more as additional levers to pull or push rather than hard and fast rules. With that said, the tampless temptation is something best left for experts in the coffee field.
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