Adjusting the ground coffee in the lever of the coffee machine is an integral part of the preparation of espresso. It's not a complicated procedure, all baristas usually have it very automated and that's because it's one of the most important steps in the whole barista process. Without it, the espresso would have only a bland taste without aroma. What is the correct tamping procedure and why is this often poorly performed step so important to the extraction and final taste of the coffee? In this article, we will tell you everything you need to know to work professionally with a lever coffee machine in any environment. Whether you're at home or behind the bar in a coffee shop, these tips will come in handy.
What is a tamper?
This indispensable tool, the key to a properly prepared espresso, looks like a stamp. It is a necessary accessory for every coffee machine, whether it is a coffee shop or a home lever espresso machine. You can choose between ordinary with light tampers or those from the "heavy" group, which are a little heavier, but work with them much better. Heavy tampers because they help us to develop the correct weight with which the sediment in the lever should be compressed.
Why is proper tamping important?
By using the tamper correctly, you will achieve perfect extraction and thus the best resulting taste of the coffee cup. The ground coffee beans must be properly compressed so that the water does not flow through them too quickly or too slowly or unevenly. If that were the case, we would not get the desired espresso, but perhaps only colored water with a bad taste or, on the contrary, a few drops of too strong coffee concentrate. You definitely don't want that.
How to do it
The tamper must be used when you have already ground coffee to the desired coarseness in the coffee machine lever. Coffee has a larger volume in unpressed form, as it is plump. You just need to get rid of this bloatedness.
- Take the lever with the coffee in one hand and the tamper in the other hand and gently tap the sides of the lever to level the ground coffee so that it is evenly distributed. She will still be plump, but that doesn't matter for now.
- Grip the tamper with your thumb and forefinger pointing down towards the widest part of the tool. With such a grip, these two fingers will touch the lever and help you compress the contents evenly.
- Rest the lever against a flat and hard surface (different ones can also be used tamping station, which will make your work noticeably easier). Place the tamper in the ground coffee lever with the correct grip and press down on it. The ideal weight you should develop for coffee is 20 kg. However, 5 kg will do.
- Remove the tamper from the lever without any further movement and continue preparing the espresso.
How hard to press the coffee
Extraction is influenced by tamping, water pressure and grinding. You need to think about these aspects and do your best to follow the right procedures if you want the perfect espresso.
So the ideal tamping force is 20 kg and the minimum force is 5 kg. You might think that it is not realistic to estimate, but don't worry, it takes practice. A pressure of 5 kg, as you will surely recognize, is not difficult to develop, so it is easy to fulfill this point when tamping. You will see that after some time you will have trained your own griff.
How to achieve evenness
If the ground coffee in the lever of the coffee machine was not evenly smothered, the extraction process would be damaged and the water would flow through some beans more intensively, which would noticeably affect the resulting taste of the drink. This would logically devalue all parts of the espresso - body, heart and crema.
You can influence the even distribution of coffee already under the coffee grinder or by placing the ground in the lever. When using an automatic coffee grinder with a lever, move it in such a way that the freshly ground beans really reach their entire width, ideally by slowly rotating in one plane. Furthermore, the already mentioned tapping with a tamper will help a lot. It works very simply – where you tap, the ground coffee goes there. So tap where the grains are needed until they are at least ninety percent in the same plane. Just a gentle force, you will see for yourself how effective this procedure is. Even so, it will still not be completely ideal for the next steps. For an absolutely perfect distribution of coffee, it is also necessary to use coffee distributor. Again, this tool is very simple to use and thanks to it you will achieve the best result in uniformity. Subsequently, a firm grip on the tamper is also needed. If you press the coffee correctly, you don't have to worry about unevenness. Just a firm grip and calm hands.
How to work with a coffee distributor?
The coffee distributor, as the name suggests, helps in spreading and distributing the ground coffee along the lever as needed for the best extraction. This tool looks like a small hockey puck, which fits nicely into the lever and smooths the coffee. Just twist it and then you can calmly press with the required force. It is really very intuitive to use and well worth it.
We assume that after reading this article you will not make mistakes. However, there are a few small things that should be avoided.
- Forgive yourself for any other movements with the tamper than downward pressure or the aforementioned tapping on the edge of the lever. If you see any barista spinning or otherwise moving the rammer at the end of the squeeze, it's wrong. This could damage the structure of the packed coffee. Remember that the surface of the tamper, the one that touches the ground coffee, is perfectly flat and does not disturb its structure in any way, which means that this spinning is not necessary.
- Formation of cracks or channeling. If you focus on something completely different when tamping, it can easily happen that you don't notice the cracks that can be created in the structure of the tamped coffee by unwanted movements of the lever. If this happens, the extraction will be damaged. This problem must therefore be prevented by gentle handling of the lever when tamping and then placing it in the coffee machine.
The best tamers
Today's oversaturated market offers different types, designs and sizes of tampers, but not all of them are ideal. When choosing a rammer, you need to find out what size you need. You will mostly come across sizes 53 mm and 58 mm. This value is derived from the lever size of your coffee machine. It is also necessary to ensure that the tamper is really straight and has a suitable shape. It should be comfortable to hold and work with naturally. Also remember that heavy rammers, the heavier ones, are a bit better for the job. Through them, the necessary force can be developed much more easily and thoroughly, which also prevents risky channeling.
What to take away from this article?
The importance of tamping is abundantly clear after reading this article. The procedure may seem complicated, but the opposite is true. Tamping is usually completely automatic for all experienced baristas. However, it is necessary to have proper equipment and the necessary tools (for example, a tamping station). After that, just avoid the basic mistakes mentioned and your tamping skills will be at the professional level.
A tamper should therefore be part of the equipment of every barista. If you don't have one at home yet, there is definitely nothing to wait for - there is no high-quality espresso without a tamper. Choose those made of quality materials and solid weights. You will work better with them. And if you received a lower-quality tamper with the coffee machine, definitely think about a new, better one. It's an investment in both convenience and espresso quality.
If you need help with the selection, contact us. We will be happy to help you choose not only a tamper, but overall the best and most suitable equipment according to your needs.