Tamp like a Champ: The Best Espresso Tampers for the Coffee Geek
You shouldn’t overlook the basics when it comes to espresso. The tampers that come with budget machines are often flimsy and less than ideal.
Licensed Q Arabica Grader, M.A. Journalism
Many newbies think that a coffee tamper is incidental; a nice-to-have rather than a must-have.
And while it’s true that you should probably pay closer attention to your grinder, roast date of your beans and water hardness, a tamper is no joking matter when the aim is to brew the best possible espresso.
With coffee and especially espresso, the devil really is in the details. This means that it’s uber-important to get the basics right.
Read on, if you want to know what to search for in a great tamper these days.
Top pick: Best value
The Normcore tamper is a calibrated "precision" model created to reduce side-channeling an unevenness. It has an auto-level disc and customizable springs, so you can tamp consistently every time.
It's well-made and worth the price. Just make sure you pick the right size for your particular espresso machine!
This tamper combines 3 cool features into one single tool.
As a precision tamper, it’s slightly larger than the standard 58 mm size. This design ensures the coffee puck is compressed evenly to the edges, potentially reducing side-channeling.
The tamper is also equipped with an auto-level disc and includes 3 calibrated springs (15lb/25lb/30lb) , so you can achieve a consistent tamp with just the right pressure every time.
The V4 tamper comes with some cool upgrades from the V3 version, like an improved central shaft design.
I personally use this tamper at home and can vouch for its superb craftsmanship and excellent value for money.
It also comes with a surprisingly “premium” carry case and two extra springs, each calibrated to a different pressure.
Remember that Normcore offers various sizes, so make sure to choose the one that fits your portafilter perfectly. Besides the classic 58 mm portafilter size, they have correct diameters for popular machines such as Flair and Breville.
This gadget blends two innovative tamping concepts into one, making your espresso-making process more consistent.
First, the adjustable leveler/distributor helps create a flat surface. Then, the push tamper lets you quickly press down with your palm to compress the grounds fully. The push tamp has an auto-level function, so you don’t risk creating an uneven surface.
These two steps are more straightforward to master than old-school tamping, which is why these push tampers are becoming increasingly popular.
This 53 mm version fits standard Breville espresso machines, but you can get a bigger 58 mm version for professional machines.
The Force Tamper might be overkill for most home baristas due to its overwhelming price tag. But it might be worth it if you’re a pro or just really into this hobby.
This gadget features a so-called “impact force mechanism” that differentiates it from both traditional tampers and calibrated spring tampers such as those from Normcore.
This innovative system utilizes a spring to create a sudden, controlled impact force for compressing coffee, ensuring consistent results with each use.
As you press down on the tamper handle, the spring compresses, storing potential energy. When the desired pressure is reached, the internal mechanism releases the spring’s energy, converting it into kinetic energy. This sudden release of energy drives a piston downward onto the base, compressing the coffee with a consistent and precise force.
This impact force mechanism provides uniform tamping pressure but also helps reduce the strain on the user’s hand and wrist compared to manual static force methods.
The Force Tamper’s inventive approach to espresso tamping delivers both consistency and ease of use.
Most tampers follow a similar form, whether they’re calibrated or not. You have the base and the handle attached via a stem. In the past, most variations tended to be from the material front rather than changing the approach altogether.
This has changed in recent years, where so-called levelers have become all the rage among the barista elite.
Instead of pressing the coffee grounds down, this espresso tool spins around on top of the portafilter and gradually massages all the grounds into place.
Some baristas use this tool before tamping, while others swear that a perfectly adjusted leveler can replace tamping entirely.
You can get versions that are way more expensive than this one from Apexstone, but they do the same, so why overpay? This version is available in both 58 mm and 53 mm versions.
The Barista Hustle signature tamper, created by World Barista Championship runner-up Matt Perger, is designed explicitly for hardworking baristas, pulling shot after shot.
This lightweight and balanced tamper is quite revolutionary since it goes against the trend of super-heavy tampers dominating the market in recent years. You don’t need a heavy tamper; you just need the proper tamping technique.
It has a replaceable base, which is handy if you accidentally drop the tamper and get a dent in that crucial tamping surface that must be smooth.
Made from black lightweight aluminum and featuring a stainless steel flat base. It’s slim, smooth, and non-slippery even when wet.
The tamper is designed to work seamlessly with precision baskets from brands such as VST, IMS, and Pullman, thanks to its 58.4 mm tamping surface.
It also utilizes a design to reduce suction at the sides since this can lead to channeling. Weighing only 0.5lb, this tamper minimizes strain from repeated tamping. The stylish all-black design is ideal for any barista, adding a touch of elegance to any espresso machine setup.
MHW-3Bomber, another Chinese coffee brand attempting to break into the saturated market of coffee accessories, claims to offer innovative and unique designs.
While one might dismiss them as just another copycat, their products seem to stand out with new ideas, showing potential for this up-and-coming brand to become a contender in the coffee industry.
One of their standout products is their tamper, which surprisingly offers excellent value for money and a well-executed design. The tamper has a 58.35mm base, making it ideal for most 58mm coffee machine portafilters.
In addition to its compatibility and durability, the tamper features an ergonomic wooden handle and an anti-slip silicone bottom. This is an elegant and functional solution, providing an ergonomic grip.
7: 58-Millimeter Solid Stainless Steel from Motalius
Beautiful enough to serve as a paperweight, but its design is all business, according to many of the rave reviews this press receives. Turned out of a solid piece of stainless steel, it may be slightly more costly. However, it’s also rust-resistant and easily maintained, with a pleasing weight. The tamping base is also a bit larger, so it’s essential to measure the diameter of your portafilter before trying it out.
The goal of tamping is simple: It’s all about avoiding small pockets of air in the basket.
When your espresso machine delivers its piping hot deluge into a portafilter of improperly tamped grounds, you’re asking for trouble. And a less than delicious shot.
An uneven and sloppily tamped filter will have less dense regions. What many non-professional baristas don’t realize is that this creates a phenomenon known as channeling.
As the water is released into the filter, it will find the path of least resistance, because that’s what water does.
A properly tamped puck, which is what we call the compressed coffee in the portafilter, will present an undifferentiated front to the water, and your shot will have better chances of reaching espresso perfection.
An improperly prepared puck, on the other hand, offers a lot of options for that water to pass around the coffee easily, and your shot will not be properly extracted.
Tamp like a champ.
Don’t overdo it!
Some people get too carried away when it comes to tamping. The truth is that it’s a necessary step, however, you don’t get any ‘bonus’ points for tamping extra hard. You just need enough pressure to push out the air of the basket. Once that’s achieved, your job is over.
It’s far better being consistent and tamping the same way every time, instead of seeing it as some kind of biceps powerlifting exercise.
Don’t worry if a few clumps of coffee are stuck on the inside of the basket. If you try to knock them loose and tamp again you’ll risk creating air pockets at the edge of the puck.
It actually happens fairly often that people get injuries from having bad technique or pushing too hard. This is the way you do it appropriately:
Hold the tamper like you’d hold a flashlight with the thumb pointing towards the floor
When you push down, you want to have your elbow directly above the portafilter – now the motion look like more like using a screwdriver
Keep the wrist straight and push in a controlled motion
58 mm tamper or smaller?
An important attribute to look for is that your tamper fits your portafilter—too small and you won’t get a good, even tamp. Too large and the tamper won’t accomplish anything at all much.
Most “pro-sumer” machines (aka the more expensive ones) come with the traditional 58 mm portafilter.
Be careful because, you can also encounter baskets that are 58,5 mm, which benefit from a slightly bigger 58,4 mm tamper.
Some brands like Lelit and Ascaso also have portafilter that work 57 mm baskets.
Smaller sizes like 53 mm and 51 mm are also VERY common, especially, with cheaper models from companies such as Breville and Delonghi.
Attributes of a Great Coffee Tamper
The tampers that come with many espresso machines are at best questionable. If you’re only going to be using a pressurized basket, then that might not be a problem. But if you want to make legit espresso, then you need a better tamper for more precision and repeatability. Here are a few variables to remember:
Material: Most of these are made of metal, which is heavier and provides a bit more help in the pressure department. However, for professional baristas, a lighter tamper might be better.
Shape: tampers purchased separately come in two flavors—flat and convex. The flat is, naturally, precisely that. Convex refers to a tamping surface that is slightly bulged out. This can help prevent channeling by pushing the grounds somewhat up at the edges of the filter. However, it’s not essential.
Is the tamper calibrated? Some are, and some are not. What this term entails is that there is a slight gap between the handle and head of a tamper. The appropriate amount of pressure closes the gap. This is super-helpful for new baristas because it indicates precisely the right touch with the portafilter and tamper.
Leveler/distributor: A new category of tamping tools has gained a lot popularity in recent years. Some people use the so-called leveler before tamping, while others think that it’s not necessary to tamp when using this tool.
Push? In recent years, push tampers where you press with your palm have started to become popular. Instead of gripping a handle and pressing down, some people find it more easy to simply push down on an even surface.
Hello, and welcome! I'm the editor & founder of this site. I have been a coffee geek since I started home roasting more than a decade ago. Since then, coffee has taken me on countless adventures: From ancient coffee ceremonies in Ethiopia to the volcanos of Sumatra. My background is in journalism, and today I'm also a licensed Q Grader under the Coffee Quality Institute.
This website is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com