When it comes to making espresso, it’s easy to overlook the fact besides an espresso machine and grinder. You’ll also need other tools, including a coffee scale and espresso tamper, for the best results.
A durable espresso tamper is essential to maintain a consistent extraction in every pull. This is because by tamping correctly, you ensure an even spread of coffee grounds.
In this article, we’re going to take a look at the best espresso tampers that’l fit in nicely with your home brewing setup. But, if you’re in a hurry, here’s our top pick:
Alternatives At A Glance
Espresso Tampers for Compression
An espresso tamper (or a coffee tamper) allows you to compress your ground coffee even more to attain a level edge. As a result, it ensures that the water spreads uniformly throughout the grounds to ensure a well-extracted shot of espresso.
Espresso-making can be quite intimidating at first, but with the help of the right accessories, you can take out much of the guesswork in your brew.
As with any other brewing methods, consistency is vital to get the best cup of joe possible. You’ll have to make sure that the water passes through your ground coffee evenly to avoid under or over-extracting the solubles in your beans.
It’s the same case when brewing espresso. Even though the coffee is finely ground, any space between the coffee grounds in your portafilter can make the difference between a great or terrible pull of espresso.
You’ll want to level out your coffee grounds first and ensure that all the corners of your portafilter are evenly spread with coffee before you use your tamper.
This prevents any unwanted bumps and clumps on your coffee bed, which can lead to an uneven extraction of espresso.
In theory, you can tamp your grounds with your fingers if you’re in a pinch. However, it will likely lead to an uneven edge and a lack of a consistent level of compression.
With that said, check out below for our picks of the best espresso tamper to get the most out of your coffee grounds.
Best Espresso Tamper 2021
This calibrated coffee tamper from Luxhaus is pressure-sensitive. When it’s pressed down on the stainless steel base, the handle clicks, ensuring a consistent pressure on the coffee grounds.
- Consistent pressure
- Durable and Food-Safe
- Loose-grounds sometimes become stuck on the engraved side
The flat base is made with high-quality stainless steel that is food-safe, so there is no need to worry about any contaminants leeching through your grounds.
If you’re wondering if this tamper for espresso will fit well with your portafilters, don’t worry because it is available in different sizes starting from 49 mm up to 58 mm, which is standard for espresso machines.
One thing to consider if you like to get this espresso tamper is that some grounds might end up stuck on the engraved logo at the side of the base.
Otherwise, whether you’re an espresso newbie or a professional barista, this calibrated coffee tamper is perfect for adding to your arsenal.
This is our second Luxhaus pick, and for good reason. The brand offers a lifetime satisfaction guarantee so you can return and refund the product at any time if you’re unsatisfied with it.
- Heft weight is good for compression
- Lifetime guarantee
- It can be uncomfortable to use for some people
Like it’s bigger brother, it’s made with food-safe stainless steel, which is a step up from cheaper tampers that can flake off easily. As a freebie, the tamper comes along with a neat storage pouch that keeps your tamper scratch and smudge-free.
It weighs around 15.8 oz or just a bit short of a pound, making it ideal for achieving the right pressure to compress your grounds. Although, it may be uncomfortable to use for some because of the pointed handle and the hefty weight.
It’s 58 mm wide diameter is perfect for most industry-standard espresso machines, but if you have some reservations about the side, they also offer the tamper in 51mm and 53mm diameter.
Getting used to tamping at the right pressure can take some practice, and the LuxHaus espresso tamper is perfect for first-timers and professional baristas.
The DLSC058 espresso tamper has the right side for most espresso machines made by De’Longhi. It has a 51 mm diameter, so it’s also compatible with other brands just as long as your basket is 51 mm.
- Traditional design
- The base has a tendency to detach from the handle.
As with most tampers, this one uses a removable stainless steel base that attaches to a wooden handle making clean-up less of a chore.
This tamper for espresso is on the lighter side weighing in at 10 oz (.63 lbs) compared to other stainless steel tampers. But don’t let the weight fool you. It can compress your grounds as easily as heftier espresso tampers. It’s also very comfortable to use as because of the wooden handle it’s compact.
Nonetheless, make sure to screw the base to the handle as tightly as possible if you decide to get this tamper as you’d run the risk of the base falling out.
More generally, if you’re looking for a basic tamper that’s comfortable and gets the job done, the DLSC058 might be the best fit for you.
If you’re the type to use different-sized portafilters for all kinds of espresso drinks, the HIC Dual-Sided espresso tamper will be a welcome addition to your espresso setup.
- Can be used with different basket sizes
- Cheap coating tends to wash off quickly
- Not dishwasher friendly
Switching over portafilters when you want a ristretto shot can be quite a hassle. Especially if you only have a one size portafilter but don’t worry because the HIC Dual-Sided Espresso Tamper has got you covered regardless.
One flat end measures around 50 mm while the other base is 55 mm, perfect for standard-sized portafilters. It’s also the lightest tamper in our list, weighing in at 4 oz (.25 lbs), making it less easy for prolonged usage.
Unlike our other choices, which are made with stainless steel, this nondescript tamper is made from heavyweight aluminum. This makes it durable against the acidic compounds found in coffee, that make cheaply-made tampers to flake over time.
Yes, this tamper sounds like a dream if you’re on a budget, but one thing to consider is that you’ll have to be careful if you’re going to clean it. It is not dishwasher-safe, and you’ll have to be cautious in handwashing it as the aluminum coating will naturally come off. Don’t expect this choice to last you years!
Although, because tamping your grounds is not a messy thing to do, you won’t have to wash it compared to other espresso equipment. Just make sure to store it in a clean and dry place every time you use it to avoid any issues.
Most, if not all espresso aficionados agree that a sturdy tamper is an essential part of your coffee gear. This coffee tamper from BlueSnail comes in a compact yet robust package.
- Excellent value
- Good for smaller baskets
- Not a unibody piece of steel
- Internals flake off
It might look small, but it’s the heaviest out of all our picks. The tamper weighs at a solid 19 oz (1.2 lbs), ensuring that your coffee’s compressed as tightly and evenly as possible.
Suppose you prefer smaller doses of ground coffee for your espresso. In that case, the BlueSnail Coffee tamper has a 51 mm diameter, which makes it perfect for smaller baskets for your espresso machine. Its flat base is enough to compress a maximum of 16g of finely ground coffee.
This tamper’s internals are made out of iron and then coated with thick stainless steel to make it inexpensive to our other choices. It’s essential to note that it’s hard to find a durable and heavy tamper like this one compared to other alternatives at its price point – it represents extreme value.
You’ll have to be extremely careful nonetheless since it might lead to rusting if the stainless steel coating is chipped.
Pulling good espresso doesn’t mean having an expensive setup. If you’re looking for one of the best espresso tampers for a super tight budget and don’t mind it being very basic, this might be the one for you.
Choosing a Tamper for Coffee
You might have already made a pick from our choices of the best espresso tampers above, but there are still some factors to check before you make your final purchase.
A tamper with a stainless steel base might look like a simple piece of equipment at first, but choosing the best one will depend on your usage. Your espresso tamper must compliment your espresso machine, and it should help you brew the best cup of espresso coffee.
If you’re wondering about the clean-up, most tampers aren’t dishwasher safe as it may degrade the stainless steel base. Hand-washing your tamper is highly recommend, and it can easily detach from the handle for no-fuss, no-muss cleaning.
They can differ from size, weight, material, shape, and style, so it will ultimately be up to your preference.
With different espresso machines come with varying sizes of portafilters.
Your preferred espresso tamper must have an excellent fit to compress your coffee grounds evenly. A good rule is that your tamper should be just a bit smaller in diameter compared to your portafilter basket.
Most espresso tampers vary in millimeters, which can range from 48 mm to 58 mm wide. Using a smaller tamper for a bigger portafilter will only compress the center of your coffee bed. And of course, a bigger tamper will not fit with a small portafilter.
If you’re still wondering what size you’ll need as most espresso tampers will include the basket in their name while some have the sizes labeled on the side of the tamper. Knowing the size of your portafilter can make choosing the size of your tamper less of a headache.
Some coffee lovers like to switch basket sizes for different calibrations. If you’re one of those, you might prefer a dual-sided tamper. Some tampers have a double base like the one from HIC we listed above for dual basket use. It can make choosing a tamper easier since one side can accommodate a bigger or smaller sized basket for your espresso machine.
As such, it’s best to learn the dimensions of your equipment first before making your mind up regarding what you’d want to get.
Many coffee experts recommend a pressure of 30 lbs to compress your fine grounds for your espresso coffee. Applying more pressure than the recommended amount doesn’t impact your coffee bed, so tamping harder isn’t necessary.
A tamper that typically weighs around 1 – 2 lbs provides the correct amount of pressure. The heavier the tamper, the easier you’ll be able to attain that 30 lbs pressure for your coffee. However, The downside of using a heavier tamper is it might be a hassle for your wrists in the long run.
Some tampers have no handle at all and use a grip on top of the steel base. If you’re considering a lightweight tamper, these are a good choice, but you’ll need a lot of practice as they can be cumbersome at times to use.
On the flip side, some use other materials like plastic, which can be easier to clean but may not provide the adequate pressure needed to compress your grounds unless you exert more effort. Their base is also more prone to damage in the long term, which can lead to an inconsistent shot of espresso each brew.
Consequently, it’s best to go for a tamper made from stainless steel as it provides more pressure evenly compared to light tampers made from plastic or wood. A tamper with a steel base is also more durable, so you’ll want one for its longevity.
One essential point to consider is how comfortable you are in tamping your coffee for espresso. I know from experience that tamping your ground coffee can be straining to your wrists, especially if you’re a barista.
It’s best to go for a tamper that can fit your hand the best, and you’ll be brewing shots of espresso in no time.
Calibrated or not?
Most espresso tampers packaged with espresso machines are simply one piece of stainless steel with a handle attached. Some manufacturers offer calibrated tampers that make it easier to determine the needed pressure for your coffee.
The calibrated tamper uses a handle that has a gap with the base of the tamper. The handle is pressed down and clicks when you attain 30 lbs of pressure during tamping.
Getting a calibrated tamper is perfect for a beginner home brewer as it can help achieve the right pressure for your coffee. It’s also not too shabby for baristas who want to make the perfect espresso shot without worrying if the pressure is not enough.
If you want to dive in and do the calculations yourself on how you’ll need to tamp down, a regular tamper is suitable for everyday brewing. It’s also an excellent way to experiment on how much pressure affects your cup of joe. Maybe you might prefer a lighter tamp, depending on the beans you’ll use for your espresso.
It’s best to practice with a calibrated espresso tamper first to get the feel of the pressure and then switch to a regular one when you’re used to it.
Flat or Convex?
You might have the perfect factors like grind size, temperature, and dose, but a badly tamped coffee bed can ruin your espresso.
If you think you’re getting an adequate and even amount of pressure on your tamping, but there’s still something wrong with your shot, sometimes getting a different shaped tamper can end all of those woes.
You might have seen some tampers that have slightly curved surfaces, and these are called convex tampers. These tampers are designed to prevent channeling, which is when hot water builds up and pushes down through cracks inside your puck.
This process leads to an under-extracted espresso shot because some parts of the grounds don’t have enough water coverage. A tell-tale sign if your coffee channels are if your brew is too fast and the espresso is watery.
Flat base tampers are precisely that. The bottom is flat. These tampers are also adequate to prevent channeling but make sure you compress your grounds on an even surface to avoid any inconsistencies in your puck.
There are also tampers with a rippled surface, but only a few that are sold with most are modified from a typical flat base tamper. It’s still debatable whether these ripples affect your espresso shot, but they make your coffee bed pleasant to look at.
Either a convex or flat base tamper is suitable for your home brewing needs, so take your pick and start practicing!
The Final Verdict
We’ve taken a look at the best espresso tampers, and our top pick is the Luxhaus Calibrated Espresso Tamper! It’s perfect to practice your tamping, whether you’re an espresso noob or coffee expert.
If you love to experiment with different doses and grounds, the HIC Dual-Sided Espresso Tamper is a decent choice too. You won’t have to get a second tamper for your smaller baskets as this tamper can be used with two sizes.
Getting the right equipment can go a long way but what’s most important is to keep practicing your tamping so you can pull good espresso whichever tamper you’ll prefer.