Are you looking to make the best espresso everyone will enjoy? It’s essential to learn how to pack the ideal puck.
With evenly compressed coffee, the hard tamp forms resistance, helping the brewing water to saturate the coffee grounds better and extract an alluring flavor. The pressure of the brewing water aids in pulling out acids, flavors, oils, and other stuff from the grounds, creating the rich flavor and texture of high-quality espresso.
When the grounds are compressed uneven and loose, the brewing water moves through the gaps rather than extracting the required espresso flavor. As a result, your coffee is flavorless and watery.
So, how hard should you tamp espresso to get the best drink? Keep reading…
Level and compress the coffee grounds
Begin with placing the coffee grounds into your portafilter. Remove any excess coffee grounds by slightly running your forefinger across the top.
Before you apply any pressure on the grounds, ensure you level them properly. Otherwise, you can receive an uneven extraction, along with poor flavor.
The balance is critical during this first step. If there’s minimal or no air between the grounds at all, they will slow the water down. If there’s too much air, the brewing water will just go through.
Since the coffee grinds aren’t perfectly dense, you should compress them together, preventing that empty space. That’s why the grind size is so critical.
Use a flat tamper
Even density ensures there’s no empty space for the brewing water. Tamping helps to form the coffee bed with even density. If you have a curved tamper, it’s difficult to reach even density.
Consider using an ideally flat tamper. Once you have it, it’s time to start practicing your tamping techniques, which must be ideally horizontal too.
While tamping, make sure your elbow is bent at 90 degrees and your wrist is straight to keep control. This way, the power comes from the body, not the wrist.
Keep a level bed of the grounds by holding your tamper with your index finger and thumb touching the base.
Regulate the pressure
Once you level the grounds, it’s time to start tamping. Begin by applying at least 15 pounds of pressure. It’ll help you create a puck shape with the grounds. In case you have a calibrated tamper, it will be easier for you to know how to apply the correct amount of pressure.
Once you create the puck, apply more pressure to create a sturdy and compact puck. Many professional baristas recommend applying 20 to 30 pounds of pressure.
To give you an idea of how 30 pounds of pressure feels like, grab any scale and press it down with the hand. Stay consistent with your tamping and you’ll gradually acquire muscle memory for it. Tamping pressure shouldn’t be too hard as it can lead to over-extracting and an extremely bitter taste of espresso.
Polish the puck with a twisting motion. Avoid twisting as you push down though. Otherwise, you can ruin the packed coffee.
There should be no loose spots or gaps in and around the grounds. If there are any grounds spilled around the portafilter’s edges, just wipe them off.
Does the tamp, tap, and tamp technique work?
There’s a well-known the tamp, tap, and tamp technique some baristas use when brewing the coffee. Is this technique necessary? If you don’t use this technique, you don’t need to learn it as it doesn’t aid in tamping espresso correctly.
Although you still need to tap to properly loosen the grounds stuck to the basket’s side, over-tapping can loosen the whole thing. If you tap the handle’s side, you can knock that puck away from the basket’s sides and form cracks throughout the entire puck. Tamping after tapping won’t save the situation, so stay away from this technique.
What happens if you tamp espresso too hard?
Tamping helps to squeeze the air from between the coffee grounds. Regardless of how hard you tamp, the grounds can’t be compressed any further. The tamping pressure helps to reach maximum density.
The coffee grounds are tough and you can’t crush the particles with a tamper. The maximum tamping pressure doesn’t exist so you have little to no risk of overdoing it.
In reality, maximum density requires little pressure. Once your tamper stops moving, it’s a sign you achieve maximum density. Of course, it depends on the coffee grounds you use.
If you use low-quality coffee, you can over-tamp espresso. The risk is minimal when you use top-quality grinds.
If you tamp low-quality coffee grounds too hard, your espresso becomes over-extracted and thus extremely bitter. Besides pressing too hard or too light, a lot of beginning baristas tamp unevenly. While this mistake is underrated, it occurs frequently.
If you notice that the grinds in your portafilter aren’t on a level surface but at a slant in the basket, you tamp your espresso unevenly. Hold your tamper perpendicular to the table when tamping or invest in a tamping stand or mat.
Is tamping the only critical skill needed to craft the perfect espresso?
Even though tamping is important for making a golden shot of espresso, there are a few more things you should master. From identifying the right temperature to reaching grind consistency, there are several more aspects that impact the taste of espresso.
The final word
Tamping pressure does matter as it affects the taste and flavor of your espresso. A great tamp guarantees evenly extracted espresso with amazing flavor.
How hard should you tamp? Applying 20 to 30 pounds of pressure is recommended, but not required. You need to learn to regulate the pressure based on different aspects, including the type of tamper or the quality of the grinds you use.
On the other hand, getting your tamp ideal requires some patience and practice. Slight changes in pressure can happen so you have to find your perfect tamping technique and stay consistent. Reaching maximum density without over-tamping is a skill each barista should learn in order to achieve the best espresso experience.
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