Best Coffee Tampers
Behold, the Tamper
The espresso tamper is often an undersung and overlooked accessory, but the tamper is crucial to make espresso. To remove the act of tamping is to stumble at the starting line. Without it, you have absolute chaos in the brew chamber, a mess on your shirt and countertop—rendering your beautiful space a Jackson Pollock painting. Moreover, the espresso tamper that will typically come with your new machine’s accessory box is barely functional; many are temporary plastic tampers that are completely unusable for a long time. Like many espresso machines and related accessories, they’re not all created equally, and many are for different bar workflows and functions. One thing to keep in mind is that we 100% do not advocate for using a distribution tool as a tamper. Full disclosure, we have suggested in the past and have evolved on the subject—using only a distribution tool without a tamper yields results that are too inconsistent. Let’s jump into what we look for in a decent espresso tamper.
What makes a good tamper?
- It feels good in the hand & is comfortable to use
- Constructed with high-quality materials such as stainless steel or hardwoods
- It fits the corresponding portafilter basket without getting stuck or creating a suction effect when removing the tamper
- Aesthetically pleasing or matches your espresso setup
- Has additional features like depth calibration or has a distribution tool included
Best manual tamper: Pullman Big StepWe touch on the Pullman Big Step deeper in a recent blog—A Big Step towards better espresso — Why we love Pullman accessories. The Big Step is our favorite tamper because it has incredible balance, the high-quality Delrin and aluminum handle is not over-encumbered by the 440 stainless steel base; the rubber pad on the base is extra comfortable, and the end-to-end edge of the tamper base prevents the suction effect that some oversized tampers have, leaving a clean coffee bed with no coffee on residue left on the edges of the portafilter basket. Pullman also includes metal spacers to accommodate users with different-sized hands.
Best depth calibrated tamper: Saint Anthony Industries New Levy
Handmade in the USA, the New Levy has a satisfying heft and beautiful walnut or maple wood accents to match your machine setup. Fitting over the circumference of your 58 or 53mm portafilter, the New Levy minimizes the room for error and helps make tamping as even and consistent as possible each time. The Bachmann Accu Drive Numeric System also allows you to reference numerical levels for a specific depth setting, resulting in a perfectly precise tamp. This is essential if you switch between coffees, different-sized portafilter baskets, or change the dry dose in your espresso recipe. The New Levy is the perfect fit for any user, especially for home baristas with issues tamping, wrist pain, or for beginners.
Best 2-in-1 tamper: Artpresso Solo Barista Tool
The Artpresso Solo is the best of both worlds. On one side is a distribution tool, and on the other is a tamper—both sides can be calibrated by depth. The three-faceted distributor is designed to model the Stockfleths distribution method, popular with many baristas in fast-paced cafès, enhancing workflow and simplifying routine for both café and home baristas. Like the Saint Anthony New Levy, the tamper side is designed to fit the circumference of the portafilter to reduce error and maximize consistency. The black or white powder coat on the aluminum finish gives the Solo tool a clean look, and the lip offers a nice grip for handling.
Best custom-made tamper: Clive Coffee wood tamper
The Clive wood tamper comprises locally milled hardwoods (walnut, maple, and bubinga) and a high-quality stainless steel base. We offer the Clive wood tamper in 53mm and 58.3mm sizes for a slightly oversized fit. For those wanting to warm up their espresso setup or match their machine’s bottomless wood portafilter or wood side panels, the Clive wood tamper fuses form and function with gravitas.
The espresso tamper is a very personal accessory. Like a rolling pin for rolling out a pie crust, the tamper is tactile and involves us in the process of making espresso. Don’t overlook the tamper; it may be small, but its impact on the outcome of your espresso cannot be overstated.
Once you find your fit, learning to tamp properly is the next step. Proper tamping is 20% tamper and 80% good technique. Learn the skills of tamping in our blog: How to Perfect Your Tamp.