A Big Step towards better espresso — Why we love Pullman accessories.
Here at Clive Coffee, we’re always searching for products that speak to us as coffee lovers, reinforcing our commitment to you in our mission to offer tools to assist in making better espresso. The tamper is so essential to espresso preparation that you cannot make espresso without it. Yet, all tampers are not the same, and they’re not all good—they have this je ne sais quoi quality. Why should a tool so crucial to making espresso be made almost invisible? The act of tamping is the most tactile baristas get when making coffee, and the Pullman Big Step delivers this in spades.
Like many startups, Pullman’s humble origins began in a garage. Starting in 2002, Pullman would custom portafilter bases to match folk’s portafilter baskets; thus, a customer would send them their basket, and Pullman would machine a perfect fit, including their hallmark edge-to-edge tamp. As a result, Pullman began to notice a huge variety of inconsistencies in portafilter baskets, such as the inner diameter, size, and shape of filter holes. They took this knowledge and created the Big Step Tamper and its companion, the 876 filter basket.
The Pullman Big Step Tamper
Tampers are all the same, right? Most espresso machine accessories packages come with a tamper to start you off with your espresso journey, but let’s face it; they should stick to making espresso machines. Starter tampers often are made of cheap plastic or are flimsy and uncomfortable to use. Why invest so much time and money in getting the best equipment only to use a tamper that could bend sideways mid-tamp?
Since 2015, Pullman has been locally sourcing and producing the Big Step tamper in Adelaide, South Australia, focusing on quality materials and sustainability. The Big Step Tamper was the first big base tamper and has spawned many derivatives from other manufacturers worldwide. The patented Big Step design has had three revisions since the original, increasing durability through improvements in manufacturing and consumer feedback. The goal is to create delicious and even extractions that can only be achieved with a tamper that compresses the entire surface area of the coffee bed, leaving very little room for errors in technique.
With an oversized base of 58.55mm, the Pullman Big Step Tamper is tailor-made to fit precision baskets such as VST, IMS, and Pullman, all of which have a specific internal diameter. The sharp edge on the tamper base tamps end to end, compressing the entire espresso puck's entire surface, leaving almost no stray grounds on the coffee bed or the tamper itself.
- 58.55mm flat stainless steel (grade 630) base
- Ergonomic rubber cushioning to absorb pressure and reduce excess strain
- Powder-coated aluminum handle
- 3 included spacers (2,5, & 8mm) to fit your hand and tamping style
- The chiseled edge helps airflow & reduces suction when pulling the base out of the portafilter.
- The chiseled edge of the tamper base is sensitive to dings and drops.
- Recommend ridgeless baskets so the tamper will fit. A 58.6 inner diameter minimum.
The Pullman Precision Portafilter Basket
By extension, not all portafilter baskets are created equally, which we dove into at great length in Portafilter Baskets — Do They Matter? Without getting too heady here, they only matter insomuch as you enjoy the results of your extractions. Can you pull great shots with OEM (original equipment manufacturer) baskets? Yes, absolutely. The overarching goal of pairing tamper to the basket is for consistency and repeatable results. Controlling those variables helps you focus on the things that matter, like altering your espresso recipe and dialing in your grinder.
Pullman’s precision baskets are meant to work with the Big Step Tamper’s base perfectly. They are ridgeless, ensuring that the tamper will be able to compress the coffee bed comfortably at any level. Most importantly, pairing the Big Step with the Pullman basket ensures that the maximum surface area of the coffee puck is being covered, with very little wiggle room, making water flow evenly throughout the puck, preventing easy channels around the circumference of the coffee bed.
Pullman, in collaboration with the Australian Coffee Science Lab, rigorously blind-tested coffees extracted with the 876 baskets vs. the VST precision baskets and found that the Pullman basket consistently improved extraction yields (TDS) for lighter roasted coffees as well as sensory and cupping tests with coffee industry professionals. Below are some of the results Pullman shared with us from their study.
While these results seem to be very close together (and they are), anyone who has had trouble dialing in their espresso understands that even just a slight change in your brew temperature or extending your shot time by a few second can radically alter your coffee’s flavor profile and can be the fine line between under/over-extraction, so too are these attributes from this table. From acidity to finish, this essentially is the anatomy of an espresso shot broken into its individual parts. Pullman's care and rigor in this testing reflect their commitment and passion for great espresso. Below is a summary of their findings.