The Art of Tamping Espresso Shots

If you have recently gotten your hands on an espresso machine you may have figured out that there is more making the proper cup of espresso than you originally thought. Tamping is one of the most important step that is often neglected.

Tamping is simply creating a hard pellet of coffee grounds that the pressurized water will pass through. The problem is that pressurized water will follow the path of least resistance, which means that if you have an unevenly tamped pellet then the water will pass through without coming into contact with all of the coffee grounds.

The first step in proper tamping is to level the grounds in the porta filter. There are many ways to accomplish this. I simply like to tap until level. Your goal is to evenly distribute the grounds and avoid open air pockets.

Once you have the grounds evenly distributed it is necessary to start tamping. To properly tamp you must make sure your tamper is level and apply slight pressure to the grounds. You should be able to compress the grounds by a fairly significant amount and you will find that you left coffee grounds on the side of the porta filter. Simply tap the grounds onto the pellet.

You aren’t done yet but almost there. This was just the initial tamp, so you now need to apply the finishing tamp. The first tamp was to establish the shape of the pellet and get everything moving in the right direction. Now that you have confirmed that everything is as it should be you must retamp with significantly more pressure.

At this point you should be done with the tamping and ready for the extraction. During the tamping make sure that you do not jostle or bump the porta filter or you could result in an uneven extraction and a louse espresso.

It is easy to do this wrong and it is easy to get lazy with it but after you develop a knack for it you will really be able to taste the difference in an improperly tamped espresso. Get the most out of your espresso machine by learning all of the steps in the process and take pride in making the perfect cup of coffee.

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