The Best Coffee Tampers In The UK 2022

If you’re using an espresso machine, you need a coffee tamper. You’ll know this, but what you might not understand is literally how much impact the best coffee tampers can have on the quality of espresso coffee you’ll produce at home.

If you weren’t aware, tamping is what you need to do with the coffee in the basket before inserting it into your espresso machine.

You apply pressure to the ground coffee beans in the basket, in the portafilter, to compress it prior to inserting the portafilter into the group and pulling the shot.

Portafilter simply suggests filter holder, by the way – and if you’re asking “well why don’t you refer to it as a filter holder?” the respond to to that is that calling it a portafilter steeps me feel more clever ;-).

This tamping is done with a tamper, funnily enough ;-), a small hand-held equipment with a round flat surface that matches the size of your portafilter, and a handle (usually, even though there are flat, handle-free tampers too) often made of wood, for you to grip in order to tamp.  

Tamping is a key part of the espresso-making method, and the “tampers” with which most domestic espresso coffee machines are shipped are a joke! Well, they’re not tampers at all.

If you’re buying an entry-level espresso machine, particularly if it’s in the £100-£200 price range, it won’t come with a tamper, though the marketing blurb will probably say that it does.

What these forms of espresso machines usually come with, is a plastic thing with a scoop at one end and a flat circular plastic thing at the other end, which is supposed to be a tamper.

These devices, in my simple opinion, belong in the same category as chocolate tea pots & bikes for fish: utterly useless.

Even though speaking of bikes for fish, have you ever seen a Gurnard?

Really strange looking sea-dwelling critter which is allegedly a fish, although I’ve often wondered if they’re in reality lobsters in disguise, and which I suspect are possibly capable of bike riding. 

They have wings, too, wings I tell you! Isn’t nature best?

Gurnard

Gurnard

Anyway, getting back on subject: If you’re using something like this (a plastic scoop tamper I mean, not a bike-riding fish) you’ll rather likely find that using a proper tamper will up your espresso coffee game.

There are two main reasons for this:

Degree Tamping. If you don’t get a degree surface when you tamp, you’re more likely to suffer from channeling, where the water finds paths of lesser resistance in the coffee, leading to uneven extraction, and poor tasting espresso.

What you’ll find is that you just can’t get a proper grip on these plastic scoop tamper things, which doesn’t make them at all conducive to a level tamp.

Consistent tamping pressure. There are numerous variables to espresso-making, one of which is tamping pressure. If you don’t tamp at a fairly consistent pressure from one shot to the next, your shot consistency is likely to be “all over the shop”.

One of the main secrets to ideal espresso coffee is consistency. You need to do the same thing each time, and when you’re changing things in order to improve the shot quality, you only want to alter one thing at a time. 

If you’re constantly changing tamping pressure (because you’re utilizing a daft plastic scoopy tamper thing, or a fish, which would probably work literally as well) you’ll never fully value the impact of the changes you’re making. 

For example, you might make the grind mildly finer due to the fact that your shot is flowing too quickly, but then you tamp with less pressure than you did before, and not much changes with the flow rate. 

To be fair, there is a knack to tamping even with proper tampers, switching to a decent tamper isn’t going to completely resolve tamping inconsistency, nevertheless it’ll undoubtedly help in my simple opinion.

Not only will it help, however I believe that improving your tamper and therefore your tamping, is one of the low-hanging fruit where espresso making is anxious. 

By low-hanging fruit, I’m talking about the best return with the least amount of investment.

Many people get something called upgradeitis rather early on in the home barista journey and spend large amounts of money on seemingly more important bits of kit, namely on upgrading their espresso coffee machine. 

If only they knew that there are extremely numerous key areas to improve, which can be improved with much less effort & investment than buying a more expensive espresso coffee machine.

Among which is the modest and inexpensive action of improving their tamper and some of the others are uniformly as easy and similar in terms of cost!

So I’m going introduce you to what I believe to be some of the best coffee tampers now – nevertheless once you’ve chosen the best tamper for you & for your espresso machine, stick around so I can talk you through some of the others.

The Perfect Coffee Tampers

I’m going to split this into various tamper sizes because unfortunately, this isn’t a one size fits all thing. You need a tamper that fits your portafilter, and different espresso machines have different portafilter sizes. 

So, below, you’ll find tampers categorized by the espresso coffee machines they’ll fit. If your machine isn’t listed, basically check the size of your portafilter, and you’ll then see which tampers you need to be looking at. 

Please note, I’m putting each espresso machine into the appropriate category based on what I believe the tamper size to be.

I’d recommend you measure the size of your portafilter, and/or the useless tamper part of your plastic scoop, just in case I’m acting on incorrect or out-of-date data

If you think I’ve got any of the machines below, in the wrong category, please do let me understand,  ta.

The Perfect 49mm Tampers

Compatible with:

Swan Retro Pump Espresso coffee Machine 
Amazon Basics Espresso Machine (all variants)
La Pavoni Europiccola (Pre-millennium only. For models from 2000 onwards you’ll need 51mm)

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My Observations

There’s not a wonderful deal to be said about this tamper literally – it’s extremely much a tried and tested tamper combination this, a thick stainless steel flat base with a wooden handle. There are loads of very similar looking tampers.

I suspect many them are, erm… “emulations” of the popular (and pricier) Motta tampers. Motta being a popular brand, needless to say there are many spookily similar tampers available online, often extremely affordable as is the case with this one.

The deal with is Rosewood, the metal part is stainless steel, and it weighs 280g.

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This is apparently a calibrated tamper. Calibrated to what, I can’t tell you – as the blurb doesn’t give this away – nevertheless I suspect that this is one of the calibrated tampers which isn’t actually calibrated.

Very, if you press it until it stops, there’s a stiff spring which is designed to help your temp to be more consistent, nevertheless whether we can actually call this calibrated – uncertain, nevertheless they do.

If you’re looking for one that clicks at the calibrated pressure so you understand exactly when you’ve hit that pressure, this isn’t that. 

I’m uncertain if there are any fully calibrated tampers like this at 49mm, however if I’m wrong and there are, let me know and I’ll include it here.

What else can I tell you about this tamper? It has a stainless steel base, and it weighs 320g, so quite heavy weight.

By the way, reading through the Amazon reviews for this and other tampers, I’m finding myself getting quite annoyed at the noun “tamper” being used as a verb.  What’s wrong with me? I should need more coffee, or less.

But, I’ll take a deep breath, and very calmly state that “tamper” is the noun, the thing that you tamp with.

The action of tamping is a verb – you tamp coffee, you don’t tamper coffee – in the same way that you utilize a shaver to shave a beard, nevertheless you don’t shaver a beard, or maybe you do? ;-).

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My Observations

This is another rosewood handle and stainless steel base pair, nevertheless a slightly different shape than usual, both the base and the handle. I’ve got a tamper extremely similar to this, and I like the look and feel of it.

I know, I’m a little sad – but the way the base flares out, vs the flatter ones, brews it rather comfortable when you’re pushing down with your thumb on one side and the knuckle of your forefinger on the other, if that brews sense?

 

The Best 51mm Tampers

Compatible with:

DeLonghi Dedica EC680 & EC685
SMEG ECF01
La Pavoni Europiccola (Milennium models – 2000 and onwards)
Breville One-Touch CoffeeHouse
De’Longhi ECP35.31
Swan Scandi Style Espresso Machine
DeLonghi ECC221.B

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My Observations

I rather like the look of this tamper from DeLonghi, and I have got one somewhere but I can’t find where I’ve put it… 

Anyway, it’s the standard wooden handle and stainless steel base configuration, and it’s 50mm to fit the DeLonghi (and others) portafilters.

It’ll fit lots of of the other machines which have a 51mm portafilter, including the Smeg espresso machine as listed above, which appears extremely – VERY… similar in the majority of ways to the much cheaper DeLonghi Dedica espresso coffee machine only with a more pricey looking shell…

Reminds me of the bloke I’ve seen driving around in what appears to be a Bentley, which is in reality a Chrysler. It’s not among the body kits either, literally a badge and alloys I think, haha, I think he’s done it tongue in cheek to be fair. 

Anyway, this 51mm tamper from DeLonghi is really the perfect selling tamper on Amazon UK at the time of writing.

I can’t find the one I bought for the DeLonghi Dedica espresso machine I reviewed a while ago, but I can remember that I was rather impressed with the tamper in terms of look and feel.

For more on the Dedica, see:

DeLonghi Dedica Review  

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My Observations

This one is has a similar shaped handle to the Edesia tamper above, but a slightly more standard shaped base – and comes with a tamper mat, for the tamper to sit in.

The blurb states this is to protect the base from the kitchen worktop, however come on, it’s stainless steel!

I reckon the worktop probably needs protecting from it, not the other way around ;-), however in any case, has a mat to put it in. It apparently weighs 340g, so quite heavy weight.

Just keep in mind if you’re buying this one that they also sell a 58mm one, so make sure you don’t accidentally select that one.

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My Observations

I in reality like the look of these tampers – again I quite like the flared shape of the top of the base, the bit where you’ll rest your thumb and forefinger.

These are height adjustable which actually implies that you can remove the silver ring to make the handle slightly shorter.  It weighs 354g, and it seems like quite most tamper for the money.

The Best 53mm Tampers 

Compatible with Sage espresso machines with 54mm portafilters:

Sage Duo Temp Pro
Sage Bambino
Sage Bambino Plus
Sage Barista Express
Sage Barista Pro
Sage Barista Touch

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My Observations

As I pointed out when talking about the smaller version of this tamper above, this is a walnut-handled tamper, with a handle shape that I find quite comfortable.

Also the way the top of the stainless steel base flares out, too, makes this design of tamper rather comfortable on your thumb and forefinger or the knuckle of your forefinger depending on your tamping style.

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My Observations

Another calibrated tamper, which possibly isn’t in reality calibrated as such, but has a stiff spring which is designed to help your tamping to be more consistent.

I’m not having a go at these tampers, by the way – the adequately calibrated ones which click when they hit the weight they’re calibrated to, are a lot more expensive.

I’m just not rather sure they must be being sold as calibrated if they’re actually not.

They do seem to do the job quite though, of helping with more consistent tamping.

Adjustable Pressure Tamper.

Adjustable Pressure Tamper.

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My Observations

This is an adjustable tamper that allows you to choose a tamping pressure of between 15 – 21Kg.

I wouldn’t personally want to tamp to over 15Kg, however some do, there are some pro baristas out there who prefer to tamp at a higher pressure.

With this Aluminium tamper, you can play around with it and see which pressure seems to work best – if you can’t tell any difference, I’d say save your wrists and put it on the lowest pressure setting.

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My Observations

Quite a nice looking shaped tamper, and rather heavyweight at 260g.

The brand name Omgogo sounds like some long-extinct colourful and interesting looking feathered yet flightless bird.

The firm who sell this are called Ombobo, which makes me giggle, due to the fact that the G and B are, obviously, above each other on the keyboard, and I can’t help however think that either the brand name or the company name is a typo! ;-). 

 The Best 57mm Tampers

Compatible with:

Lelit Anna
Lelit Anita

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My Observations

Not a wonderful deal to say about this truly, a fairly standard looking tamper with a wooden handle and stainless steel base. I’m uncertain if the weight is correct, it says 399g which would make it especially heavy weight! 

Extremely happy to see from the product details that the capacity is 1ml…?? 😉

You know, part of my job – back when I had one and I couldn’t just sit around and write about coffee all day – was writing product descriptions. I’m sure I would have made the odd typo, but sometimes I do scratch my head at the type of stuff I read in product descriptions. 

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My Observations

This is a Lelit tamper, Aluminium handle with stainless steel base, and really specifically 57.35mm, to perfectly fit the Lelit 57mm baskets for the Lelit Anna & Lelit Kate. 

It’s apparently only 20g of being half a Kilo, flipping Nora! That’s what you call a heavyweight tamper.

I’m uncertain it’s correct, most the weight will be in the base with it being an Aluminium deal with, as Alu is lightweight. So if you buy one, please weight it and let me understand. Ta 🙂

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My Observations

Another Lelit tamper, and this one is all stainless steel, yet at 250g apparently lighter than the one above which has an Aluminium deal with, which amplifies my suspicions that this tamper does not have an auto shut off… 😉

The Perfect 58mm Tampers

Compatible with many other espresso coffee machines, including:

Gaggia Classic
Rancilio Silvia
Rancilio Silvia Pro
Sage Dual Boiler
Nuova Simonelli Oscar, Oscar II, Musica
All other Lelit Machines other than Anna & Anita
All Profitec espresso machines
All ECM espresso machines
All Rocket espresso machines
All Bezzera espresso machines
All La Marzocco espresso coffee machines
All Expobar espresso coffee machines

Espressogear Luce Tamper.

Espressogear Luce Tamper.

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My Observations

I have to say, I do like the unusual look of this tamper from Espresso coffee Gear.

Yes, I’m sad, we’ve already ascertained that – nevertheless there’s rather a big difference between this tamper and the majority of others, which is that the rosewood deal with flares out.

So this is what your finger and thumb will primarily come into contact with when tamping, instead of the metal base, which I hazard a guess would be quite a nice comfortable tamp.

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My Observations

These tampers from Motta are very much what I’d class as a standard tamper.

They’re the extremely typical tamper shape, with a wooden handle & a stainless steel base. As you’ll see shortly, Motta do explore the slightly unusual when it comes to tamper shapes.

This one, however, is about as usual as you can get for a tamper.

Motta Bubble Tamper.

Motta Bubble Tamper.

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My Observations

Now then, this is among a few Motta tampers you’re bound to find here, given that Motta are among the leading brands of barista accessories, but this one has a completely different deal with shape than a lot of tampers I’ve seen. 

The handle, as you can see, is ball-shaped. Why they’ve called it “bubble shaped” I’m not sure,  the first thing that springs to my mind when I think of a solid round object is a ball, not a bubble.

Maybe Motta are concerned that if they call it a “Ball Tamper” quite than a “Bubble Tamper”, some members of the public will take this very, misunderstanding what it is you’re supposed to be squishing with this thing, which is, of course, ground coffee beans.

Anyway, it looks cool, and given that I am already beginning to build up a little bit of a tamper collection, I might actually have to get myself among these.

Rhinowares Flat Push Tamper.

Rhinowares Flat Push Tamper.

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My Observations

This is a flat push tamper, named so due to the reality that of the truth that it’s flat, and you push it ;-).

It’s simply a palm tamper, so instead of having a tamper which needs you to grip a handle and press down, you can push down with the palm of your hand, or I suppose any part of your anatomy giving you’re careful to keep it extent.

Your elbow, maybe – or perhaps even your chin if you’re that way inclined, although I think a lot of people would probably opt to utilize the palm of their hand.

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My Observations

This is the 58mm version of the Diguo Elegance tamper I explained earlier, with its adjustable height deal with which is done by adding or removing the metal washer. Quite a nice looking tamper I think, and looks good for the money.

Motta 58mm slim base tamper.

Motta 58mm slim base tamper.

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My Observations

Another tamper from the well known coffee gear brand Motta, but this one has a mildly different shaped handle, maybe one to try if you haven’t got on with more fundamental deal with shapes.

This is another fantastic deal from Shop Coffee, as this is a really well known brand, who produce some decent stuff, and this tamper is cheaper than some of the other non-branded (or branded with unknown brand names) tampers.

EDO Barista Tamper Baby Pink – 58mm

Edo Baby Pink Tamper 58mm

Edo Baby Pink Tamper 58mm

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My Observations

Another pro 58mm tamper from shop coffee,  and I’m including this one in particular due to the truth that, well, you don’t see lots of baby pink coffee tampers!

Having said that, in addition to the colour, it looks like a decent tamper too, with Aluminium handle and stainless steel flat 58mm base, and it’s available in a range of other colours if you’re not a big fan of baby pink. Click here to see the other colours.

OK so that’s my advice on tampers, and as you can see there are loads & loads to choose from – and in fact, you can’t go wrong, as long as you’re selecting the right tamper for your portafilter.

Well, I suppose you can buy a tamper that you’re not all that blown away by, in terms of comfort. For example, you might find that the type of deal with doesn’t quite suit you.

Maybe you have massive sausage fingers and need a tamper handle the size of a rolling pin, or maybe you have slightly more dainty hands?

We’re all different, and thankfully there are lots of different types of tampers to choose from, and they’re one of the most economical part of the essential home barista kit, so if you do need to replace your tamper further down the line, it’s not a huge deal.

If you’re looking for bigger jumps in your home espresso coffee game, though, once you’ve got yourself a better tamper, the next thing I’d consider is the grinder situation. 

While tamping is important, grinding is arguably THE key to espresso quality, second only to the coffee itself I’d say.

If you’re currently using pre-ground coffee, freshly grinding your own coffee beans will be a step in the right direction. 

If you’re already grinding your own, but you’re utilizing a coffee grinder that belongs in the same chocolate teapot category as the plastic scoop tamper, improving your grinder is often the perfect way to improve impacts. 

For  more on this see:

Perfect Burr Coffee Grinders  

As I’ve just referred to, another surprisingly underrated (and obvious, you’d think, however it seems not) way to improve your espresso quality is to improve on the quality of the coffee you’re using.

It’s incredible in fact how a lot of people don’t get this. If you put rubbish in, you’ll get rubbish out. 

You can have the best grinding machine and the perfect coffee makeking equipment but unless you’re utilizing wonderful coffee, you won’t get great espresso coffee.

If you didn’t understand, as well as coffeeblog, I run The Coffeeworks, supplying remarkable quality coffee beans, in my simple and OK, biased, opinion.

Yes, I’m going to say my coffee is great, but if you knew more about the recipe that goes into choosing these coffees, you’d possibly better know where I’m coming from when I say this. 

The Coffeeworks began as a project involving coffee bloggers (coffee blog readers – so that now includes you), in which I ran a series of polls to find out what readers were looking for.

Many this included what flavour profiles people were looking for, as I didn’t want to only end up with a range of coffees that I love, I need customers to enjoy them too.

But all of the major decisions were crafted with reader’s opinions in mind, including seemingly unimportant decisions like which pouches to go for, and delivery options.

And with all of the coffees including the new increased range, I spent a lot of time tasting lots of different coffees via various brewing methods, as well as cupping. I know, it’s a tough job, but someone has to do it ;-).

So when I say this is best coffee, I’m not just saying that as a business person who wants you to buy his products.

If you’ve not tried my coffee before, below is a discount code that gives you a quarter off any of my coffee beans:

Use discount code CBNC25 for 25% off your first order at Coffeeworks

And once you’ve used the code above, by the way, as a returning customer (which, thankfully many customers are, as this simply is ideal coffee!) utilize the discount code: coffeebotherers for 10% off all of your future orders.

Another really often overlooked yet hugely important part of espresso-making, is distribution.

I’m not going to appropriately get into the discussion of distribution here, because it’s a topic for another totally separate article, however I’ll briefly introduce you to distribution simply in case it’s something you’ve not yet come across.

Distribution suggests exactly what it sounds like it implies, the even distribution of the coffee in the basket. There are obviously masses of particles of ground coffee beans in a portafilter basket, in truth I’ve counted them and there are approximately… haha, you didn’t fall for that did you? ;-).

I’ve not counted them… Though, I did count how most coffee beans there are in the standard espresso coffee basket, and in an 18g dosage there’s usually approximately 120-150 coffee beans, depending on the varietal, roast profile and so on.

There’s some totally useless info for you. You’re welcome :-).

Anyway, these particles can gather in clumps, and this is particularly true with certain grinders, even more so with grinders towards the entry degree. Distributing the coffee essentially means to break up the clumps and more equally distributing the ground coffee.

When you see baristas performing various strange-looking rituals, such as knocking the portafilter with the tamper, or their hand, or doing the L for loser sign and rotating their thumb and forefinger over the coffee like some deranged individual trying to mock the coffee he or she has just dosed into their portafilter… these are all manual distribution methods.

The best distribution method in my modest opinion, and among the many popular over the past few years, is known as the WDT, or the Weiss Distribution Process. 

This started out as a recipe involving a pointy implement, like a needle, and stirring up the grounds in the basket, in concentric circles.

Loads of people have developed the method and made it their own, and the majority of of people these days work with some form of multi-pronged pointy implement, and these are primarily called “WDT tools”.

There are likewise leveler tools, which I believe started out with the OCD leveler, and now there are several similar devices to this, but I think it’s important to point out that these types of tools don’t rather do the same as WDT. 

These tools work on the surface only, and they do nothing with distribution, even though they’re often sold as “distribution tools” or “coffee distributors”, they level the surface, so they’re levelers.

If you want to work with a leveler, no problem – nevertheless I’d use one as well as a WDT equipment, not instead of, as they do a different job.

Remember, you could likewise brush your hair with your toothbrush, but you probably wouldn’t? Each to their own! ;-).

Some of the Perfect WDT Tools

I’m only including a few WDT tools here, as there are so the majority of hitting the market at the moment, and a lot of of them are very similar. Watch this space, as I’ll create a separate review post for WDT tools in the future and link to it from here.

Fused Line 0.4mm WDT tool

Fused Line 0.4mm WDT tool

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My Observations

I make no apologies for the reality that I’m obsessed with coffee ;-), I’m sure you’d expect nothing else from someone who truly brews his living from writing & talking about it all day! So, as you can probably imagine, I have a lot of coffee tools & accessories, including WDT tools.

There are a couple of ways I think you can go with WDT – single equipment or two tools. 

There’s the deeper part of the WDT procedure which indicates distributing all the way down to the extremely bottom of the basket, and then there’s what’s mentioned as surface raking, where you handle the surface specifically. So you can work with one specific tool for each, or one tool for both.

Some people believe that you needs to work with a slightly thicker pronged WDT tool (around 0.4mm primarily) for the deeper WDT, however then for the surface, a thinner tool should be used, around 0.2-0.25mm. 

To be perfectly honest, I don’t understand whether using one mildly thicker tool for the deeper WDT and then a thinner pronged tool for the surface brews any difference to likelihood of channeling (which is the main thing we’re trying to combat with WDT). 

It could, in theory, and I understand some folk think that it does make a difference – I’ve not in reality been able to tell if it does or not, and I’ve not done enough specific research into this as yet to tell you whether using two tools is better than one.

What I do believe however is that any WDT is better than none, for reducing the chances of channeling, and that while a two tooled approach might not basically be any better than one, I don’t believe it can do any harm.

In theory you could work with a thinner pronged device for both, nevertheless I find the thinner needles are a little bit too flimsy for deeper WDT, they end up bending, and when they do this I think you potentially end up messing up the higher areas with the bending prongs while distributing the deeper areas. I may be wrong.

You could also work with one equipment for the deeper WDT, and then an OCD type leveler for the surface.

Personally, I either work with the one tooled WDT approach, or the two tooled approach, depending on where I am and how much time I have – but my favourite device for both the two tooled and the one tooled approach is this one.

There are various other similar tools with similar needle size, but this one seems nice and sturdy, it comes with a stand which I find handy, you can change the needle setup (if you want to) and the number of needles/pins used.

Re the stand, the version above comes with a stand, but if you prefer you can buy the version which sticks onto the side of your espresso machine:

WDT tool with magnetic mount.

WDT tool with magnetic mount.

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UDG 025mm distribution device.

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My Observations

This is the WDT device I usually utilize in conjunction with the above if I’m using a two-tooled approach.

I’ve tried other thinner tools, including one that I paid about fifty quid for, and this is my favourite among the ones I’ve tried.

It’s sturdy, none of the needles have fallen out (unlike with the fifty quid one!), and it has a magnetic hanging loop which allows me to stick it on the side of my Sage dual boiler, which is very handy.

This includes custom engraving (the imagery above is literally an example) which steeps this a nice gift idea for coffee lovers, and for more of these see:

Perfect Gift Ideas for Coffee Lovers  

The Best Coffee Tampers – Conclusion

I learn, I’ve covered quite a little bit more than purely coffee tampers in this article – but I’ve done this basically due to the truth that lots of people find out they need a proper tamper to enhance their espresso coffee, but don’t realize that there other very modest ways that you can also up your espresso coffee game.

Making among the improvements above, utilizing better coffee, improving your coffee grinder or utilizing a better tamper will help you to enhance your impacts, but creating all of these changes will produce exponential effects, leading you on the path to espresso coffee heaven!

It’s fair to say that improving your espresso machine is another component to this, but I’m holding back on that advice in the post literally because I think many people who’re looking for the perfect coffee tamper, will be people who’ve basically just bought an espresso machine. 

To a certain degree, regardless of what your espresso coffee machine is, you could always upgrade it, and becoming a home barista often comes with the pandemic condition called upgradeitis.

So quite than to annoy the heck out of you by suggesting that though you may have literally bought an espresso coffee machine, you need to upgrade it already.

What I’d recommend, is that you focus the upgradeitis on the areas of a lot of significant return for the smallest investment, which would be the coffee, the mill & the tamper.

If you are already at the point of upgrading your espresso coffee machine, although, see: 

Perfect Home Barista Espresso Machines  

Before I sign off, literally to handle a few extensively asked questions:

How hard should you tamp coffee?

You’ll have probably heard the “30 pounds of pressure” thing – and this, in my simple opinion, is about as realistic as Dragons, Unicorns & the “£350 million a week to the NHS” bus ad. 

I’m sure it came with good intentions, but I just don’t think it’s particularly helpful – or true.

You can buy a calibrated tamper if you like, which will click when you’ve hit the pre-set pressure, which in some cases is 30 pounds, or with the adjustable pressure tamper above you can select from a couple of different pressures. Otherwise, though, I’d basically ignore any reference to pounds or KG of pressure, and really push the tamper until you feel the coffee stops moving. 

The most important things about tamping, are a extent surface, and consistency. So literally tamping in a way that you’re able to do consistently whenever, just applying pressure until you can tell that the tamper has stopped compressing the grounds, while ensuring that the tamper is totally extent, is fine.

The reason it’s important to get a extent surface is that an uneven surface can promote channeling, which is what takes place when water under pressure finds paths of least resistance through the coffee, leading to uneven extraction and therefore poor tasting espresso coffee, or at least poorer than it would have tasted if it hadn’t have channeled.

What type of coffee tamper is perfect?

This is completely down to the individual. I personally prefer handled tampers to flat tampers, and I prefer heavier weight bases with wooden handles. I’m not a big fan of the all-metal tampers, as I literally find wood is a little bit nicer to hold than metal, but each to their own.

One thing I would say, is that I actually don’t like plastic tampers – and that there should be a rule against brands calling a scoop with a flat bottom, a tamper.  Many domestic espresso machines come with these flat bottomed scoops which supposedly double as tampers, and these are about as advantageous as something actually not all that beneficial. 

I in fact like Sage  Sage coffee machines and among the excellent things about them, apart from the reality that they’re usually actually clever machines and punch way above their weight in terms of value for money, is that they usually come with proper tampers.

The latest machine from them, although, the Bambino – the base degree of the Bambino Plus, comes with a plastic tamper!

It’s like a toy version of their usual metal tamper, which I think is a shame, however apparently was required in order to achieve the desired lower RRP.

Nevertheless anyway – if you buy the Bambino or any espresso machine which comes with a plastic tamper, I’d highly recommend buying a proper tamper (and you’ll need a 53mm tamper for the Bambino).

The Gaggia Classic Pro comes with a plastic tamper too, you’ll need a 58mm tamper for that – though the limited edition (they’re just releasing 3000 of them, all numbered) while available, come with a barista kit including a proper wooden-handled tamper.

For more on this (including details on the limited edition run) see:

Gaggia Classic Pro Review

Are all coffee tampers the same size?

No, tampers vary in size to reflect the size of the portafilter that comes with your coffee machine, which is why I’ve categorized the tampers above into the most common sizes.

It’s worth keeping in mind too, that while in the majority of cases, the tamper is the same size as the portafilter, this isn’t always the case.

Some baskets are mildly tapered or have a ridge in them, which indicates that you need a mildly smaller tamper, which is why for example the tampers for Sage portafilters are usually 53mm and not 54mm.

If you’re in doubt, basically have a quick google for “best tamper size for <insert your espresso coffee machine here>”, and you’ll usually find others have already answered this question on forums, Reddit & so on.

Is a bigger portafilter better?

Not simply. There’s the majority of argument about portafilter size and shape, and while some assume that the larger 58mm portafilter size is better due to the reality that this is what most professional machines utilize, this isn’t necessarily due to the reality that it’s the perfect, it’s more about standardization.

The E61 espresso group was released in the early 60s, and has a 58mm group, it became really popular, so when other people were developing other groups for other espresso machines, 58mm probably just brewed sense to stick with this size as a basic, which is why a lot of (not all) professional espresso coffee machines tend to have 58mm baskets.

How do you choose a coffee tamper?

As I said earlier, the tamper is one of the cheapest home barista tool, so I wouldn’t worry too much about it – just pick one that you like the look of, that has some good reviews, and if you don’t like it for whatever the reason, then great – something to drop hints to friends and family about in the run up to Christmas or Birthdays ;-).

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This post first off appeared at Coffee Blog – The UK Specialty Coffee Blog – For Lovers of REAL Coffee!