Why distribute Espresso in your Portafilter
Most espresso grinders spit coffee out at a single point which can create a tower of espresso in your Portafilter. If you tamp at this point, coffee will be dense in the center and thin out at the edges of the basket. Water always searches for the path of least resistance meaning most of the water will find its way to the edges, leaving the middle of the coffee puck under extracted and the outer edges over extracted. Overall, the goal is to secure the grounds into to a solid evenly distributed puck with a level surface and create space for the brew water to gather before being forced through the grounds
Three ways to distribute coffee in your Portafilter
- Shaking Method allows gravity to do most of the work. By gently shaking or tapping the portafilter against the side of your hand, the coffee will move evenly throughout the portafilter.
- Hand/palm method consists of using either the palm of your hand or your index finger to level the coffee grounds.
- Distribution Tool. Recently, several product designers have released tools that fit in your portafilter and evenly distribute the coffee with a couple turns.
How to properly hold an Espresso Tamp
Making espresso at a busy cafe can put stress on your hand if you are not holding the tamp properly. To prevent this from happening, hold the tamp exactly as you would a door handle. This means wrapping your palm around the side and resting your thumb on the base. If your palm rests on the top of the tamp, it can create tension in your arm as you push down.
How to Tamp Espresso
Consistency is the most important factor when tamping. Tamp pressure does not matter nearly as much as making sure the tamp presses down flat and evenly. For proper tamping technique, tilt your elbow at a 90 degree angle and lay the tamp over the espresso. With your thumb on the base and your and wrapped around the handle, gently lean and press. When first learning how to properly tamp, it is helpful to pause after the tamp is in place to check that the edge of the tamp base is aligned and straight inside of the basket. Remove the tamp base straight up out of the portafilter. You are now ready to brew espresso.
Importance of Espresso Tamper Size
If your tamp is is too small, even by 1mm, a small rim of uncompressed grounds will form around the edges of the basket leaving coffee under extracted when the shot is pulled. Purchasing the correct size tamp can greatly improve your espresso quality.
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