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Coffee Tamping

Tamping is one stage in making great espresso, and an important one.

Sure, you can get a great shot of espresso by not tamping at all, or lightly levelling grounds, but tamping provides consistency, or at least a higher level of it. Tamping is also part of the artistry and panache that make espresso so culturally appealing. Using a custom-crafted device to build an equally custom-crafted beverage is one of the true joys of this process.

Consistency is one of the prime benefits from tamping. By always tamping with the same pressure, the same style, you increase your chances of pulling a first rate shot. You control a variable in espresso brewing when you tamp. Just grinding a bit finer and locking in the portafilter sans tamping takes away your control of one of the many variables.

To choose proper tamping pressure, you should try every variety of tamping pressures (or lack thereof). Some people find that a 30lb tamp, combined with a grind fine enough to produce a 25 second 3 ounce double espresso is as near to perfect as they can get.

When you tamp with 20lbs or less pressure, you're increasing the chances of a phenomenon called "channeling". Water always seeks the path of lease resistance, and when you tamp light, or don't tamp at all, you run the risk of portions of your lose grounds compacting quicker than others, and water will go through the parts of the coffee that are the least compacted.