In a busy café or business scenario, the aim is to be able to tamp as quickly and efficiently as possible without compromising the quality of your extraction.
This involves making the least amount of movements in order to achieve the desired result. Once the coffee is dosed properly you need to only tamp once. If you need to inspect the coffee bed you should do so quickly and re-tamp if the coffee bed looks slanted or uneven. Over time, you will get better at achieving an even coffee bed after one tamp.
Consistency is key when creating the ideal tamp. You can never really tamp too hard, but there is definitely a danger in tamping too lightly. Tamping lightly, or tamping unevenly will result in coffee that channels or runs through cracks in the coffee bed.
The resulting espresso or milk-based beverage will display sour, tangy and unpleasant tones for anyone who tastes it. To avoid this undesirable result, tamp hard enough to firmly compress all the grind particles (not so hard that you injure yourself) but by always ensuring evenness across the coffee bed.
Cleanliness is key if you are to improve the speed and efficiency of your tamping. A clean tamping utensil (tamp) will ensure that no residual grind particles remain around the sides of the porta-filter.
Grind particles may result in your tamp becoming stuck in the basket, or produce and uneven tamp. Cleanliness is also an important point of difference. A clean barista is an efficient barista.
Cleanliness is imperative if you are to make a good impression on whoever is watching you make the coffee. Avoid touching the coffee grounds with hands at all, but use the instruments at your disposal.
The aim of each tamp is to create an even platform of coffee grounds that is smooth and polished.
This allows for an even extraction of the coffee as the water, when activated, makes contact with all of coffee at the same time.
You want to avoid having some coffee grounds being extracted at a different rate than the remaining coffee in the porta-filter. To ensure this, tamp only once, using three fingers spaced evenly on the tamp to distribute pressure. Then remove the pressure and weight applied by your hand and lightly spin the tamp to polish the remaining grinds, creating a smooth, even result.
Tamping, day in and day out can lead to overuse injuries. However, you can reduce this risk by leaning over the porta-filter and pushing down on the coffee bed, utilising your body weight.
Press hard enough to create a solid and smooth puck, but not so hard that you are feeling any strain. The process should be repeatable and almost effortless when done correctly.
These tips should help you improve the way in which you tamp!