Best espresso tampers for home baristas

The 9 best espresso tampers (2019)

A good quality coffee tamper or espresso tamper is an essential tool for the serious coffee lover or aspiring (home) barista. Unfortunately, there are A LOT of lousy coffee tampers out there. Monsieur Coffee wants to help you pick a tamper that works like a tamper should. We scoured the web, did some testing and found the 10 best espresso tampers for anyone who wants to make great espresso at home.

Many people think that a good quality coffee tamper is a ‘nice to have.’ While it is true that a good coffee tamper won’t automatically improve your espressos, it is an essential tool for the serious home barista.

Making a great espresso requires quality in every aspect of the brewing process. You can’t skimp on anything.

Like they say: the devil is in the details. 

Let’s take a loot a the requirements for a good final product:

  • You NEED to have freshly and properly roasted, quality coffee beans;
  • You NEED to have a good quality grinder that can pulverize those beans into an espresso grind;
  • You NEED to make sure you are using good quality water with a proper hardness level; 
  • You NEED an excellent espresso machine that uses the water at the right temperature and delivers the right amount of pressure;
  • You NEED to have the skills to prepare the coffee to receive the water.

It is this last NEED where your skills as a barista come in. One of your main jobs as a barista is the preparation of the portafilter. Loading it with coffee and tamping it with 30 pounds of pressure. Using the best espresso tamper you can afford makes this job a bit easier.

I’m not saying this to scare you. Learning to make a good espresso is a skill that takes time to learn. Still, it is achievable to anyone who commits to learning. 

My key message here is: your tools can help you become better faster. And a coffee tamper is no exception to this rule. 

In this article, we take a look at the best espresso tampers on the market. We take a look at coffee tampers at all price points, so there should be something for everyone. 

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If you are in a hurry, these are my best value for money recommendations:

Best value Calibrated Espresso Tamper

LUXHAUS CALIBRATED PRESSURE TAMPER FOR COFFEE AND ESPRESSOThis tamper makes sure you always pull a barista-level shot. It has a clever design and can be found in three sizes: 51 mm, 53 mm, and 58 mm. 

Best Value Non-calibrated espresso tamper

LUXHAUS ESPRESSO TAMPER. This is the non-calibrated version of the LuxHaus Espresso Tamper. As its calibrated counterpart, it has a clever, well-constructed design, and is available in a wide range of sizes.

I love the LuxHause coffee tampers. They are, without doubt the best value for money option out there. But, to be honest, there is one brand of coffee tamper I prefer to the LuxHaus. 

The espresso tamper by Barista Hustle is a newcomer, but it has quickly become my go-to tamper. It is the best. Period. The only thing is that it will cost you a bit more. I think it is totally worth it. But whether that’s true for you is for you to decide.

The best espresso Tamper

The Barista Hustle Espresso Tamper

Why do we tamp coffee for espresso?

We tamp the coffee in a portafilter to set the stage for the water to be pushed through the coffee. A properly tamped bed of coffee offers enough resistance to allow flavor and caffeine to be properly extracted. The bed of coffee, or puck as it is called in its tamped state, needs to be consistent. No air pockets.

Tamping makes sure that no small pockets of air remain in the basket. You can imagine that when water runs through a bed of coffee with air pockets, the flow of water becomes inconsistent. This is wat professional barista’s call: channeling.

As the water is pushed through the filter, it will find the path of least resistance. 

Why? 

Because that is what water does. It finds the path of least resistance. 

A properly tamped puck (which is what we call the compressed coffee in the portafilter) will present a solid front to the water. This means that the time water is in contact with ground coffee is the same all the way through the puck.

A badly tamped puck, on the other hand, offers a lot of options for that water to pass through around the ground coffee. It is met with more resistance in some parts of the puck, and with less resistance in other parts. This means that the time the coffee grounds are in contact with water is variable. And variability of extraction equals bad coffee. You are looking for consistency.

Why you shouldn't overdo tamping coffee

Some people get carried away while tamping the coffee in their portafilter. They put their weight into it and considering a feat of strength to pack the coffee in the portafilter as tight as possible.

Don’t to this. You won’t get bonus points. 

The truth is that, while applying between 30 and 50 pounds (or between 13 and 23 kilograms) of pressure is the standard, consistency is way more important. The minimum you need to do is to ‘tamp’ al air pockets out of the coffee bed. That doesn’t require a lot of pressure.

Beyond that, consistency trumps power every time. Keep in mind, the final taste of your espresso depends on a whole range of factors. If you want to change the outcome, change one thing at a time. So, you should only change the amount of pressure you apply when you are looking to change the outcome. Otherwise, be consistent.

What is the proper coffee tamping technique?

It is not uncommon for people to injure themselves while tamping. Mostly, that’s the result of bad technique and applying too much weight. 

But don’t worry. Tamping coffee is not dangerous. 

You just need to use the proper technique:

  1. Fill the portafilter with the desired amount of coffee.
  2. Hold the coffee tamper a bit like you would hold a doorknob. 
  3. Wrap your bottom three fingers (pinky, ring finger, and middle finger) around the handle and hold the base with your thumb and index finger. 
  4. The position of the thumb and index finger will help level the base, and the rest of the hand will give you a firm grip on the tamper.
  5. Place the portafilter firmly on the edge of a table or countertop. Or in a special portafilter holder.
  6. Put the coffee tamper on the coffee bed as level as possible. Use your thumb and index finger as a guide.
  7. Raise your elbow above your wrist. This allows you to transfer force down to your hand more easily and in a controlled way. 
  8. Push down with enough force to tamp the bed and remove any air pockets. 
  9. Remove the tamper with a twist, Like you are trying to remove a screw.
  10. Clean the top of the portafilter and put it into the espresso machine.
That’s it!

Pro Tip

You can practice and get a feel for the amount of pressure you need to apply by using: bathroom scales.

What?

Yes, bathroom scales.

Here's how you do it:
Take your scales from the bathroom and put them on your countertop. Give them a wipe when necessary. Now take your coffee tamper, hold it properly, and push down on the scales (elbow up!). Try aiming for somewhere between 30 and 50 pounds (or 13 and 23 kilograms). You'll see that by practicing this a few times, spaced over a few days, you'll be able to apply your target pressure pretty consistently.

What to look for in a good coffee tamper?

As said, there are a lot of bad coffee tampers out there. Worst are the plastic ones that come with some espresso machines. The machines are usually pretty good, but the tampers they come with are just terrible. You want something better from the get-go.

When you are looking for a good quality coffee tamper, there are a few things you should be aware of.

Essential: find the right size head for your coffee tamper!

An essential feature of the coffee tamper to be aware of is the size of the head. The head of the coffee tamper should fit the size of your portafilter. If you buy one that is too small, you won’t get an even coffee bed, the coffee will rise up at the sides of the tamper. If you buy one that is too large, it won’t fit in your portafilter, and you will not be able to tamp the coffee grounds at all.

While the industry standard is 58 mm,  it is a good idea to measure the inside of your portafilter (or look in the manual of your espresso machine) before you set out to buy a coffee tamper.

How heavy should a coffee tamper be?

Weight is an important factor. A coffee tamper that can be used comfortably should have some weight to it. The flimsy, plastic tampers that come with some espresso machine are almost weightless. It is challenging to apply enough pressure with something that weighs so little. And you won’t find the stability you are looking for either.

The bottom line: not too little and not too much.

How heavy a coffee tamper should exactly be is hard to say. But it should have some weight to it. Fortunately, every single one of the coffee tampers we discuss below has a good amount of weight to it. 

What material should a coffee tamper be made of?

In theory, coffee tampers can be made of any material. Wood, stone, plastic. But, usually, a good quality coffee tamper is mostly made of metal. Metal is heavier than those other materials, and as we have seen, this helps with the pressure that you need to apply. Also, metal is non-porous, so it is easy to clean. The oils in the coffee won’t stick to it. 

What shape is the head of a coffee tamper?

Traditionally, a coffee tamper has a perfectly flat head (at the bottom). This allows for an evenly tamper bed of coffee. Recent innovations have produced tampers with a slightly convex head. This pushed the coffee ground up towards the edges, just a bit. This helps with removing air pockets and preventing channeling. 

Most professional baristas prefer a flat head coffee tamper. Only if you are really unsure about your technique, a convex head might help.

The benefits of a calibrated coffee tamper

Some coffee tampers are calibrated. This means that there is a gap between the handle and the head. This gap houses a mechanism that collapses when the right amount of pressure is applied. This removes the whole ‘how much pressure?’ issue. You apply even pressure until the gap closes and voila! A perfectly tamped bed. 

Some people dislike calibrated coffee tampers. A calibrated coffee tamper requires less skill to use. And for some people, it is all about the skill. About becoming an artisan coffee maker. And although if think that is commendable and very much worth striving for, it is not for everyone. For some people, a calibrated coffee tamper is the perfect innovation. So, if it sounds helpful to you, get one. It won’t make you any less barista-like (if that’s what’s worrying you).

Now that you know what to look for a good coffee tamper let’s take a look at the best espresso tampers on the market. 

The 9 best espresso tampers on the market

Now, for the section, all of you have been waiting to read: The Tampers. Like espresso machines, these come in a broad range of materials and styles and can range from extremely inexpensive to what a Ferrari would cost if it were reincarnated as an espresso tamper. I’ll leave it to you to choose which of those I present is right for you.

LuxHaus Calibrated Espresso Tamper

Let’s not beat around the bush: the LuxHaus Calibrated Coffee Tamper is my favorite coffee tamper on this list. It is the perfect marriage between looks (simple but elegant), features (weight and calibration), and price (definitely not too expensive). 

The tamping head of the LuxHaus is crafted from solid stainless steel. Which makes it both food safe and rustproof. The beautiful handle from black anodized aluminum is rounded and is a joy to hold. It is available in four sizes (49mm, 51mm, 53mm, and 58mm), so it will fit just about any portafilter.

The calibration mechanism allows individuals to apply between 29 and 35 psi of pressure consistently. The most important thing is that the pressure you apply is the same every time. This means you will always get evenly tamped coffee beds.

The calibration mechanism is also the one downside to the LuxHaus Calibrated Coffee Tamper. Because of the calibration, you cannot vary the levels of pressure if you are experimenting. When you use the LuxHaus as your tamper, you are limited to experimenting with coffee type, grind size, water temperature, etc. You cannot experiment with different levels of pressure. 

Verdict: The LuxHaus Calibrated Tamper is the best value calibrated Espresso tamper.

If you like the LuxHaus, but don’t like the calibration. I.e., you want an uncalibrated version, you’re in luck. LuxHaus also has a ‘regular’ coffee tamper.

Vencino dual-Sided espresso tamper

If, for some reason, you require two sizes of coffee tampers, the Coffee Tamper by Vencino might be a good option for you. In any case, this is a great budget option AND a coffee tamper that is geared towards beginners.

The two sides of this tamper measure 51mm an 58mm, two of the most common portafilter sizes. If you own an espresso machine from Breville, DeLonghi, Gaggia, or Mr. Coffee, this coffee tamper will fit. Guaranteed. 

It is a simple device. Entirely made from aluminum, but still has a decent amount of weight. It is excellent for beginners because of the shape. 

Pressure is applied with the palm of your hand, where most tampers derive force from the fingers and the lower arm. This makes it easier to apply the 30 to 50 psi of pressure you are looking for.

Verdict: The Vencino Dual-Sided Espresso Tamper is a no-fuss budget coffee tamper.

Blue snail stainless steel coffee tamper

With a steel-clad iron body, the BlueSnail coffee tamper is a no-nonsense model. No calibration, full stainless steel body, and a one-sided 51mm tamping head. But still, the stainless steel body makes it heavy duty. And if you have a 51mm portafilter (which is the industry standard), you don’t need two-sided tampers. The weight is good, the usability of the tamper is sufficient. This is by no means the best tamper, but as the cheapest on this list, it is definitely worth a look.

verdict: The BlueSnail Stainless Steel Tamper is the cheapest budget coffee tamper. But not the best.

Omgogo Stainless Steel Coffee Tamper

Another option in the budget range is the Omgogo Steel Coffee Tamper. For a tamper at this price point, a lot of thought has gone into the design and finish. You can see the quality of production in the nicely finished edges on the head. The head is made of solid stainless steel, which gives it plenty of weight. The handle is made from machined aluminum, which is lighter but still solid. The difference in the weight of the head and the handle makes for a nicely balanced tamper. 

It comes in three sizes: 49mm, 51mm, and 53mm. So it will fit most portafilters, but be sure to measure the inside of your portafilter to make sure you pick the right one. 

verdict: The Omgogo Stainless Steel Tamper is the best budget Espresso tamper.

SMKF hand palm coffee tamper

And now for something completely different! Most tampers follow a similar form, whether they’re calibrated or not. A regular coffee tamper has a base and a handle. A coffee tamper is usually quite recognizable. Not so much for the SMFK hand palm coffee tamper. 

As the name says, the SMKF is a tamper that fits in the palm of your hand. This allows for easy tamping action with your arm at 90 degrees to the counter. It is much more doable to apply 30 to 50 pounds of pressure this way. 

A great tool if you want to take a slightly different path. 

verdict: The SMKF tamper is the best hand palm coffee tamper.

Motalius Solid Espresso Tamper

Beautiful enough to serve as a paperweight, but its design is all business. What makes this coffee tamper special is that it is turned out of a solid piece of stainless steel. This makes it nice and heavy, but also a bit more expensive. Being made of solid stainless steel, it is rust-resistant and easy to clean. 

The one downside here is that it is only available in 58mm. This won’t fit all portafilters. Be sure to measure! Another thing that needs to be mentioned is that some customers report that the head is a bit smaller than 58mm. This results in a loose fit in a 58mm portafilter. A loose fit is not ideal because it allows coffee grounds to creep up the sides of the tamper, resulting in an uneven bed of coffee.

If you are really set on getting a coffee tamper, entirely made from stainless steel (the Motalius is machined from a single block of stainless steel), this is the one for you. In my opinion, there are better coffee tampers out there at this price-point. But the love for a full stainless steel coffee tamper is understandable.

Verdict: The Motalius Solid Tamper is the best midprice solid stainless steel Espresso tamper.

purple mountain espresso tamper - MADE IN THE USA -

Purple Mountain also produces coffee tampers made from solid stainless steel. But these are a bit more expensive. And with good reason. This is a 100% stainless steel coffee tamper, guaranteed to be free from heavy metals and all other harmful coatings and platings. They can promise this because the Purple Mountain is 100% Made in the USA.

At 1,5 pounds it is nice and heavy. Which makes tamping the coffee bed to perfection a bit easier. This is not a calibrated coffee tamper, so it helps you develop real barista skills.

Finally, the tamper is easy to clean and dishwasher safe.

The one thing you need to realize is that this is a premium tamper. And this is reflected in the price. But it is worth every dime. High-quality manufacturing in the USA from the best materials available doesn’t come cheap. But you really get what you pay for in this case.

verdict: The Purple Mountain Espresso Tamper is the best premium coffee tamper.

Professional Espresso Tamper by Barista Hustle

The idea behind the Espresso Tamper by Barista Hustle is: “Tamp like a barista champion: The most repetitive motion behind bar deserves better.” One of the few innovative espresso tampers out there has a whole range of characteristics:

  • A 58.4mm head diameter fits a VST basket like a glove. 
  • A double flange between the base and top of the head eliminates vacuuming.
  • A human-friendly shaped handle with a textured surface for a solid grip.
  • A head made from solid 304 stainless steel with a flat base.
  • A handle made from military spec type-II anodized aluminum.
  • A replaceable base, because a tamper’s lifespan is bound to include a few run-ins with the floor.

Let’s dive a bit deeper into the most promising features of the Barista Hustle Tamper:

It eliminates vacuuming:

As they say at Barista Hustle: “Suction sucks.” So they invented the double flange between the base and top slope of the handle. This eliminates the vacuum created by a traditional thick tamper head. 

It grips better:

The “human-friendly” shape is suitable for most hands and gripping styles. The rock hard yet textured surface of the handle ensures confident gripping. Furthermore, contrary to most tamper manufacturers, Baristle Hustle doesn’t believe heavier is better. This tamper only weighs 250 grams and makes regular tampers feel like an ax. Barista Hustle understands that a less cumbersome tamper also means less repetitive strain on the body. 

It lasts longer:

Barista Hustle added features to ensure this tamper lasts for a long time. First, they have made the base replaceable. So, when your tamper has it’s inevitable run-ins with the floor too many times: instead of replacing the entire tamper, you can easily replace the base. Additionally, they include a zip-up case to ensure the tamper is protected when stored.

Barista Hustle, the manufacturer of this coffee tamper, is a really cool company. It was founded by Matt Perger, an Australian world champion barista. Barista Hustle offers courses on all aspects of making coffee and individual coaching by certified Barista Hustle coaches. But the main thing is that it is made for and run by passionate coffee enthusiasts. And in my book, that’s a +1.

The Barista Hustle Espresso Tamper is my favorite tamping tool. Period. 

verdict: the barista hustle tamper is:
the best overall espresso tamper.

Essential espresso tamping accessories

This article is about espresso tampers. But there are a few things that make your tamping action complete:

Something to hold your portafilter and protect your countertop. And something to empty the portafilter in like a pro. Of course, I’m referring to a tamping mat and a coffee knock box. 

Without going into a whole lot of detail, these are the two pieces of gear that shine on my countertop. In my opinion, you can go wrong with these two. And a whole bunch of Amazon customers agrees with mee. Check them out:

A tamping mat:

A knock Box

Conclusion

Tamping a bed of coffee grounds into the perfect puck, to make an excellent shot of espresso is a skill best learned with the right tools. Hopefully, I have helped you a bit with your quest for the Excalibur of espresso tampers. 

To sum up: the Barista Hustle espresso tamper is my favorite, and the best overall espresso tamper, if you ask me. When you are looking for a calibrated espresso tamper, you can’t go wrong with the LuxHaus Calibrated espresso tamper.

Happy tamping!

Caffeinated greetings,

Monsieur Coffee

As an espresso lover, you might also be interested in our article on how to make another delicious espresso-based coffee drink: the Americano.

Click below to check it out: