I often said there was going to be a day in coffee that you would meet a barista that has never used a tamp and indeed, it’s happening now. For good reason too. The not-so-current trend of electronic tamps in coffee is amongst us and here to stay.  


Let’s start with why we need to tamp. We are grinding coffee beans into shards, fragments, pieces (whatever you want to call them) of coffee. If left alone, they could essentially sit in any pattern or direction and may or may not create some sort of resistance on the water passing through. By distributing these “grounds” into a bed, we create some resistance to the water and therefore the water is forced to soak into the coffee and extract the flavours. Take those grounds and push them down with some force then the water really only has one place to go, straight into the coffee.  


Now tamping is relatively simple, within reason. Place a flat surface on some coffee to create a flat surface for which water to travel through the coffee evenly. The key here is evenly and with uniformity. 


Take it from a trainer of coffee for almost 15 years, hand tamping is not that easy. First you need to work on getting the tamp even, this requires a lot of practice. Then you need to work on a consistent pressure, which over more than one hundred tamps a day, is easier said than done. What is also important is holding the tamp so you don’t end up with an injury or worse yet, some repetitive strain injury that can bother you for years to come. The benefits of tamping are however, the inexpensive cost of a tamp. You can get a good tamp for less than AU$200.  


Now the automatic tampers like the Puqpress have been a game changer in coffee. Here you have a tamp that can be set to be perfectly level, will maintain a consistent pressure for every single tamp and won't cause any injury... and also doesn't whine about working on Sunday. The only negative to a mechanical tamper like this is machine fault, which is rarely a problem, and price. At around $1800 it is definitely more expensive however, the cost of consistency and peace of mind is hard to measure.  


My pick will always be a mechanical tamper