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Tamping Science, Theory and Practice, Part One by Mark Prince
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RapidCoffee
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Posted Mon Oct 9, 2006, 9:27am
Subject: Re: Tamping Science, Theory and Practice, Part One by Mark Prince
 

Jules_Gobeil Said:

I do something when tamping that I have not read about elsewere.  I dose and distribute the normal way.  Then I put the tamper on the basket (a heavy SS RegBarber), hold it with 2 fingers at the top of the handle without any downward pressure and slowly rotate it 1 turn, just like if a dot at the top center of the handle was rotated around a dime.  I then knock it lightly and tamp to 30 pounds.  I suspect that this rotating action has a compacting effect on the sides of the basket.  I don't have a bottomless PF but I seem to get even extraction.  Makes sense ?

Posted October 9, 2006 link

Known as a nutating tamp (although it's really more of a distribution method). Why it works is still a mystery to me.

OT: Nice Website design!
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Teme
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Posted Mon Oct 9, 2006, 11:03am
Subject: Re: Tamping Science, Theory and Practice, Part One by Mark Prince
 

Great article Mark!

Well done. I definitely look forward to parts 2 and 3 in due course...

Br,
Teme

 
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Jules_Gobeil
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Posted Mon Oct 9, 2006, 12:08pm
Subject: Re: Tamping Science, Theory and Practice, Part One by Mark Prince
 

RapidCoffee Said:

Known as a nutating tamp (although it's really more of a distribution method). Why it works is still a mystery to me.

OT: Nice Website design!
________
John

Posted October 9, 2006 link

Thanks for the nice comment about my Web site.  I was not aware of the nutating tamp.  Searching for it, I found this video:
Click Here (www.home-barista.com)

I do it a little differently, no pressure at all on the tamper, just its weight.  Thanks for the info.

 
www.julesgobeil.com
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hopkin
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Posted Mon Oct 9, 2006, 2:31pm
Subject: Re: Tamping Science, Theory and Practice, Part One by Mark Prince
 

MarkPrince Said:

Hey Luca...

Article two covers a lot of the stuff you talked about, and more - the focus is (of course natch!) on the naked portafilter and it's something that I've been writing and re-writing ever since I first saw the chopped PF in action at Elysian Room way back when - interesting days that - the BGA board had a tease article describing the naked and what it was showing, without visuals. Lots of wink wink nudge nudge - and I think it was hoped that all would be revealed at an upcoming trade show or competition (I think it was either CoffeeFest or NWRBC 2004?).  I was in Alistair's shop the very day later, and he was all excited but also perturbed - he read the article and swore up and down that he had been talking to his staff about the very same idea several weeks before... then poof - he magically produces a chopped PF - wallah - have a look! Got it chopped that morning.

Posted October 8, 2006 link

It was Chris Davidson at Zoka, and Kyle Larson (now at Stumptown) that posted the first message on the BGA board.  The only thing I did was name it the "Naked Portafilter" and take a bunch of photo's.  I still use spouts, but use the naked 95% of the time on our bar.  The feedback and cleanliness being two of the largest benefits.

That was an exciting time, full of breakthoughs, and I think our espresso has improved massively because of it.

Great article here Mark.  It should be added that one of the main engineers of the Swift grinder was Mark Barnett.

Alistair Durie
Elysian Coffee
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daschles
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Posted Mon Oct 9, 2006, 7:43pm
Subject: Heresy - but is the science so necessary?
 

Very interesting piece, but what I can't get out of my head is the fact that I've never seen a barista in Italy stress so much about tamping, and to my mind and mouth you just don't get a better cup than there! A quick flick tamp, and they're done.

Are we taking geekdom too far, and should we - could we - just build from a base of simplicity?
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MarkPrince
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Posted Mon Oct 9, 2006, 11:54pm
Subject: You're darned tootin' tamper science and theory examination is necessary!
 

daschles Said:

Very interesting piece, but what I can't get out of my head is the fact that I've never seen a barista in Italy stress so much about tamping, and to my mind and mouth you just don't get a better cup than there! A quick flick tamp, and they're done.

Posted October 9, 2006 link

Here's where I'll agree with you - sort of ;)

- yes, espresso coffee is better, across the board than it is in N. America when you average it out
- yes, in many cases, tamping is just a quick, automated thing, sometimes not even really practiced beyond the plastic thing that juts out from some grinders.

Is it the best espresso in the world? Well, "best" is subjective of course, but eliminating environment from the equation (as in, holy crap, I'm in Rome and having espresso!), no, it isn't by a long shot. Italians have never won the WBC, and during my most recent visit, had some mediocre espresso, some okay espresso, some good espresso, and some very, very good espresso. But I've had better... many times over.

In addition, two factors come into play in Italy.

a) many machines are based on the e61 design, which I will argue requires less care about tamping than non-e61 machines.
b) historically, tamping was not seen being crucial for espresso, especially pre-9BAR brewing - and for the same reason why it's less crucial on e61 machines (the very slow, gradual build up of water at neutral or line-feed pressure, then at around 7 seconds, a jump to 9bar), these machines barely passed 1.5BAR in pressure throwing water at the ground coffee.

In fact, even after Achilles Gaggia introduced his piston spring lever machine, right on up to the e61 evolution and beyond, baristas had tools that allowed them to either control a natural, passive prinfusion that would not crater and pit the puck, or they had a machine that gave them 5 to 7 seconds "steep" time for the water to saturate, before 135lbs of water force hit the bed of coffee.

daschles Said:

Are we taking geekdom too far, and should we - could we - just build from a base of simplicity?

Posted October 9, 2006 link

As mentioned in the article, this is going to go into minutia. But I'll also be honest with my feelings here.

I believe espresso preparation and espresso quality standards have advanced more in the past five, seven years because of a) Scandinavian, b) Australian / New Zealander and c) North Americans involvement, examining the process and pushing the envelope, than it has in the 35 years prior, ever since Faema rolled out the e61 machine with it's rotary pump, progressive preinfusion, heat exchanger and actively heated grouphead, in, you guessed it, 1961.

The only real standout for me in Italy in the period between 1961 and 2006 is Illy. They work the science and push the envelope. And ironically enough, Illy are champions of a proper and precise tamping method.

Current developments, embraced by companies like La Marzocco and Della Corte, and only recently semi-embraced by Nuova Simonelli (with the Aurellia) and Elektra (who still don't have any production machines out though with the latest trends) were driven primarily by the Scandinavian / N. American / AussieKiwi developments, demands and discoveries. Meanwhile, The giant Saeco (owns gaggia, la pavoni, swiss factories, etc) is concerned with building sh*tty super autos, and the equally giant umbrella company CMA (Astoria, Wega, etc etc.) seems more concerned with building art deco external housings than it is with advancing perfection in espresso.

Mark

 
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Scrodge
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Posted Tue Oct 10, 2006, 1:19am
Subject: Re: Tamping Science, Theory and Practice, Part One by Mark Prince
 

Awesome article as always.  I've often thought about the effect that knocking the portafilter to clear the excess grinds has on the puck's formation and it's seal.  Have to say I'm excited about getting to work even earlier than I usually do to try some new things out, it's always good/exciting and refreshing to find something new out.  I've been maing espresso for over 6 years now and I'm stoked to say I'm still learning.

Lastly the naked portafilter... honestly I'd never seen one before but that photo on flikr from the link could be the coolest thing I've ever seen.  Just one question though... why the spouts on portafilters then?? Are they just to split the shot for making singles (sorry to be a wanker but YUCK!), or is there another reason?  I'd just like to figure why these things aren't standard fare in cafes, they'd be great for those infuriating (and thankfully rare) moments when you lose the extraction in the middle of service ;-P  ha!

Anyways just thought I'd chip in my 2c.
Peace
Andy
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Paul_Pratt
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Posted Tue Oct 10, 2006, 11:34pm
Subject: Re: Tamping Science, Theory and Practice, Part One by Mark Prince
 

From the article

Another piston style, the "euro curve" came about in the early 2000s because of one fellow - Alexander von der Lippe, of Temperato in Norway put a call into Reg Barber one day asking for a more predominant curve.

Mark can you expand on this?  Do you mean THE curve came about 5 years ago or Reg added it to his line 5 years ago?   I remember those exaggerated curved bases when I first started as a barista over 11 years ago.  If you also look at any grinder tamping attachment (both the stuck on ones and the piston ones) they almost always have very strong curves, neither flat nor marginally convex.
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MarkPrince
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Posted Wed Oct 11, 2006, 1:36am
Subject: Re: Tamping Science, Theory and Practice, Part One by Mark Prince
 

Paul_Pratt Said:

Mark can you expand on this?  Do you mean THE curve came about 5 years ago or Reg added it to his line 5 years ago?   I remember those exaggerated curved bases when I first started as a barista over 11 years ago.  If you also look at any grinder tamping attachment (both the stuck on ones and the piston ones) they almost always have very strong curves, neither flat nor marginally convex.

Posted October 10, 2006 link

In researching the article and speaking to Reg about it (I also sent a few emails to David Schomer, but did not get a reply back in time for the article), one of the questions I had was the evolution of the curved piston in tampers, and Barber's standpoint was that there were a wide variety of convex curves out there, but all relatively shallow - some as shallow as the models that were coming out of Sweden at that time (like the then-brand-new xpresivo tamper), and some more curved, like Schomer's recently introduced (at the time) Ergo Tamper curve.

It was von der Lippe, when placing an order with Barber, who suggested it be taken very curved - much more so than even those curved examples at that time. So Barber did it, and dubbed it the "euro curve", a moniker that has since stuck.

There's few people in this industry who probably know more about the tamper world, it's evolution and milestones than Barber, and he's also very self deprecating - not one to want much limelight for these things, even though in many ways, he's kind of the grandfather of the biz... but I digress.

I had no reason to doubt what he was saying. I didn't get an exact timeline on when the euro curve suggested by von der Lippe came about, but my best guess is it was probably around 2002, maybe 2001. As far as Barber is concerned, that's when this widely noticable curve was first produced for a tamper. Since then, other companies have put out tampers with even more of a curve, and some have done concave designs (with fake diamonds in the middle of them, yikes).

As a side note, I did some research in newsgroups, and found the earliest mention of a convex bottom tamper (as well as concave! holy crap), by Bob Pugh in 1994. No mention of the type of curvature.

A few years later, and the Starbucks bashing is in full swing in 1996, when the concave tamper (apparently from Starbucks) is discussed in an interesting thread.

Reg was mentioned back as far as September, 1997, by the great, and missed (where is he?!!?) David Bogie for the first time: here.

And then there's this thread with three of my favourite all time alties - Barry Jarrett, David Bogie, and Umberto Belafonte, of Sorvana Imports (helluva guy too).... couple of salient points from this one - probably the first serious promotion of "slight) convex tampers in line with flat tampers (the mantra in alt.coffee before this was flat all the way - curves are for newbies)... and Umberto wrote this great bit:

The primary function of tamping, an important step in proper espresso
preparation, is to "compact" the coffee inside the filter basket, so
that the hot water will distribute evenly over the grounds and extract
the espresso shot thoroughly and evenly. Whether your tamper has a flat
or slightly convex end, it should work equally well, as long as its
diameter closely matches the inner diameter of your filter basket, with
no more than 2 or 3 mm of "play" allowed. As far as the tamp's
effectiveness in compensating for an improper grind, it all depends on
how much "out of whack" the grind is, and what type of machine and
brewing head you are using. The material the tamper is made of (anything
from cheapo plastic models to fancy ones made of precious woods) is
quite secondary once you master the technique, although nothing beats
the "feel" of a heavier, more substantial or ergonomic tamper in your
hands.

You will likely notice more of a difference in the rate of pour by
adjusting the strength of your tamp on a non-commercial espresso
machine, such as the majority of good home units provided with a
vibration-type pump. In short, you tamp harder to compensate for a
coarser grind (and to increase your extraction time), you ease up a bit
to compensate for a finer grind (and to accelerate extraction time). As
Bogiesan correctly points out in a previous reply, on certain machines
it can make a quite a difference in your end result (then again, David
is the type of guy that will occasionally run to the bathroom with a
portafilter in one hands and a tamper in the other, just to accurately
measure the pressure of that day's tamp on his bathroom scale... I
wonder if he keeps a log somewhere in the bathroom. He is, without a
doubt, the ultimate Espresso Hound. <g> ).


What I liked reminiscing over that thread was that even then Barry Jarrett, the Nuova Simonelli user that he was (heh heh) was a) hot rodding machines even back then, and b) a big proponent of tamping. Rock on Barry.

Lastly, first mention of the euro curve? Well, this one doesn't quite qualify, but in late 2001, the lost to the ages (but not forgotten) Maddie Page made mention of debating curve sizes in tampers.
Mark

 
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MarkPrince
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Posted Wed Oct 11, 2006, 3:00am
Subject: Re: Tamping Science, Theory and Practice, Part One by Mark Prince
 

One addendum too.

In doing all my research in alt.coffee archives, and continuing to do so for the third article which is getting a bit of a rewrite, I was reading with funny-sadness just how gung ho all of us were for David Schome and his Ergo Tamper, circa 2001 and thereabouts... Here's one thread in particular where peeps like Ted Simpson and Andy Schecter (just to single out two and embarrass them a bit lol!) were saying the Reg's were for the display shelf, and the Ergo was for actual use ;)

Hey, they weren't alone. Do a search for my old altie moniker (coffeekid), and you'll find plenty of pro-ergo, anti-Reg talk too. Boo me.

Mark

 
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