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Hydraulic Tamper project
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Discussions > Espresso > Espresso Mods > Hydraulic Tamper...  
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mtcummins
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Joined: 9 May 2012
Posts: 19
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Izzo Alex II
Grinder: Baratza Vario
Drip: Cheapo 12 cup
Posted Thu Jun 21, 2012, 9:00am
Subject: Hydraulic Tamper project
 

Hey all,

I ran across this cool project for making an inexpensive hydraulic tamper, complete with pressure gauge:

Click Here (makeprojects.com)

I'd love to have/make one, but don't really have the metalworking experience or tools to pull it off.  Anyone out there interested in making some of these for sale?  Apparently they can be made for about $50, less the tamper head itself, which I'd leave off anyway so that the owner can screw on their favorite.  

If someone's interested in building these, what would you charge?  I imagine you could make a little money on it and be doing the espresso community a nice service (not to mention what sounds like a fun project if I had the means to do it).  

Sorry if this is the wrong section for this post...

-Mike-
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tracerbullet
Senior Member
tracerbullet
Joined: 13 Feb 2012
Posts: 168
Location: Saint Paul
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Thu Jun 21, 2012, 9:30am
Subject: Re: Hydraulic Tamper project
 

I remember reading that some time ago, and almost set out to buy the parts to make it. Honestly I'm glad I didn't, over the last few months of experimenting and recording my results I'm convinced that the tamp means very little compared to the grind & weight of the coffee in the basket.

Just playing devil's advocate I guess. But it would be cool, no doubt. Just have to decide if there's enough need to convince people to buy them if they were made in quantity to begin with.
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mtcummins
Senior Member


Joined: 9 May 2012
Posts: 19
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Izzo Alex II
Grinder: Baratza Vario
Drip: Cheapo 12 cup
Posted Thu Jun 21, 2012, 10:54am
Subject: Re: Hydraulic Tamper project
 

I'm still pretty much a newbie, so my experiences are certainly not authoritative in any way...  My experience has differed so far though.  I got my machine, was timing my shots into a measuring cup, have a temp gauge on the grouphead so was able to pretty accurately control brew temps, etc.  I had most of the elements about right as far as the guidelines go.  I was making pretty nasty shots.  

Had a friend come over after I'd spent about a week and a half messing around and burning through a good bit of coffee to help me out a bit.  My tamp was too strong, he showed me that I needed to adjust the tamp pressure down, and therefore also grind the coffee finer (I had it course to compensate for my heavy tamp and still get about the proper extraction time).  Instant improvement.  My coffee instantly went from pretty much undrinkable to on par with my favorite local (quite decent) coffee shop, at least my better shots were on par.  

My experience has also been that grind is most important.  As for dose, I just do level to top of PF, smoothed off with a straight edge so as to not compact it accidentally w/ my finger, so that doesn't really change at all for me.  I don't weigh or any of that business, just grind straight from my Vario into the PF and level off.    

Tamp has shown significant changes for me, both in how hard you tamp effecting the grind and therefore the extraction, and also in how evenly you tamp, with uneven/unlevel pressure causing uneven extraction, channeling, and even sprites sometimes.  

So, my thinking is that a machine like this, properly made, would give a near perfect amount of pressure, in a near perfect even consistency and levelness.  This would allow me to fine tune my grind as the primary adjustment, as now dose and tamp are nearly identical every shot.  

Also, by using a pressure gauge as opposed to a calibrated tamper, you can actually adjust tamp pressure if you see fit, and do so consistently.  

This would allow for interchangeable tamping heads, so you can more accurately measure the differences between different brands or shapes of tampers w/o worrying about the hard to control variable, the hand holding the tamper.  The way a convex vs flat feels when tamping is different, so you will likely tamp differently with them, making comparison more difficult.  Same with a heavier vs lighter tamper.  

The differing weight heads may be a slightly unavoidable difference with hydraulics... I don't think the differing weights would change the pressure reading, if I understand hydraulics correctly.  IE, a weightless tamper would put 30LB to the puck, where a 2LB tamper would put 32LB, both with a pull reading 30LB, but not sure if that is correct or not.  Even if it was, you could adjust for it in your pull pressure if you saw fit.  

Considering there are commercially available models similar to this that sell for well over $300, and I've seen them used in coffee shops etc to ensure consistency, I would imagine there is some merit to them.  I also like the idea of the adjustability of the tamp pressure on this vs a calibrated tamper where you're locked in to exactly 30LB, though I think there are some adjustable models out there as well.  Even with that, you still have to tamp even and level, which this machine would do for you.

And finally, how sweet would that thing look next to my exposed grouphead E-61 machine?  The aesthetic of it would be awesome, for those of us who like the super mechanical, sort of steam-punk look in their setup.  

Anywhoo, enough of my ramblings.  I welcome any more experienced insights into this whole idea and the things I've mentioned above.  And particularly if anyone is willing to try making them... I'd def buy if the price was right.
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calblacksmith
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calblacksmith
Joined: 25 Nov 2007
Posts: 7,848
Location: Riverside, Ca, U.S.A.
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: ECM Vene. A1, La Cimbali M32
Grinder: Azkoyen Capriccio, Major
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Roaster: gave it a try, decided no
Posted Thu Jun 21, 2012, 11:19am
Subject: Re: Hydraulic Tamper project
 

The tamp really is the least important part of the process. Just be consistent and the actual pressure you use really does not mean that much, consistency is the key.

I think you will find that your dose varies a lot from shot to shot if you would start weighing your grounds. Half a G of weight can make a difference in the way the shot pulls and the taste resulting from said pull.

There is no way you can put the same pressure on the grounds as what you machine will do with ~140PSI of water pressure. All you are trying to achieve with the tamp is to make as uniform of a consistency as possible so the water can not find a channel. Consistency is the key.

I do use a PressPoint tamping machine but it is for the consistency and squareness of the tamp, not for some magical number. I bought it used on flea bay for about $125 I think, several years ago.

Your grind and grounds dose have a much bigger affect on your shots than the tamp. That said, if you want one of these, it isn't hard to make after looking at you link. That article uses a juicer as a foundation, you could use anything that uses a vertical action such as the $20 bench top arbor press from Harbor Freight. In fact I had bought one of the little presses to make a tamper but found the one on ebay for a price I could not pass up when you take into account the time and materials need to make your own.

The article points to surplus stores as a source. This is fine if you are able to see in your mind what you want to do and are able to adapt your plans on the fly. If you are shopping for specific parts new though, I think you will find just how quickly the price goes up and when in production, you have things like your building rent, electric power bill, water bill, labor, insurance etc so I think the new price of $300 is really pretty good.

One thing these do it yourself projects do not take into account is the cost of your time. That is fine but when you are in production, you need to charge for your time.

I will help you any way I can here if you choose to make one of these, just ask.

 
In real life, my name is
Wayne P.
Anything I post is personal opinion and is only worth as much as anyone else's personal opinion. YMMV!

Feed the newbs, starve the trolls and above all enjoy what you drink!
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tracerbullet
Senior Member
tracerbullet
Joined: 13 Feb 2012
Posts: 168
Location: Saint Paul
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Thu Jun 21, 2012, 2:35pm
Subject: Re: Hydraulic Tamper project
 

If you or anyone does make something, I'll mention McMaster-Carr as a great source for parts like gauges, tubes and fittings, various hydraulic bits, raw metal material, and so on. I don't that you could find everything there but you may find a lot.
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mtcummins
Senior Member


Joined: 9 May 2012
Posts: 19
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Izzo Alex II
Grinder: Baratza Vario
Drip: Cheapo 12 cup
Posted Thu Jun 21, 2012, 4:41pm
Subject: Re: Hydraulic Tamper project
 

If it was unclear, I apologize, but my interest is not necessarily hitting some "magical number" of tamp pressure, but consistency.  I want consistent tamping pressure, and consistently even and level tamps.  I'm not overly worried about what the exact pressure is, but mostly about getting a very consistent result so that changing other variables will give more predictable and measurable results.  

Within reason, I agree that tamp pressure is variable (as long as you consistently tamp whatever pressure you pick), but varying that tamp pressure requires varying the grind to match, and my experience has shown that a quite high tamp pressure with a then relatively course grind resulted in a bad shot.  The course grind required for the high tamp resulted in a less than optimal extraction, even hitting the 25 second timing guideline.  I do think that tamp does matter from what I've seen so far... changing tamps changes grind, and different grinds seem to produce different extraction rates, which produce different tastes.  So indirectly the tamp does change the flavor.  I think its another variable that can be played with to get your personal preferred taste, and that 30LB is just a good starting point, not the be-all-end-all.  

I think that its a little unbalanced to say that tamp is fairly irrelevant and grind is very important: just adjust your grind to your tamp.  I could just as easily claim that grind is fairly unimportant, adjust your tamp to best suit your grind.  In some ways I think this might be true, if you get a grind that produces a good extraction, its likely better to adjust your tamp to keep that grind than to adjust the grind.  

I'm not making that claim, per se, just the devil's advocate.  My personal, admittedly limited, experience so far has been that tamp and grind in proper balance are the most important variables, with a consistent dose.  Then again, you could make the same arguments as above for adjusting dose and then making the others match the new dose, but I digress...

So, I'll keep an eye out for a good deal like you got on a commercially available tamping machine, as well as continue to see if someone out there is interested in making something like what I posted.  I think a machine would be great for my consistency in tamping and therefore my consistency in shots.  I think the machine in that post is way cooler looking than the commercial ones available right now as well.  And I like the actual gauge rather than just an adjustable setting.  So, I'd rather have one of those than the PressPoint, for example, though I'm sure its a great machine.  

As far as weighing shots, the timed dosing on the Vario has been tested quite a bit, and is pretty consistent.  Maybe not quite as consistent as weighing, but a number of very experienced people on this forum that own Varios seem to have switched over from weighing to just using the timed dose.  So, with their endorsement, I decided that not weighing my doses was one of the areas where I'd maybe sacrifice a tiny bit of consistency in order to reduce the time required to pull a shot.  If the process becomes too elaborate, I will just stop doing it, so at least for now, I need to make a few things quick and simple.  

I agree though, that to really take this into big time production, you'd need a price probably getting close to the current commercially available models.  I just thought someone who enjoys this kind of thing might be interested in doing it as a hobby that they can make a few dollars at while they're at it.  If not, no big deal.  Maybe someday I'll try it out, but right now my hands are too full with many other projects to take it on, not to mention the cost of the tools that I don't currently have.   If it were woodworking, I'd be good to go, but metal work, I don't have that kind of equipment.
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