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Why is the tamping so important?
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kimbo5
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Joined: 27 Aug 2013
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Location: ontario
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Posted Fri Oct 11, 2013, 12:02pm
Subject: Why is the tamping so important?
 

I am in italy and in every coffee bar I go there is not even one barista who tamps with an stainless steel tamper. They all have a tamper attached to the grinder that they just used very lightly and then the espresso is just Awesome. Very curious to find out why in north amerika we havw given such an importance to the tamper. I myself bought an expensive one and my friends here were joking about it :).
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jwoodyu
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Posted Fri Oct 11, 2013, 12:06pm
Subject: Re: Why is the tamping so important?
 

"Chops in a box" to use musical slang. A better horn will make you a better player with no additional effort,,,,,,  riiiiiiiiiiiiiiight.

 
Yes i have a reason for leaving SCG off my list, yes it is my opinion, yes it is subjective as opinions are by definition, no don't start a flame war because you disagree.
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GVDub
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Posted Fri Oct 11, 2013, 12:08pm
Subject: Re: Why is the tamping so important?
 

kimbo5 Said:

I am in italy and in every coffee bar I go there is not even one barista who tamps with an stainless steel tamper. They all have a tamper attached to the grinder that they just used very lightly and then the espresso is just Awesome. Very curious to find out why in north amerika we havw given such an importance to the tamper. I myself bought an expensive one and my friends here were joking about it :).

Posted October 11, 2013 link

Ask David Schomer, as I believe much of the modern tamp mania can be traced to his influence.

It's not the tamping so much as consistency that's important, in my (somewhat limited, admittedly) understanding. If the grinder is good, the tamp is more for leveling and to correct minor distribution issues.
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Markarian
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Posted Fri Oct 11, 2013, 12:10pm
Subject: Re: Why is the tamping so important?
 

For one, their grinders are tuned for one, specific DARKLY roasted coffee that's usually ground very finely. And secondly, they don't usually use naked portafilters, so you can't see the channeling and spurting that probably goes on in each shot.

In America (and on this forum in particular), we are very interested in the Third Wave of coffee and more specifically the artistic aspects of brewing coffee. If the shot didn't pull an oozing, perfect cone, we figure we messed up and insist the the shot wasn't "balanced" even though it tastes fine and dump it down the drain (or put it in our mom's Mochaccino).

Tamping is extremely important when you're working with light roasted, single origins that come out of the grinder looking like moss and won't pull a pretty shot unless the puck is PERFECTLY level and all other variables are in sync. So again, different coffees (dark roasts are more forgiving), different cultures, and different priorities. I sometimes wonder myself if Italians laugh at us, poking at our precious little mound of powdery grinds with a needle and nutating and caressing the tamper like it's neurosurgery. I guess they do, now that I've read your post.

Oh, another thing to consider is that the roasts these Italian coffee houses are using have probably been around for decades, as opposed to Propaganda Coffee's Old Shoe Blend in Portland that was developed in quaint old 2007, and has beans that have only barely glimpsed 1st crack, and they insist works FINE on their Synesso.
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kimbo5
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Location: ontario
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Posted Fri Oct 11, 2013, 1:32pm
Subject: Re: Why is the tamping so important?
 

Interesting!  You made me giggle about giving the non "perfect" shot to mama heehee. That's true what you wrote! I do the same :).

Yes, I grew up in Italy with the habit of brewing coffee with the bialetti moka and espresso was only in the coffee bar. I would have never immagined investing in a grinder and an espresso machine like today unles I had plans to open a caffeteria!

Mind you I asked the barista when was the coffee brewed and he said: ma che ne so, its written it expires in 2014 heheh.
And I get picky if my coffee was roasted only 2 days ago at home!

Anyway coffee here is just delicious! And the espresso machine i've seen mist around are La Faema!
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Frost
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Posted Fri Oct 11, 2013, 4:47pm
Subject: Re: Why is the tamping so important?
 

Tamping really isn't so important, but if you don't do it the shower screen becomes the tamper and that will be messy.
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z0mbie
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Posted Fri Oct 11, 2013, 6:42pm
Subject: Re: Why is the tamping so important?
 

GVDub Said:

It's not the tamping so much as consistency that's important, in my (somewhat limited, admittedly) understanding. If the grinder is good, the tamp is more for leveling and to correct minor distribution issues.

Posted October 11, 2013 link

Spot on.    

Tamping is one aspect, no more, no less important than the other dozen or so variables that dictate the end result.  Some might argue the tamping as the lowest of importance but honestly, when I started out,  I've sinked quite a few shots due to choked shots from overpressed pucks, as well underextracted shots from underpressed pucks. The funny thing is as the beans age, I need to either adjust my tamp pressure or adjust my grind, otherwise the shot quality degrades if I don't.  It seems the Italian baristas have everything so dialed in for that light tamp, they make it look effortless.
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Coffeenoobie
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Posted Fri Oct 11, 2013, 9:42pm
Subject: Re: Why is the tamping so important?
 

I believe I have read the tamp is much less important when the machine is a lever.  I wonder how many cafes in Italy are using levers.

 
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boar_d_laze
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Posted Sat Oct 12, 2013, 3:51pm
Subject: Re: Why is the tamping so important?
 

Tamping isn't particularly important -- at least not to the point of making a fetish about it the way some people used to a few years ago (but no longer do).  On the other hand, good, consistent dosing and distribution tecniques -- including tamping -- ARE important.

We can go into what is important and why it's important if you like.  While  that wasn't your question the short answer is that you want all that stuff done well enough so as (1) not to screw up an otherwise good pull; and (2) to predictably use the variables of temp, dose and grind to get the most from your beans (aka dialing in).

Also, in my experience "typical" Italian espresso -- like you get at a bar -- generally isn't very good, mostly because they use cheap beans.  Certainly a good US or Canadian café is better than run of the mill Italian joints.  The "superiority" of Italian coffee is more nostalgia than anything else.

BDL
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jonr
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Posted Sat Oct 12, 2013, 5:25pm
Subject: Re: Why is the tamping so important?
 

> I believe I have read the tamp is much less important when the machine is a lever.

My experience confirms that if you have some other method of flow control, then tamp isn't so critical.   Unfortunately, most machines don't.
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