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Why make such a big deal about tamping @ 30 pounds?
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GlennT
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Posted Fri Apr 13, 2012, 1:55pm
Subject: Why make such a big deal about tamping @ 30 pounds?
 

Many threads emphasize tamping at consistent pressure, sometimes even using a bathroom scale to "dial in" tamping pressure.

Frankly, I don't get it.  I can understand tamping enough to assure the grounds are compressed a bit so they can expand again with the hot water. I understand the need to tamp evenly so the water flows through the PF without channeling through the side with less tamping pressure.

Why worry about Cup A tamped at 20 pounds vs. Cup B tamped at 40 pounds? A 58mm portafilter has ~ 4.1 square inch cross section. Tamping with 20-30 pounds force yields PRESSURES of 5 to 10 psi on the grounds. After that, the grounds get hit with hot water with at least 9 bar or 132 psi of pressure! Why care if the grounds get hit with 4 or 10 psi tamping when they'll just get hit with 130 or more psi of water?

Am I missing something really fundamental here?
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Posted Fri Apr 13, 2012, 1:58pm
Subject: Re: Why make such a big deal about tamping @ 30 pounds?
 

Glen, im scratching my head along with you :-)

difference between 5lbs and 50lbs, yeah it will change the flow rate.  Difference between 30 and 35lbs, nah.  It got started then regurgitate.  As long as you're tamping linear and relatively repeatable pressure you're good.

PS.  Kudos to you for questioning it in the first place.  Taking advice from more experienced is great, but at some point we need to know why we're doing what we're doing.
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Posted Fri Apr 13, 2012, 2:00pm
Subject: Re: Why make such a big deal about tamping @ 30 pounds?
 

No, here we (edit, well me anyway) advise to only be consistent, regardless if you use 20 or 50 pounds, just be consistent and all is well. A lot of new people get hung up on tamping and like you said, the exact number is no big deal.

30# is offered as a good rule of thumb, a place to start.
Using a scale allows you to be consistent, thats all.

 
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Posted Fri Apr 13, 2012, 2:17pm
Subject: Re: Why make such a big deal about tamping @ 30 pounds?
 

I just saw a video of two 5 year olds making espresso, and tamping it themselves, and I doubt those two reached even 20 pounds of pressure, and still they managed to pull a decent shot. So tamping really doesn't matter as much as people think it does.

 
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Posted Fri Apr 13, 2012, 2:21pm
Subject: Re: Why make such a big deal about tamping @ 30 pounds?
 

There is a lot of left over flotsam and jetsam from years ago about tamping force. It use to be 35 pounds. It has been shown that anything from 15 to 55 pounds will work great. One respected pro barista weighing in at (well) over 225 pounds says to do a "handstand tamp" (feet off the floor).  And really, if you are in the 30-50 pound tamping pressure range it will be fine, and you don't even have to be that consistent. Try this- get out the scale and tamp on it. Press down with a SLOWLY increasing force, watching the scale's display as well as the movement of the tamper into the basket. Also, pay attention to the "feel" of the compression. You WILL find that after about 30 to 35 pounds nothing (or VERY little) happens. Tamping level counts as exponentially more important than the force used. My current universal advice is that if you find you HAVE to tamp at a very low pressure (less than 10 pounds) or at a very high pressure (over 60 pounds) then you are compensating for other factors that need to be addressed.

 
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Posted Fri Apr 13, 2012, 4:46pm
Subject: Re: Why make such a big deal about tamping @ 30 pounds?
 

Generally . . . in my experience . . . the more experienced people on this site never say "You must tamp at 30 pounds."  Rather, they say, Be consistent in your tamp.

I've had great shots with virtually no tamp at all, and when it appeared the barista tamped the proverbial heck out of it . . . I don't have a clue what I do, in terms of pounds of pressure per square inch.  It's all muscle memory:  I tamp, it feels right, I stop.

 
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Posted Fri Apr 13, 2012, 5:20pm
Subject: Re: Why make such a big deal about tamping @ 30 pounds?
 

In Italy, and in Italian coffee bars here in Montreal, baristi don't even use a tamper.  They simply use the plastic appendage on the grinder's doser to level the coffee with an upward motion and lock in the portafilter.  They've been doing it that way since espresso was invented and it was good enough for people all over the world to want to emulate it.  IMO tamping is over rated, I usually just use the tamper to make sure I have an even puck, I hardly pit any pressure at all.

But hey, whatever works for you.

Gandhi once said that there are as many Hinduisms as there are Hindus, I guess that there are as many barista techniques as there are baristi.
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Posted Fri Apr 13, 2012, 5:29pm
Subject: Re: Why make such a big deal about tamping @ 30 pounds?
 

So if one Tampa at 5lbs of pressure and then Tampa at 30lbs of pressure will the flow be almost identical?
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Posted Fri Apr 13, 2012, 5:52pm
Subject: Re: Why make such a big deal about tamping @ 30 pounds?
 

I think it depends on the dose ... at least it seems to me, on my gear.

For example ... if I were to put ... say 10-12 grams of coffee in a standard double basket there would be a big difference between tamping and not tamping -- because the loose coffee would have all that room to move around in a slurry as the water hits it  while a really solid tamp would hold the coffee powder into a puck shape for a longer time with just the top layer getting "soupy"  

But if I put 16-18 grams in there - it would get compressed just by pressing the coffee against the shower screen to lock the PF - and there wouldn't be much difference between tamp and no tamp.  The coffee would be confined between the bottom of the basket and the shower screen and wouldn't be able to move around even though not tamped firmly ... plus as it swells when the water hits it, that will press it even more tightly into its confined space.
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frcn
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Posted Fri Apr 13, 2012, 6:03pm
Subject: Re: Why make such a big deal about tamping @ 30 pounds?
 

germantownrob Said:

So if one Tampa at 5lbs of pressure and then Tampa at 30lbs of pressure will the flow be almost identical?

Posted April 13, 2012 link

I think 5 is pretty low. Whether 5 pounds is sufficient would depend on a lot of other factors, such as:
- head room
- quality of the grind (some grinders create a fluffy grind in a narrow particle range that seems to compress easier)
- depth of dose in basket
- dose
- water distribution
- if the machine has pre-infusion
- pressure ramping profile

There's one way to find out!  Well.. maybe two.   ;-)

 
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