A serious tool for the serious barista; as well-engineered as any luxury car and as practical as ... uhh ... pants. I guess. It's good; real good.
Positive Product Points
-Exceptionally ergonomic; I could tamp all day! -Easy repeatability -Good weight -Durable -Silent, but satisfying mechanism
Negative Product Points
-Cost -Might be too small if you have big hands
I first played around with this tamper last year at Coffee Alchemy, the roastery of Hazel de los Reyes, the 2005 Australian Barista Champion. Hazel had a stand of about ten tampers set up and the Espro was by far the most comfortable to use. I presume that Hazel thought so as well - she used it to win the 2005 ABCs. David Makin also used one to win the 2006 ABCs.
My first impression of the tamper was that it was overwhelmingly well constructed and thought out; a serious piece of engineering. The handle is not plastic, as some photos seem to show, but hardened aluminium (Espro's webpage claims that it is almost as hard as diamond ... mine certainly has no scratches). The base is stainless steel and, together, the weight and balance is quite pleasing. The base of the handle has a small lip that one rests their fingers on. When tamping, this lip slides down to contact the top of the base. Having initially dismissed the idea of clicker tampers as patronising, I was impressed by how well engineered the mechanism was. There was no irritating audible click and no jolting or jarring. When I finally got one, I used it a few times to make sure that I was tamping at a consistent pressure*, then went back to my Pullman tamper. I did this with more and more frequency until one day I realised that it was just a lot more comfortable to tamp with. I was forced to admit defeat and my Espro has been my default tamper since then. I took mine in to work and my boss ended up buying one as well.
*I actually don't subscribe to the notion that there is anything special about 30lb, but I do agree that tamp pressure needs to be consistent and 30lb is a perfectly comfortable amount; you can tamp all day without RSI. (On the subject of pressure, though, I have tested the tamper on bathroom scales several times. Tamping as one normally would, the scale reached 14kg every time - 30lb. It was possible to have a lower scale reading if I tamped in one motion, but very slowly.)
So I guess that the big question is "is this tamper purely a training aid?" I think that the above paragraph indicates that I am quite happy to use it as an everyday tool and I would imagine that it shines in this aspect in any setting where more than one person is going to be making espresso. Ensuring consistency is absolutely crucial to any good espresso bar. Of course, shot-to-shot variation for the best baristi will be negligible, but even the best will probably drift a little bit over time and it is always difficult to ensure that two people are tamping at the same pressure. And if you don't have the best baristi, you want to make things as easy on them as possible.
If you have an espresso bar or cafe without very good baristi, you need this tamper. If you have awesome baristi, this tamper can help to ensure consistency if you use it every now and then. Plus awesome baristi like to play with different toys ;P
No-one was importing these babies into Australia, so whilst buying some beans I waxed on about how much I loved the espros and how cool it would be if Veneziano Caffe imported them. Anyhoo, I got my wish/daydream and they even arranged to have one posted to me in advance of the delivery of their shipment. When it arrived, I was actually on a working holiday at Core Espresso in Perth (the other side of Australia, for those of you from overseas), so Veneziano put it in an overnight bag and delivered it to Core so that all of us could have a play with it before I took it back home!