Barista work, specifically tamping, is hard on your body. It can mess up your wrist, shoulder, and lower back in pretty serious ways. A new study by Diane E. Gregory and Stephanie E. Romero of Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario compares the physical effects of a standard tamper verse a flat, push tamper has on users. And it turns out, push tampers come with a significant decrease in risk of injury.
Published in Science Direct and backed financially by La Marzocco (who also paid the open access fees so that the study could be available for free to anyone), Gregory and Romero recruited 10 baristas—five male and five female—to perform make 20 shots each, 10 with a traditional style La Marzocco tamper and 10 with the PUSH tamper from Clockwork Espresso. The order of the tamper each barista used was randomized. Participants were then rigged up with six electromagnetic sensors to record the force exerted during tamping, three along the spine and three on the dominant tamping arm.
Gregory and Romero found that the peak force applied during tamping dropped by seven percent when using the PUSH tamper, from 93.8 N to 87.2 N. The study notes this drop to be “statistically significant.” They also found “average lumbar and thoracic spine angles in all three planes were found to be statistically smaller” and that the risk of upper limb injury during tamping were significantly lower using the flat, PUSH tamper.
Across all areas explored in the study, the flat tamper was found to be associated with a significantly lower risk of injury than that of the traditional tamper.
Even with the invention of automated tamping systems like the Puqpress, it is unlikely that tamping will be completely removed from the barista’s repeated daily tasks. Given this, finding a tamper that exerts the least amount of strain on a person’s body seems important to further improving barista health over the long term. This study suggests that a flat, PUSH-style tamper may be the best solution.
The full study can be read for free here.
*top image via Brasília: The Good Coffee Lover’s Guide by Juliana Ganan