Consider the coffee tamper. A utilitarian tool, tampers are the instrument your favorite barista uses to get coffee into the shiny metal doohicky that locks into the espresso machine—to push a “puck” of ground coffee into the portafilter in preparation to pull a shot of espresso. Way back when I was just a little boy in 2002, Mark Prince of CoffeeGeek published a story about espresso tampers. Prince reviewed five top-shelf tampers that were on the market. And wouldn't you know it? Many of those tampers still grace the new wave espresso bars in 2016!
Tampers are a pretty simple tool and if the design ain't broke, why innovate, right? I mean, you have a metal disc affixed to some sort of door knobby/sticky wicket and all you's gotta do is blast down pressure using one's best ergonomic efforts, yeah?
Does the new wave of coffee need a new wave of tamper?
Some innovators out there think so! And they are starting to question the time-tested tamper of yore and have thought outside of the knock-box. Here are the hot new tampers that encourage the user to tamp different.
The PUSH Tamper loses the knob and boasts a colorful, brushed-metal flat-top. The user can adjust the depth of the tamper base with a simple twist of the tamp (15mm-4mm), before locking it in. Without much effort, this device is designed to offer a level, consistent tamp with a gentle push. The tamper has received a lot of attention since UK Barista Champion Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood used it at the 2015 World Barista Championship. Since then, the folks at Clockwork Espresso have teamed up with La Marzocco to fund a study to test the PUSH's ergonomics versus traditional tampers, and are expected to release their findings later this year.
The First Edition PUSH 58.5mm tamper can be yours for 139 British quid (around $200 USD) and is available for pre-order in a wide range of colors.
The Levy Tamp
This year American-based Saint Anthony Industries unveiled a wood-topped flat tamper, available in walnut, cherry, and maple. The tamper is delivered in a pleasant wood case with six washers ranging from 3mm to .2mm for variations on tamp depth. The woods are interchangeable, so if you're feeling particularly walnut one day, if cherry pairs better with your single origin, or maple matches your trousers, well, the choice is yours. Perhaps best of all, much of the tamper production by our partners at Saint Anthony Industries is done by hand, which you can learn more about in this attractive video.
The Levy 58.5mm tamper is available now for $139 American dollars.
Skate Wheel Coffee Tamper
Enough with the flatties, what if you just want a nice knob? The folks at Caffewerks have you covered, with a radi-cool skateboard wheel tamper. Unlike other skateboard wheel tampers on the market, this skateboard wheel actually SPINS and is available in a wide-range of color stories. Each one is hand-built to order, and can be yours in a bevy of brisket options for $79 American greenbacks.
Why go through the trouble of having the barista deliver the tamp when you can just leave it to a machine? The Puq Press, spotted on the bar at the UNIC booth at the 2016 Specialty Coffee Association of America Expo, delivers an automated and adjustable tamp. The user can input a specific weight of pressure (the above photo shows the machine set at 27lbs of pressure). In a very loose demonstration, we were given shots of espresso at 15, 25, 27, and 30lbs of pressure with noticeable differences. Can a barista deliver a consistent 27lbs of pressure shot after shot on a busy bar shift?
The Puq Press is available throughout Europe and Australia with a going price of $1,590 Australian ($1,164 USD). Puq Press tells us by e-mail that the device will be available in North America in one-two months.
Zachary Carlsen is an editor & co-founder at Sprudge Media Network. Read more Zachary Carlsen on Sprudge.