How to Buy the Best Espresso Tamper for You

Published on 11/22/2023 · 10 min readCraft the perfect espresso shot with our guide on choosing the best tamper, covering size, material, and design to match your machine and brewing preferences.
Jason Gass, Coffee Expert
By Coffee Expert Jason Gass

Photo by nerudol

Tl;dr: If you are looking to make the perfect cup of espresso at home, you need to invest in the proper tools. One tool that many home baristas forget about is the espresso tamper. This simple, but essential tool is one of the easiest ways to instantly improve your espresso brewing.

As an espresso lover, I know how challenging it can be to get your brewing technique perfected. Through my own experience, I have found that having the right tools can make brewing a perfect espresso simple.

In this guide, I have gathered the details you need to have to find the best espresso tamper for your brewing experience. I’ll offer not only some top picks that I and other Curated Coffee Experts have tested or used, but also some product suggestions that other Curated shoppers have loved.

What Are Espresso Tampers?

While the espresso tamper is a fairly simple tool, it’s one that can make a substantial difference in the quality of your coffee. Most espresso tampers are simply a combination of these features:

  • A weighted, circular, metal, or ceramic disk
  • A short, but sturdy handle of wood, metal, or plastic

What to Consider When Buying an Espresso Tamper

Before I jump into some product recommendations, it’s helpful to take a look at why you want the best espresso tamper for your home brewing process.

Why Do You Need To Tamper Coffee?

Let’s be real, you can make espresso without a tamper, but if you really want the best shot of espresso, you need an espresso tamper.

This tool packs your grounds tightly in the portafilter. When hot water is forced through the packed grounds, the distribution is even, and slower. This leads to a more robust and flavorful shot of espresso.

How Does an Espresso Tamper Work?

Photo by worradirek

For those who have not used an espresso tamper, this is the process when you’re brewing:

  1. Grind your beans: Make sure you set your coffee grinder to the most fine setting possible. Grounds should be more powder than chunks.
  2. Fill your portafilter: Use a spoon to fill the portafilter to the marked level for either a single or double shot.
  3. Tamp the grounds: You will use your espresso tamper to accomplish this task. There are a couple of things you need to keep in mind when tamping your grounds:
    1. You need to make sure the tamper is level and straight.
    2. Use firm and consistent pressure to create a solid “puck.”

What Size Is My Portafilter?

Photo by Aleksei Golovanov

Portafilters come in a couple of standard sizes. Most of the time, the owner’s manual for your espresso machine will have this information. To select the right size, make sure that the tamper and baskets match.

A good rule of thumb is to purchase a tamper that is just slightly smaller than the interior dimension of your portafilter. For example, the standard size for home espresso machine portafilters is 58 millimeters. For this size portafilter, look for a tamper that is no smaller than 56 mm.

How Much Should I Expect to Pay for an Espresso Tamper?

Staying within your budget is always an important consideration. And, like so many products today, you can find great espresso tampers that are highly affordable and those that are pretty expensive.

If you are looking for an affordable option, you can find simple, aluminum tampers for around $15. On the higher end, calibrated tampers with wood handles and weighted discs will run you around $70.

What Are the Different Types of Espresso Tampers?

You want to find the best espresso tamper for you and your budget. It’s helpful to understand the different types and how they work in your espresso brewing routine.

Flat Base Tampers

Most espresso tampers are flat tampers. They come in a wide range of styles, but their defining feature is a flat, smooth tamping disc. Flat tampers come in numerous sizes to fit a range of espresso machines.

Benefits:

  • Inexpensive with a range of styles and options
  • A perfect option for beginner espresso enthusiasts

Be Aware:

  • Most flat tampers are uninteresting in their design
  • May be difficult to get a uniform puck

Calibrated Tampers

These tampers allow you to adjust the amount of pressure you place on your espresso grounds. When used correctly, calibrated tampers can result in dense pucks and an outstanding coffee product.

Benefits:

  • Adjustment allows for a variety of espresso consistencies
  • Great for professional baristas or coffee brewers who want to experiment

Be Aware:

  • Moving parts will eventually wear out
  • Basic maintenance is more difficult

Stainless Steel Tampers

It’s hard to go wrong with a stainless steel tamper. They are sturdy and easy to maintain and you can find them in all sorts of sizes and designs. Stainless steel is also nice because it is heavier than other metals.

Benefits:

  • Ideal for consistent, balanced, tamping pressure
  • Stainless steel always looks great in your kitchen

Be Aware:

  • You will pay more for a good quality stainless steel tamper
  • Not much variety in design and styling

Wooden Tampers

Wood tampers are those with a wooden handle. They are popular because they can be more stylish in your kitchen than basic metal tampers. Most wood tampers will have a metal base attached to the handle to provide firm pressure to your coffee grounds.

Benefits:

  • Provide a warmer, more stylish option for your kitchen
  • Lots of variety and options for customization

Be Aware:

  • Not as durable an option as metal
  • Cannot be washed in the dishwasher

Aluminum Tampers

Though a lighter-weight material, aluminum tampers work well at compacting grounds. They are also long-lasting and easy to maintain.

Benefits:

  • Durable and rust resistant
  • Can be more affordable

Be Aware:

  • The grounds puck is not as firm
  • Not as many options are available

Concave Tampers

The shape of these tampers makes a well or depression in the center of the puck, which can result in a more thorough extraction.

Benefits:

  • Less opportunity to over-tamp coffee beans
  • This may result in a more robust espresso shot

Be Aware:

  • Does take a bit of practice to figure out the technique
  • Fewer options on the market

Convex Tampers

Convex tampers give your grounds a “hill” type appearance. This type of tamper creates a more loosely packed puck. The sloped puck pushes water to the edges.

Benefits:

  • It's difficult to over compact grounds with this shape tamper
  • Results in a milder espresso without channeling

Be Aware:

  • If the tamper is too small, water will channel down the sides
  • There is a learning curve with this tamper

Features to Look for in an Espresso Tamper

I hope that the previous sections have helped you understand how a tamper can improve your espresso-making process. In this next section, I offer you some features of tampers that you may want to consider while shopping.

Size

Make sure that your tamper properly fits your portafilter. Also, you do not want to invest in a tamper that is a pain to store in your kitchen.

Material

Tampers come in a variety of materials and combinations of materials. Pick the material that works best for your brewing style and budget.

Weight

A tamper with a bit of bulk will allow for a more compacted puck. Select a tamper that has enough weight to give a good puck, but is not too heavy for you to manage.

Base

The base of your tamper is the part that works to compact your coffee grinds. It can be flat, concave, or convex base, and each provides a different espresso result. You will also note that tamper bases come in either stainless steel or aluminum.

Handle

To make a properly compacted puck of coffee grounds, you need to have a stable hold on your tamper. This means finding a tamper with a comfortable grip. When considering the tamper handle, think about your hand size, material, and if you like ergonomic features.

Price

Espresso tampers come in a wide range of prices. You can get a nice base tamper for less than $10. More advanced tampers run over $100. Know your budget and find the best espresso tamper within that price range.

Adjustability

Adjustable or calibrated tampers allow you to modify some parts of the tamping process, typically pressure or depth. These tampers are great for baristas who are more experienced and looking for easy variability.

Check out this video for a simple guide to understanding all different kinds of espresso tampers:

How to Choose the Right Espresso Tamper for You

Now that we have taken a deep dive into espresso tampers, you may be even more boggled about which is the best espresso tamper for you. To make your decision easier, I offer the perspective of three different Curated customer types. I have assisted each as a Coffee Expert and will offer the type of tamper that works best for their needs, to help guide you to the best espresso tamper for your needs.

John: Beginner Espresso Maker Looking for Simplicity

Prior to purchasing his first espresso machine, John was dedicated to his basic drip coffee maker. He has grown in his coffee preference and would now like to learn to make espresso. However, he does not want the process to be difficult or time-consuming, but he does want to make a great cup of espresso.

Features John Should Look For:

  • Basic flat or convex tamper
  • Heavier weight for quick compacting
  • Dishwasher safe and minimal maintenance

Espresso Tamper Examples: Lucca Espresso Tamper, Barista Basics Espresso Tamper

Jenny: Intermediate Espresso Maker Looking to Improve Her Espresso Result

Jenny is moderately experienced at pulling shots and has invested in a great espresso machine. However, she knows that with better tools, her espresso will be more robust and flavorful. She is on a budget so a good tamper that is affordable is a must.

Features Jenny Should Look For:

  • A calibrated or concave tamper base
  • Stainless steel base for added weight
  • Combination of materials to keep the price affordable

Espresso Tamper Examples: Flair Espresso Pro Stainless Steel Tamper, Rocket Espresso Stainless Steel Tamper

Kyle: Advanced Espresso Maker Striving for the Perfect Shot of Espresso

Kyle and his espresso habit go back many years. He has found his perfect machine and carefully selects his espresso beans for the best flavors. However, the basic tamper that he has used for years just does not produce the consistent puck quality that he is looking for. Kyle believes that a better tamper will give his espresso the consistency he is missing.

Features Kyle Should Look For:

  • Fully adjustable/calibrated tamper
  • High-quality, stainless steel construction
  • A set of tampers to allow for range and versatility

Espresso Tamper Examples: Saint Anthony Industries New Levy Tamp, Pullman Espresso Accessories Big Step Tamper

Find the Best Espresso Tamper for You

Photo by Photo Smoothies

Tampers are helpful tools if you are looking to make the best possible shot of espresso. Though they are not high-tech tools, they come in a wide range of sizes, styles, and materials. This variety can add to the shopping challenge.

I hope you’ve found clarity in your shopping direction with my look at some of the best espresso tampers. I encourage you to try a few tampers, so you can find the best one to match your home espresso machine.

If you are looking for more information, chat with me or another Coffee Expert at Curated for free, personalized advice on finding the best espresso tamper for you. We’re here to help you find the best choice for your needs!

Curated experts can help

Have a question about the article you just read or want personal recommendations? Connect with a Curated expert and get free recommendations for whatever you’re looking for!

Shop Coffee & Espresso on Curated

Rocket Espresso 58mm Bottomless Portafilter
$69.95
Breville Smart Grinder Pro Coffee & Espresso Grinder
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Rocket Espresso Appartamento Espresso Machine
$1,850.00

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Lucca Espresso Tamper
$40.00
Rocket Espresso Stainless Steel Tamper - 58mm
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Pullman Espresso Accessories Big Step Tamper
$160.00
Saint Anthony Industries New Levy Tamp
$149.00
Flair Espresso Flair Stainless Steel Tamper
$32.00
Barista Basics Espresso Tamper - 57mm
$50.00
Pullman Espresso Accessories Big Step Tamper
$91.00$130.00

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