Espresso Tamper Alternative

  • By: Thorsten Meyer
  • Date: June 18, 2022
  • Time to read: 6 min.

If you’ve ever been to a coffee shop, chances are that you’ve seen an espresso tamper. This is a device with two handles and a flat surface in the middle.

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The barista uses it to tamp ground coffee into the portafilter basket before pulling shots of espresso or other drinks.

What Is An Espresso Tamper?

The espresso tamper is a device with two handles and a flat surface in the middle. The barista uses it to tamp ground coffee into the portafilter basket before pulling shots of espresso or other drinks.

Espresso Portafilter and Tamper

A professional espresso tamper is usually made of stainless steel or aluminum has a tamped area that’s between 35-55 mm wide and 80-100 mm long. It also shouldn’t weigh more than 1 kg (2 pounds).

How to Make Great Espresso with an Espresso Tamper Alternative

But what if you don’t own an espresso tamper? Fear not! There’s still hope for making your favorite drink at home.

In this article, we will explore different methods that can be used as substitutes for an espresso tamper when tamping grounds for your shot of caffeine-infused joy.

Are you in the market for an espresso tamper? Or are you looking for an alternative to the traditional (rather expensive) coffee tampers? You’ve come to the right place. Let’s find your espresso tamper or coffee tamper alternative to prepare coffee beans for your espresso machine.

Espresso Alternatives

Is It True That An Espresso Tamper Can Improve Your Espresso Shots?

That’s a question you may be asking yourself, as I did. I’ve always tried my best to keep the quality of my drinks in check, and have learned over time to take note of what makes for a great cup and what doesn’t.

A coffee tamper is one of these things that actually does make a difference when it comes to brewing an excellent shot in your espresso machine. The best espresso beans, with the grind size that works with your espresso machine, don’t give you the extraction you need without a tamper.

Tamping Technique For All Levels

My tamping technique has changed over the years, but I always make sure to keep it consistent. I used to tamp down with a lot of force, which would compact the grounds too much and make it difficult for water to flow through them. This is beside the grind the best way to prevent uneven extraction or over extraction when espresso making is new to you.

Barista holding portafilter and coffee tamper making an espresso coffee

Getting up close and personal with as many styles of tamper as possible helps to select a budget tamper, a beer bottle, or choose from the best espresso tampers.

But because I wasn’t able to afford a real tamper, I started looking for alternative methods to get the same results, at the end we are all here after the best espresso coffee through the most efficient coffee preparation.

Why Pay For Brand-name Espresso Tampers When You Can Use A Rolling Pin Or A Bottle Instead? 

I should patent a coffee tamper I made out of a kitchen scissor and an embossment on the side 🙂 For me, the truth is that my own and daily used Tamper since May 2021 is an ECM Tamper pressure-optimized with spring – 58mm – pressure-optimized.

Light Pressure Or Correct Tamp Pressure

I love my ECM Tamper. It fits perfectly on my home espresso machine and is the perfect substitute for the brand name tamper that comes with those machines. I easily achieve the correct tamp pressure when making espresso

A Rolling Pin For The Perfect Espresso Shot

A rolling pin is a perfect option because it has two cylindrical ends that are parallel to each other. You will also need something to weigh down the coffee grounds while you tamp them – an empty glass jar or bottle works well for this.

Simply place the jar or bottle on top of the coffee grounds, and use the rolling pin to tamp them down. Make sure that you apply even pressure so that the grounds are compressed evenly.

A Mason Jar Lid as a Tamper

Another option is to use a mason jar lid as your tamper. This method only works if your portafilter has a metal bottom, so you will need to check this before trying it out. If your portafilter has a plastic or wooden bottom, these materials can become damaged when using something as heavy as the jar lid.

Espresso Tamper Alternative – Mason Jar Lid

Can I Use A Bottle As A Tamper?

You can use an empty glass jar or bottle. Simply place the jar or bottle on top of the coffee grounds, and use the rolling pin to tamp them down. Make sure that you apply even pressure so that the grounds are compressed evenly.

What Happens If You Don’t Tamp Espresso?

If you don’t tamp espresso, the coffee grounds can become compacted unevenly, which will make extracting the espresso more difficult.

Why Does One Need An Espresso Tamper?

Like all drinks prepared with coffee, espresso requires certain parameters that need to be strictly met. For instance, you need to use the right amount of coffee (by weight), tamp it properly and extract it for between 25-30 seconds.

These are the most important points for using an espresso tamper correctly:

  1. You need to use between 18g and 22g of finely ground coffee per each espresso shot (38mm basket, single or double).
  2. You need to tamp the coffee at a level of 40 pounds for a single espresso and 80 pounds for doubles. 
  3. You need to perform an extraction between 25-30 seconds.

These parameters are very important as they affect the quality of your drink. Using too much coffee can result in a bitter espresso while using too little will impact the taste.

Tamping down coffee with an espresso tamper for between 25-30 seconds is essential if you want to extract all the aromas of your drink. If you tamp it less than 25 seconds, you won’t get everything out and if you do it longer, your espresso will be over-extracted which will make it taste bitter.

Do Not Use Any Of The Following

  • Rolling pins with handles (unless they are cylindrical)
  • Bottle caps (or other lids that aren’t made for jars)
  • Jars without airtight lids/lid rings (can explode if pressure builds up inside them during tamping process)
  • Use anything that is not flat and circular in shape like an espresso tamper would be (some examples are lids from jars, bottle caps, jugs or pitchers without airtight seals/lid rings)
  • The portafilter usually doesn’t need to be used with a tamp and the grinder should be set to grind finely.
  • Anything roundish but cylindrical is great too! Make sure they are not too wide as well. Make sure they are cylindrical and flat or you will have issues!

If the tamp isn’t even, it can make extracting easier. So if you are not confident in your abilities or don’t have an espresso tamper a rolling pin or empty glass jar/bottle will do just fine.

Horrified Woman when served bad Espresso

You want to avoid anything roundish but cylindrical great too! Make sure they are not too wide as well. Make sure they are cylindrical and flat or you will have issues!

Coffee beans

I’m a big fan and user of Italian Roast Espresso coffee. Learn all about the What Are The Best Espresso Beans? Espresso Beans 2021 Buying Guide from my personal experience.

Espresso Machine

I’ve been using my second ECM for 30 years, currently an ECM Heidelberg Technika IV.

Conclusion

Tamping is one of the most important parts of a good espresso shot. Tap an espresso puck too hard or too lightly and you can compromise that perfectly extracted shot!

If you serve coffee, at home or in your restaurant, the bottom line is you’re missing out if you don’t have an espresso tamper. Ask the barista at your local coffee shop if you can try their espresso tampers.

Espresso shot from espresso machine

This is probably the first thing most new baristas buy. The problem is that a lot of baristas end up with tamper that doesn’t fit their needs. Usually, the problem is a cheap tamper…

It’s not the only thing to consider, though. You also need espresso tampers that fit your style and beans. This is one of the best accessories for espresso machines.

Do you love drinking coffee? How about espresso? I know there’s a lot to learn when it comes to coffee (and I’m still in the process of learning how to make that perfect latte!), but this is something I’m working on.

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