Thursday, December 7, 2023

Inadequate Tamping: Risks & Consequences

by Mads

What happens if you don’t tamp hard enough?

If you’re a coffee enthusiast, then you know that tamping is an essential process in making great coffee. Tamping refers to compressing the coffee grounds inside the portafilter basket to create a level and even surface, which ensures that the water flows through the coffee evenly. However, one common mistake that many baristas make is not tamping hard enough.

How inadequate tamping affects coffee?

Inadequate tamping can lead to several issues that can affect the taste and quality of your coffee. For starters, if you don’t tamp hard enough, the coffee grounds will be loose, which means the water will flow through too quickly, resulting in a weak and under-extracted coffee. This can be frustrating, especially if you have spent time sourcing the perfect beans and roast.

Furthermore, an inadequate tamp can cause channeling, which occurs when water finds the path of least resistance through the coffee bed. This causes an uneven extraction, resulting in a bitter and sour taste profile. Additionally, channeling can also cause weak spots in the coffee puck, leading to inconsistencies in extraction. As a result, you may end up with a cup of coffee that has some parts that are over-extracted and others that are under-extracted.

What are the consequences of inadequate tamping?

Inadequate tamping not only affects the quality of your coffee but can also lead to machine damage. If the coffee grounds are loose, they can be pushed up against the shower screen in the group head, leading to clogs and water pressure issues. This, in turn, can cause damage to the group head gasket, leading to costly repairs.

Additionally, if the tamp is inconsistent, the coffee puck and basket will wear out faster, leading to the need for more frequent replacement. Inconsistently tamped coffee also increases the chances of getting a blocked or leaking shower screen in the group head.

How to ensure proper tamping?

The key to ensuring proper tamping is to use the right technique and tools. Tamping should be done evenly and with consistent pressure, using a tamper that fits the size of the portafilter basket. You should aim for a tamp pressure of around 30 pounds, but this can vary depending on personal preference and the type of coffee you are brewing.

It’s also essential to level the coffee grounds before tamping to create an even surface. This can be done using a distributor tool or by tapping the side of the portafilter basket gently.

Lastly, keep in mind that practice makes perfect. The more you tamp, the better your technique will become. So, don’t be discouraged if you don’t get it right the first time.


Inadequate tamping is a common mistake that can lead to several issues that affect the quality of your coffee and your espresso machine’s longevity. By learning the proper techniques and investing in the right tools, you can ensure that you get the perfect cup of coffee every time you brew. Make sure to pay attention to your tamping technique, and don’t be afraid to experiment with different pressures and techniques to find what works best for you.

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