- Created: Saturday, 08 May 2004 12:53
- Written by colin newell
Behind every good espresso machine and grinder combination is one key component - the coffee tamper.
What is a coffee tamper? The tamper is used to pack the espresso coffee into the espresso machine portafilter. Why pack the coffee? Compressing the coffee into the portafilter creates a uniform 'puck' of coffee that is equally dense throughout the portafilter. Tamping correctly prevents the brewing coffee from 'channelling' through the filter. Tamping at the right pressure results in a shot of espresso that does not flow too fast or too slow into your cup.
Reg Barber is a unique artisan in an environment dominated by space-age plastics and sheet-steel. He makes tampers that have raised the bar on fashionable and functional coffee accessories. He has been making coffee tampers for years. Now, with some impressive technology of his own, Reg has entered the 21st century.
In the five or six years I have known him, Reg has given me more than a dozen tampers. Now, it is not like they wear out or break. His tampers are just so desireable, functional and necessary that I have given them away to friends and associates who have become espresso enthusiasts.
Today I bought three! I gave Reg some money for what, I feel, are pieces of art.
I needed a 53MM tamper (this is the measurement of the width of the base) for the Saeco Classico that I am testing. I also needed two standard commercial sized 58MM tampers for two Gaggia machines.
Reg is a generous guy and today he went the extra mile showing me some of the processes that go into making one of his tampers. His robotic computer driven lathe system makes stainless steel bases, a key component for his tampers, from rolled stock steel. It was inspiring to watch this unit in operation. The system is half the size of a mini-van, and has more doors, dials, monitors, and lights than the cockpit of a Bell Ranger helicopter. Through a very thick observation window I watched the procedure. The lathe chuck held the steel stock secure while various cutting tools appeared between a stream of non-toxic cutting fluid. Before my eyes, the base for my tamper was hewn from a piece of steel.
Within minutes I had a custom-made base for my coffee tamper. Moments later I selected a wooden handle. Many of the handles are made with farmed bubinga hardwood.
Reg placed this semi-finished wooden handle onto a device that allows him to do a quick polish at 4000rpm. Within about 30 minutes I had three fabulous tampers. These things feel good and look good in any kitchen or cafe. The 'RB Tamper', as they are known in the gourmet coffee industry, is my guarantee that I am going to get the best possible coffee experience that my machine and grinder can offer.