Why Do You Tamp Espresso? Everything About Tamping

By Evelina •  Updated: 07/23/21 •  8 min read

Tamping down espresso grounds is a crucial step in the process of brewing coffee with an espresso machine. But why do we tamp? What’s the point?

This post will answer any questions you may have about tamping, and also give you some tips on how to get it just right. Read on!

The last thing anyone wants is a watery cup of joe. The key to getting an ideal cup of espresso coffee is in the details, like using good beans and finely-ground coffee – but also with proper tamping technique.

So let’s take a look at this essential part of making your favorite morning beverage!

What is Espresso Tamping?

why you should tamp espresso

When making coffee with an espresso machine, we tamp the coffee grounds to create a more dense, packed puck of coffee. This is important because a dense puck of coffee will help the water in the espresso machine to permeate through the grounds, extracting more flavor and creating a stronger coffee.

When tamping properly, enough weight is applied to ensure that this happens but not so much that you press the coffee grounds into the bottom of the portafilter basket. Proper tamping is key in making sure that your espresso does not come out watery or under-extracted.

By definition, the purpose of coffee “tamping” is simply squeezing the grounds to be as dense as possible before pulling a shot.

Why Do You Need to Tamp Espresso?

espresso tamping

Tamping properly is the key to a successful, tasty shot of espresso. Here are some reasons why it’s so important:

Makes for a “denser” coffee puck: Tamping will compress the coffee grounds in your portafilter basket. Remember that density has everything to do with how much flavor and aroma can be extracted from your coffee grounds.

Stops leakage from occurring: If you don’t tamp properly, water will trickle down into your cup of espresso instead of going through the coffee. The tight seal prevents any leaking from occurring, keeping your beverage nice and clean.

Prevent under-extraction: Under-extraction is usually caused when there’s not enough pressure on the grounds. Tamping can help to prevent this from happening because it compresses the coffee, allowing more water through and enhancing flavor extraction.

Squeezing your coffee just right is crucial in getting the best flavor result out of your beans. If you don’t tamp properly, you might end up with a cup that’s more under-extracted than you’d like – and that’s not going to make your taste buds very happy!

How to Tamp Espresso

how to tamp espresso

Let’s see step-by-step how to properly tamp your espresso grounds.

Step 1: Level the espresso machine’s portafilter basket on a flat surface, such as a countertop or your kitchen table. This is crucial to tamping properly because if your portafilter is not leveled, you may end up with unevenly compressed coffee grounds – and even less flavor extraction!

Step 2: Grind your espresso beans into a “fine” grind. The ideal texture for an espresso grind is the consistency of powdered sugar or sand; it should be very fine and powdery.

Too coarse of a grind will result in under-extraction, and too fine of a grind will result in over-extraction. Thus, tamping properly is crucial to achieving the perfect texture for your espresso grounds!

Step 3: Add your freshly ground coffee into the portafilter. The amount you should put in depends on your personal preferences, but a general rule of thumb is 1:2, which means 20g of finely ground coffee will result in 40g of brewed espresso!

Step 4: Tamp the grounds down evenly into a flat disk shape. This will compress them so that they are denser and allow more water to pass through the coffee.

Step 5: Continue tamping until you have a nice, flat disk that is even with the top of your portafilter. Don’t use excessive force or else this will cause leakage and the water won’t be able to pass through!

Step 6: Level off any excess grounds at the top of your portafilter with your fingers.

Step 7: Place the portafilter on your espresso machine, making sure that it is correctly positioned.

Step 8: Pull a shot of espresso from your machine!

And there you have it! Perfect, evenly compressed coffee grounds that will allow your machine to reach peak flavor extraction are yours to enjoy.

4 Types of Espresso Tampers

There are several tools that can be used to tamp espresso, some more efficient than others. Here is a brief overview of each:

1.Handle Tamper: A handle tamper is a simple tool to use when tamping espresso. It can be made of wood and has a flat surface on the bottom that compresses the coffee grounds – just like an anvil would!

2.Puck Tamper: This tamper is flat and designed to make your trip comfortable. It has a smaller flat surface area, which can make it a little bit trickier to tamp with than the handle tamper, but the smaller size can be beneficial for making espresso.

3.Dual-Head Tamper: This tamper is designed to help balance the coffee puck on the portafilter for a more even tamp. It has a good weight and a slight ergonomic curve which allows you to apply better pressure, without your wrist being in an awkward position.

4.Weight-Calibrated Tamper: This tamper may look odd, but it is designed to give you the most consistent and even tamp possible. This can help you give a specific power to your tamp, and thus will help you get better tasting espresso by preventing under-of over-extraction.

Some Common Mistakes People Make When Tamping

tamping espresso coffee

There are a few mistakes that people often make when tamping espresso. Here are the basics on how to avoid them and ensure you are getting the most out of your beans:

1.Not grinding fine enough – If you don’t grind your coffee finely enough before you tamp, then it won’t compress properly. This can lead to under-extraction of flavor, which means not enough oils are being passed through your grounds. It also leads to a harsher tasting espresso overall.

2. Using too much pressure – If you use excessive force when tamping, then you risk compressing the coffee grounds unevenly. You may end up splashing brewed espresso out of the portafilter, and it’ll also lead to a weaker cup because there will be more water passing through the grounds.

3. Not tamping long enough – Because the ground coffee doesn’t have time to settle before the brewing process begins, you can end up getting an inconsistent amount of flavor each time. To avoid this, make sure to tamp for as long as possible.

4. Not using a tamper – If you are not using the proper tool to tamp your espresso, then you may end up with an inconsistent result in terms of texture and extraction of oils.


Can you over tamp espresso?

Over tamping, espresso can end up in over-extraction. You will be pulling coffee that has been over-extracted and thus, it will have a bitter taste and less of the good flavors you should expect to find in espresso.

Does tamping pressure really matter?

The tamping pressure of your espresso coffee plays a big role in how it will taste. The more pressure you use, the more likely you are to extract bitter-tasting oils from the coffee beans. Too little of this and won’t extract enough good-tasting espresso oil, leading to a weak and watery cup of espresso.

Should I tamp my espresso?

Tamping espresso is an important part of the process, as it helps to ensure that you get a good cup of espresso. While there are a few different methods for tamping, they all ultimately serve one purpose: To compact your coffee grounds into even layers before brewing happens.

How do you tamp coffee without a tamper?

If you don’t have a tamper, then use something that is flat and sturdy to help tamp your espresso. You could try using the bottom of a shot glass or some other object that has a flat surface – just make sure it’s not sharp!

Last Thoughts

All in all, the proper tamping method is one of those things that might be hard to get perfect at first without a little practice.

But with just five minutes of work on it every day for a couple of weeks, you should be able to create espresso shots like an expert barista!

So if you’re looking for ways to improve your coffee game, take some time today and tomorrow morning before work or school and learn how to tamp better. With these tips under your belt, we promise you won’t regret it.

More About Espresso


Evelina’s passion for coffee could never been hidden. Having worked as a barista, she learned the true value of the coffee bean and its secrets. As she continued to evolve as a barista, so did her knowledge, techniques on making different coffee blends and most importantly how to operate every kind of gear when it comes to coffee. Having a degree in biomedicine and being a barista, allows her to provide our community with in-depth knowledge surrounding the topics of coffee.