Grinding, but with less bumping…

It looks as though Mark’s Tamping Science, Theory and Practice article on may actually get some life in terms of parts 2 and 3 after all.

I know when the article first appeared a couple years ago, I was really intrigued.  It was my first exposure to the idea of “not tapping” and my first introduction to the entire debate of “to tap or not to tap.”  For about six months after the article originally appeared I conducted an experiment using a bottomless portafilter to see if I could discover a substantial difference- or any difference for that matter- between a shot that had been “tapped” and a shot that had not been.  The main problems that I discovered with tapped shots were channeling, but this has become common knowledge now.  Tapping can cause the puck to break away from the side of the basket if done incorrectly.  However, when a light tap was present, I really don’t feel that there was any substantial decrease in quality.  More importanlty, though, there was also no substantial increase in quality.  What’s the point of a step in espresso preparation if the results are the same minus that step?  It reminds me of some home baristas I see that have nearly a 2 minute routine of insane dosing, distribution and tamping techniques that usually yield a product exactly the same as that of someone who does a more traditional dose, distribute, level, tamp and pull.
If all of the steps don’t yield a better product, why have the steps?
And this was really the first time my mind was opened up to the idea of exploring what steps were actually necessary in espresso preparation and which were not.  Many personal experiments have followed, usually with results that are quite obvious and that I expected to be quite obvious.  Regardless, it will be interesting to see where Parts 2 and 3 take us, if- after 3 years- they finally take us anywhere at all.

I know this article is now ancient. There really is a part 2 and a part 3 coming.

The problem is (and was) that I was waiting until the CoffeeGeek Tamper Project was finalised before posting the other two articles. The 2nd one is written, the third one is in draft form.

For several years, I’ve been trying to coordinate with Reg Barber to get what I thought was the ideal tamper built – at least what I thought was ideal. Prototypes were made – there’s about 20+ in existence now, and people like Jim Hoffmann, Andy Schecter, Matt Riddle and others have one.

Unfortunately (for this project, not for him), Reg is a very busy person, and we got bogged down in the minutia of the design. I wanted it to be perfect, out the door. There were many frustrations along the way.

Very recently (as in the last three weeks), the tamper project has been kickstarted again. New CAD drawings were done and the piston shape, along with the handle shape (it’s GOTTA be extremely comfortable) have had some final tweaks, including some very minor (but important to me) aesthetic and usability additions. I’m optimistic this tamper will eventually get built, and we’ll have an initial run of 200 to offer (already about 100+ are spoken for – not sure if that’s still the case, but there was some very serious commitments).

I am embarrassed and sorry that this has dragged out for so long, and that Part 2 and Part 3 haven’t seen the light of day here yet. Hopefully that will change soon.


So I suppose we’ll have to see how much longer this takes, but at least the article is again receiving light.



One Response to “Grinding, but with less bumping…”

  1. Tamp, Tamp, Tamp… yeah I get the whole to tap or not to tap thing as far as channeling goes, but I must say that I would stick with tapping because it will keep the machine cleaner. Even if only a little bit more than without tapping, still it will keep your investment into your workplace in better working condition for longer. I also agree a very light tap, not a whack…

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