Coffee grinding and tamping

Coffee grinding and tamping are important steps in making an exceptional espresso.

The first thing to think about is the grinding.

Grinding coffee is a key operation that every barista does on a regular basis as they work. A commonly-held belief in many coffee bars is that the barista should never touch the coffee grinder, but this is in fact completely untrue.

Knowing how to set your coffee grinder is really important in guaranteeing you get espresso coffee of consistently good quality.

The coffee beans that go into the bean container of your grinder aren’t always the same and they also change over time when they’re left inside the grinder. Coffee grinders experience wear and tear over time and if the barista never touched the grinder setting, you’d be serving up something that’s far from the ideal espresso extraction.

The only remedy for this is to understand how to set your coffee grinder so the coffee you’re serving is consistently of high quality.

The second thing to consider is how to compress your coffee, also known as tamping.

A skilled barista knows exactly how much pressure to apply when doing this. The basic coffee ingredient is important (and of course it must be excellent quality) but an expert touch is also needed to give you a well-balanced coffee that is pleasant to smell and taste.

The coffee powder should be treated right too – at all stages of the espresso extraction. This starts with how the coffee is stored and how it is ground before it goes into the filter holder. Every step is vital and guarantees that the final result is a quality one.

We then come to the tamping stage. This is when you make the coffee powder into almost a compact block so that the flow of hot water from the machine meets some resistance.

The coffee powder should not completely fill the portafilter and there should be a little gap between the surface and the filter spout. Getting the tamping right also means the coffee won’t loosen up as the water passes through it, which would then give you a much less aromatic brew with a very weak flavour.

Coffee compressing should be done with a special implement called a tamper (link to tampers).  This is quite a heavy, hand-held metal object which should fit the filter perfectly – if the tamper is too small, you won’t be able to get the coffee compact enough. Of course, to get a really good tamp, you also need the right amount of coffee and it needs to have been ground properly too.

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