Tampering Techniques: How to Apply the Right Pressure

Tampering Techniques: How to Apply the Right Pressure


In the quest for the perfect espresso, the art of tampering is often undervalued. Tampering, the process of compressing the coffee grounds in the portafilter, is crucial for achieving a consistent and flavorful espresso shot. In this blog, we explore the techniques and nuances of tampering and how to apply the right pressure every time.

Understanding the Importance of Tampering

Tampering affects how water passes through the coffee grounds. Proper tampering ensures even water distribution, preventing over-extraction or under-extraction. Inconsistent tampering can lead to channeling, where water finds the path of least resistance, resulting in a poor extraction.

The Basics of Tampering

  • Level Tampering: Start by ensuring your tamper is perfectly level. Uneven tampering leads to uneven extraction.
  • Pressure: The recommended pressure is about 30 pounds. However, consistency is more important than the exact pressure. What's crucial is applying the same pressure every time you make espresso.
  • Feel the Pressure: Many baristas learn to gauge the pressure by feel. A good practice is to use a bathroom scale to press down on until you consistently hit the 30-pound mark. This helps in developing muscle memory.

Advanced Tampering Techniques

  1. Polishing: After applying pressure, twist the tamper slightly. This polishes the coffee surface, which can help prevent channeling.
  2. Nutation: This involves gently rocking the tamper in a circular motion before applying the final pressure. It helps in creating a more uniform coffee puck.
  3. Distribution Tools: Consider using a distribution tool before tampering. These tools help in evenly distributing the coffee grounds, which complements the tampering process.

Common Tampering Mistakes to Avoid

  • Over-Tampering: Applying too much pressure can compact the coffee too tightly, making it difficult for water to pass through, leading to under-extraction.
  • Inconsistent Pressure: Inconsistency in pressure from shot to shot can lead to varying extraction levels, affecting the taste of your espresso.
  • Ignoring the Coffee Level: Before tampering, ensure the coffee grounds are evenly distributed in the portafilter. Uneven grounds can lead to uneven tampering.

Practicing Your Technique

Tampering is a skill that improves with practice. Pay attention to the details of your technique with each shot you make. Experiment with different pressures and techniques to find what works best for your coffee and machine.


Tampering is an essential skill for any espresso enthusiast. Mastering the art of tampering by applying the right pressure consistently can elevate your espresso shots from good to great. Remember, like all aspects of coffee brewing, tampering is a personal and nuanced process – take the time to develop your technique and find what works best for you.

Back to blog