Just wondering if anyone out there is suffering from what I call Barista's Elbow. Basically its Tennis Elbow but the only thing I can figure out is its from a combination of knocking, tamping, slapping the portafilter off the machine & then stirring drinks & pulling frozen cappuccinos out of the frozen drink machine...all done with my right hand. My elbow has started killing me over the last few months & this week its been pretty bad. Hurts to bend it or straighten it...really just hurts to move it at all! Havent seen a doctor about it (you know how this self employement health plan it....nada!) but I've got a feeling Im going to have to soon. Anyone else suffer from this? I've been doing it for a good 15 years now so I guess I could only expect some health related incident to happen!

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Hmp a few days ago I was complaining how much my elbow ached, it was a dull pain shooting down my arm stemming from my elbow. For the life of me i couldn't understand why it hurt so. I joked saying it was the begining of a heart attack. It didn't even occur to me that it could have anything to do with work... now i'm wondering
I agree with everythign you said here. The reason that I tamp so hard is..well I have tamped on a scale a lot, and I was most consistant when I applied harder pressure. So ultimatly if you are more consisstant when you tamp lightly then that is probably best. Consistancy is king!

Sandy Hon said:
something i've also learned over the years is that the amount of pressure that we apply isnt the most important factor of tamping.

technically tamping is the simple act of applying even pressure to the bed of coffee producing a level surface. i find that it is no longer necessary (for me) to apply as much force as i used to back in the day when i would practically stand on my tip toes to apply as much force as i possibly could while tamping. that's what the grinder adjustment is for- simply adjust the grind finer.....and if we think about it- this is how some people (the Italians, is it?) can get by with using no tamper at all!

i apply a gentle force, lift, press down again quickly, polish and remove tamper.

no longer are my wrists forced with that 50 plus pounds of pressure each and every drink.

...now some people prefer to apply as much physical pressure as possible - and that's fine too, i suppose.....IF there is a logical reason for doing so.

kind of like tapping the side of the pf. are we doing these things out of habit or necessity?

in other words, are we doing these things because it's imbedded in our heads, because that's how we've always done it or does our practice truly affect the taste of the beverage that we are preparing in a positive way?
Joshua "Yeshi" Longsdorf said:
I've been doing this for years and spent some time on some really busy bars, it's never been a problem. As far as I've been able to gather it's from improper body mechanics during the tamp. Instead of using your arm muscles to deliver the pressure during the tamp try using your arm as a piston and let your body apply the force. It's sort of hard to explain but it's helped everyone I know thats ever had the problem.

To clarify what I think Joshua Longsdorf was meaning by ' using your arm as a piston' is to change your arm positioning to be as close to a 90 degree angle from the counter. This may be difficult if you are shorter, or have taller counters, but overall, the point is to use the weight of your arm to do the packing, not your wrist. I rest the tamp handle against the base of my thumb (the connective muscle in my hand) and keep my elbow directly above the tamp when working. Granted, I am a bit taller than some folks, but even shorter barista I have trained have been able to make an adjustment to their routine to keep stress down. The pressure is then brought down from my elbow, the majority of the force on my arm is being absorbed at the point where the tamp meets my hand, which is thick muscle. This prevents my wrist from becoming strained as the resistant force does not cause my wrist to flex, which is the beginning of straining our working arms into repetitive stress injuries.

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