Hey Folks,

I'm in the market for a tamper, and I always thought they were all flat and that you just measure the inside of your portafilter basket and buy the appropriate size. After reading a few discussion on Bx, I'm guessing that the convex one increases the surface area of the coffee, maybe? But beyond that, I know nothing, including why I would want to increase the surface area of my coffee, if in fact that is what I want to do! Can someone walk me through the ins and outs of choosing the right tamper? I'm using a Rancilio classe 8 2-group machine.

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A convex tamper is more forgiving of barista error.

A flat tamper requires a tapered filterbasket to avoid the dreaded "donut effect" during beading.

I prefer a US curve, myself. I have a variety of tampers, and while my US curve (non-reg barber) has the least comfortable handle, I still find myself using it the most. Yes, more than my RB c-flat, other convexes, and flats.

It comes to personal preference, really, but there are reasons why people prefer what they do. Hopefully you'll get some more responses.
I have one of each and keep finding myself going to the flat tamper. Again the convex is great for baristi that aren't able to get a perfectly even tamp every time, but I've worried (and seen) curved tampers slightly overextract the center and underextract the sides while watching it brew with a naked portafilter.
I suppose convex would slightly increase the area of the top of the puck. It never occurred to me that it would be beneficial or detrimental though... more thought required.

I use an espressoparts convex. It's pretty radically convex. For me, the big advantages are; less margin for error in slightly uneven tamping, the post-tamp polish is much more smooth, and most importantly the shape of the convex pushes more grounds towards the outside of the basket and creates a tighter seal where channeling most commonly occurs. Especially use a convex if you tap the portafilter, for that reason.

They seem to work better with some basket shapes than others. My espressoparts piston and 18gr synesso baskets fit one another beautifully, whereas i seem to have better results with a less convex tamper if i'm using say, a la marzocco triple basket.

I've had my eye on the espressocraft mild convex lately though...

Does anyone here use one?
Schomer suggests a curved tamper, and as a result of that, it deserves serious consideration. I keep finding myself coming back to a reg barber flat, though. If you can get your hands on both, it would be a great thing to do some trials and find out which you prefer, because it is a pretty personal thing.
Thanks for the responses!

Jason, what is the 'dreaded donut effect', a pattern of channeling? And what is beading? I must know.
Liza, I've never used a naked portafilter before, only read about them. That's really fascinating that you can observe so much about what's going on using one!
Ricky, thanks for the input. I do tap the portafilter, but I've never really had a problem with evenness or channeling for that matter. But if it is occurring just around the outside of the basket, it may not be as noticeable to me as huge cracks would be. I'll take a closer look and make sure that isn't happening to me.
Daniel, that's a great idea to experiment. I may just leave well enough alone, though, if it's more of a user preference and a user's habits-related thing. I've used flat tampers for many years now, and I tamp very, very evenly (not to brag or anything, he he!) and the used grounds usually come out cleanly in one piece and appear to be uniformly saturated.
Mainly, I wondered if the choice of tamper had anything to do with the qualities of the shot itself (i.e. more crema or something else cool like that).

I just thought, if the differences affected what went on in the cup (assuming the best results of each) then it may be worth tryng something different.

Thanks, you guys are awesome!
The effects are going to be harder to notice if you don't have a naked PF. I know that I thought for years that I was pulling fantastic shots (and indeed they did taste fine) and then I got a naked PF and realized how much better my shots could be.

A video example of "the donut effect during beading:"
Example One

There are a few other examples on youtube, but I think this gets the point across pretty well.

-bry
Wow, Brian, that just blew a few of the cobwebs out of my mind! Thanks for sharing the video. Now I want a flat tamper, a convex tamper, AND a naked portafilter, AND a tapered filter basket, and lots and lots of time to experiment. That was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen, even though that wasn't the point you were making and the shot was overextracted. I've just never seen anything like it before. Thanks!

Bryan Wray said:
The effects are going to be harder to notice if you don't have a naked PF. I know that I thought for years that I was pulling fantastic shots (and indeed they did taste fine) and then I got a naked PF and realized how much better my shots could be.

A video example of "the donut effect during beading:"
Example One

There are a few other examples on youtube, but I think this gets the point across pretty well.

-bry
Jennifer Graham said:

Wow, Brian, that just blew a few of the cobwebs out of my mind! Thanks for sharing the video. Now I want a flat tamper, a convex tamper, AND a naked portafilter, AND a tapered filter basket, and lots and lots of time to experiment. That was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen, even though that wasn't the point you were making and the shot was overextracted. I've just never seen anything like it before. Thanks!

Uh oh. So it begins... :)
LOL, yep. I'm shopping as we speak.

BTW, Bry, sorry I totally mispelled your name.



Daniel Williamson said:
Jennifer Graham said:

Wow, Brian, that just blew a few of the cobwebs out of my mind! Thanks for sharing the video. Now I want a flat tamper, a convex tamper, AND a naked portafilter, AND a tapered filter basket, and lots and lots of time to experiment. That was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen, even though that wasn't the point you were making and the shot was overextracted. I've just never seen anything like it before. Thanks!

Uh oh. So it begins... :)
Jennifer Graham said:

"I'm shopping as we speak."

Something you may want to consider is making your spouted pfs naked yourself. Sometimes they run a little steep, and if you aren't sure you are going to switch over, it may not be worth it. If you have an extra one, you may want to pull out a dremel tool or something and cut the bottom off it. I have done that for a couple in our shop, and also on my home machine (manual La Pavoni). It's not too hard at all.
Yeah, that's right! I remember now that when I first heard of the naked portafilter, that's how people were doing it. I totally forgot. And yes, they run about $80 for my machine, which may make a few people in my organization cringe a little. Is there a way to polish off the rough edges? I know nothing about power tools.

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