5 Simple Tips On How To Tamp Espresso Without Tamper

Congratulations! You have finally got the best espresso beans, grinder, and espresso machine. However, if your espresso still tastes terrible, your tamping technique might be the culprit.

Do not worry if you have no tamper; you can still tamp expertly without it. You will need a good espresso machine, grinder, portafilter, and an object with a flat surface. Ensure that the object fits the portafilter perfectly. Below are steps on how to tamp your espresso with no tamper:

Step #1: Measure and Level the Coffee Grounds 

Measure and fill the portafilter with grounds just above the brim. Swipe over the top and remove any excess coffee using your index finger.

Do not push down the grounds slightly with hands to prevent uneven oils extraction and flavorless shot.

Step #2: Position the Tamp and Your Body 

On a flat surface, place the portafilter and apply even pressure on it. Place the portafilter on a table if it comes with a flat surface.

Alternatively, use the table’s edge to make it level. Position your body correctly to ensure that the tamping power comes from your body instead of your wrist. Bend your elbow about 90˚ angle while keeping your wrist straight.

Step #3: Tamp Using Light Pressure 

Use a pestle or a beer bottle to apply light pressure on the grounds in the portafilter. The maximum bars are 15. ensure that the pestle or beer bottle stands straight at 90˚ to produce an even level on the coffee.

Step #4: Tamp Using More Pressure

After ensuring that the grounds are evenly leveled, you can apply more pressure. Then, push down the coffee to eliminate any space between them.

You can use twice the force you did before and go as high as 30 bars. Lift the pestle or beer bottle in a circular motion. That way, you can effectively polish the puck’s top and remove it.

Step #5: Perform a Puck Inspection and Clean the Portafilter 

Ensure that the puck has no loose spots. Then, wipe off any excess grounds on the portafilter’s edge. This will help to protect the portafilter gasket.

This article will show you the importance of a tamper for espresso, how hard you should compress the ground, the alternative for a tamper, why espresso tampers are expensive, and what staccato tamping is.

Why Is Tamper Important for Espresso?

A tamper refers to the tool used during the espresso brewing process to pack, tamp, or compress the coffee grounds in the espresso machine’s basket.

Quality tampers usually made from a lightweight metal construction and match the portafilter and basket’s size. They come in convex or flat shapes and produce shorts with varying qualities.

Tampers help in achieving proper tamping, which necessary to pull quality espresso shots. During the pulling process, pressurized water goes through the portafilter and then into the ground-filled basket.

Untamped coffee makes the water goes through the loose ground pile and avoids any difficult region or lump. As a result, there is an inefficient oils extraction and shallow-flavored shots.

The Right Tool

Espresso tampers come in all weights, colors, sizes, and shapes. Ill-fitting tampers can lead to callouses, wrist injuries, and regular nuisance.

When choosing an espresso tamper, ensure to check as many styles as possible. Ensure to contour in your palm and feel their weight. See how they feel by applying pressure against them on a table or counter.

Do not forget to double-check your portafilter basket’s circumference. Generally, tampers come in varying sizes from 56-59mm. Ensure that whichever size you choose should fit the portafilter without sticking.

Grounds Distribution

Distribution is the process of evening out the grounds in the basket of the espresso machine before tamping. As a result, water can pass through every ground at similar pressure and speed while increasing the extraction’s evenness.

When finding the correct distribution method, you need to consider a few metrics such as:

  • Extraction 
  • Consistency 
  • Speed 
  • Cleanliness 

Below are some of the distribution methods for making espresso 

North-South-East-West (NSEW)

In this distribution method, you need to place your finger flat across the basket’s top and push the ground around using your finger’s base.

Start distributing the grounds by pushing away by your body, come back down toward it, and right and left.

Side Tap 

Tap the portafilter against your palm to settle the grounds. Ensure not to tap the portafilter sides after tamping.

Stockfleth Method 

This method is the same with NSEW, but no rotation is involved. Use your finger and a rotation to distribute the grounds’ top later.

Start distributing the grounds with your thumb on the basket’s rim and your index finger straight across. Next is to rotate your hand and portafilter oppositely. Repeat the process until the grounds are well-distributed to the sides.

Weiss Distribution Method 

In this method, you need to use a thin object like a safety pin o paper clip to stir the coffee grounds in an overlapping circular motion.

Level Tamping 

Through level tamping, quality coffee grounds extraction for espresso is achieved. The extraction method takes 30 seconds, and constant water volume, temperature, and pressure are involved.

Tamping the coffee grounds ensures that the constant water flow rate with the extraction time is very close to the espresso’s standard. It creates the correct resistance in the grounds to ensure even compactness in a pile.

The water is evenly pushed through the whole ground. As a result, the water has enough time to run through the coffee grounds to break through it, and flavorful shots are produced.

How Hard Should I Compress the Grounds for An Ideal Cup?

You can start by packing the portafilter and leveling the coffee grounds off. Then, you are entirely ready to tamp. Ensure that you are comfortable with your posture.

Hold your portafilter using one hand, place the basket on the flat surface, and hold the espresso tamper using your other hand. 

Press the tamper’s flat part on the grounds’ top layer. Double-check if it fits snugly within the basket. Then, apply pressure around 20-30 pounds onto the grounds.

After that, ensure no large holes on the grounds and the surfaces must be flat. Wipe off the excess grounds from the basket’s rim. Then, you are ready to brew!

Can You Tamp Espresso Too Hard?

Can You Tamp Espresso Too Hard

Tamping espresso too hard is not a good practice. Tamping too hard makes the water struggle in getting through the puck. Since the water takes more time to seep through, the espresso will become over-extracted.

If over-extraction takes place, an espresso shot produces an overwhelmingly bitter taste. Plus, if you will continue tamping too hard, you might experience sore wrists due to excess pressure.

What Can I Use Instead of Coffee Tamper?

Do not feel bad if you have no coffee tamper; there are several alternatives you can use to achieve the perfect espresso shot.

Just look around your kitchen, and you can find items in place of a coffee tamper. You can use pestle and bottles, such as beer or brandy bottles.

Why Are Espresso Tampers So Expensive?

You will find espresso tampers so expensive because of two things: pricey stainless steel and the brand. They are made out of stainless steel, and this material is costly. Plus, some brands come with an unattractive price tag.

What is Staccato Tamping?

Staccato tamping is a result of knowledge applied from the staccato shot to the traditional shot. The staccato shot layering involves coffee density layers as a result of the particle sizes.

For instance, having two layers of varying densities will result in a modified shot similar to the staccato espresso shot. With staccato tamping, the coffee’s bottom layer comes with a higher than the top layer. That way, sifting the grounds is stimulated, and an espresso shot with a fine bottom layer is produced.


Q: Can I Only Use Espresso Coffee Beans In A Espresso Machine?

A: You can use any coffee beans in making espresso in your espresso machine. Plus, there is no specific coffee bean. Any coffee bean type from any regional origin, country, cultivar, or variety is used to prepare espresso.

Q: Is It Possible To Make Espresso By Shaking Coffee Grounds And Hot Water Together?

A: No, you cannot make espresso by shaking coffee grounds and hot water together. This coffee is concentrated and usually thick with a dense foam layer. It is created using an espresso machine where hot water is forced through a tightly packed and finely ground coffee ground basket for a limited amount of time.


To wrap it up, an espresso tamper has a special purpose in espresso-making. Besides timing and grinding, proper tamping is essential in producing high-quality and flavorful espresso shots. If you have no tamper at home, you can use a pestle or bottle as an alternative. Plus, it would help if you observed the correct pressure when tamping.

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