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the detailed review - 2003 tampers
2003 Tampers - Tampers: The Enthusiasts' View
Introduction | Overview | The Enthusiasts' View | The Pros' View | Conclusions

Tampers Row

For most of this evaluation, I've remained "neutral", and worked hard not to influence the 13 testers I've enlisted to help with this review. In this first round, you will see some of my comments and evaluations, but those were written privately, and not shown to my fellow evaluators. For round one, I drafted the aid of a few espresso-loving friends who are not professionals in the world of coffee (round two did use the help of professional Baristi). It was also important for me to get a woman's perspective (on fit, usability), so I included Jeanette Chan in the evaluation. Helping out were Jeff Zolek and Dana Leighton.

This test was conducted over a few weeks, and while I didn't get comments on all the tampers from all participants, I did get ratings for all our test tampers.

Mark's selected comments:

Okay, in this round, I get to play the critic instead of being neutral, so here goes: I've been using a Reg Barber for some time, along with an Ergo Tamper from Espresso Vivace (not in this current test) and I do like both of those tampers a lot However, I'm completely sold on the fit and feel of the Presso Tamper. The only thing I wish is that it were heavier. I really like the way it seems to melt into your hand as you use it, and how the top part of the piston seems almost convex towards the centre, so it keeps your thumb and forefinger secure when you tamp.

The Deluxe Lava Tamp also feels really good, and has the weight. The novelty of freaky colours might wear off after a while. Still, this tamper would almost be my second choice - I don't have permanent use of it - it was lent to me for this test - and I imagine if I used it more, it could move up to second place for me. One thing I don't like about it is that the bottom is probably too rounded - but again, I think I've been spoiled by the Presso model and its very shallow curve to the base.

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Getting this out of the way: yes, they are very similar, but not identical - the Rosewood has a more flattened top, and is slightly thicker.
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You'll note the finish on the Reg (on left) is better in the wood, and the Rosewood tamper is taller and features a chromed piston and gloss finish to the handle.

I'd have to give a tie to the Reg Barber and the African Rosewood tampers for obvious reasons, but the African rosewood model wins on price. In my opinion, it is one of the best tampers you can get today at the best price, once you factor that into your purchase decision.

Next up for me was the all steel Pro Tamper, which is the heaviest in this lineup - I like a heavy tamper. The handle's a bit too long though. Last year, this tamper was my first choice. This year, with all the new choices and more long term use of a Reg Barber, it moves down a bit.

I was tempted to put the plastic tamper last, but I can't do it - the Gourmet Espresso Tamper wins that honour. First, it's not standard 58mm, so it didn't work in any of my test machines properly. In order to use it I had to move it around in the filter basket and that protruding faux diamond makes a mess of the puck. It's also extremely uncomfortable to use if you have medium or large hands and you're used to applying a 30 lb tamping pressure. The convex concept is an interesting one, but until they ditch that diamond, redesign the tamper's length so it can be easily held, and make it 58mm, this one is last on my list. If I had any espresso machines with 54mm baskets (I have dozens in the house, but none of them have a 54mm filter size), maybe it would have scored better, but the faux diamond would probably negate that. That protrusion would be my first recommendation to the company on what to eliminate from the tamper. A redesign of the shape, and a proper handle would be my second recomendation.

Dana's selected comments:

The Reg Barber is the classic tamper, the one you think of when you think "I need to buy a tamper". Using it is a joy, it feels good in the hand, looks great, and has a good weight. For some reason, I don't like the African Rosewood model as much - maybe it's the chrome, maybe it's because it looks like such a knockoff of the Reg. The price can't be beat though.

I also like the feel of the Deluxe Lava, and the weight is almost perfect.

The Pro Tamper is great - all that weight. I agree with Mark that the handle is a bit too long.

Any comments I make about the Gourmet Espresso Tamper can't be printed in an article, so I'll refrain, except for one comment: it is not a professional tamper.

Jeff's selected comments:

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The Presso, for such a new kid on the block, has won a lot of converts.

I really like the Reg Barber tamper. What's with the logo being not quite right on top though? (ed note: there were some issues with off center logos on the top of of some customized Reg Barbers - this has purportedly been resolved) I look at this tamper and think 'that's what a tamper is supposed to be!'

The African Rosewood tamper - a knockoff I think, but you know, $12 cheaper is $12 cheaper and it feels really good in the hand. I like the chrome and spit polish it has.

The Gourmet tamper. It's a nice egg holder. Except that it doesn't hold an egg. Tamping with it was hard. The only machine it kind of fitted was the (Solis) SL70 but still did a terrible job of tamping. The shot was okay but that was because of the (pressurized filter) basket.

The Presso. Great start!!! Needs more weight.

I also like the Deluxe Lava Tamper, it has lots of weight and feels great in the hand. It does a solid tamp, it is very easy to tell when you are level in your tamp, and it looks good.

That La Marzocco tamper is unique. I have problems doing a level tamp but not with this one.

Jeanette's selected comments:

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Many of our testers liked the handle shape of the Lava the best.

I'm not like the guys, I like a lighter tamper. The Presso tamper seems to be the best for me, but I would prefer a shorter handle. It feels almost perfect otherwise.

My second choice would be the Deluxe Lava Tamper, even though it is heavy. I like it because it is shorter than the others and makes me feel confident when using it.

The Reg Barber is a beautiful tamper that shows a lot of care in the construction. If this were an aluminum base, I would pick it first, but the steel one is heavy.

I liked the plastic one, though I didn't feel very confident using it.

I didn't like the La Marzocco tamper or the Pro tamper because they just don't fit my smaller hand. The Gourmet Tamper was okay, but since it doesn't fit any of the machines we tried, I didn't like it.

Tampers Rated by our Testers
Gourmet Espresso88787.75
Presso Tamper35112.5
Pro Tamper54655
Reg Barber21332.25
Deluxe Lava Tamp42222.5
Rosewood Tamper13533
Elektra Plastic77476.25
La Marzocco66856.25

Note: The lower the score and average, the better the tamper is rated by our evaluators. 1 is best, 8 is worst.

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Introduction | Overview | The Enthusiasts' View | The Pros' View | Conclusions
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Detailed Review Sections
Arrow 1. Introduction
Aarow 2. Overview
Arrow 3. The Enthusiasts' View
Aarow 4. The Pros' View
Aarow 5. Conclusions
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