Last summer we received the full line of Cafelat tampers and accessories at the CoffeeGeek Lab to do some informal testing on, and to showcase to many of the approximately 1,000 visitors the CG Lab had in its 9 months of operation. We gained a lot of valuable feedback and insight into the products, but writing a review of these tampers crosses some ethical borders for us: we are designing a CoffeeGeek tamper and feel the need to avoid any potential conflict of interest our readership may see in any review we write about a tamper.
Because of this, I'm sticking to a strict 1st Look viewpoint for these products, telling you about them, their construction and design, where to get them, and generally keeping all of my comentary and opinion to the positive aspects of the products. The goal here is to get you aware of these products and show some nice visuals of them.
There are four primary designs for the Cafelat tampers, and all have to do with the handle design as the pistons are interchangeable. These four designs are:
The Drop and Royal models are slender handles - some of the most slender tamper handles we've ever seen in the Lab. They have a substantial bottom-heavy weight because of the slenderness of the handles and in the case of the all aluminum Drop, very bottom heavy. The Nikka is, as the Cafelat website says, "the chunkiest" of the bunch, but the Pillar is also fairly well proportioned in the hand.
The finish on these handles is first rate - especially the wood ones, which feature very fine detailed grains and a really great, tight fiting match to the tamping pistons.
In the Drop line, there are two handles - an all wood one is made from Violet wood, and the aluminum handle is nicely finished. Cafelat says the design of the handles is meant to represent the "chocolatey sweet blob coming from the espresso portafilter spouts" and if you hold the tamper upside down, that's exactly what it looks like. I was pleasantly surprised at how easy this tamper fit in my big mitt of a hand: I really didn't expect the size to work, but it works just fine.
For the Royal line (which gets its name from the aluminum cap, or "crown" on top) there is a choice between a wood core middle and one of two rubberized colours - black or deep red. The Royal's handle is a bit bigger than drop and fits a bit better in my hand. Again here the fit and finish is first rate, and these really are gorgeous tampers.
The Nikka tamper is their biggest model, and definitely feels solid and big in the hand - it is probably the best choice for bigger hands.
And then we come to the Pillar model. This one has garnered most of the discussion in the CoffeeGeek Lab for many reasons, not the least of which is the comparisons to, erm, marital aids. It quickly gained the nickname / phrase "ribbed for espresso pleasure" in the Lab and it was one of the tampers everyone wanted to try out (we have over 100 in the CG Lab!). The near universal feedback was that it was very comfortable to use and that many were surprised at how good it felt in the hand.
I haven't talked much about the pistons, and that's because they are the same across all the different handle designs. Cafelat's pistons are nicely laser etched on the top with their logo, and the sizings are extremely precise: we measured them all with digital calipers and found them to be the exact sizes listed (the sizes are laser etched in the collar area where the handles screw in).
The pistons are available in three sizes: 53mm, 54mm, and 58mm. They are also available in either a flat design or a slightly convex bottom.
All the handles fit very nicely into the pistons and are designed with very tight tolerances in the gaps and spacing (in other words, virtually no gaps), but out of all the combinations, I think the best fit and finish is the Pillar and the Drop models.
One of the best things about these tampers in the price: in the US, the Drop, Royal and Nikka models sell for $54, and the Pillar is $52. Given the high end materials, the fit, the finish, the design, I'm surprised these don't sell for more - remember, we're in an era now where a typical Reg Barber tamper is in the $60s and $70s, and the forthcoming CoffeeGeek Tamper is going to be over $100 and then some.
If I had to pick favourites (remember, this is not a review), I'd pick the Drop Wood model for pure looks and good functionality, but I'd probably go for the Ribbed for Espresso Pleasure Pillar model if I was doing any kind of volume work.
| Cafelat Line of Tampers |
| Cafelat Line of Tampers |
Tamper Stand and Tamper Hanger
Let me preface: I absolutely loved the Bumper tamping stand. I still use it at home. But in the Lab and photo studio, we now use the Cafelat tamping stand, a more compact (and much more beefy) tamping tool.
Why use a stand? There's many reasons and some of them may not be so obvious. First and foremost using a tamping stand keeps your spouts off the table (or tamping mat) keeping them cleaner. Less obvious is perhaps this - tamping stands help in preparation consistency. They kind of force you to be more level with your portafilter, and level means a better chance at a level pack of the bed of coffee. I've seen many baristas - both home and professionals) tamp their portafilters at the weirdest angles and I've seen almost all of them result in uneven or unlevel packs. Unlevel tamping means unlevel distribution of water over the bed of coffee and results in areas of over and under extraction.
Another reason for using a tamping stand is that it helps save your countertops. Repeated tamping of coffee in a portafilter, be it on the counter's edge, or with a chopped PF will result in long term build up of damage to any countertop - this $40 espresso accessory helps prevent that.
The Cafelat tamper stand is more compact than the old Bumper stand, taking up much less room on the counter. It's still convertible of sorts, with a cutout for a spouted portaflter but plenty of room on the opposite side for placing a chopped portafilter on top. The entire steel core is wrapped with a thick, food grade rubber. This keeps the stand firmly planted on countertops, but also gives a lot of cushioning for those with headstand-tamping techniques (hello Vince Piccolo and Barry Jarrett).
We've used a Cafelat tamping stand in the CoffeeGeek Lab for approximately 9 months and in that time it was used over 2,000 times. In the photo below you'll see the extent of the wear and tear from that use - and it isn't very much.
At $40, this is positively cheap. The quality of construction, materials used and weight is pretty impressive. For the home barista this is a great addition to your home bar. As we've noticed in the Lab, this product is also durable enough for commercial use.
| || |
| || |
| Packaging for Stand |
All of Cafelat's packaging is nice and descriptive, and the products are held well inside of them.
| Right Side |
| || |
| || |
| Left Side |
| Wear after 2,000 uses |
As you can see, there's some scuffing and marring from heavy use (especially with chopped portafilters) but it stands up well.
Lastly, a small mention about another tamper accessory Cafelat sells - the tamper hanger.
This is one of those brilliant "why didn't I think of that" items for busy shops as well as the complete coffee geek. And at $8 (or less) mere pittance to purchase. It has a nice mounting system - its actually in two parts, one slides over the other - and the underpart has holes you put screws through to mount to the wall (or table or whatever). Once this is mounted, you slide the hanger part over it, and walla, a wall mounted tamper hanger.
My only complaint about the hanger is it fits all the Cafelat tampers perfectly, but doesn't fit any of my other tampers, including our CoffeeGeek model and various Reg Barbers. The reason they don't fit is because the centre half-hole for the handle protrusion is small, just like the collars on the Cafelat tampers. Other tampers have a thicker central collar.
I'd probably buy two dozen of these hangers to display tampers if there was more of a universal fit. And I bet that's doable - I wouldn't count it against Pratt to release a "universal" hanger later on. That said, most tampers will fit this holder - just not perfectly, but they will sit very securely in it, and only a true OCD type person would even notice the less than perfect fit.
At $8, this thing is a steal.
Where to Buy
CafeLat is continually expanding their distribution network, and can be found in many countries now. Here's some suggestedretailers:
In Canada, from
Specialty Coffee Solutions
In Australia and New Zealand from:
In the UK from:
Beyond the Bean