Visually stunning and beautifully designed, the Reg Barber tamper is the Lamborghini of tampers: sleek, modern, and oh so cool.
Positive Product Points
The Reg Barber has it all: form and function in spades. It cannot be mistaken for a misplaced rook off of a chess board, although it does seem to exude a distinctly regal aura.
Negative Product Points
Expensive relative to its competition in the tamper world. Will be of absolutely no assistance in raising the quality level of espresso with a $139 machine out of Costco.
Mine is the flat bottomed, long handled (with a total height of 3.5") tamper (also available in a shorter handled 3" version), weighing 375 grams (slightly over 13 ounces), bought directly from Reg Barber in Canada. It can be bought for slightly less in the United States and is neck and neck with Schomer's Ergo Packer in terms of cost, about $40. In terms of function the two are probably equivalent. The Ergo packer allows one to interchange, what Schomer terms as, the piston diameter sizes: 53, 54, 56, & 58 millimetres. At $14.95 each, this offers interchangeability for those with different diameter portafilter baskets. The Reg Barber does not offer that versatility, although one person on alt.coffee indicated that the Ergo packer pistons could be attached to the Reg Barber handle. The stock Reg Barber tamper is available in diameters ranging anywhere from 48 to 58 millimeters.
In terms of aesthetics, the Reg Barber tamper wins hands down. When one first picks it up and uses it, it is obvious that one is holding something that is truly extraordinary. With the stainless steel version (also available for a bit less in aluminum), there is the feel of solidity - akin to shutting the door on a Lexus? There is heft there and almost a feeling that the tamper will do the work for you by simply placing it on top of the dosed out grind - of course, it won't. No question that this is a luxurious combination of African rosewood and stainless steel that is hand made with an eye to detail, a rarity these days. It has an ergonomic feel and, with even a momentary glance, one is immediately aware of the tapering, elegant lines that outline its form. It is the exclamation point to a first class espresso set up in which one had better know what one is doing or look like a fool. It is also available with a rounded bottom. And for those with an odd diameter basket, Reg Barber will custom make one for you, at no additional cost, to fit it exactly (need to send your basket to him), thus relieving one of having to do some hand sculpting with a Dremel tool and ruining its aesthetics. The Reg Barber tamper is to other tampers as the Leica is to Nikon. It is a beautifully finished, first class instrument that has no peers. For the truly vain, the Delron inlay on the top of the handle can be laser engraved with your initials or logo for an additional $15 (Canadian).
On the more practical matter of whether or not it will make any difference in tamping the grind in the basket, the answer is probably not. Given enough experience, one could possibly achieve very similar results with a slightly undersized $3 plastic tamper or smooth flat bottomed glass bottle. Nonetheless, this is a beautiful marriage of classic form and function for espresso hand gods or those who have the passion and aspiration to become one and is well worth the price.
It took about two weeks to get this out of Canada into Los Angeles.
Three Month Followup
After over a year's usage of the Reg Barber tamper, there is no adequate substitute for its heft. If one is going to do a heavy tamp, then the stainless steel tamper is the way to go. Costwise, the Reg Barber tamper is not out of line and I would not hesitate to buy another one or two of them. With respect to the convex versus the flat bottomed versions, that is a hard call because the tamp, itself, is subject to lots of variability which can dramatically affect the quality of the pour. I have both the flat and convex tampers in a 58 mm diameter. I could easily exist with either, but might prefer the flat one because of its versatility. With a flat bottomed tamper, one can more easily gauge the levelness of the puck. If one disposes with the PF/basket tap, then there is no concern about dinging the RB tamper. The RB stainless steel tamper continues to be a highly functional instrument with exceptional aesthetics. I have no buyer's remorse. 6/16/02