If you like the style, go for the newer Lava Tamper Deluxe over the original Lava Tamp.
Positive Product Points
Funky looks, cool colors, hip name.
Negative Product Points
Ergonomics of black plastic handle top. Better solution offered in redesigned Lava Tamper Deluxe.
Let's face it... the decision in tampers often comes down to an aesthetic choice of handles and overall ergonomics. In most cases the offerings in the business end of the tampers (bases) are the same. Like most tampers the Lava Tamper comes in either an aluminum or steel base and with either a flat or convex bottom. It also comes with a choice of handle colors.
I prefer the heavier steel base to the aluminum. I'm also not fond of the design of the top part of the handle (black plastic). It's not a nice round top, but rather has a somewhat sharp edge. It's more awkward to hold than my more comfortable Reg Barber tamper. I think a lot of what makes a tamper a joy to use is the shape, length and feel of the handle and you should consider these wisely as you'll be using it everyday.
The Lava Tamper DELUXE appears to address my complaints. Although I have not tried the deluxe model, itís clear from the photographs that they have re-thought the shape and aesthetics of the handle. It's a much more rounded design and should feel better in the hand, imho. It also looks better to my eye.
One thing this tamper offered is a chance for me to test out a convex bottom. My Reg Barber Tamper came with a flat base (convex not offered when I purchased, but now available). I've only been using the convex for a week and I'm hooked. I'm finding it produces better results than the flat-bottomed. I also find that a convex tamp, when used with my Silvia, helps to avoid having the coffee touch the big screw that holds the screen on the grouphead. Or at least gives me a fighting chance of avoiding touching it. The convex tamp means that the coffee in the center of the PF basket is slightly lower than at the edges. I seem to be getting more consistent results from the convex vs. the flat bottom.
In the end though, its all about looks and feel. I still prefer the rosewood Reg Barber Handle but that's a choice of aesthetics rather than quality of tamp. If the funky colors and modern design appeal to you, the Lava Tamper is an excellent choice -- but go for the deluxe model.
My girlfriend won this in the Coffeegeek Holiday list giveaway supplied by Espresso Parts it retails for $25.95 (down from $29.95). The Deluxe is $32 (down from $37).
Three Month Followup
One Year Followup
no real change in my original review. Still prefer the heavier steel over the light weight alum. However I am now favoring the convex shape over the flat.