importance of tamping when making espresso

summary: coffee made in a Vesuviana Coffee Maker; finding the right tamper; who uses all the spoons? (click on images to see larger views and more photos)

The only thing missing from our Vesuviana coffee maker was the tamper. The first couple of times we made coffee, we used the back of a spoon to tamp the coffee.

tamper But we knew that wasn’t quite right, not to mention that we’re ALWAYS running out of clean spoons. (How does that happen? When I wash the dishes and put them away, it appears that we have hundreds of spoons. And yet a short time later, all the spoons have disappeared from the drawer. Are there people sneaking into our house to use the spoons while we’re not looking? :stomp:)

Vesuviana Electric Coffee Maker So we headed out on our bikes to visit several kitchen stores for an actual tamper but the Vesuviana basket is slightly larger than standard baskets. We were going to compromise by using the bottom of an inexpensive wine glass when I suddenly remembered a set of tea light holders we had been given. The bottom of the candle holder fits exactly! And it is the perfect weight and size.

tamper Once the ground coffee is poured into the basket, we use the candle holder tamper to press the grounds down into the basket. All it takes is a few turns.

tamper As a result, rather than whooshing right through the coffee, the water is pushed drop by drop when the coffee was tamped with our candle holder tamper.

The difference in flavour is marked. The coffee is full-bodied and, well, tastes like coffee. None of that typical North American dark brown hot liquid posing as coffee for us. In fact, we are making coffee that is as good as any we’ve had in France and Italy. Using regular supermarket coffee beans (we’re hording the Kona coffee for weekends). We couldn’t be more excited.

Ha. We probably couldn’t possibly be more speedy either.But we’re getting better. Yesterday, when T suggested we take an afternoon break and make yet more coffee, we both surprised ourselves by saying no after the initial “Great idea!!”

Is it my imagination or is the coffee stronger when it’s made this way? Even after one cup, I can feel the buzz. I don’t think we’re having more coffee than we were before…. But now I’m thinking that my friend Tom might be on to something when he commented on our new coffee maker:

Vesuvian? That just doesn’t sound safe… they make lava not java.

Whether or not the Vesuviana coffee is stronger, we’ve got to get back to “no coffee after 11:00 am”.

Happily, it’s before 11:00am now. So, if you’ll excuse me, I do believe it’s time to go and grind coffee.

tamper As we searched various stores for the tamper, we also realized that we neeeeeeeeeeded a wooden box for the spent coffee grounds. We found just the thing in an antique store. Ha!! Suddenly the price of our Vesuviana virtually doubled. We’re still laughing though. Our Vesuviana set has now cost us about $16.00. Not bad, eh? (But it is pretty ridiculous that we paid more for the wooden box than we did for the coffee maker itself!)



2 comments about “importance of tamping when making espresso

  1. John T.

    Thank you for the information on the Vesuvian coffee maker… I too have one. And thank you for the idea of the tamper.
    I’m not a coffee drinker yet. but I’d like to make the perfect cup for guests… Mine coffer maker is a stove top not electric. You should see it work on my 1926 Magic Chef… Anyway can you tell me how to the do the foaming milk part of it? Thanks

    -John, airstreamguy (at) mac (dot) com

    You’re most welcome, John. Please note that the tamper is used only to smooth the coffee down. We don’t actually tamp it that much. We’ve discovered that tamping too much makes the coffee taste dull. As for how to foam the milk on a non-electric Vesuviana, I’m afraid I can’t help you. We only know how to use our electric Vesuviana. -Elizabeth

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