Tampathon: Calibrated Tamper vs. Regular Tamper + Palm Tamper

Tampathon: Calibrated Tamper vs. Regular Tamper + Palm Tamper

A top-notch tamper is your most powerful ally if you’re hunting for the perfect espresso shot. But with so many variants like the regular, calibrated, and palm tampers floating around, it’s no shocker buyers find it challenging to make the right purchase.

Before we cover the A-Z of calibrated, regular, and palm tampers, let’s answer the burning question first:

Calibrated tampers vs. regular tampers, which one should you buy?

Buy a calibrated tamper if you’re new to coffee brewing. That’s because the in-built spring mechanism offers a consistent tamp and shot quality with each brew. Put simply, with calibrated tampers, you have one less variable to worry about. But if you have some brewing experience, you can’t go wrong with a high-quality regular tamper.


What is the Difference Between Calibrated and Traditional Tamper?

Calibrated tampers have a spring that lets users apply a specific tamping pressure on the coffee grounds. On the other hand, regular tampers are old school, and with no spring mechanism, you must rely on your intuition to apply the right amount of downward force.

Using a calibrated tamper involves pressing it until the spring reaches the bottom of the portafilter. The spring’s stiffness determines the tamping pressure. When fully compressed (i.e., reached the bottom of the portafilter), the spring makes a distinct clicking sound, which is the cue to stop.

Depending on the tamper's design, the ‘click’ occurs at 30 or 25 pounds of pressure. On the flip side, with a traditional tamper, the tamping pressure can vary depending on how you tamp and how hard you press.

When choosing a calibrated or traditional tamper for your espresso machine, the right choice boils down to these key aspects:


The material of traditional and calibrated tampers is crucial for how well and long they can work. The best ones are made from solid and corrosion-resistant materials like stainless steel, aluminum, or titanium. Such tampers can withstand the rigors of hard tamping for years.


Seasoned baristas put a lot of emphasis on tamping consistency because it ensures evenly packed coffee grounds.

With traditional tampers, you must do the pressing, which makes it challenging to get consistent results. But that’s not an issue with professional baristas, as they can produce consistent espresso shots regardless of the tamper type.

As far as the consistency of an espresso-calibrated tamper, it applies the same pressure every time, leading to a uniform tamp.

Value for money

The sign of a quality tamper is the use of premium materials, precision engineering, and the usual above-average price tag.

Traditional tampers are the most budget-friendly choice, and if you're a skilled barista, they offer great bang for your buck.

Calibrated tampers are slightly more expensive as compared to traditional ones. But nowadays, they’re available in various sizes and price ranges, making them more affordable and accessible to coffee enthusiasts.


Ergonomics matter, especially for baristas and home users who tamp multiple shots daily. Therefore, a good calibrated or traditional tamper should have a handle made of sturdy wood or steel and a comfortable grip (to reduce hand fatigue).

Also, the style and structure of the tamper base is essential because it guarantees even contact and packing of coffee grounds, leading to consistent espresso shots. You'll find two types of tamper bases: Flat tampers and ones with a convex base.

Convex base tampers are not for beginners because they create a dome in the coffee puck which may lead to channeling. This means the water will take an easier route through the coffee, resulting in weak or uneven extraction.

Flat base tampers reign supreme because they create a consistent puck every time, irrespective of whether you’re a beginner or a professional. This leads to an even water dispersion, ensuring consistent extraction and tastier espresso.

As for the tamper size, you should purchase one based on the size of your portafilter. Using a small tamper leads to imbalanced extraction and less flavorful coffee. On the other hand, an oversized tamper makes it challenging to apply uniform and consistent pressure.

A good rule of thumb is to get a calibrated or traditional tamper that is 1mm smaller than the diameter of your portafilter. Doing so ensures the tamper won’t cause a suction effect that ends up damaging the coffee puck.


The weight of your calibrated or traditional tamper impacts the pressure on coffee grounds. A lighter tamper needs more force to tamp, whereas a heavier one requires less. Additionally, the tamper weight also affects the consistency of your espresso shots.

Using a tamper that’s too light may lead to an inconsistent puck, while a too-heavy tamper risks over-extraction of espresso – the best weight for a tamper is around 1 pound or less for a precise tamp.

Calibrated Tamper vs. Regular – The Pros and Cons

Now, let’s talk about the good and not-so-good stuff about calibrated and regular tampers so you can decide which is most suitable for you. Here’s the scoop:

Calibrated Tampers


  • The click indicator ensures consistent tamping pressure for improved espresso shots with balanced flavors.
  • Removes the need for guesswork.
  • The spring-loaded mechanism makes it effortless for beginners to achieve the right pressure.


  • They are pricey compared to regular tampers (not all, though, some calibrated tampers are affordable and don’t compromise on build quality, like the one we’ll mention at the end of this blog).
  • If you’re inexperienced, you might continue pressing even after hearing the click.

Regular Tampers


  • Affordable and straightforward, these tampers suit professional baristas or those seeking simplicity.
  • With no complex mechanisms, regular tampers are easy to clean and maintain.
  • They offer coffee enthusiasts an opportunity to master the art of tamping as they advance in their coffee-making journey.


  • You must trust your gut and judgment to apply the right amount of pressure.
  • It requires practice and skill to tamp correctly.



Calibrated Tampers

Regular Tampers

Pressure consistency

Consistent tamping pressure due to click indicator, reducing guesswork

Relies on the barista’s judgment to ensure the right amount of pressure

Ease of use

Easy to use, especially for newbies, due to the click indicator and spring-loaded mechanism

Requires skill and practice to apply the right pressure

Skill development

The built-in mechanism may not provide an opportunity to master the art of tamping

Provides an opportunity to hone skills and master the art of tamping as you advance in your coffee-making journey


Might require more care due to the complex mechanism

Easy to clean and maintain due to simplicity

Use case

Great for beginners who want to ensure the right tamping pressure without much experience

Ideal for experienced baristas or coffee enthusiasts who enjoy a hands-on approach and mastering their skill


Generally expensive

Generally affordable


Extra Info: If you’re looking for a detailed rundown of some of the best calibrated tampers, check out this blog!

Does Tamper Size Matter?

Yes, the tamper size significantly affects the consistency and quality of the espresso extraction. Selecting the tamper size that matches your espresso machine’s portafilter is essential. This prevents channeling and ensures an even and level tamp, resulting in the perfect cup of joe.

Here are some of the tamper sizes commonly available for home and commercial espresso machines:

  • Calibrated tamper 51mm - This tamper size is a great choice for beginners and those who prefer a milder espresso taste. It’s designed to work well with smaller home espresso machines like Breville (800 Series) and Gaggia (semi-automatic machines).
  • Calibrated tamper 53mm - Another common tamper size for home espresso machines, such as the Faema Family, Starbucks, and La Spaciale.
  • Calibrated tamper 54mm - This tamper size is great for an intense cup of joe. Also, it’s compatible with home espresso machines like Dalla Corte. However, tampers of this size are rare.
  • Calibrated tamper 55mm - Supports home espresso machines such as Mokita and San Marco, but are not widely available.
  • Calibrated tamper 58mm - This tamper size is widely available. It’s the standard size for most large and high-end commercial espresso machines like La Marzocco, Astoria, and Bezzera.


Note: Want to save endless hours scrolling for the right tamper size on Amazon? Check out the LuxHaus collection, which has numerous tamper sizes available under one roof.

What Is a Palm Tamper?

A palm tamper is an espresso tamper designed to be held and operated with the palm of your hand. Instead of a handle, it has a flat and circular top. Most palm tampers feature a piston with adjustable depth, allowing users to match it to their daily coffee dose.

Another feature is the lip above the piston that fits onto the portafilter rim, preventing uneven tamping.  This way, your tamp will always be level with the top of the filter basket.

It’s worth noting that some folks might categorize both non-calibrated (basic) and calibrated tampers as regular. However, palm tampers are in a class of their own due to their distinct design and functionality.

What Tamper Should I Use?

The right tamper for you depends on your needs and budget. The two types of tampers most commonly used are calibrated and traditional tampers. Another option is the palm tamper, but that’s better suited for busy coffee bars.

If you prioritize consistent tamping pressure, go for a calibrated tamper. But if you’re on a budget, a traditional tamper fits the bill. Although palm tampers offer a quick coffee fix, they don’t provide the same consistency as calibrated pressure tampers and require a certain skill level to operate.

We’ve covered the pros and cons of calibrated and traditional tampers. In the palm tampers vs. regular tampers discussion, go over the following section to know which tamper to use:

Palm Tampers


  • Quick and convenient for busy folks.
  • Offers depth adjustment.



  • Does not guarantee consistent tamping pressure.
  • Needs precise depth adjustment.
  • Coffee can stick to the tamper sides due to static.

Frequently Asked Questions

Find answers to commonly asked tamper-related questions.

How to Use a Calibrated Tamper?

To use a calibrated tamper, first, grind your coffee beans finely and pour the grounds into the portafilter. Next, use a distributor to level the coffee. Finally, place the calibrated tamper on top and press down until it clicks. Your espresso is ready for extraction.

Does It Matter How Hard You Tamp?

Yes, how hard you tamp your coffee significantly impacts your espresso shot. You’ll have a bitter and over-extracted brew if you tamp too hard. But if you’re too gentle and don’t tamp enough, your coffee might become weak and sour because of the under-extracted coffee beans.

What Does a Spring-Loaded Tamper Do?

The spring-loaded tamper is designed to tamp espresso grounds at a precise pressure. It ensures you use the same amount of pressure every time you tamp. Pressing the spring-loaded tamper all the way down makes a distinct click sound, signaling you to stop. This feature is crucial for achieving a consistent and even extraction every time.

How Tight Should You Pack Espresso?

The sweet spot for tamping espresso is generally about 30 pounds of pressure. This gives you a nice and even coffee puck, allowing the water to flow through evenly. However, the exact pressure can differ based on your espresso machine, coffee grind size, and tamping style.


Choosing the right tamper is a must for a consistent espresso shot. It helps nail the perfect pressure for an even extraction and an awesome cup of joe.

If you’re kicking off your barista journey, swing by our store for a primo pressure-calibrated tamper. Or, if you’re feeling a bit daring with your espresso-making skills, snag a top-tier regular one. Grab yours today!

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