Tamping Troubles

Among the different skills a barista needs to learn, tamping coffee grains is one of the most difficult to grasp. During a typical work schedule, a barista will often draw numerous shots of coffee, and in order to make a decent cup of the stuff, the barista will have to have uniformly dispersed the ground coffee grains within the portafilter every time, followed by pressing down the grounds with a high quality, even tamp. It sounds straightforward enough, however after training dozens of baristas here at Bronzeville Coffee, we know that it is among the one of the final skills new baristas get the knack of. Although milk-steaming, latte artistry, and making pour-overs might challenge the brand-new employee, it is tamping that keeps an old-timer barista awake at night. Even a small variance in the distribution of the coffee within the porterfilter can lead to the much feared situation of channeling. Channeling is when the clean water travelling through the coffee bed finds a path of least resistance. This results in only a small amount of the coffee grains coming into contact with the water while the majority of the coffee stays relatively dry and untouched. Unfortunately, the outcome of channelling is a shot that is simultaneously sour and also bitter with a slim mouthfeel, an undesirable encounter with coffee that nobody should have to pay for.