Espro "Calibrated Tamper" Review
by Randy Glass - Copyright 2011 - All rights reserved

The Espro Calibrated Tamper
Another quality product from Espro.

     Ya, I know - Me! A tamper review. Who would have thought, after all this time, that I would try a different tamper? For over ten years I have used the same tamper - the only tamper I have ever owned. A one-piece, aluminum tamper that I purchased when I got Silvia at the end of 2000. That 58mm tool also served my needs with The Vibiemme as well. Old dogs and new tampers... In this case, we might even say ...and new trick tampers.
     So this old dog contacted Espro. You know, the company in Canada, eh? I had seen their products at the SCAA Exhibition in Anaheim in 2010 when I was "oot and aboot" on the Exhibition floor, and after reviewing the excellent Espro Press, as well as the Espro Toroid pitchers and finding them all excellent tools, I wanted to give the Espro Calibrated Tamper a try. But there was more to it than just that.
     I have gotten to the point that about the only variables that I am not controlling are me... Am me? Anyway, I have recently begun weighing my dose (see Chapter 114 "Weighing the Dose" ), and with the combination of my Mazzer Kony and the Vibiemme Domobar Super I have been able to taste the subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle difference in my roasts and blends. The one seemingly uncontrolled variable has been my tamping force, and other than being careful I hadn't been giving it much more thought than that. So, I thought silently to myself (since there is no other way to do so), why not give a calibrated tamper a try?
     The Espro Calibrated tamper, in terms of the user, has two parts - the heavy, stainless steel base and the anodized aluminum handle. Inside the handle is a sophisticarted mechanism of some sort that allows the handle to slide downwards towards the base in a telescopic manner when tamping force is applied, giving the user a tactile feedback by a gentle "release" when the predetermined force of thirty pounds has been achieved. Yes, I am slightly tempted to disassemble it to see how they accomplished it, but will resist the urge. The release is subtle enough that the compacted coffee will not be disturbed. I tried to "fool" the release mechanism by very slowly increasing my tamping force, but the release movement still felt roughly the same as when a normal tamp motion was used.

      On top of the tamper's handle is the Espro logo under a semi-soft, clear cover. The instructions sheet that accompanies the tamper shows the top of the handle being used to tap the side of the portafilter to knock off loose grounds. I will not belabor that point here, but I do not recommend doing that.
      I really like the shape of the handle. Eyeballed with a tape measure - it is about 72mm (2.8") tall. At its widest near the top is is 42 mm (1.6"). The narrowest point is 28mm (1.06") It felt comfortable and gave me good control right off. I can hold it with my palm over the top, or grasp it with my fingers wrapped around the handle. The handle has a nice taper and should fit a wide range of hand sizes. It is also short enough that grasping it with the palm placed on top of the handle still allows control of the downward force.

      I had held the Espro Calibrated Tamper in my hand at the SCAA exhibition and gave it a few "test tamps" on the Espro display table, and I remember remarking to them that it felt like it was a lot more force than I had been using. I had the same feeling when the tamper arrived. I Clicked it downwards on a table a few times and it sure felt like a lot of force was necessary.
      Imagine my surprise (go ahead, imagine.. I'll wait....), when I used the Calibrated Tamper on a dose of coffee in a filter basket for the first time and found it released with less force than I had previously been using with my aluminum tamper. One surprised old dog here.
      This tamper is, as you would suspect, a lot heavier than my old aluminum tamper. Espro = 453 Aluminum = 233. The Espro is nearly double the mass. I found that if I choose to do a nutating (joystick) tamp that I do not have to apply an downward force at all - the weight of the tamper is sufficient which gives another controlled variable.
      After four day's use I find that the Espro tamper has, to a small extent, given me slightly more consistent pulls. Making espresso is an intricate puzzle, and all the pieces have to fall into place to achieve the whole picture. One missing or bent piece, and the other parts just don't fit. My consistency was good before, and the Espro Calibrated Tamper narrowed one variable just a bit. That bit was enough to make a small difference, and for me, better espresso is what it is all about.

     There are a number of sizes and base shape combinations available: the black handle tamper cones in in flat bases of 53 and 58 mm), and the convex bases is available in 49, 51, 53, and 58 mm. A red handle is only available in a 57mm convex base model. If there is a problem with the Calibrated Tamper, Espro has a 1 year no-questions-asked factory replacement warranty. it sells for $89.98 and you can find a retailer in the USA HERE.
  There are a lot of good things to say about this tamper:
  - It has a great shape that feels wonderful in the hand.
  - It's made from quality materials, beautifully finished.
  - It has a one-year, no-hassle warranty.
  - It's 30 pound preset force is going to work as well as just about any force in a range of 25 to 35 pounds or even wider. it supplies a set, repeatable way to eliminate one variable in the process, regardless as to the importance of that variable. In other words, particularly for the beginner, it's one less thing to worry about.
  There is not much bad to say about it. About the only negatives I come up with are:
  - It's not adjustable. Probably not a big deal since 30 pounds is going to work as well as just about any force in a range of 25 to 35 pounds or even wider.
  - It costs a lot more than my $20 aluminum tamper.
      Is it worth the price? If we look at my past, a very basic, one-piece aluminum tamper served my needs for a decade. From the feel of it, there is little reason to doubt that this one should last at least that long. Of course, it has moving parts so we can only guess, but it does have a quality feel to it. It has helped improve my espresso's consistency in that I am seeing far fewer sprites. I attribute that to a consistent tamping force that I can more accurately grind to. I am grinding about one "step" finer on my grinder and I attribute that to having previously been using a tamp with greater force.
      So for the home barista, and particularly one who is whether new or having consistency difficulties, the Espro Calibrated Tamper could very possibly help you down the road to better espresso. And, heck.. it just feels good in the hand... at least in my hand.
      As I close this review there I bid Espro a farewell... for the moment, at least. This ends my review of Espro products. Why? I have used and reviewed them all! That's not completely true as they have another tamper, the Dillenger made of hardened stainless steel. I handled that tamper at the SCAA Exhibition in Anaheim and found it did not at all fit my hands. The rim on the base interfered with my fingers regardless as to how I held it.
      It has been a pleasure dealing with a small company of friendly enthusiasts creating quality products.