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Thread: Why are tampers so expensive?

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    Member ThankDog's Avatar
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    Why are tampers so expensive?

    Gene Cafe Coffee Roaster $850 - Free Beans Free Freight
    Forgive my ignorance, please, but why are tampers so expensive? They seem like little more than machined bits of solid metal. Not exactly worthy of a hundred dollar or more price-tag.

    What don't I know or understand about these things that make them worth such a price?
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  2. #2
    Senior Member Journeyman's Avatar
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    I think most of the $100+ ones are individualised. Handles are done one-off for many, the metal is high quality rather than just a lump of cast or low grade steel and the machining can be very precise to fit a specific tamper size - exact to the VST's you can get from Things Coffee | Pullman Tamper, Coffee Tamper, VST Filter Basket, VST Refractometer, Hottop, Coffee Roaster, KN-8828B-2 (site sponsor) which can make a difference to the final product compared to a stock tamper that might have 1mm or more play around the sides.

    But you can get much cheaper ones - you might need to tamp to the play in them though (look for WEISS, or Nutating tamps)
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    Mal Dimal's Avatar
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    G'day TD...

    You don't have to spend a lot of money on a Tamper, if you don't think there's value in it. Lots to be had from less than $20 on the market.

    Thing is though, in the main these are just mass produced items of a generic size and shape in the vein of "One size fits all." The more expensive units though, are genuine bespoke quality tampers - Usually hand made and finished, often with adjustable features in the handle to suit a wide variety of hand sizes and shapes. The business end is made with much closer tolerances such that they can even be tailored to fit a matching set of baskets. All of this requires a lot of hands-on application and inspection, which doesn't come for free...

    Also, with such attention paid to detail, provided that you do your bit you will never be able to blame the tamper for poor performance.

    In the end, the quality of these tampers is such that they can almost be considered collectable; I certainly own more than one and several different handles to boot. In the end, it's just down to personal choice - A plain, adequately designed and manufactured tamper will still do the job but in this day and age, $100.00 isn't much to spend on a quality and maybe collectable piece of kit.

    Mal.
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  4. #4
    Member ThankDog's Avatar
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    Hmm, interesting. See, I would've assumed that there was a standard basket size so that tampers would also come in standard, appropriately fitting, sizes. Seems I was mistaken in thinking that!

    Still, if I had a lathe I'd just make my own

  5. #5
    Senior Member Barry O'Speedwagon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ThankDog View Post
    Hmm, interesting. See, I would've assumed that there was a standard basket size so that tampers would also come in standard, appropriately fitting, sizes. Seems I was mistaken in thinking that!

    Still, if I had a lathe I'd just make my own

    There are standard basket sizes, but there is a fair bit of variation in the precise size of '58mm' baskets produced and sold.

  6. #6
    Sleep is overrated Thundergod's Avatar
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    The first cheap tamper I bought off the internet was a waste of money.

    It is so poorly made it is almost impossible to tamp properly.

    The handle is not perpendicular to tbe base and the base from memory was skewed at another angle also.

    It couldn't have been made any worse if they'd tried.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ThankDog View Post
    Hmm, interesting. See, I would've assumed that there was a standard basket size so that tampers would also come in standard, appropriately fitting, sizes. Seems I was mistaken in thinking that!

    Still, if I had a lathe I'd just make my own
    Hi again ThankDog

    The variations in basket size have resulted in at least one tamper "stuck in an undersized basket" at virtually every Barista championship I have heard about. Not a minor issue for them at the time.

    I agree with Dimal on this, although I wish my 316 Pullman's only cost $100... The fact that I bought more of them: different size bases to suit different baskets. The handle can be adjusted to give a perfect fit "in the hand". They do not tear up the puck (unless there is serious user error), they retain almost nothing in the way of coffee and they are perfectly balanced. That makes it worth it for me. Others may differ (and validly so).

    Can I make a decent coffee without them*?: certainly. Is it as fast or as nice to use?: No. Not even close.

    *FWIW, whilst developing a prototype single (about 40mm) tamper I used a three quarter full "Smartwater lime & guava bottle" for nearly a year as the lid was the only thing I found that fitted the basket close to the way I wanted. My first 316 prototype replacement was such a massive improvement I could scarcely believe it at the time.

    If I were on a budget, my priority would be grinder, machine, basket, tamper. Access to a lathe and a piece of 316 stainless would be a valid alternative (i.e. my locally lathed prototype).

    Hope this helps.

    TampIt

  8. #8
    TC
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    One might also ask why are good kitchen knives expensive when you can buy a $10 job at the local stoopidmarket. The answer becomes obvious when you pay the microsurgery bill because it ripped out half your hand.

    x2 for you gets what you pays for. The tampers we sell are beatifully machined and are for life.

  9. #9
    Senior Member artman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Talk_Coffee View Post
    The tampers we sell are beatifully machined and are for life.
    Agree, When I got my Pullman tamper (with matched baskets), the cost was offset by treating it as a long term "investment". As long as you stay with a commercial 58mm group, you can keep the tamper and baskets if/when upgradeitis hits. You can feel and see the quality of a quality bit of kit, its a joy to use.

    If I had access to a lathe I would probably keep making tampers for myself, I love to DIY!

    Cheers

  10. #10
    Senior Member Journeyman's Avatar
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    In a day or so I get my new Pullman; haven't looked forward to a present so much for years. So there can be more emotional reasons for wanting good tampers too.

    And it is matched to the VST basket (the 15g - will be a bonus if it is good for the 22g as well) because Mark has the specs for each basket he sells.

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    Member ThankDog's Avatar
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    Whenever I try to get into a hobby it always ends up being bloody expensive and far more involved than I ever thought it could be

    Also, I posted something earlier and it seems to have disappeared.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ThankDog View Post
    Whenever I try to get into a hobby it always ends up being bloody expensive and far more involved than I ever thought it could be

    Also, I posted something earlier and it seems to have disappeared.
    Hi ThankDog

    You are probably not being picked on. I have "lost" two non-controversial posts on CS. I blame it on the wilds of the net. The only other issue, overly long posts will not accept: they do give you a fair warning at the time.

    Please enlighten us as to the missing post (tamper or machine? or other).

    Cheers

    TampIt

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    Quote Originally Posted by Talk_Coffee View Post
    x2 for you gets what you pays for. The tampers we sell are beatifully machined and are for life.
    Hi Chris

    Tell me more: "beatifully machined" - although I do actually worship my tampers I did not know they could get a sainthood. Gotta get that form!

    Seriously, I could not agree more with the sentiment, and for those that worship a good cuppa w due reverence it would be appropriate.

    Have a great Xmas


    TampIt

  14. #14
    TC
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    Quote Originally Posted by TampIt View Post
    Hi Chris

    Tell me more: "beatifully machined"
    Bloody typos ...

    Will have a second crack and try beautifully machined instead! Bogav are even better these days with the lathe work nearing mirror finish. I really love Gavin's work but will hold off on nominating him for sainthood.

    Bottom line? It's all about finding a quality tamp you like. I'll leave the $10 cheapies and plakky ones for those who think the good ones are too expensive...

    Merry Christmas to you too Tampit...

    Chris

    PS- ThankDog- I have a really "special" Pullman ripoff that a Chinese company sent us. It looks just the same. Really it does....$20 just for you
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    Hi Thankdog,

    No doubt, a good tamper is nice to have. But not essential to get started and make good espresso. Don't let that be a limiting factor. The Sunbeam machine I started on came with a free tamper. Its not a particularly nice tool, but it does the job fine. I doubt anyone could pick the cup produced with it or a $100 job, especially on "starter" espresso gear.

    Its like hammers - you can get a cheap thing for less than $10. It will bang in nails, might last 10 years, might break tomorrow. Wouldn't want to use it all day everyday. But for the home handy-person on a budget it would be fine.

    Have a read around - I think you'll find a fitted tamper is pretty low down the list on essential espresso making gear for beginners.

    Pete
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    Quote Originally Posted by ThankDog View Post

    Also, I posted something earlier and it seems to have disappeared.
    .... a conspiracy ... maybe The Government !!

    I have a fancy tamper from Mr P ... it is very nice, well made and fit for purpose, also looks mega cool. People ask me how much it cost and I blush a little as I tell them, but I see the jealousy in their eyes ... or maybe it's just shock, hard to be sure.

    Tamper can also be used as self defence, quite a bit of weight to it. A tamp to the forehead would dissuade any would be thief from nicking my goodies.

    BBrat

  17. #17
    Member ThankDog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Talk_Coffee View Post
    PS- ThankDog- I have a really "special" Pullman ripoff that a Chinese company sent us. It looks just the same. Really it does....$20 just for you
    You're too kind! The Christmas spirit is truly with you

    Quote Originally Posted by BeanBrat View Post
    Tamper can also be used as self defence, quite a bit of weight to it. A tamp to the forehead would dissuade any would be thief from nicking my goodies.
    I have a baseball bat and 6'2" of lard to use it with.

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    Senior Member Journeyman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ThankDog View Post
    I have a baseball bat and 6'2" of lard to use it with.
    OK... now let's see you make a coffee with it...

    Got me all anxious now to see what the missus got me. Was a bit funny how I found out - she thought all tampers were the same so she ordered what she thought I might like (still don't know) and Mark (Pullman - Things Coffee | Pullman Tamper, Coffee Tamper, VST Filter Basket, VST Refractometer, Hottop, Coffee Roaster, KN-8828B-2) sent her the handle and a request as to what size the basket is. She had to come to me and tell me what she was getting so i could tell her the VST details and she could order the rest of the tamper. *grins*

    I wish I'd been home to see her face when she opened the parcel and saw half a tamper...

  19. #19
    Sleep is overrated Thundergod's Avatar
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    Maybe you could get the handle of the baseball bat machined to fit your basket and you could tamp with it.

    However a nicely weighted tamper is easier to carry around for both self defence and making coffee.
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    It's a specialty product with relatively low sales volume. On anyhting like this you're not going to be just paying for the raw materials and cost to produce it.

    It's hopefully a one-off for a machine though, and I can tell you that the two ~$70 tampers I bought were a pleasure to use compared to the light, plasticy ones that came with my machines.

  21. #21
    Senior Member artman's Avatar
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    Everytime I use my brother in laws Breville DB and the standard tamper, it just feels so yucky and cheap compared to the pullman. Have a play with a quality tamper, it like chalk and cheese.

    Cheers

  22. #22
    Senior Member Dragunov21's Avatar
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    Speaking as someone who's been using a 58mm Xavier HD tamper that fits to within 1.5mm total D and just got his Pullman in the mail, just find the difference to be significant and wish I'd bought it months ago.

    Testing the VST it came with will have to wait as my flight leaves in an hour.
    1387846286378.jpg
    1387846307294.jpg

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    Senior Member Yelta's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dragunov21 View Post
    Speaking as someone who's been using a 58mm Xavier HD tamper that fits to within 1.5mm total D and just got his Pullman in the mail, just find the difference to be significant and wish I'd bought it months ago.

    Testing the VST it came with will have to wait as my flight leaves in an hour.
    1387846286378.jpg
    1387846307294.jpg
    Nice looking tamper Dragunov, Christmas gift to yourself?

  24. #24
    Senior Member Dragunov21's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yelta View Post
    Nice looking tamper Dragunov, Christmas gift to yourself?
    Yeah boi.

    Plus I was getting sick of the VST bickering and wanted to figure it out for myself :P

    In case anyone's interested, I found that with the xavier, there was dead/slow flow approaching the middle for the first two thirds of the shot. I was able to mitigate it slightly by NSEWing it, but it didn't really fix it. I'd guess that this was caused by the very outer edge of the puck being undertamped relative to the rest.

    With the Pullman, (which by luck fits my usual triple perfectly), the dead-spot didn't exist, the cone was more voluminous with a slower apparent speed (same flow rate). It blonded noticeably later and did so very evenly.

    How much this affected the shot's flavor, I won't be able to say until I get back after xmas, since I only poured the one and dumped milk into it (Veneziano Forza, which I dislike black).

    As can be seen above, the xavier fits pretty well, so the difference was surprising to say the least.

  25. #25
    Coffee Newbie okitoki's Avatar
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    hmmm... guess its time for me to upgrade my tamper too then
    the Espro that im using now has made my learning process much easier... now its a matter of finding out if my so call "muscle memory" i've developed doesnt have short term memory

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    Senior Member Dragunov21's Avatar
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    Like you needed an excuse, you're always buying new stuff I had a laugh...
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    Are the Espro click tampers any good? I was looking at considering the concept art technic tampers and replace the base with a pullman nexus base. Although I am having difficulty in finding a place in Sydney that stock both to make sure the threads are the same and such a combo would work.

  28. #28
    CoffeeSnobs Owner Andy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ThankDog View Post
    Forgive my ignorance, please, but why are tampers so expensive? They seem like little more than machined bits of solid metal. Not exactly worthy of a hundred dollar or more price-tag.

    What don't I know or understand about these things that make them worth such a price?
    We sell the range of Cafelat Tampers and they are beautiful, functional, well made and affordable too!
    CoffeeSnobs - BeanBay - Cafelat Coffee Accessories

  29. #29
    Coffee Newbie okitoki's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by javatime View Post
    Are the Espro click tampers any good?
    It was a good tool for me to learn by myself as it is difficult to describe "15kg or around that area" pressure, let alone doing it consistently.

    At the end of the day, it just makes it easier for me to make a shot by having one less variable. All I need to worry about is get my dose and grind finess correct, tamp it down till it click, polish the. I'm done.

    But then some people just has the knack to pick it up without the need of specialist tool.

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    Quote Originally Posted by okitoki View Post
    It was a good tool for me to learn by myself as it is difficult to describe "15kg or around that area" pressure, let alone doing it consistently.

    At the end of the day, it just makes it easier for me to make a shot by having one less variable. All I need to worry about is get my dose and grind finess correct, tamp it down till it click, polish the. I'm done.

    But then some people just has the knack to pick it up without the need of specialist tool.
    Some may disagree, but the 15kg pressure thing can be a bit misleading. Anywhere from about 10kg to 30kg will produce similar results with the same dose, IMO. The reason a heavier tamp can "feel" like it makes a difference is because the heavier tamp is often compensating for a dose which is too high. It is therefore the dose that is making most of the difference, not the tamp.

  31. #31
    Coffee Newbie okitoki's Avatar
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    To me it doesn't matter if its exactly 15kg. It's just a matter of consistency only.
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  32. #32
    Senior Member Dragunov21's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by okitoki View Post
    To me it doesn't matter if its exactly 15kg. It's just a matter of consistency only.
    I think it's something that seems daunting but that you pick up quickly out of necessity. There's no substitute for actual practise.

    For me, as long as the puck is sufficiently compressed (ie density has been normalised across the entire puck) and it doesn't vary greatly between one shot and the next, it is acceptable.

  33. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by Darkfalz View Post
    Some may disagree, but the 15kg pressure thing can be a bit misleading. Anywhere from about 10kg to 30kg will produce similar results with the same dose, IMO. The reason a heavier tamp can "feel" like it makes a difference is because the heavier tamp is often compensating for a dose which is too high. It is therefore the dose that is making most of the difference, not the tamp.
    I found early on with the EM0480 grinder that one click on the grinder made a significant difference to the pour. (this was in the days when I was using stock equipment) With a given bean, 1 click made the difference between a very good pour and a choker or a gusher. Given the slop in the selector it made things... awkward... in trying to dial-in a bean.

    Tamping on the other hand could take a given grind and move it from drinkable to 'nice-to-drink', or from drinkable to 'might-as-well-drink-instant.'

    My opinion (for this grinder at least) is grind moves the quality significantly (say 25%) and tamping moves it about 10% of that (say 2.5%)

    On the other hand, progressive tamping has made a HUGE difference in both quality of pour and consistency of grind - a tamper that enforces a particular pressure of tamp seems to me a tool that will not let me change what I do to improve. An Espro cannot deal with progressive tamping and it seems to me, it cannot deal with nutating tamps, or NSEW or Weiss tamping either.

    It's like a hammer that will only drive nails vertically down - great for what it does but not so good if you need to hammer on an angle or horizontally.

    But the only factor that really matters is... does what you have and what you do give you a good-enough coffee?

    Personally I am the type who likes to find out just how good 'good' is, so I try things - and my coffee has shown the results.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Journeyman View Post
    Tamping on the other hand could take a given grind and move it from drinkable to 'nice-to-drink', or from drinkable to 'might-as-well-drink-instant.'
    This is true, but I would say this isn't really a question of tamping, but dosing. You're tamping harder to achieve the same puck basket height with a greater dose. But it's the dose of the coffee that makes the difference, not the tamping. Good tamping ensures the puck surface isn't compromised when the water hits it, but once the puck is soaked, it's the volume and density of coffee in the basket that controls the flow, not how hard you pushed it down to begin with.

    I noticed the clicks on the grinder made a bigger difference if you were routinely over-dosing. By getting the dose right, a slightly wider range of settings were usable.

  35. #35
    Senior Member Dragunov21's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Darkfalz View Post
    . Good tamping ensures the puck surface isn't compromised when the water hits it, but once the puck is soaked, it's the volume and density of coffee in the basket that controls the flow, not how hard you pushed it down to begin with..
    If what you're saying is that ramping doesn't affect total resistance when soaked, I have to disagree.

    If, with equal dosing, you tamp much harder (or softer), the shot time WILL change accordingly.

    I'm pretty sure tamping affects wet density; the fact that after a shot, the puck expands against the showerscreen, is likely due to the sudden change in pressure when the vent solenoid operates.

  36. #36
    Mal Dimal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andy View Post
    We sell the range of Cafelat Tampers and they are beautiful, functional, well made and affordable too!
    CoffeeSnobs - BeanBay - Cafelat Coffee Accessories
    Beautiful gear Andy...

    Must admit that I love those traditional wood handle jobs...

    Mal.

  37. #37
    Member ThankDog's Avatar
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    Sigh. Ok, so after using the plastic tamper with the Gaggia I'm now convinced that tampers matter, even if they are expensive

  38. #38
    Senior Member Dragunov21's Avatar
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    You picked up a classic?

    In fairness, the included plastic tampers are absolutely useless. You can get something miles better off eBay for twenty bucks (milled aluminium 58mm)

  39. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by Darkfalz View Post
    This is true, but I would say this isn't really a question of tamping, but dosing. You're tamping harder to achieve the same puck basket height with a greater dose. But it's the dose of the coffee that makes the difference, not the tamping. Good tamping ensures the puck surface isn't compromised when the water hits it, but once the puck is soaked, it's the volume and density of coffee in the basket that controls the flow, not how hard you pushed it down to begin with.
    Research into flow through packed beds (which included coffee amongst other things) found it is the puck thickness, porosity (I.e. how much space there is between grind particles) and interestingly, the ratio between particle size and bed diameter, which are the most important factors determining flow resistance.
    Tamping will influence the first two two of those factors, to a point. As will dose/grind

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    Quote Originally Posted by ThankDog View Post
    Hmm, interesting. See, I would've assumed that there was a standard basket size so that tampers would also come in standard, appropriately fitting, sizes. Seems I was mistaken in thinking that!
    "Appropriately fitting" - they come in approximately fitting, but not appropriately fitting.

    as for lathes and making your own: CCHS

    (I made my own 52mm tampers because I couldn't justify paying for a nice tamper at that size. I have a pullman/VST matched combo for my 58mm machine, though.)

  41. #41
    Member ThankDog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hildy View Post
    as for lathes and making your own: CCHS
    Intriguing... would be plastic (or whatever it is that they use in those things that isn't metal) but still, something that is custom-made to fit exactly would be massive step-up from the tamper included with the Gaggia.

  42. #42
    Senior Member Dragunov21's Avatar
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    Yes.

    tenchars.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ThankDog View Post
    Intriguing... would be plastic (or whatever it is that they use in those things that isn't metal) but still, something that is custom-made to fit exactly would be massive step-up from the tamper included with the Gaggia.
    I've used POM (delrin) plastic and 6061 Al alloy. Both are ok and haven't dented too badly by dropping them on the floor.

    I now have a new idea for a tamper - one that only tamps to a certain height below the lip of the basket, so that what is consistent is puck height, rather than tamping pressure. I wonder if this would be good.

    (maybe do it with a little screw on ring.)

  44. #44
    Member ThankDog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hildy View Post
    I've used POM (delrin) plastic and 6061 Al alloy. Both are ok and haven't dented too badly by dropping them on the floor.

    I now have a new idea for a tamper - one that only tamps to a certain height below the lip of the basket, so that what is consistent is puck height, rather than tamping pressure. I wonder if this would be good.

    (maybe do it with a little screw on ring.)
    Combine it with a pressure gauge so that you know you're getting both right at the same time since if you put too little coffee in with too fine or too course you won't get an even tamp...

    Quote Originally Posted by Talk_Coffee View Post
    Sorry- just incorrect. Grind size has absolutely nothing to to with whether tamp is even or not. That is dictated by the nut on the group handle.
    ...and that way you could also adjust your dosing to match

    I think we could be brilliant as a team. We could revolutionise the entire industry! We could be Gods!

    Quote Originally Posted by Talk_Coffee View Post
    It's not a new idea....Demeral did it and there is another currently on the market.
    ThankDog, letting it go to his head and being corrected since 2014.
    Last edited by ThankDog; 1st January 2014 at 03:46 PM. Reason: Edited to correct unfunny misinformation.

  45. #45
    TC
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    Quote Originally Posted by ThankDog View Post
    ...since if you put too little coffee in with too fine or too course you won't get an even tamp
    Sorry- just incorrect. Grind size has absolutely nothing to to with whether tamp is even or not. That is dictated by the nut on the group handle.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hildy View Post
    I now have a new idea for a tamper - one that only tamps to a certain height below the lip of the basket
    It's not a new idea....Demeral did it and there is another currently on the market.

  46. #46
    Senior Member Dragunov21's Avatar
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    How'd it work out?

  47. #47
    Member ThankDog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Talk_Coffee View Post
    Sorry- just incorrect. Grind size has absolutely nothing to to with whether tamp is even or not. That is dictated by the nut on the group handle.



    It's not a new idea....Demeral did it and there is another currently on the market.
    I had a laugh, yeah, I know. Sorry, I thought it was obvious that I was being facetious

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    Quote Originally Posted by Talk_Coffee View Post
    It's not a new idea....Demeral did it and there is another currently on the market.
    Great minds think alike, I guess. Demaral seems to be out of business, and the thor ridgeline is out of stock.

    I'd make it an attachment for pullmans (so compatible with the pullman thread). will have to try 3D printing one first.

  49. #49
    Senior Member Dragunov21's Avatar
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    Can you 3d-print a useable thread?

  50. #50
    TC
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    Behmor Brazen - $249 - Free Freight
    Quote Originally Posted by ThankDog View Post
    I had a laugh, yeah, I know. Sorry, I thought it was obvious that I was being facetious
    Erm nope....To me it just read like more of the misinformation I have seen from some recently joined members who post prolifically. It might just be me, but the forum appears to be drowning in in at present. It detracts rather than adds.



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