Instructables

How to Pack an Espresso Shot

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Taking the time to properly pack an espresso shot is an important (and super simple) part of making a good espresso drink. I was lucky enough to have Joe Speicher and Mark Wickens from the online coffee culture publication Ground to Grounds stop by and show me the ropes.

What you'll need:

  • an espresso machine
  • a porta-filter
  • an espresso tamper
  • coffee grinder
  • freshly roasted espresso beans*

*Learn how to choose coffee beans here.

 
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Step 1: Filling the Basket

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Refer to your grinder's manual for its espresso grind setting. You may find that you need to adjust this up or down as you get more familiar with what you look for in a good shot and the type of beans you're using, as the size of the grounds affects the quality of the shot.

As you fill (or dose) the basket of the porta-filter (the metal insert with the holes in it that gets filled with grounds), try to evenly distribute the grounds inside.

Fill it until a small mountain peak has formed.

If you don't have a grinder that allows you to fill the basket this way, try to approximate this by adding small spoonfuls until you've created the same mountain peak formation.

Step 2: Leveling Off

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Using your index finger, pull the coffee 'mountain' gently to one side, without pushing down, until their is no more mountain and the grounds are mostly level with the top of the basket. Gently drag the same finger back over the grounds in the other direction.

You're goal is to create an even distribution of the grounds, so that there are not any pockets or holes around the edge of the basket.

Cheese Queen9 months ago

We owned several espresso stands in the PNW in years past; pressure of the tamp will also depend on grind, type of beans and relative humidity. But 27 lbs is about perfect. :^)

The really crucial metric is how long it takes.

A perfect pull will take about 20 seconds for the water to make its way through the grounds; less time (not as well packed or grind too coarse) and you'll have a weak shot- longer than 20 seconds (too packed or grind too fine) and you'll be getting bitterness.

We had timers on the machines and trained our baristas to always hit the timer when they pulled shots, so that they could keep track of how long each shot was taking through the day and adjust technique as necessary.

PS- I'm quite sure it makes no difference if you twist the tamper or pack straight. And the point of cleaning off the edges of the portafilter is that the grounds are abrasive and will grind on your rubber seals, NOT that the portafilter won't seal correctly with grounds left on..

xntrick9 months ago

I've been twisting the tamper for years without any problems. Why do they dissuade from that method?

phoe9 months ago

Good, simple instructable - thanks :-)

vincent75209 months ago

Mama mia !!!…

Where on earth they have to learn how to pack an espresso ???…"Clack ! Clack" makes the coffee dispenser, "press", "click-clack" makes the port-filter in the machine, "bling" says the cup slipping under it, "ploch" makes the hand pressing on the machine's button, "schhhh" whispers the steam… Et voilà (as they say in USA).

Do you really think that a barman who has to attend fifty customer at the noon rush hour has time to care about such basic niceties that any toddler can master just like that in any other part of the world (yes even in Mongolia where they don't have coffee machines but keep their brains alert). "Thanks again to Joe Speicher and Mark Wickens" who cared to take seriously a life's basic question ???…

Oh God where the world's going to ?…

morgoth_lord9 months ago

What a first world problem... Ask a cuban "how much force they use" and "how they press their puck" to make their excellent expresso and see what they tell you... lol

tomascco9 months ago

Housedog, the dry puck you are trying to achieve depends a lot upon the machine. A $100 Delonghi will not produce the same puck as a $1000 infuser. I'm on my fourth pump machine and am quite happy with my Breville. It's the very first time I experienced a true dry puck after brewing.

The Rambler9 months ago

Did they give (or do you have for that matter) any insight on why you aren't supposed to twist the tamp? The way I was taught was to fill the portafilter like you said, level it (usually with the back of a knife or handle of a spoon), tamp it once at about 30lbs pressure while twisting it, tap the side of the portafilter with the tamp to shake off any grounds, then give it a second light tamp (I think to resettle the grounds). I'm pretty open to improving technique but I've made some pretty darn good shots that way.

snowflake819 months ago

Even if I don't do it my own, being italian, this is a thing I've seen my barista do twice a day for 30 years :) This procedure is spot on! I would like to suggest a thing: from the pics, when you tamp it, you put the filter on the table sitting on his "nozzles" from where the coffee goes to the cup. Eventually this could lead to a bending of the "nozzles" especially if you make a lot of coffee and it gets hot. You should hold the filter in your hand and place it against the border of the table, securing the nozzles to the vertical side of the table border and the base of the porta-filter to the top of the table (I hope I made myself clear in english!). As I saw in the pics where you empty the filter, the underside of the filter just in front of the nozzels has a ridge that make it horizontal and i'm pretty sure it is made like so exactly for the tamping purpose… and also that's what my barista does all the time :D

I love dofffeeee

plee219 months ago
Tamp can also be used to level the coffee. The tricky part is actually knowing how much coffee should be put in just so when you tamp it it levels exactly with the line inside.
supereric9 months ago

This is super helpful for me because I have so much trouble with this. I have a machine at home. It's not a fancy expensive one, but it's a pump model and sometimes it makes a great espresso. But sometimes not. I do have this trouble with tamping with the right amount of force. Hadn't thought to use a scale to approximate the pressure. Great idea. I think I too often under-tamp.

Housedog9 months ago

"remove the porta-filter from the machine. If the surface of the grounds look dry, this is a good sign"

Really? Could you elaborate on that a bit, please.

I've never seen it not look wet after an espresso is made - I think.

So steam can go through the coffee, extract the espresso, and leave behind dry coffee?

I've never had the good fortune to have an expert show me how it's done properly, so this is a really good ible.

carlos66ba9 months ago

Love the color of your coffee grounds, it is often impossible to find coffee that has not been burnt here in the US.