Introduction: How to Make an Espresso Tamper

Picture of How to Make an Espresso Tamper

Here's my first Instructables project and I made it at Techshop. A shiny new 58.4mm espresso tamper!  I started with a 2.5"x12" copper round rod and a basic understanding of how to use a metal lathe and a vertical mill.  As it turns out, making a round thing into a smaller round thing just isn't that difficult.

Here's what I did:

Step 1: Roughly Shape the Sides

Picture of Roughly Shape the Sides

I used a steady rest because the material I was working with was too thick to fit through the headstock of the lathe and too long to be stable on its own.  First I machined the face flat, then brought the diameter down close to the final dimension I was looking for - in this case I ended up at 59mm with the plan that the finished tamper would be 58.4mm.

Step 2: Shape the Top

Picture of Shape the Top

I used the compound rest to curve the top of the tamper then drilled a 5/16" hole in the center.

Step 3: Finish the Sides

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Once I had a way to support the copper rod from both ends I removed the steady rest and turned the material down to the target size.

Step 4: Tap the Hole

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Start with the tap in a drill chuck so you can be sure it's square, finish by hand. Copper is miserable to tap, this was the most irritating part of the project.  On the bright side, I got to test fit the handle afterwards.

Step 5: Chop It Off!

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Throw the thing in a horizontal bandsaw and cut it off.

Step 6: Flatten the Bottom

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I used a fly cutter on the mill to flatten the bottom, figuring that it was easier to get the piece level using parallels than it would be by hand in the lathe chuck.

Step 7: Clean Up and Assemble

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Remove the burr if there is one, screw the handle on and take it home.

Step 8: Put It to Use!

Picture of Put It to Use!


Biscuitus (author)2013-01-21

If you don't mind a piece of advice, I can help you remove this and the last step and it's a lot more stable. Since you were at a Techshop, they should have had a parting or grooving tool holder and tool. Once you have the final diameter and the hole drilled, open the chuck up and move the material so that the final depth or length of the part is 1/4" to 1/2" away from the chuck jaws. Tighten the chuck and move your parting tool so the OUTSIDE edge of the tool is at the line where you want to cut your part. Alternatively, you can touch the edge of the parting tool (the left side if you're looking at it) to the end of your part. Take a caliper and measure the width of the parting tool. Move your carriage the length of the part plus the width of the parting tool. Your tool will now cut the part exactly where it needs to cut. Now, measure the diameter of your part, divide that number by two. Then subtract .0.50 from that number. You can test this by taking a small steel rule or a thin, flat, stiff piece of metal and hold it against the work. Move the point of the cross slide in until the tip of the tool is touching the rule or flat metal. Tighten it just enough to hold it. If the top of the rule is away from you, your tool point is too high. If it's toward you, it's too low. Adjust your tool post accordingly. Start your lathe and bring the cross slide in until the tool just touches the metal. Make sure the point of the parting tool is near the middle of the part. Now Don't move it, but zero your cross slide. Now bring the tool into the work, a little at a time (about .050 for copper) and back out each cut. Repeat this until you get to your target number. Stop the lathe. The part should still be on there, but it may have already broken off. If it isn't, grab on to it and wiggle back and forth until it breaks off. You'll see a nib on the back. You can sand this off or you can chuck it up and take your previous tool and face it so you have a clean surface. While it's still in the chuck, take a swiss file and deburr all the sharp edges. The easiest way to do this is to set your RPM to 60 or 80, whichever your lathe has and hold the file at a 45 degree to the edge and press lightly on it. Just be mindful of the chuck jaws but at that speed, it's pretty easy to avoid. Hope this made sense and helps you!

FoodGeek (author)Biscuitus2013-01-21

Your advice absolutely makes sense, but the head stock for the lathe only holds material up to 1.5" in diameter. That's why I ended up using the steady rest in the first place.

Also I've had limited success using the parting tool to cut a straight line longer than an inch or so. The tool always seems to deflect a bit and give me a domed surface.

stroland (author)2013-01-20

Great looking. I do not have a piece of copper that big, but I think I will just make one out of wood (maple or mesquite). I really think wood would be fine for this purpose. I might epoxy a copper disk to the bottom just for looks.

FoodGeek (author)stroland2013-01-20

Nice! The only real advantage copper offers is weight, it's easier for me to get an even tamp if the tamper is really bottom heavy.

stroland (author)FoodGeek2013-01-20

The only copper rod I found in that size was over 100$ for 12". I think I can add some weight in a wooden one. I am very intrigued by what you have done and now I jus need to try it.

FoodGeek (author)stroland2013-01-20

Seems like a solid plan. I'd love to see what you end up making.

timo888 (author)2013-01-20

No TechShop in my area yet but I left them a note. A great idea. What makes copper difficult to tap BTW? How is the bolt secured to the wooden handle, epoxy? How did you make the wooden handle? How is the radiused edge given to the top rim of the copper tamper?

FoodGeek (author)timo8882013-01-20

Copper is sticky so the tap needs to be backed out and cleaned all the freaking time.

The bolt is just threaded in to the wood, since you're only pushing down and the handle touches the metal it only needs to be strong enough to not fall apart. Epoxy is a better idea.

I made the handle on a wood lathe in my garage.

The top edge is rounded on the metal lathe, just turning both cranks trying to get a nice curve.

timo888 (author)FoodGeek2013-01-20

Thanks for the reply. You did get a nice curve on it. I like it a lot. Makes me want to make one myself. Do you intend to make more of the copper pistons as a hobby business? I just bought a small wood lathe made in the 1930s, hoping to learn how to turn wood. I have not used a wood lathe or a metal lathe before.

FoodGeek (author)timo8882013-01-20

I didn't really plan to make any for sale, I'm not very efficient at making them so I can't see how I'd be able to sell one for a reasonable price.

Congrats on the wood lathe! Turning wood is really satisfying.

anode505 (author)2013-01-20

Like, and need one. I have and get copper optics (from CNC CO2 lasers) That would work nicely. I just need a way to remove the optical coating on them (safely, its *nasty* stuff. Thinking soaking in brake fluid; seems to remove everything.)

FoodGeek (author)anode5052013-01-20

I'd be careful machining any unknown type of copper - beryllium copper is seriously bad for you. I used C110 copper for this.

meritsetgo (author)2013-01-20

how much was the copper rod and where did you get it?

FoodGeek (author)meritsetgo2013-01-20

I got mine from Amazon but they've since doubled the price. has 2.5" copper rod for $18/inch.

asrcav8r (author)2013-01-20

OK. I have to ask, is your bottomless portafilter a DIY?
If it is, nice work on it.
I bought a spare for my Pavoni and used a hole saw to re-work it, not pretty, but what a difference!
I even dug out my old Saeco Via Veneto and worked it over, now it’s almost as good as the Pavoni!

FoodGeek (author)asrcav8r2013-01-20

That one isn't DIY. I've got another portafilter I've been meaning to lop the bottom off of. I'll take pictures along the way and post an instructable if it works. I think you'll need to use a metal lathe to get good results.

fiddy5 (author)2013-01-18

Wonderfully well made, wish I had aceses to your toys

FoodGeek (author)fiddy52013-01-18

They're not my toys. I joined techshop ( to get access to their machine shop. I wish I had space (and cash) for that sort of set up at home.

noahw (author)2013-01-18

Looks like you did an excellent job machining your tamper. This is really nice work and a pleasure to see on the site. Thanks so much for posting it.

I'm particularly envious not only of your tamper, but of your GS3 in the last photo. My girlfriend and I hand carved a new handle for our Gaggia portafilter a few weeks ago. Have to post the Instructable asap. Perhaps a carved wooden tamper handle could be the next step? Thank you for the inspiration.

FoodGeek (author)noahw2013-01-18


That's a nice handle! I make my tamper handles on my wood lathe, spalted maple for this one, rosewood for another, and mahogany for my third tamper. I've slowly been replacing all the plastic pieces on my espresso machine - the portafilter handle, group head, paddle, and steam lever have all been replaced with rosewood. The only thing left to do is replace the plastic ring around the group head.

The Rambler (author)2013-01-18

Very cool. I love good espresso and the art that goes into making it. Question, do you think the copper will ever affect the flavor of the espresso or will it be fine as long as it's kept clean and dry?

And yeah, that is funny that the focus in the picture gives that floating effect.

FoodGeek (author)The Rambler2013-01-18

I don't expect it to change the flavor any. There are a few companies selling copper tampers and I can't find any mention of off flavors anywhere online.

I went with copper because I prefer a heavy tamper - that handle on a stainless steel base is 11oz, with the shiny new copper one it's 17oz. I don't love the color but I'm hopeful that it will get a bit darker over time.

rachl009 (author)2013-01-17

looks nice! the first picture looks like it's hovering above the counter top!

putty1cat (author)rachl0092013-01-18

I had to come to this article, just to see the hovering tech that was used in this item. Gosh was I disappointed, lol. Very cool picture.

FoodGeek (author)rachl0092013-01-17

That's hilarious. I had no idea what you were talking about until I looked at the photo again.

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