There are few things as delicious as a well crafted shot of espresso pulled by a skilled barista. Arguably, the biggest impact a barista has on the espresso is how she distributes and tamps the coffee grounds in the portafilter. In other words, tamping is important. It follows that a good barista must have good technique and
the right tool for the job. Enter the Prima Tamp.
Made in the USA
The Prima Tamp is a gorgeously designed tamper made of Kentucky stainless steel and Indiana black walnut. The adjustable handle allows the barista’s wrist to be in a more natural position while tamping. This lessens undue stress, reducing soreness and injuries during a busy bar shift. Prima explains,
The Prima Tamp is designed to make proper form comfortable and reduce tamping-related wrist strain so that you can effectively and consistently prepare delicious espresso. Being adjustable, any barista of any build can use it at any bar. The beauty of the Prima Tamp is in its simplicity. Turning the handle counter-clockwise unlocks the mechanism so that you can tilt it to the angle that’s right for you. A clockwise turn tightens the handle again so that it’s ready to go.
Put to the Test
The Prima Tamp has generated a lot of buzz, and for good reason. If there’s one downside to being a barista, it’s the health risks. If you don’t believe me, just ask your barista’s massage therapist or chiropractor. A recent study found that at least 55% of baristas polled had repetitive stress injuries related to tamping. From personal experience, a busy shift on bar leaves me just as sore as when I worked in construction and landscaping. Needless to say, the Prima Tamp piqued my interested.
I decided to put the Prima Tamp to the test by exclusively using it on bar for 3 straight shifts. After making several hundred drinks with it, I reached a few conclusions about the tamp, both positive and negative.
The tamp delivers what it promises: a more natural grip position that puts less stress on your joints and tendons. After experimenting with several different angles, I found somewhere around 70 degrees worked best for my hand. Without sounding too much like a ninja sensei, the natural angle allowed me to treat the tamper more like an extension of my arm as less like a tool I was manipulating. After three full shifts on bar I felt a marked difference in my wrist and shoulder. Having just finished a busy couple of days at Quills’s Prima Tamp-less U of L location, I find myself wanting to snag our roastery’s Prima Tamp again.
I was thrilled to find the tamper allowed for a more natural wrist position, but the elongated slope of the head of the tamper made it hard for my short fingers to hold on to. As a result, my grip was a little unstable and more inconsistent than with a normal tamper. The handle is easy to adjust but needs to occasionally be tightened. Twice it became loose while I was tamping, which forced me to re-dose my shots. Lastly, the angled handle is slower during a slam, as it must be properly positioned (and not just blindly grabbed).
At $140 the Prima Tamp isn’t cheap, but neither are medical bills. I have no doubt that baristas who properly use the Prima Tamp will experience less wrist tension and shoulder soreness. I would, however, love to see an alternative version with less of a slope. In the meantime, professional baristas and coffee shops that love ergonomic, American design and hate wrist and shoulder injuries would do well to pick one up.