The Tale of a Barista and his Tamp
All words by Wayne Oberholzer
Anyone who is worth their salt as a barista has at least one on them at all times. I carry mine, Big Bertha, with me wherever I go. I have lost it a few times, but she always finds her way back to me.
My Reg Barber tamp, with a C-Ripple base, hybrid black handle with RB on the top, that weighs a perfect 502g, is my connection to coffee making. It sits perfectly in my hand like that of an inviting handshake from a great friend. I know exactly how it feels in my hand, I know when I am skew on my tamping, and I know just the right amount of weight I need to put on her to get that perfect tamp pressure. She gave me the extra help and confidence needed at the World Barista Championships last year. I love her.
I, like so many of my coffee friends, am the proud owner of my very own tamp. In fact, I have 4 Tamps to be precise. A Nuova Simonelli WBC edition, Intelligentsia Black Cat, La Marzocco and of course, my Reg Barber. For the coffee uninitiated, this may sound a bit ridiculous, but it does make a difference what tamp you use. Be it physical or be it mental, it makes a difference in the quality of coffee you can extract.
I once watched a program about rally drivers, and the amount of effort and attention to detail that goes into everything they do on the cars and with the drivers. Something that stood out to me was tyre choice, and how a lot of times, team principles would override the information from both the car and the tyre experts for the choice of the driver. They found that if a given compound and tread should give the car and driver more of an edge, if the driver was not happy with the choice, the car sometimes ran slower. However when the driver felt confident about his choice of tyres and equipment etc, he at times would out-perform the expectations of the equipment and run much faster times. It all came down to driver confidence.
Now I'm not trying to suggest that us baristas are high performance $500 000 pieces of equipment. But it does come down to confidence when producing quality espresso time and time again. Where do I get my confidence? It's my tamper, my coffee and my equipment. For almost all baristas, their tamp will forever remain a massive part of their coffee making experience. They give them names and look after them like small children. When we are spending time with colleagues in the coffee industry, we are constantly showing them off. They are our pride and joy in the coffee world.
So next time you see a bunch of grown men and woman huddling around each other and oohing and ahhing over these strange metal and wooden objects... You'll know we aren't crazy... Maybe not normal, but most certainly not crazy.