If you’re following the coffee industry right now, you know that everyone is talking about the inevitable rise and take-over of machines. Or to put it less dramatically... Automation.
Recently we posted this article about the Ubermilk unit. The comment sections on our social media was split down the middle, some were vehemently against the lack of human involvement while others were curious and excited for the future. There is one element of a barista’s job I do not think anyone will miss - tamping.
Coffee tamping certainly has its share of myth and mystery in the coffee world. From the ‘but-I-have-always-tapped-the-side-twice-and-it-is-really-hard-to-stop’ to the almost sacred tradition of passing down poor technique to the younger generation. You know... That thing. ... But I digress. Introducing the PuqPress
What is it?The PuqPress is an automatic tamping machine developed by a company called Barista Technology, based in the Netherlands. Their goal is to “deliver a perfect level tamp for every shot, regardless of the barista on duty.”
How does it work?
The unit is hands free. The barista inserts the handle which activates a magnet causing the tamp to lower twice. The pressure is programmable by the barista from 10 to 30 kgs of pressure. This is adjustable on the fly, with a conveniently located touch pad. Cleaning is extremely easy and is only required once a week (more for high volume/dirty baristas). It only involves pushing a button, removing one bolt and unscrewing the tamp itself followed by a quick wipe down. You don’t even need your own tools; the Puqpress comes with everything you need.
What are the benefits?
The main benefit is obvious: no more tamping related repetitive stress injuries on fingers, wrists, arms, shoulders and backs.
This by itself makes it a winner in my book. Secondly, the unit does deliver on its simple promise by tamping: 1) level and 2) consistently (see results of our test below). The device also fixes the awkward workflow in which the barista needs to do 180 degree turns to tamp and back again to insert the handle.
What are the Issues?
It’s a little messy. Grinds stick to the tamp quite regularly, and when you brush them off they fall onto the forks or onto the weirdly designed tray that has lots of nooks for grinds to get stuck in. In saying that, it is no worse than regular tamping, and wiping down the piston after every shot will help. It's not cheap. At a list price of $2079 incl. GST (AUD), you could buy a stack of high-quality, hand tamps for the same money. The cost benefits make the most sense in high-volume cafes where repetitive strain from tamping is a real issue. It doesn’t replace good technique. Not really a flaw with the product itself, but a fact of life. The Puqpress won’t fix an inconsistent grinder or poor distribution in the basket – not yet anyway.
This is a very well-built piece of equipment. I, for one, would be reluctant to go back to manual tamping. We’ve also shown that the Puqpress is more consistent than two highly trained baristas operating off one grinder. Overall there has not been a noticeable change in quality in the cup (good or bad) however speed of service has increased, if only slightly. My hands are the biggest fans of the Puqpress as well as an increase in morale and customer engagement.