The arrival of the PuqPress automatic tamper signalled a happy and momentous day for 1000s of baristas struggling with wrist, neck and back problems brought on by months and years of manual tamping. Overnight the Puq Press took the labour of tamping away and those common barista ailments gradually began to fade into the past. It was a special happy time.
Nowadays the sight of a PuqPress in a coffee shop is almost as common as a grinder, with many operators seeing the investment worthwhile due to the benefits of improved consistency and efficiency, not to mention the wellbeing of their employees. Personally I’m a big fan of this bit of kit, and have seen first hand the impact it can have in shops with several staff making coffee at varying levels of skill. One less variable in the coffee making process is one step closer to tastier, more consistent coffee.
However it seems that when automation in workflows are introduced complacency is often an unwanted byproduct, when things get a bit easier often we stop paying attention to the little details. The PuqPress does a brilliant job of evenly tamping your coffee at the same pressure every single time, but like all good bits of kit it requires a little care and attention from time to time. Regular cleaning, checking tamp pressure, and aligning your forks correctly will ensure you are getting the most out of your Puq. Letting these details go unchecked for too long will result in channeling and poor extractions, which means less tasty coffee! Here is a simple guide for how to keep your Puq doing what it needs to be doing.
- In service clean:
Static on the bottom of the tamp can build up and after a few shots coffee grounds will start sticking to the bottom, so make sure you have a brush or a cloth and wipe the bottom of the tamp after every couple of shots.
You will also find that coffee can get sucked up the sides of the tamp, this can create problems, particularly around the edges of the puck, press the clean button to lower the tamp and wipe the sides with a cloth, do this after busy periods and at the end of the day.
- Weekly deep clean
At least once a week you will want to remove the tamp completely so you can get into the tamp cavity and remove any built up grounds before they get too compacted and create issues. You will need a 5mm allen key (the one supplied with your Puq) a brush and a cloth. Lower the tamp using the cleaning button, then taking the cap off the Puq (or in this case sliding the metal cover as it is a Puq designed for a Peak) insert the 5mm allen key and unscrew, once loose you can then unscrew the tamp itself and get into the cavity to clean it. To reassemble simply screw the tamp back on then tighten the screw with the allen key.
- Fork alignment
Next you wanna check your forks are in the right position so the portafilter fits nice and snug and level, loose uneven forks will result in poor tamping quality. Turn your Puq off and lay on its back. Loosen the two nuts that hold the forks in place with the tool provided.
Slide your portafilter into place and using your thumb gently shift and hold the forks so they fit snugly under the portafilter.
Then grab your tool and tighten the nuts enough to hold the forks in place but not super tight.
The reason you don’t want to tighten them fully is that your portafilters aren’t al exactly the same, so you want to slide each one in and make sure they fit smoothly. Once you are happy all portafilters fit go ahead and tighten the nuts.
Lastly you want to make sure your forks are as level as possible, a little trick I use is my iPhone's level feature, which is located in the compass app.
- Tamp pressure
Finally the last check I do is make sure my Puq is compressing the grounds enough at my given tamp pressure. Gently press your thumb on the tamped coffee puck, it should feel firm and no indent or mark should be left, if your thumb does leave a mark increase the tamp pressure.
- A sign that something is amiss.
A telltale sign that your Puq is underperforming is when the edges of the coffee puck don’t look sealed. This is bad as it promotes channelling, which is never a good thing.
If you notice this happening try doing the above steps, often dirty tampers and poorly set forks are the culprit. If you have tried all the above and are still having issues check when you last replaced your portafilter baskets, old baskets get worn and the tops become uneven which can affect tamp quality with the Puq Press.
The Puq Press has been a game changer, and has helped many coffee shops produce consistently better quality espresso across staff of all experience levels and during busy service periods. However nothing is perfect and these sorts of tools need love and maintenance like everything else, so I ask you, when was the last time you gave your Puq some love? Happy tamping!