do specialty coffee pour overs need it?
I've been playing with tamping pour overs for a couple of years, but haven't hacked it yet. You can see how its done in the 'introducing melodrip video.' I've also come across filter tamping here and there on forums and the coffee labs of the interwebs and have always wondered what benefits could be had. Tamping for filter is even in the alpha dominche steampunk videos of yesteryear, so curious brewers have always been doing this in some capacity or another.
Tamping in filter coffee is still a mystery to me, but as it stands, I approach it with a mindset similar to how espresso grinds behave in the portafilter during an extraction- minus the high intensity pressure!
When tamping filter coffee, heavy compaction occurs at the bottom of the brewbed. This makes it difficult for water and fines to pass through if water is sprinkled slowly and the bloom is developed gradually from the top of the brewbed to the bottom. If done right, the constant watering will gradually “wash” fines from the top of the brewbed down to the bottom and will collect on the compacted region without flowing too far past the coffee cake at the bottom, thus reducing discharge of particles out of the filter.
This is still theory with little evidence. But, when done with melodrip, it produces an extremely clear cup, with minimal particle discharge. The only caveat is that due to reduced flowrate and uneven temperature distribution, extractions are weaker than a typical cup:(
Also, because we are only using gravity to do an "espresso" style percolation, the extraction should be slow slow, which is typically dictated by particle size, in which case there’s a high chance that channeling can occur. This is why I’m experimenting with slightly coarser grinds and super slow extractions (5g sprinkles) to see if this can be worked into a simple (yet time consuming) recipe.
If tamping is to exist in manual brewing I can only envision it being done using a tool like melodrip because of the necessity to hydrate without destroying the compacted profile of the brewbed architecture. Using a bare kettle to pour water will destroy the physical characteristic of the brewbed defeat the purpose of tamping in the first place.
Basically, melodrip can be used as a tamper. I'm trying to future proof shit. I use it to tamp on occasion, it's slightly time consuming, and unless you're experimenting with coarse grinds VS flowrate, it's not a beginner technique, which is why I haven't included it as a basic step. I get fairly weak brews with extreme clarity. It brings out the woodiness of most coffees, similar to when steaming coffees ala Matsuya Style Drip. So do we need filter tamping? My thoughts are, until we find out what benefits it can offer we shouldn't dismiss it. All of the current pour over devices on the market were initially developed and designed to benefit the lineage of Japanese Hand Pour brewing. These devices were probably not intended for the kind of experimentation that we do as new wave users (tweaking grind size/dose/pour technique/pour frequency...). But the same way many grind super-fine for v60 brews, agitate slurries in chemexes and kalita waves, there will be a combination of approaches and techniques that deliver a unique flavor perspective that might possibly include tamping.