This is a short review of a product which I had largely dismissed as useless for many years. It was my birthday and I felt a treat was in order, so I purchased one. They come at many price points, spending a huge amount of money wasn’t something I wanted to do. As long as it looked like it would work, I wasn’t worried about having a brand name.

This one is nice and heavy and cost the princely sum of £13.84 including delivery. It was from ebay Coffee Distributor. This particular seller only does black, although there are similar ones available in a number of attractive coloured finishes, for more money of course. I use an E61 machine so chose the 58mm size, the particular one I purchased weighs in at a little over 400g.

There is some confusion on the internet over use, some people think it should be turned one way, others another, after watching videos made by the companies themselves I am convinced I am turning it the right way.

Using it is pretty easy, you just have to get the depth of the tamper/groomer portion correct for the basket and amount of coffee being used. I was pleasantly surprised that it actually left the coffee ready to go as I had seen people using tampers after these levellers which seems a lot of extra faff that was nice to avoid. I think it came from the UK as stated on ebay, difficult to tell nowadays, but it only took 6 days to get to me. I may have stated it came from China in the video, but to be honest I am not sure.

I suppose the thing I like is it might introduce more consistency into my coffee making process. As long as the weight is the same for any given coffee, then the coffee puck is going to end up level and tamped to the same consistency each time. One thing to note, some coffees are denser than others and you may need a higher dose to get sufficient fill for the device to tamp/groom at it’s lowest setting. In the basket I was using a particular Rawandan I roast is quite a dense bean and I would probably up the dose to 18g as the leveller is pretty close to it’s lowest setting.

If you want a harder tamp, then either dose a little higher, or set the thing lower. Personally I dislike a tamp that is overly hard and prefer consistency of puck as when the pressure is applied by the machine during the shot, it all compresses quite quickly. My personal view is that the more even and softer tamp leads to much less chance of the puck fracturing during the shot. If you get one let me know how you get on…I really like it. If you find a coloured one for a similar price, again let me know, I quite fancy a red one!

It was quickly pointed out to me that I was turning the leveller the wrong way and it needed to be turned clockwise (counterintuitive), I checked the vanes again on the bottom and this looks a reasonable thing to do. I tried it anticlockwise and seemed to work well, although you still have to do a final spin clockwise to polish and the shot produced was as good as before when I was using it “incorrectly”. One thing I did note was manufacturers of these tools all seem to turn theirs in the same direction as I was doing and their “vanes or rakes” are orientated the same as mine. I watched the video below for another product with great interest. I must stress this is NOT the product I have or have tested!

After all this I came up with a test to see (when used correctly) if this cheap Chinese knock off of much more expensive “groomers” worked. I didn’t video the first test, but made sure I re-tested and videoed the results this time. Sorry about the video quality, using a new editor and still struggling with sound problems on the phone. I think I have found the solution, we will see on the next video

Conclusion

Sadly this cheap knock off and I suspect many/all of the more expensive versions are not really “distributing” anything. Try the stevia line on yours and see what happens.

I think these devices are squashing the coffee down and will tamp a fairly well distributed bed of coffee and make it level. So with the vibration device it appears to work but of course the vibration device has already distributed and graded the coffee in the portafilter and eliminated any low density “dead spots”.

Ultimately this is a “tamper” that as long as its limited adjustment matches the depth of coffee in the portafilter can give a light and level tamp to a previously well distributed bed of coffee. I think it’s going to be the same for most of these devices, so my advice is…don’t spend too much.