Coffee levelers are very new, very simple, and very inexpensive. Most people who’ve never seen them mistake them for tampers. They are NOT tampers. What they are for is only to level the ground coffee in your portafilter so that you can get a great tamp with your tamper.
The picture shows the top side of our coffee leveler, which is flat, and the bottom side, which has three slight wedges. The way that it’s used is simply to put the bottom side of the leveler (with the three slightly sloped wedges shown) down on top of the coffee in the portafilter, and twist it. This does NOT compact the coffee; all it does is to distribute it evently in the portafilter so that the surface of the coffee is both FLAT and LEVEL.
Why this makes a great tamp
A flat, uncompressed dose of coffee is the precondition for a great tamp, because it makes the coffee density in the portafilter uniform before you tamp it. I didn’t believe it until I actually used it myself. The way that most people tamp (and I used to do this too) is to push their tamper down on top of the (uneven) pile of coffee grounds in the portafilter, and simultaneously push (to level it) and rotate (to make it uniform).
What I realized – after using the leveler – is that this results in a non-uniform tamp, since the originally-high mounds of coffee become more compressed than the regions that were originally low. Not only is it difficult to simultaneously level and tamp, but it results in an inferior extraction.
The coffee leveler solves this problem – VERY inexpensively. Simply place it – face down – on top of the mound of coffee in the portafilter, and rotate. This flattens the coffee. THEN take your tamper and tamp it.
You won’t believe the difference, or how primitive it will seem trying to flatten your dose with your tamper once you’ve used one of these. Couldn’t be simpler, less expensive, or a better way to ensure a uniform puck for a quality extraction.