by Liz Clark
Liz Clark is the Finger Lakes Regional Manager and Trainer for Gimme! Coffee in Ithaca, NY. She loves seeing people getting excited about what they’re drinking and what they’re serving, and connecting people’s passions to coffee. She also creates custom perfumes and finds nothing better than drinking coffee while sailing her sunfish.
Competitive barista Lanny Huang and I recently went to visit the shop of Dana Paul, the man who has been custom making Barista Championship tampers over the past few years. Dana is on a quest to create a tools that best fit baristas, eliminating the concessions required for a one-size-fits-all instrument, and allowing baristas to fully immerse themselves in their craft.
When I first got to know Dana, he was absolutely enamored by the precision, focus and passion demonstrated by skilled baristas — not to mention the delicious end product of their work. He already had hours of observational notes regarding how people were tamping, the shape their hand was taking, and their precise motions. He then began combining information to look at how to fit a tamper to a hand combined with personal preferences of each barista.
This is where it starts: the playground. It’s not just fit, form, and function. Dana looks for the sweet spot where the wood reveals it’s unique beauty. Similar to what drives baristas when dialing in a coffee.
This is the Jatoba wood that was used to make Lanny’s tamper. When cut at the right angle the wood as a holographic effect, where it fluctuates between a deep burgundy and a warm light brown.
The fitting process starts with a Barista trying out several different tampers for size and shape, looking for a good start on what they like and don’t like. Dana also measures four points on the hand: the length of palm to forefinger, center of palm to pinky, length of palm to end of middle and the space between the two fleshy mounds on the back of the palm. He keeps a record of hand shapes and sizes and hopes to find correlations from palm measurements to tamper design, making long distance custom tamper work more efficiently.
Dana has a passion for deciphering the puzzles involved in creating a beautiful, functional piece. It’s not just a clean inlay — it’s the direction of the grain in relation to the rest of the wood. He makes custom tools and jigs for each tamper. One series of inlays had a dizzying number of rotations and cuts that Dana says he couldn’t duplicate if he tried. The end goal: to create a beautiful tool that will be appreciated by someone who brings the same level of passion toward their craft.
Liz Clark is the Finger Lakes Regional Manager and Trainer for Gimme! Coffee in Ithaca, NY. She loves seeing people getting excited about what they're drinking and what they're serving, and connecting people's passions to coffee. She also creates custom perfumes and finds nothing better than drinking coffee while sailing her sunfish.