Scott rao doesn't think tamping hard beyond a certain point matters. Tamping hard just increases the headspace which increases the amount of time it take the water to fill the headspace because percolation doesn't happen until there is sufficient pressure built up from the water in the headspace. Increasing tamping simply increases the lag time between pressing the button and extraction begins. 50 lbs of force from a barista is dwarfed by 500 lbs of force from the machine. In other words increased headspace shouldn't increase pressure. It just increases the time it takes to reach a certain pressure.
Try weighin your coffee to see if you're getting a consistent amount.
$15 is honestly not that much when you're paying $28 for a 2.2 lb of lavazza.
If you like Italian blends you might like intelligentsias black cat. Fresher coffee than something shipped from Italy
Edited by indesertum - 7/4/13 at 12:05am