Espresso machines can be pricey, but what if you just want a great cup of black gold without the hassle and complexity of an electric espresso machine? The Flair is a manual coffee maker that creates the perfect amount of pressure through its uniquely crafted design.
A typical manual lever espresso machine can set you back several hundred or even $1,000. The Flair is much more affordable and still delivers a high-quality cup of espresso.
All espresso machines contain roughly the same components and work in a similar fashion. They create steam under pressure, which transforms into the water as it’s forced through the espresso puck in the portafilter.
Most traditionalists prefer manual espresso makers. They give you complete control over every aspect of the brewing process. But is a manual espresso maker better than an automatic one?
Most coffee shops use automatic machines because they’re easier to use when managing multiple cups at a time. But a manual espresso maker has a classic aesthetic and allows you to master the art of the brew.
Still, if you’re not sure whether to buy this type of espresso machine, you should ask yourself a few questions:
- Do I want the flexibility of using it without electricity? – The Flair doesn’t need to be plugged in, which means that you can store it just about anywhere in your house. Heck, you can even bring it glamping, although a more compact device might be better.
- How much time do I want to spend making coffee? – A manual machine isn’t quite as fast as an electric one. It takes about as much time as brewing a pour-over.
- How much effort do I want to put into my espresso? – If you need to do your hair or make breakfast while your coffee is brewing, this is not the machine for you. Every aspect of the brewing process commands your attention. However, Flair is not hard to use and features a simple design.
- How much do I want to spend? – If you’d like to spend less than $300 on an espresso machine, this one might be ideal.
The Flair Espresso machine grew out of a Kickstarter campaign. It was touted as a portable espresso maker that was as robust as it was minimalist. Use it to handcraft high-quality espresso exactly the way you like it.
The Flair espresso machine is different than many other manual espresso makers because it has an exclusive stainless steel brewing head. The rigid container doesn’t expand with pressure. Therefore, it makes a consistent cup every time.
The water capacity of the cylinder is 60 ml. This produces a shot that’s approximately 45 ml in volume. The manufacturer recommends adding about 13 to 18 grams of grounds to pull the perfect shot.
You’ll also need to monitor your water temperature. The ideal temperature is between 195 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Uses optimal pressure to pull a shot
- Gives you complete control over the brewing process
- Easy to clean and maintain
- Not the smallest portable espresso machine
- Not ideal for entertaining multiple people
- Doesn’t include a steamer
- Doesn’t heat up the water
The Flair espresso machine has several features that make it ideal for many kitchens.
The Flair doesn’t pretend to be anything that it’s not. It has a clean design that consists of a base, a lever, and the brew chamber. There’s nothing extra. No frills, no bells, and no whistles.
However, this product does exactly what it says it does—lets you pull a high-quality shot of espresso using the ergonomic lever. Depending on the amount of pressure that you use, the lever might be somewhat challenging to pull. There is a bit of a learning curve, but once you have practiced a few times, you should be able to brew a consistent cup of espresso.
The Flair is made of high-quality materials. It’s mostly metal and contains little plastic. The few plastic components that it does have are FDA approved for contact with food and can be exposed to temperatures above the boiling point. The parts fit together well, and the product is sturdy.
It also looks great on your kitchen counter. It has a modern, architectural design that attracts attention without commanding it.
As I mentioned before, this espresso maker doesn’t require electricity. It also disassembles so that you can transport it easily. It comes with a portable, padded case and stores flat in your luggage, car, or briefcase. It’s easy to take apart and put together.
The product comes with an instruction manual that can help you figure out how to put it together. There are also video tutorials on the Flair website that show you how to brew with it.
You can easily insert and remove the brew head in one piece. However, the brew head itself comes apart. This is where the magic happens.
The portafilter lies at the bottom of the brew head. That’s where you place the coffee grounds. Tamp them down using the bottom of the measuring cup. You can also purchase a separate tamper for even better results. The screen goes on top of the ground coffee in the portafilter.
Hot water goes into the cylinder portion of the brew head. For the most traditional espresso, you should preheat the brew head. You can do this by submerging it in boiling or hot water.
You will need to heat the water for your espresso separately. If you want the best results, you should have a thermometer that registers the water temperature. Once you place the hot water in the cylinder, you put the piston on top. When you press the lever, it will move the piston down, which will, in turn, force water through the coffee grounds.
You’ll have to disassemble the brew head for cleaning and in between making each shot of espresso. However, it’s not hard to do.
The manufacturer explains that Flair is very easy to clean. All you have to do is rinse the components of the brew head in the sink. No other measures are necessary to maintain your Flair. That’s an advantage to many electric machines, which require more tweaking and maintenance.
Many other home espresso machines require descaling or backflushing. You don’t have to worry about these extra steps when you use the Flair.
Some users claim that it’s not easy to knock the used puck out of the machine. You can make it easier by running a second pull after you’ve brewed your first shot. It will remove the excess moisture from the puck so that it slides out better.
While you can purchase a separate tamper, the Flair comes with a multi-tasking tool that serves as a tamper if you don’t have another one. Fill the measuring cup with coffee beans to get the perfect amount of coffee for a double shot.
Use that same measuring cup, which has a flat bottom that fits into the portafilter basket, to press down on the grounds. You can also use the measuring cup upside-down to separate the piston from the cylinder when you need to clean it.
The pressure automatically adjusts depending on the force with which you pull the lever, your grind size, and your tamping technique. You will get a feel for the right amount of pressure to use as you work with the machine.
The basic Flair model doesn’t have a pressure gauge. However, the two upgraded models do. Using them can help you get a better sense of the correct pressure to use. Over time, though, you probably won’t rely on the gauge. You’ll develop the muscle memory that’s necessary for pulling the perfect shot.
When you obtain the ideal amount of pressure, you’ll create a cup of espresso with thick, buttery cream. The target shot extraction time is between 30 and 45 seconds, depending on the grind size and tamp strength.
You should know a few things about getting the right pressure with the Flair. The amount of force necessary to pull the lever will feel different when the machine is on a high surface vs. a low one. Keep that in mind if you travel with it and use it on a surface that you’re not used to.
The machine may also feel like it wants to scoot back when you pull the lever. Placing the Flair with its back against the wall can solve this problem.
The dispersion screen, which sits on top of the coffee grounds, is different depending on the Flair model that you purchase. The screen on the Pro version is stainless steel and feels sturdier than the screen on the Classic and Signature models. The less expensive versions also have a screen with a rubber gasket, which makes it hard to remove, especially when it’s hot.
The Flair comes in three models:
- The Classic
- The Signature
- The Pro
The Classic is the most basic version. This model is good-looking and simple to use. It doesn’t have a pressure gauge.
The Signature comes in a matte black or white finish. It contains a stainless steel screen and custom pressure gauge to help you brew using 6 to 9 BARs of pressure.
The Pro is the top-of-the-line model. It contains a removable spout, pressure gauge, and enhanced bottomless portafilter. It also comes in matte black, matte white, or chrome. The lever also has an added grip for better pulling action.
No matter which model you choose, you’ll get an espresso machine that is built to last. The base, post, and lever are made out of durable metal. The brewing head and aluminum press stand are covered by a 5-year warranty.
The Flair espresso machine is a no-frills product that’s perfect for people who want to pull their own espresso manually. One thing to consider is that you’ll need to spend some money on accessories, such as a grinder, water boiler, and thermometer. But you can bring the Flair with you anywhere for an authentic cup of espresso.
It’s a little hefty to transport if you want to travel light, but it gets the job done better than many other portable coffee products, such as the Aeropress, which doesn’t make true espresso.
There are a few alternatives that might suit you better if portability is your priority. The Minipresso portable espresso machine is no larger than a thermos. You can toss it in your bag to bring along with you on all of your travels. All you need to do is add hot water and press a button for a decent cup of espresso on the go.
The Staresso is similar to the Minipresso. It’s a small capsule that works in a similar fashion to a French press. It’s another portable, affordable option for a manual espresso maker. One of the added benefits of the Staresso is that you can use it with Nespresso pods.
But if you don’t need the added convenience of a purse-sized espresso machine, the Flair is a great purchase. If you’re looking for another option for a countertop manual espresso machine, though, you’ll be hard-pressed to find one that works as simply and well as the Flair.
Pulling the perfect shot of espresso is an art form. If you want to do more than push a button and have a desire to customize the espresso brewing process, Flair might be the ideal manual espresso machine for you.
If you’re looking for more convenience and want to walk away from your espresso machine while it’s brewing, you might want a more automatic model. The Flair is ideal for espresso aficionados who enjoy the hands-on process, don’t want a machine taking up a lot of space, and are interested in the craft of brewing espresso.