First Espresso Adventure - Flair 58?

Recommendations for buyers and upgraders from the site's members.
Elemsee

#1: Post by Elemsee »

I am keen to get into the espresso world, and start with a machine that is capable of great results. I currently have a C40 grinder and would likely add red clix.

I am wondering - should I pull the trigger on a Flair 58, or are there "better" options for a similar price point (including non-manual or used options) ?

For context:
- As a beginner to espresso, I think the Flair 58 will be a really helpful and fun machine to learn from, since it offers so much manual control, adjustability, and also transparency into how pressure can impact output.
- I'm operating under the assumption the Flair 58 can produce amazing espresso (with a great grinder and great coffee of course)
- while I'm excited to experiment , I would not find joy in buying a machine and then needing to add modifications to it to bump up the quality of espresso it makes - that seems like a rabbit hole I'd find daunting, so I'm thinking I should shy away from a similarly priced machine , but maybe I'm putting too much weight on needing to modify machines from watching mr Hoffman and other notable experts discuss the budget friendly options

So, with all of this in mind, does it sound like the Flair 58 will be my best option? Or are there similarly priced machines I should consider (new or used & non-manual or something like a Pavoni) that would make my world easier ?

Thanks so much !

Jeff
Team HB

#2: Post by Jeff »

I consider the Robot (which I own) and probably the Flair 58 (which I haven't tried) to be great choices for beginning enthusiast or expert. The Robot can pull great shots from medium (typical, US-style "drip") and darker roasts ("espresso" roasts) with little effort, and lighter roasts with some attention to temperature management. The Flair 58, with its assistive heater might be a bit easier with pulling some light US-style or "Nordic" roasts.

If you're willing to go "hands on", then either of those, in my opinion, can more easily, repeatedly, and reliably produce better espresso than a Silvia-class machine.

Frothed milk is available with something as simple as a $15-class, battery-operated frother, or any number of approaches, up through a Bellman steamer (stovetop).

As a personal preference, I'd probably still buy the Robot over the Flair 58 because it is simpler and, well, has a certain retro cuteness to it (also, Paul Pratt, the designer and maker, "knows a thing or two" about vintage machines). I think it is also a bit less expensive than the Flair.

The La Pavoni manual machines are classics. Sort of like a 1960s British sports car, they've got a certain appeal to them, but need to be driven with just the right touches. My feeling is that the Robot or the Flair 58 are probably easier to learn on and will provide at least as good a result in the cup.

There may be a moderately priced spring-lever machine coming down the road in a year or so, that some of us are gambling just under $1,000 each on. Key word, "gambling". Nobody I know has used the under-development Odyssey Espresso (Argos Lever prototype)

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Elemsee (original poster)

#3: Post by Elemsee (original poster) »

Thanks so much! Super helpful. Now I'm really really torn between the Robot and Flair 58. To your point, there is something very pleasing about the build of the Robot, and I've heard only great things.

User avatar
BuzzedLightyear

#4: Post by BuzzedLightyear »

I'm a huge flair fan. It blows away my Rancilio Silvia and is way more consistent


You don't need the 58 model for amazing mind blowing espresso...the base signature r model with the optional pressure gauge is all you need.

The flair Facebook group is super resourceful for info as well

mikelipino

#5: Post by mikelipino »

One thing that I'm not sure is addressed in the update to the Flair 58 is that the cleanup and reset process is much cleaner and quicker on the Robot. It's just a wipedown of the basket and you're off to a second shot whereas on the original Flair (and I think the 58) there are more parts and perhaps some leftover water to deal with. This is the video I referred to when I was making my decision between the Robot and the Flair.

Jeff is right that a Flair/Robot is a great place to start especially if you're more on the espresso side than the milk drink side. Another option for steamed milk is the "Robot Dual Boiler" approach: find a cheap espresso machine at Goodwill or an auction site and fire it up just for milk steaming. I'm doing that with a Gevi that has a proper non-Panarello steam arm, just to learn the basics of milk steaming and for the 10% of the time I want a flat white rather than an espresso.

evan

#6: Post by evan »

I've been making "cappuccino" with a $50 electric burr grinder, and aero press and a 1990s Krups "espresso maker" used only for steaming milk. I make "small strong coffee" with a fine grind and a 20 - 25 gram "puck" tamped between two paper filters and extract about 3 oz of coffee, with quite a lot of pressure on the press (> 50 lbs, maybe 45 seconds to extract). I made it my mission to make the best coffee I could make with this setup. But, channeling Douglass Adams, this process is doomed to yield a beverage almost, but not completely unlike espresso. It makes a decent if not gourmet quality cappuccino.

I'm going to replace the Aero Press with a Robot and the $50 grinder with a DF64 shortly. I've wanted to make real espresso for a while, but have been put off by the complexity, size & fiddle factor of the equipment. The light bulb moment for me was discovering that the Robot has an even simpler/faster work flow than my aero press.... The Krups steamer can stick around for a while, it seems fine for my purposes.

Jonk

#7: Post by Jonk »

The pre-heat routine with a Robot can be as simple as filling a cup with water and immersing the piston in it. By the time you're done grinding, distributing and tamping you just take away the cup and wipe the piston. Chances are you're done with the shot and clean-up before a Flair 58 is ready to start a pull. So there's simplicity and speed in that as well. There's no heating element or controller that can fail, basically just one gasket to replace every other year or so.

While I am tempted by the options of different baskets and some extra temperature control provided with a Flair 58, I'd say a Robot is perfect for beginners because it's a bit limited. There's no need to worry about what basket/tamper/distributor and so on to use. There will probably only be one or two settings on the Comandante that you'll want to use and pretty soon you'd be making very good shots with the limitations you have.

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Elemsee (original poster)

#8: Post by Elemsee (original poster) »

Great points - there is certainly value in simplicity and less variables to need to consider. Really wish I could try each of these out!

Is the waiting for the heating element to power the main cause for the flair 58 having a lengthier workflow compared to the Robot?

evan

#9: Post by evan »

I don't think it's even theoretically possible to create a simpler/faster work flow vs the Robot :) . We'll see, mine shows up tomorrow. At the moment I'm mostly into darker roasts, so I don't even think I'll need to preheat.

Jonk

#10: Post by Jonk »

Elemsee wrote:Is the waiting for the heating element to power the main cause for the flair 58 having a lengthier workflow compared to the Robot?
Yes. Of course, 10 minutes for the heat to stabilize is still fast compared to most capable machines. 30-60 minutes is not uncommon.

If you would get both to try out, I don't think you'd have to sell the one you decide not to keep for much less. They're both popular devices.