After having amazing espresso everyday in Italy for 2 weeks, I needed a good espresso fix when I came back to the states. I bought the Flair and after a LOT of trial and error (went through 2lbs of coffee beans in less than 10 days), I've finally arrived at a great cup of espresso. Here's my process and some tips that I've discovered:
Equipment: Flair, Capresso Infinity Burr Grinder, food scale, LaVazza Super Crema Coffee Beans
1. Boil filtered water in kettle
2. Grind 18g of coffee beans at 3 clicks from the finest setting on Capresso Infinity
3. Evenly distribute grounds in portafilter and tamp HARD. Put on shower screen.
4. Heat stainless steel barrel and cup in nearly boiling water (>205F) for at least 30 secs to 1 min
5. Dump water in cup. Put stainless steel barrel on portafilter.
6. Immediately pour water into barrel up to etched line.
7. Immediately put piston in
8. Pull lever enough so that water seeps into grounds but not enough where espresso starts to come out. Pre-infuse grounds for 5 seconds.
9. Pull lever firmly and with consistent pressure. It shouldn't take a lot of effort, but it shouldn't feel like a hot knife cutting through butter in a second. It should take roughly 20-30 seconds. There shouldn't be sputtering.
10. Viola. A great double shot of espresso. When I finally got a great cup, it tasted better than a single shot from a cafe in the area using a La Marzocco.
The places where I saw the greatest improvement were:
1. Get that stainless steel barrel hot! If it's not hot, you're going to get sour espresso because it'll under extract.
2. Pre-infuse for 5 seconds. I perfected everything else but was still getting sour espresso. That meant I was under extracting so pre-infusing did the trick.
3. Tamp HARD. I experimented with tamping (light vs hard) and occasionally I might get a great cup with a smaller dosage, but it was never consistent. I'd love to get my dosage down to 14-16g so I'm not over-caffeinating myself, but right now, the sweet spot is 18g for me. I might have to get a better grinder to go with less.
4. Use water that's over 205F. Water temp management was the trickiest part. Going hotter (> 205F) was consistently better than going colder (195-205F).
What I LOVE about the Flair:
- Flair is cheap relative to other espresso machines (though I haven't tried ROK) that produce high quality espresso.
- Relatively easy to clean and I would guess it's going to last a long time. Quality parts.
- Great espresso once process is fine tuned.
What I don't like about the Flair:
- It's very TIME CONSUMING! Once I perfected the process, I timed how long it takes: 9 minutes and 45 seconds for the first cup and 11 minutes 16 seconds for the second cup (I have an additional portafilter so it takes roughly 1.5 minutes to make the 2nd cup after the 1st one). When I factor in the cleanup, it was 16.5 minutes for the entire process to make 2 cups (double shots).
- I can't make a single shot and the double shot requires 18g of coffee beans. A typical double shot for an espresso machine is 14g. I tried doing 14g and failed, but at this point, I'm just going to live with 18g until I feel like experimenting again.
- Does anyone have experience with the Rancilio Silvia? I'm thinking about getting that to save time. I'd like to get a quality comparison of espresso between the Silvia vs. Flair. As much as I like the Flair now, I think the Rancilio might be worth the extra $485 to save 30 mins a day. I'm looking at the Rancilio because I want a brass boiler. I almost bought a Gaggia classic but realized it had an aluminum boiler.
- Anyone able to get their dosage down to 14g-16g on the Flair and still make a great cup? I've noticed that I have to grind finer and without a better grinder, it's tough to get right.