Flair 58 Review

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Alchemist

#1: Post by Alchemist »

I have and have been using the Flair 58 for the last 2.5 months so I think a review is in order.

I don't think I would make a good fiction writer as my wont is to say screw the foreshadowing and build up....so on that, my final conclusion, minor issues noted, is this: I freaking love it. Now let's get into it along with a little history.

I found the Flair before it was a thing. IIRC it was on Kickstarter and before it funded I reached out to Sergio about it. He graciously sent me one to kick the proverbial tires. I did a pretty in depth review and made multiple suggestions to Sergio where I saw issues, the biggest being the screens that kept the puck intact and let you pull actual espresso. The final result I found an improvement, but at the end of the day, it didn't end up staying on my counter due to the work flow just being too different from any other manual espresso machine.

Fast forward to now, and the 58 is still on the counter, getting daily use, and the workflow (and espresso) are awesome. So let's jump in to the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

The Good:

* I LOVE it is a 58 mm. The shorter filter bed just makes it all go so smoothly.
* The leverage is the BEST of ANY lever I have used. The length and T handle are fantastic.
* It is great how easily it goes together and love the inclusion of an allen wrench.
* Simplicity and muscle memory. It now acts like any other espresso machine from the standpoint of routine.
* It is fantastic how well the heating works and makes the workflow so much smoother.
* I like the grounds screen. That said, a mention in the instructions of the intent on how to use it would have been nice. Andrew (Sergio's #1) had to give a directions on how to make use of it because at first my pucks were way to soupy to make it worthwhile. After getting a dry puck
it is a dream to use.

The Bad (not real bad of course)

* Don't like the basket being straight. I get this is mostly a person choice but I prefer the taste of shots with a slightly tapered basket. Happily those fit in just fine.
* Would prefer a switch instead of a push button so I could turn it on via a timer in the morning but it isn't bad given water has to boil before I can use it so it has time to heat up.
* The water chamber rotates every time I remove the portafilter. I've since discovered there was a loose set screw but having to hunt down an allen wrench when another was included is definitely a negative. Also a mention in the directions would have been nice.
* I was surprised the designed was changed so the tray sits on the counter and not the base like the original. Now when or if it slides a little, the brew head moves away from my cup.
* As a minor bit, at first I could not get the water in the chamber above 203 F, even on the high setting and using boiling water. There are
certainly some coffees I prefer at 204-205 and couldn't ever quite get there. I wonder if that upper temperature could be nudged just a
little higher. I've since taken to a minor additional pre-heat. I have a tendency to make americanos so just running a chamber's worth of boiling water through the system into my cup worked great and then I could hit 204-205 on the high setting.
* I REALLY loved how the Original Flair slip fit together. It made taking it on a trip much simpler. This one with the upright being secured by bolts makes it a little less portable, but only a little since I just put it in a box now, along with my other coffee gear when in car travel.

The Ugly

* OMG the green lights are blinding. I'm surprised they are not red to go with the rest of the color scheme. I mean, that are really
brutal. It is like glancing at the sun with the after image.
* The wood inserts in my handle fell out in shipping and it was a day before I realized they were even missing. It took me seeing a photo
online to notice. I found them in the box.
* Would love a light and mirror since the effort was made to make it a naked portafilter. As a thought, I wonder if the lights on the power box could be mounted on the upright to do double duty as a light to the underside of the basket. It seems it would fit nicely.

That was basically the review I sent over to Sergio and Andrew. Going backwards, they let me know the green lights of blindness will be changed on the next iteration. And the wood inserts were a QC issue and also totally being addressed. And they have available a mirror with ring light attached. My only real 'want' now is that the rubber catch mat was on the base and not my counter as in the original.

A few other detail. The low, medium and high heat setting on the group head work very consistently to give me a brew water temperature of 198 F, 200 and 202 when not preheated and 200, 202-203 and 204-205 F when pre-heated with boiling water.

Going back to the basket screen, contrary to many youtube reviews that talked about it increasing backpressure and requiring a coarser grind, that 100% was not my experience. I found if anything it required a finer grind to obtain the same pressure/time profile. I can only surmise it reduced channeling and lead to a more even puck saturation.

This is what my routine looks like for using the Flair 58.

Turn on high and set my kettle to boil, with just enough water to make my drink. In the time it takes me to grind my coffee, distribute, tamp, spritz down the puck (thanks James Hoffman) and set the lovely weighted puck screen, the water is boiling and the group head heater is up to temperature. It is really that fast. I then pour one chamber full of boiling water in and let it drain into my cup (with the screen there are of course no grounds to get in my cup from a previous shot). I lock in my portafilter and top up the chamber. On the high setting the very top of the chamber boils a little BUT the overall temperature is 204 for me. I set in the piston (which never gets too hot), lock it in place with slight CCW twist, hook the swivel plunger and gentle start my pull, with just enough pressure to register on the pressure gauge (oh, I've not mentioned that - Damn I love the pressure gauge) until I see the first hint of the espresso...and then I let off to allow a longish pre-soak. After about 10 seconds I start my real pull and ramp up my pressure to 8-9 bar. I again have to wax poetic about the T handle and how the lever is by far the best leverage I've EVER had on a lever machine. There is not the slightest hint of it wanting to tip. I generally pull to 23-25 seconds. When I hit the stage of blonding I want (I have my own mirror and light), I pull up on the handle to stop the flow. I remove my cup, insert another and give the lever usually two more pulls until the puck is blowing out airy foam. At that point I unlock the portafilter, invert it and the the filter screen just falls out easily and I can then tap out my bone dry puck.

And that is it.

Questions and/or comments?
John Nanci
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Brewzologist
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#2: Post by Brewzologist »

Thank you John! Good to have something more than Youtube videos! Some questions for you:

1) Some early comments suggest a fair amount of frame "flex" with the 58 as the shot is pulled, perhaps more than other Flair models. Did you note any of this?

2) Did you try a longer pre-heat to see if that helped you get to 204-5F (versus using your boiling water pour-through trick)? Also, did you preheat with the PF in place?

3) Have you done any experiments with lungo shots? Curious what ratios you've been able to achieve.

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Alchemist (original poster)

#3: Post by Alchemist (original poster) » replying to Brewzologist »

1) Flex? Not in the least. Literally none. I've no idea how people could be seeing flex.
2) Yes, I tend to keep it on all day and it is consistent. And yes, always with the PF in place. That said, it does take 15-30 minutes for the PF to get hot but I've honestly not noticed a difference in my cup.
3) I have, although I've not done any calculations. Sorry.
John Nanci
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makspyat

#4: Post by makspyat »

Given the manual nature of the lever, how repeatable / consistent are your shots!? Are you able to hit the same yield & time, time after time, or is this less important for the taste in lever machines, than in pump machines?

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Alchemist (original poster)

#5: Post by Alchemist (original poster) » replying to makspyat »

From a taste and pull perspective they are as consistent as my ability to pull consistently. I know ratio and yield are all the rage right now, and as a scientist I can appreciate it, but I also just don't feel the need to look at it when I find the tastes are to my liking. Know what I mean? That all said, once I dial in, I find I'm not having to go back and change how I pull, what grind I'm at to achieve the same eyeballed volume (based on lever stroke) in the same time. Does that answer your question?
John Nanci
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LMWDP #013

pupperino714
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#6: Post by pupperino714 »

Alchemist,

I'm a Flair 58 owner as well. Had mine for nearly a month! Re your temps: where are you measuring? The bottom of the brewhead is significantly varied from the top--closer to the heating element. I wonder if that's your discrepancy.

For the trip tray, I would really just get rid of it and sit your scale on the counter, then the cup. Sliding eliminated. I've seen 205 with boiling water and highest temp setting. Though I do pour through a full brewhead's-worth of boiling water, for a quick pre-heat, so I can have my first coffee that little bit quicker.

YeetSkeeterson

#7: Post by YeetSkeeterson »

I have been experimenting with the 15g dose, 6-7 bar pressure, at 15 second pulls, and the repeatability is basically clone-like, I think this will apply to all levers with a shower screen and/or paper filter. I'd like to try a 58 at some point but with the OE-1 on the horizon, it's so hard to choose.

Here's the popular Hoffman video : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BoYBLn9hRqs

And the scientific paper it references : https://www.cell.com/action/consumeShar ... %253D%253D

I find that lever machines, especially my Robot, are utterly perfect for this technique. They don't seem to squirt as much as traditional electric machines when performing this technique. I use the shower screen and a paper filter.

The technique makes specific notes shine, fruits, mid-notes. There's slightly less bass and body but the wonderful character presence makes up for it. With the heat management of the 58 I think it could be some of the best shots sub $5-$10k level. The final variable is of course, the coffee itself.

RayD

#8: Post by RayD »

Thank you for this John! I've been eyeing the 58 since it was announced; I used the Flair pro for quite a while, got sick of the process, and ended up finding a used Silvia locally and used that for a couple months. I quickly got sick of the Silvia (I don't like temperature surfing, and I found that slamming the puck with 9 bars (?) of pressure just led to a really inconsistent process), so I pulled the Flair pro out again. It's now paired with my new grinder and I'm loving the consistently great espresso, but that process...it's good to hear that it's gotten better with the 58. Basket size and the pre-heating process were certainly the low hanging fruit to improve an already very capable machine in my opinion. I was intent on getting my hands on a 58 when there available here in Taiwan but now I'm always watching the development of the OE-1 and the Londinium Compact. I hope all is well in the warehouse, I miss being there and spending time with you; good to hear the coffee passion is still strong! :D

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Alchemist (original poster)

#9: Post by Alchemist (original poster) »

pupperino714 wrote:Alchemist,

I'm a Flair 58 owner as well. Had mine for nearly a month! Re your temps: where are you measuring? The bottom of the brewhead is significantly varied from the top--closer to the heating element. I wonder if that's your discrepancy.

For the trip tray, I would really just get rid of it and sit your scale on the counter, then the cup. Sliding eliminated. I've seen 205 with boiling water and highest temp setting. Though I do pour through a full brewhead's-worth of boiling water, for a quick pre-heat, so I can have my first coffee that little bit quicker.
I guess that could be the discrepancy and I'm using a probe that I'm inserting all the way to the screen.

What I think I'll be doing is putting in a couple four posts on the base to set the drip tray on. I do the same as you with a brewhead full of boiling water.
John Nanci
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LMWDP #013

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sosha
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#10: Post by sosha »

Hey John....I too am a Flair 58 owner. I had some initial issues with the temp setting unit, but they quickly got me a new one, and I was off and running.

IMHO, the t-lever itself is the star of the machine. The design is perfect, and the pressure gauge is at an optimal level to watch during brewing. It's easy to get that lovely syrupy shot that I love.

I agree the tray is a bit of a mystery. Someone with 3D printing skills could create a better one, with a cut-out for an açaia scale.
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