User Experience: Flair Signature PRO

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Jasper_8137

#1: Post by Jasper_8137 » Apr 13, 2019, 11:42 am

I originally had the flair signature and recently purchased a pro barista. Now that I've had some time with it, I thought I'd share my impressions.

I currently have my pro paired with a Kinu M47. I originally purchased the signature model for travel and had so much fun with it that I decided to try out the pro. For comparison, my home setup is a plumbed LMLM paired with a compak K10 fresh. My beans vary as I roast small batches. Currently I'm using Guatemala Antigua which I roasted to FC 4 days ago.

Regarding the flair in general, I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of shots I could pull. It was wonderful to be able to pack a bag and travel with a "makeshift" setup and produce great shots. My only complaint, is it is a bit awkward to get everything heated and timed properly. However, after practice the routine is much easier and is much more efficient.

In comparing the pro vs the signature, I think the main difference is the the pro comes with a SS portafilter, larger brew chamber (allowing larger volume of shots), SS screen, and included pressure gauge. In terms of ease of use, the pro is easier to use in general, mostly due to the ability to heat it without putting it in a separate container of water. It comes with a silicone cap that you put on the brew chamber and then can fill with water to allow it to heat while you prepare your grinds. It's really not a significant time saver compared to the flair signature, but somewhat. When pulling a shot, it is nice to have a pressure gauge initially, but after awhile, you can fairly easily gauge the optimal pressure without referencing it (as pointed out in earlier responses). The one thing that I have found different about the pro compared to the signature is that the pro's portafilter will separate from the brew chamber unless you let the pressure drop to zero at the end of the pull. I initially thought there was something wrong with my unit until I contacted flair support (which, on a side note is great - Andrew responded to me on a Sunday night). Per the support team, due to the slightly larger portafilter, more pressure can build in the portafilter and allow it to separate from the brew chamber if you don't let the pressure drop to zero. I'm not sure about this as the classic will have the same pressure and not separate. I feel like it's more due to the portafilter of the the pro being slightly more shallow with a larger diameter. That being said, I followed the advice of Andrew and let the pressure hit zero prior to letting go of the lever and have had no issues since (the portafilter still separates from the brew chamber, but only a millimeter or two and no water spills out).

Regarding taste between the two, there doesn't seem to be a discernible difference, however I'm not doing a head-to-head comparison as I already sold the signature to a fellow HB'r. It's more based on generalizations regarding what I expect a good coffee to taste like (I know, not as scientific as this audience would prefer, but it's the best I can offer at this point). Compared to my LMLM, the shots are actually quite comparable, but slightly less complexity than my LMLM - really not bad when comparing a $4500 machine to a $300 machine.

So in summary to this long and rambling post, I have been impressed with both flair models but would give a slight nod to the pro for ease of use and slightly better aesthetics.

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Moderator note: This thread was split off from the User Experience: Flair Espresso Manual Lever thread. Jasper's post in that thread was well-timed with a review we were preparing for the Bench forum. That review is now live. -- drgary
★ Helpful

vit

#2: Post by vit » Apr 14, 2019, 3:41 am

Jasper_8137 wrote: Per the support team, due to the slightly larger portafilter, more pressure can build in the portafilter and allow it to separate from the brew chamber if you don't let the pressure drop to zero. I'm not sure about this as the classic will have the same pressure and not separate. I feel like it's more due to the portafilter of the the pro being slightly more shallow with a larger diameter. That being said, I followed the advice of Andrew and let the pressure hit zero prior to letting go of the lever and have had no issues since (the portafilter still separates from the brew chamber, but only a millimeter or two and no water spills out).
Yeah, it looks like manufacturer's knowledge about how his machine is working is a bit incomplete :?

Obviously, pressure doesn't depend on the machine, but on you - it's the pressure when you ended extraction. However, force equals to pressure x area, which is higher by something like 20% on pro model due to bigger diameter. In also means you need to apply more force to the piston for the same extraction pressure on pro model. However, this still doesn't explain why cylinder wants to separate from PF on pro model :)

This wouldn't be a problem if there were only water in the brew unit. But there is usually some air between piston and water and some CO2 remained in the coffee which want to expand, pushing PF downwards and piston upwards until they expand back to atmospheric pressure

The result depends on the friction between cylinder and PF and between cylinder and the piston , where there are differences between classic and pro model. On plastic classic piston, you have one seal, while on pro model, you have two seals, so friction between piston and cylinder is higher. Also, friction between seal and plastics of the classic PF might be higher than between seal and polished steel on pro model. And of course, there are slight differences in diameter among all produced items. In my case, cylinder goes much tighter onto original PF than onto bottomless PF which I bough later. So there are several factors determining what will happen

At the end, item with less friction will move. In classic model (mine at least), it's the piston - when you end extraction, it returns up something like 1/2 cm. At that point, force produced by the pressure drops (because of gas expansion) to the friction force and it stops

Interestingly, cylinder also moves up at the beginning of extraction, by something like 1mm even on classic model. Didn't notice this until I actually filmed it. It's because grove with seal on the cylinder is a bit wider than seal. When you push the cylinder onto PF, seal slides up in the grove. When the pressure is applied to piston, this pressure acts on very small area of the upper side of the grove in the cylinder, and at the pressure of several bars, cylinder slides up until seal touch the bottom side of the grove. Maybe this doesn't happen on all classic units - it again depends on the friction between seals, so on some units, it might be that it doesn't happen, but that the seal is pushed down in the grove

Etc ...
★ Helpful

Strugs

#3: Post by Strugs » Apr 15, 2019, 3:49 pm

So does this separation happen when you try to clean up the assembly after the shot?
Sean

vit

#4: Post by vit » Apr 15, 2019, 4:33 pm

Several times actually :o

Check this video

First it goes slightly up a few seconds after beginning (pos 7:08) until seal is at the bottom of its grove as I mentioned. It's minor
Then it continues going up at the front around the middle of extraction (around pos 7:30) because of lots of friction in the roller which has no bearing. That's also the reason for several loud cracks later on when it realigns. In severe case of one of our members, it actually disassembled at that point in very unpleasant way.
Finally it goes up again, together with the piston, at the end of the shot when the lever is released, pos 7:48, but the guy pressed it again and (over)extracted some more coffee, to avoid cylinder popping off at 7:56

On classic model, only first of these 3 anomalies happen. At the end, just the piston goes up, cylinder doesn't move

Strugs

#5: Post by Strugs » Apr 15, 2019, 5:48 pm

vit wrote: In severe case of one of our members, it actually disassembled at that point in very unpleasant way.
Yeesh. That doesn't sound very good. I have been looking for a cost effective way to make a proper shot at work and thought the Flair might fit the bill, but now....


Anyway - thanks for the info.
Sean

vit

#6: Post by vit » Apr 15, 2019, 6:18 pm

Well, classic model is fine at about half the price of pro model ...

Jasper_8137

#7: Post by Jasper_8137 » Apr 16, 2019, 12:01 am

Strugs wrote:Yeesh. That doesn't sound very good. I have been looking for a cost effective way to make a proper shot at work and thought the Flair might fit the bill, but now....


Anyway - thanks for the info.
Actually, the separation (on the pro) is only a millimeter or two at the end of the shot and is not an issue whatsoever, you just have to let pressure hit zero before letting go of the lever.
I really do like the flair and prefer the pro over the classic, it just takes some practice.

Jasper_8137

#8: Post by Jasper_8137 » Apr 16, 2019, 12:13 am

vit wrote:Several times actually :o

Check this video

First it goes slightly up a few seconds after beginning (pos 7:08) until seal is at the bottom of its grove as I mentioned. It's minor
Then it continues going up at the front around the middle of extraction (around pos 7:30) because of lots of friction in the roller which has no bearing. That's also the reason for several loud cracks later on when it realigns. In severe case of one of our members, it actually disassembled at that point in very unpleasant way.
Finally it goes up again, together with the piston, at the end of the shot when the lever is released, pos 7:48, but the guy pressed it again and (over)extracted some more coffee, to avoid cylinder popping off at 7:56

On classic model, only first of these 3 anomalies happen. At the end, just the piston goes up, cylinder doesn't move
The "pop" in the video happened on mine for the first 1-2 shots, then went away - no issues since. I believe this was the case with other users as well.
You can see the separation of the cylinder and portafilter at the end of the shot, but again doesn't result in any issues. Of note, the guy in the video does many things wrong, like pumping the lever at the end, so I wouldn't take too much from the video as technique was poor and not indicative of true functionality.

Jasper_8137

#9: Post by Jasper_8137 » Apr 16, 2019, 12:24 am

Here is a picture of the separation...Image

vit

#10: Post by vit » Apr 16, 2019, 1:21 am

Jasper_8137 wrote:Of note, the guy in the video does many things wrong, like pumping the lever at the end, so I wouldn't take too much from the video as technique was poor and not indicative of true functionality.
Yeah, technique of his first shot was far from ideal (as expected)
Let's hope that manufacturer will improve things that are in need of improvement ...