Flair Espresso Maker Review

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drgary
Team HB

Postby drgary » Mar 31, 2018, 3:10 pm

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Flair Espresso Maker Review by Dominick O'Dierno and Gary Seeman

Introduction

The concept of the Flair Espresso Maker isn't new. Pourover piston espresso machines were introduced in 1950 but soon went out of fashion, so it's great to have modern versions. We like the Flair a lot, and here's why.

    It works. You can brew excellent espresso from dark to light roast levels. Gary tried it with a Nordic roasted Ethiopian that requires a hot brew temperature. Although this was its upper limit, the Flair was equal to the task.

    Great value. The price of the basic model is $159.99 at the time of this review, and you'll brew much better espresso with the Flair, consistently, than with far more expensive machines. The company currently offers free shipping in the USA.

    It's well made. The brewing components fit together well, and the lever mechanism and stand are solid. Some components are plastic, but they work, so for this price we have no complaints.

    It's pretty. The Flair is a sleek and elegant Star Trek rendition of the traditional lever espresso design. And the Signature model for $199.99 is even more attractive, rendered in polished two-tone metal. It's currently available in chrome and black versions.

    Brewing is fast. There's no boiler to bring up to temperature, and the brew group doesn't overheat. You can make multiple shots fast, especially if you buy an extra portafilter that comes with its own shower screen for $14.99 or with a bundled package.

    It's very portable. The Flair disassembles and comes with a portable case so it stores flat.

    It's durable. The cast metal of the lever and base won't wear out soon, nor will the stainless steel cylinder, portafilter or shower screen. The plastic piston has been revised for more durability with a metal cap on top.

    It's easy to use. While testing it Gary found himself looking forward to brewing a quick shot with the Flair instead of waiting for his La Pavoni to come up to temperature. We both like the tamp-though dosing funnel which adds to overall ease of use.

    High quality, affordable accessories and parts. These include a weighty stainless steel tamper that can be purchased, and a heavy stainless steel piston. O-rings and such are very inexpensive compared to most other lever machines that require more elaborate seals.

The Flair isn't perfect. There were minor fit and finish issues with the Signature model that we'll detail below. But none of these interferes with its functionality. The Flair is a straight shot-puller that doesn't steam. But with an independent source of hot water, a thermometer, and a good grinder, it does make real espresso.

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HB Team Members Dominick O'Dierno and Gary Seeman both raised our hands to review the Flair Espresso Maker, so we're working together on this review. After the introduction, this Bench review will be followed by these posts:


Soon, a summary will be posted in our Reviews section.[/i]
Gary
LMWDP#308

What I WOULD do for a good cup of coffee!

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drgary
Team HB

Postby drgary » Apr 01, 2018, 11:58 pm

What's in the Box

We each received a Flair Chrome Signature bundle with an added stainless steel piston. The company offers a more basic model, several bundles, and a black version of the Signature model. Since our review they are equipping Signature models with a revised portafilter where the bottom can be removed for easier cleaning.

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Flair Signature Chrome Bundle in Case

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Flair Signature Chrome Bundle with Added Steel Piston, Unpacked

The Flair comes with a quick start instruction sheet that explains its use. There's also a video on the Flair website for the same purpose.

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Gary
LMWDP#308

What I WOULD do for a good cup of coffee!

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drgary
Team HB

Postby drgary » Apr 02, 2018, 12:12 am

Brewing with the Flair

Work Flow. Assembling the Flair is quick and easy. Place the base on the counter. Insert the lever support into the base. Insert the drip tray. Flair provides a set screw and hex key to firmly attach the lever to the base. Although the set screw provides extra stability, you can still pull shots without inserting it.

This image of the brew group components shows how it all goes together.

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Brew group components from bottom upward are the portafilter, dispersion screen, cylinder, and piston.

Additional Items You'll Need

You'll need a way to heat water, tongs for removing brew components from boiling water, a good grinder, some way to measure temperature of your brew water, and a scale for weighing grounds and shots.

Gear we used.

    Grinder. Dominick used a Kafatek Monolith Flat for light roasts and single origins and an Orphan Espresso Lido E hand grinder for primarily Italian dark-roasted coffees in the office. Gary used a Fiorenzato Doge Conico grinder, which is equivalent to his Orphan Espresso Pharos in grind quality and style. He tried a Trosser vintage box grinder that works well with an Arrarex Caravel espresso machine but wouldn't adjust fine enough for the Flair. This doesn't rule out using other hand grinders that are espresso-capable. The user experience thread documents many grinders that have been successfully used.

    Kettle. Gary used a Bonavita 1L gooseneck PID kettle for brew water. Both used simple pots or kettles for heating water to the boil. Dominick used a styrofoam cup for immersing the brew cylinder in water from a hot water tap in an office industrial coffee machine and found it sufficient for brew dark roasts. At home Dominick used a Fino kettle with the cylinder directly inserted inside to preheat it. Any pot or kettle will work that heats water to the boil and has room for a brew cylinder or two.

    Scale. Similarly any scale will suffice if it goes measures to the tenth of a gram. Dominick found the Fast Weigh MS-600 Digital Pocket Scale to be the best for use with the Flair as it fits well on the drip tray. It is also small and fits easily inside the carrying case with everything else.

    Piston -- Steel or Plastic? Both of us quickly settled on the plastic piston. It preserves heat better and without requiring pre-heating as Dominick demonstrates later. Flair offers a steel piston for those who want to avoid plastic in the brew path. There's been extensive discussion of that topic in the user thread.

Gary's Quick Brew Method. Preheat the cylinder in boiling water. While it's heating, fill the supplied measuring cup nearly to the top with fresh coffee beans and grind them into a small cup. Attach the supplied dosing funnel to the top of the portafilter. Transfer most of the ground coffee into the portafilter and level it by tapping the portafilter on the counter. With the dosing funnel still attached, use the bottom of the measuring cup to tamp. Add the remaining coffee to the top of the coffee bed and tamp again. I really like the steel tamper upgrade, but the measuring cup also serves as a tamper, keeping in mind that for lever espresso you don't need to tamp extremely hard. Seal the top of the portafilter with the dispersion screen. Remove the heated cylinder from boiling water using tongs and position it above the portafilter. The silicone around the cylinder will quickly be cool enough to grip it by hand and slide it onto the portafilter. Place the portafilter and cylinder on the Flair's brewing platform. Position a demitasse cup on the drip tray underneath on the drip tray. Add hot water to the fill line. Slightly tilt the brew group to insert the piston. Place one hand on the front of the base to hold it steady and use the other hand to engage the lever. Gently press until you feel resistance and continue gentle pressure for about 10 seconds to fully wet the coffee. Then pull through.

You'll need to grind the coffee fine enough so it resists your pull for about 25 seconds. You don't need to time this exactly, but you'll want to grind coarse enough to produce crema (a buttery coffee foam), and fine enough so the coffee cake resists the lever press and brews under pressure. Avoid pushing so hard it feels like a lot of effort, letting the leverage do most of the work. This process is especially easy for someone used to a manual lever espresso machine. If you're a beginner with manual levers, read the post after the next one.

When I was starting I weighed the beans on an inexpensive battery-powered scale and found that I can get about 16.5 gm packed into the portafilter. For lighter roasts I would use less coffee and grind it finer. But with my grinder dialed in for the Flair, I simply dosed to the top and adjusted pressure on the lever for the desired flow rate. The results have been very tasty.

Cleanup. Dominick notes that the brew chamber can retain pressure, so opening it quickly may cause more spillage than you expect. It's best to clean the cylinder over a sink or a large knockbox. Knock out the puck, give it a rinse, and you're ready to make another shot.

Fine-Tuning with Dominick's Brew Method

Preheating. Pretty much all coffees require preheating the cylinder, so let's start there. I tried a variety of preheat methods from the cylinder being immersed in boiling water to having it steam heated by sitting atop a kettle. The most effective way to preheat the cylinder I've found was to directly boil the cylinder in water for a couple of minutes while going about the shot prep. This method requires using tongs to retrieve the cylinder from the boiling water, which adds another item to your travel kit. For darker roasts and Italian blends, simply having the cylinder sit in a glass of very hot water for a few minutes seemed to work well enough.

Piston choice. I use the plastic piston pretty much exclusively. There was no advantage to the steel piston other than aesthetics and the fact it is likely to last longer than the plastic ones. In day-to-day use I found the stainless steel piston to be a bit of a hassle compared to the plastic one because the steel piston requires preheating and the plastic one doesn't.

Shot prep. I usually dose my shot between 12.5 to 14 gm. I can fit 16 gm into the portafilter with some coffees, but with this machine and my chosen shot pulling technique I prefer the taste of shots pulled with a dose of 14 gm or less.

After grinding and tamping I attach the shower screen and check on the cylinder. By now the water should be at a fast boil.

Using tongs I remove the cylinder from the boiling water and place it on top of the portafilter, taking care to not burn myself. I then quickly put the cylinder on its perch, add a cup and scale underneath, and start pouring boiling water from the kettle into the cylinder until it reaches the full line. I add the piston and then pull down with the lever slowly and steadily so it takes about 5 seconds to feel full pressure in the chamber. Once the stream is solidly formed I try to keep it at about 1 gm per second pour rate into the cup, achieved through my extremely scientific method of counting seconds while watching the scale readout.

Now I taste the coffee. With the Flair the coffee is usually either balanced or unbalanced toward acidity. If it is too acidic I either drop the dose or grind finer. If it flowed quickly, i grind finer for the next shot. If it flowed slowly i will drop the dose by a gram or so for the next shot.

A note on choked shots Since the Flair requires a somewhat coarse grind I found I would choke it more often than my other levers because I was switching between them so often. If you choke the Flair do not simply try to power through it. There is a warning label right on the lever not to exceed a certain force. What you can do instead is "clutch" the shot to get it flowing again. Basically let go of the lever to relieve all the pressure you were applying and let the puck expand a bit, then slowly reapply pressure. The flow will pick up and you can save the shot this way without putting undue stress on your machine. You may need to clutch it a couple times. I first saw this technique applied in person by Jim Schulman on a commercial Faema lever, so it works for all levers in general, including the Flair. Obviously you will want to grind coarser for the next shot.

A note on feeling pressure. leverage is an important factor when using this machine. When placed on a lower surface, 40 lbs of downward force will feel easier than 40 lbs on a higher surface. So keep that in mind if you travel with it.

Another note on applying pressure The Flair is a very light machine compared to the downward force you are applying on the lever to brew the shot. Some of this force is is transferred to the base in such a way that it wants to scoot backward while you are pulling the shot. If the surface is low enough that you have good leverage you and simply hold the base with one hand and push down on the lever with the other. If you have to use the Flair on a surface that is rather high, the Flair will want to scoot back on you more, and you may need two hands on the lever to generate adequate force. In this case simply put the Flair so that its back is braced against the wall behind it so it has nowhere to slide. The following video was made without the base screw inserted. Inserting the screw eliminates the wobble between the base and the stand, but it still works when quickly set up without it.



Dominick's Prep Adjustments for an Office Environment. Part of my review included daily use at my office. My office currently has a "no electronic appliances" rule. I had to take my beloved Cremina home in September, so it was a good opportunity to see if I could put the Flair through its paces in the kitchenette area to get my espresso fix at work.

The first obstacle was the lack of boiling water. The industrial coffee machine installed there has a hot water tap that delivers fairly hot water, but there is no stove or kettle for bringing water to a boil; therefore I had to improvise. I took to preheating the cylinder with water from the spout. It was hot enough to require using its silicone sleeve to hold it. I put the cylinder in a large styrofoam cup and completely submerged it with hot water. Then I started prepping the shot. To get brew water hot enough I took water from the hot water spout and microwaved it. Heating water to the boil in a microwave can be dangerous because it can superheat without boiling. Try to avoid it at all costs. If you are going to risk the burns of having boiling water explode all over you then there are some precautions you can take to eliminate the risk; basically you need to break the surface tension to allow the water to boil off properly. A wooden stick in the cup of water is a good way to do this. Also, when you open the microwave prod the glass with a long chopstick or something before reaching your hand in there to grab it.

Even so, I chose to stick with mostly dark roasts at the office. The preheat, while helpful, couldn't get the brew temperature high enough to work well with medium or light roasts, so I chose my coffees to work within these limitations. I took this opportunity to practice with some of the more popular Italian import coffees, namely Kimbo Superior, Miscela D'Oro, Bristot, etc. I also dropped the dose to 12.5g to help the extraction.

I found the results rather enjoyable. The body wasn't quite as thick, the crema was a bit lighter than normal for these blends, but the chocolates came out nicely with a hint of a fermented fruit-type acidity (Miscela D'Oro took on a more vanilla flavor with these parameters).

I was happy to have drinkable espresso again at my office.
Gary
LMWDP#308

What I WOULD do for a good cup of coffee!

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drgary
Team HB

Postby drgary » Apr 04, 2018, 2:03 am

Dominick's Taste Impressions

Continuing from my final comments from this last section, I think the Flair does very well with Italian blends. It brings forward some of the best qualities of those beans while muting any harshness sometimes associated with that style. It can bring out some acidity that previously seemed non-existent, however, so if that's a concern, make sure you have a source of boiling water for preheating properly.

I generally found that lighter roasted coffees had good flavor separation but the body took on a very light, almost fluffy quality, and the flavors were a hint sweeter but not nearly as intense as the same coffee brewed on my President or Cremina. I also had to grind much coarser for the Flair than my other machines. I found myself gravitating toward the more medium roast coffees with the Flair.

The favorite coffee I used with the Flair was a medium roast Ethiopia Sidamo from Wilson's Coffee and Tea. Blueberry notes are normally associated with Harrar coffees, but the Flair consistently bought out blueberry bombs with this coffee.

Gary's Taste Impressions

I found a similar fluffy mouthfeel and light body brewing with the Flair compared to most of my other levers, including a vintage Cremina, several versions of La Pavoni Europiccola, my Conti Prestina, and my Olympia Express Coffex (rebranded Maximatic) pump machine that can deliver an especially dense and buttery shot. Mouthfeel with the Flair most closely resembles what I get with my Arrarex Caravel where I control temperature with a PID. In comparison the Caravel delivers a smaller shot and can deliver somewhat stronger flavors. The Flair did provide good flavor separation.

I didn't pull anything but home roasts, so I can't comment on coffees you can buy, but like Dominick I found that dark roasts were softened with more acidity coming forward in a pleasant way. I'm encouraged that if pressed for fresh coffee on a road trip I could buy q popular Italian blend and give it a try.

My first test of the Flair out of the box was with an Ethiopia Kochere washed coffee that was home roasted in a light, Nordic style. I did everything I could to maximize heat in the brewing process, preheating the steel cylinder (I later learned that didn't make much difference), using near boiling water from my PID kettle, grinding fine, downdosing, and pulling fairly hard. I was delighted to be able to brew that coffee successfully. Could I fine-tune it the way one could with an upscale flat burr grinder and pressure profiling? I don't know and didn't try that. (In a few months I may have a grinder up to the task when I complete modifying a Bunn G1 grinder with flat Ditting burrs and an inner screw to pre-set finely tuned espresso grinding.)

If I were to use the Flair regularly I would probably also lean toward a medium to dark-roasted coffee if I were traveling. But at home, where I've got a stove available, I would be comfortable pulling shots at all roast levels. Some members in the User Experience: Flair Espresso Manual Lever thread commented on Flair shots missing the rusty, mottled shot color you can get with other machines but that the shots still taste very good. That was my experience too. With one shot I did get a bit of mottling, but don't expect to get that regularly with the Flair. This may be because the coffee cake is relatively deep and the filter basket holes are small, reducing the amount of fines that make it to the cup.

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Gary
LMWDP#308

What I WOULD do for a good cup of coffee!

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drgary
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Postby drgary » Apr 06, 2018, 11:16 am

Tips for Beginners

If you've never brewed fine espresso, the keys are fresh coffee, using a burr grinder of sufficient quality to adjust fineness of the grind (see our Buying Advice forum), and brewing at a temperature that's hot enough to extract full flavor but short of boiling, which would create a harsh, burnt taste. "Espresso" is not a dark roast but the method of brewing concentrated coffee with a creamy and rich mouthfeel under 6 - 9 bars of pressure for about 25 seconds. Using a lesser grinder with a whirly blade instead of burrs produces inconsistent particle size, including a lot of coffee dust or "fines." The inconsistent particles yield a muddy cup that can be bitter and lack the rich taste available in the beans. Darker roasts require lower temperatures than lighter roasts and these are best learned by changing temperature and tasting. For more on this, see How to Adjust Dose and Grind by Taste.

Some of you may be familiar with the taste and mouthfeel of fine espresso. If not, you can look up some local cafes near you in our Cafes forum. Maybe you're familiar with excellent espresso and you've used a pump machine and grinder of sufficient quality to master their use. Learning to use a lever machine is easier than you might have expected, but it's an analog experience. You can measure carefully, tune your grind and weigh the coffee, and apply approximately 30 lbs of force to the lever. This can be measured by putting the Flair on a bathroom scale and pulling a shot. But I enjoy developing a feel for the resistance you'll need to brew a fully flavored shot with rich and buttery mouthfeel. You can let the flow rate guide your pull, starting with a few gloppy drips that turn into a narrow stream like a mousetail and stop the shot if it gets light enough to indicate watery and bitter overextraction.

Dominick's Observations Watching a Lever Newbie Try the Flair

One evening I had a friend over who is familiar with espresso machines but has no experience with a lever machine other than watching me pull shots from time to time. This was a good opportunity to observe someone who is unfamiliar with direct levers following the Flair instructions. He was able to set it up with no help from me. He had no difficulty prepping a shot (which he already knows how to do) and preheating the cylinder. He had some trouble mounting the cylinder to the portafilter, but nothing out of the ordinary for a first-time experience.

I did see that he ground too fine and was pushing too hard on the lever. He had read the warning label on the lever but simply had no idea how to tell if he was pushing too hard. He didn't have previous experience with how a good-flowing shot should feel. I explained that he was using too much force. On the next try, after grinding a bit coarser, he pulled a pretty nice shot.

The second newbie-surprise came when he went to clean the cylinder. He was unprepared for residual pressure in the chamber, so when he pulled it out it popped open and sprayed coffee grounds all over the sink. I knew to look for these sorts of things, but if this is your first lever machine it might be a good idea for the instructions to prepare you to anticipate pressure remaining in the chamber after the shot. This is a common phenomenon in the lever world.
Gary
LMWDP#308

What I WOULD do for a good cup of coffee!

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dominico
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Postby dominico » Apr 08, 2018, 1:53 pm

Dominick's Temperature Study with the Flair

For my temperature readings in the coffee puck, I drilled a hole in one of the supplied portafilter baskets for a thermocouple and graphed the temperature profile of various shots with the help of a phidget 1048 and Artisan software. I also measured the temperature differences in the puck when swapping the two piston styles and when preheating the cylinder vs not preheating it.

The hairpin bend in the thermocouple wire helps concentrate the flow above the cup and avoid a mess
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For all measurements the cylinder was boiled for at least 3 minutes while the shot was being prepped.
The dose and grind kept constant for all temperature trials.
Water was poured directly off the boil in all shots.
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Here is what I found:

  • The maximum brew temperature I was able to reach was about 204°F.
  • A preheated cylinder and plastic piston cool roughly 1 degree every 5 seconds during extraction.
  • Preheating the cylinder is essentially necessary, because without it I couldn't get the brew temp above 180°F.
  • The highest brew temperature I could achieve with a preheated stainless steel piston was about 203°F. However it held the brew temperature longer, only dropping 1 degree every 10 seconds.
  • If you want to use the stainless steel piston, preheating is a must; without preheating you lose almost half a degree every second.

Here are some example temperature curves I took while pulling shots with various preheat parameters:

Plastic Piston, no Preheat
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Plastic Piston with Cylinder Preheat
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Stainless Steel Piston, both Piston and Cylinder are Preheated
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Stainless Steel Piston, Only Cylinder is Preheated
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dominico
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Postby dominico » Apr 10, 2018, 6:20 pm

Comparing the Flair and the EspressoForge

Of all the portable espresso machines I have owned or used, only a few are in the same camp as the Flair in terms of actually being able to make espresso, and the EspressoForge is the most comparable to the Flair in terms of functionality and workflow, so it seemed fitting to compare the two. They both have pros and cons.

The EspressoForge is sturdier; it is very solid, simple, and has very few parts to worry about. It has an optional pressure gauge add-on, allowing for perfect visibility into the brew pressure during extraction. Also, it is compatible with 58mm baskets and uses an e61 group gasket. The piston gaskets are replaceable with hardware store gaskets, so spare parts are easy to find.

The EspressoForge is also more expensive, its cheapest edition costing more than the Signature version of the Flair.

The Flair is more portable; and it sports a beautiful and convenient traveling case. It is generally more available for purchase, as the EspressoForge is currently only available in limited runs. The Flair is also prettier in my opinion. More attention was paid to its fit and finish. (There is of course a degree of subjectivity here!)

Comparing shots. The Flair requires a much coarser grind, which accounts for some of the difference in shot characteristics. Both make shots a bit on the soft side (likely due to a combination of a lower brewing temp combined with a slower pressure ramp up), but EspressoForge shots have more body and a bit more clarity, likely due to the fact that you need to grind so much finer on the Forge.

Preheating differences. Both machines require a preheat to properly extract coffee, although the EspressoForge can get away without a preheat on some dark roast / low acidity coffees. Flair is easier to preheat due to smaller size and the portable nature of the parts that need preheating. The maximum brew temperature of the two is very similar, with the EspressoForge maxing out in my temperature trials at about the same maximum I achieved on the Flair.

Prep and cleanup workflow Compared to "non-travel" machines, both machines require considerably more process to prep shots and clean up afterward. Neither machine is "convenient" with respect to the other machines in the espresso world, but I would give the Flair a slight edge in convenience here, mainly because I found preheating a Flair cylinder easier to do in various situations than preheating the EspressoForge apparatus. Pouring the water in the Flair is also easier because of the wider aperture. Cleanup on the Flair is likewise more convenient as there is less physical material to move to the sink to wash out after every shot.

Final comparison observations
I would recommend the Flair to most people; people who are looking for a portable espresso machine that can make a real espresso with some aesthetic appeal that won't break their budget and has some nice fit and finish to it.

I would recommend the EspressoForge to people that I know would really want to play with a lot of extraction variables and pressure profiles; the brew pressure gauge is one of the main features why I continue to use the Forge on a daily basis. It is also ridiculously robust. I would also recommend the Forge to people who would be spending a long time away from civilization and somehow still depend on espresso to survive, and also to those that want their espresso machine to be able to double as a self defense weapon.
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Postby drgary » Apr 12, 2018, 1:22 am

Conclusion

We both give a solidly positive recommendation of the Flair Espresso Maker. It is an elegant solution in many ways to portable espresso preparation, with slick good looks, easy assembly, teardown and packing, and the ability to pull consistent shots for a variety of roast levels. It also offers a price breakthrough for a brew system of its quality, plus the availability of high quality and inexpensive accessories and consumable parts. It is not a standalone product because it requires external means for heating water to the boil, extracting its brew cylinder from boiling water and measuring temperature. It also requires a grinder, although it could possibly work in a pinch with espresso pre-ground and nitrogen sealed in a tin. Neither of us has tried that option. The Flair is exclusively a portable shot-puller and has no milk steaming capability, unlike a home espresso machine with an enclosed boiler.

We experienced minor fit and finish issues. If the brew group is mounted on its platform, it needs to be tilted slightly to insert the piston, after hot water has been poured in to the fill line, which is somewhat below the brim. Neither of us experienced spillage problems when doing this. Also the piston can experience some wobbly slippage under heavier pressure. There is no leakage of brew water out of the chamber when this happens, but it detracts from the smooth feel of a lever pull that is experienced with most other machines. To reduce this piston skipping (which occurred with both the plastic and steel pistons), Gary added food-safe silicone lubricant to the piston o-ring and applied a thin film of that lubricant to the inside of the cylinder. A sufficiently coarse grind and not being aggressive with lever pressure almost entirely alleviates this issue. Both of us also experienced some minor wobbling of the base. We were told that a new version of the base will now have a more completely solid footing. The wobbling we experienced was minor and did not make the Flair tippy. Any good lever routine includes using one hand to hold the base steady unless one has practiced one's technique sufficiently to feel confident with a single-handed pull.

Gary's Rating

Overall: 4 stars
Espresso Performance: 4 stars
Forgiveness Factor: 3 stars
Price/Performance: 5 stars

Dominick's Rating

Overall: 4 stars
Espresso Performance:4 stars
Forgiveness Factor: 4 stars
Price/Performance: 4 stars

Discussion

Espresso Performance. We both found that we could achieve consistent and enjoyable shot quality with the Flair. Temperature control could be consistently achieved and flavor separation was good. Mouthfeel tended to be light compared to other levers, although that could be somewhat compensated by a strong pull and by adopting a lower brew ratio or "ristretto" shot style. It created real crema that had a less buttery mouthfeel than most other lever machines, although Gary found it similar to his Caravel.

Forgiveness Factor. Each of us has years of experience and a high comfort level using lever espresso machines, so what may seem natural for us may be very new to a beginner, as seen in Dominick's brief observations of a lever newbie. Making real espresso with freshly ground coffee is an art that is not quickly mastered on any gear currently available. There are just too many variables. Does the Flair make this learning process easier or harder than most low-priced gear?

For a novice user there is a bit of a fumble factor choosing acceptable, fresh coffee, a grinder that's up to the task, and assembling the extras needed for sufficiently preheating the cylinder and brew water, handling the hot cylinder, and measuring dose and output. Once you have the feel for this it's pretty straightforward. Gary found it sufficient to use the dosing cylinder to roughly measure the amount of coffee needed. He would compensate for any dose inaccuracies by changing his pressure on the lever. This adds a forgiveness factor because for an intermediate to experienced user there isn't an absolute need to weigh or dose grounds for an acceptable shot. Fine-tuning shots follows the procedures described earlier by Dominick, but that would be similar to what's done with any true espresso machine. To sum up forgiveness factor, there's added complexity with an espresso maker that assembles from parts, including the brew group, and that requires external gear to grind the coffee and boil water. But there's reduced complexity when you have a brew group that doesn't overheat, and you've got easy access to measure water temperature with a thermometer. Plus with a lever you can control the pressure you apply if a shot is running too slow or too fast. The good design of the Flair's accessories and user manual make things easier, including especially the dosing funnel that allows insertion of a tamper while it's in place, and the high quality optional steel tamper.

As veteran "leverheads" we would both recommend the Flair to a beginner because it exposes the essential components of properly brewing espresso. A newbie gets to try preheating and brew temperatures. The learning of grind and dose is through feel of the lever pull and not just the taste of the shot.

Price/Performance. This is where the Flair sets a new standard. We don't know any other device that makes real espresso and does it consistently at this price. The Flair Espresso Maker is a price/performance breakthrough and an excellent value.

With this post we open up the review to public discussion.
Gary
LMWDP#308

What I WOULD do for a good cup of coffee!

mdmvrockford

Postby mdmvrockford » Apr 12, 2018, 7:03 am

Thank you Drgary and Dominico for the comprehensive, well written review. Both of you have provided an "everything you could ask we'll answer" reference too.

May I make 1st motion for both of you to be future Siskel and Ebert reviewer for Paul Pratt's Robot.
If I did not have a Boss, I would buy the Flair now while awaiting Paul Pratt's Robot. And if I liked both I would keep both.

Just to be clear, I use Siskel and Ebert as the reference standard of movie reviewers.
LMWDP #568

elviscaprice

Postby elviscaprice » Apr 12, 2018, 8:23 pm

Excellent review. Clear and concise.
Having used the flair for the past month, signature model with extra brew head, I've enjoyed pulling over sized doubles using both brew heads. I prepare both portafilters for quick successive shots. Cleaning is simple. I set both brew heads in the sink, for a later time, where I find it much easier after heat and pressure has subsided. For steamed milk I use the Bellman, a great compliment to the Flair, having frothed the milk while waiting for the brew heads to preheat.

Mark 8)