When you think of an espresso machine, you probably think of a tried-and-true semiautomatic machine like the Gaggia Classic or perhaps the high-end La Marzoco models you’ve seen at your local coffee shops.
You probably don’t think of a device like the Flair espresso maker.
The Flair is a hand-operated espresso machine that takes up minimal counter space and is far less expensive than its competitors. But what exactly does the Flair have to offer, and can it perform at such a low price point?
Let’s take a look.
Flair Espresso Maker: An Overview
The Flair is a modest, sleek device capable of producing true espresso (not just moka-style coffee).
That said, to best use the Flair, you’ll need high quality, freshly roasted coffee and a burr grinder like the Baratza Sette 270 that’s capable of grinding fine enough for espresso. (Don’t try using your whirly blade grinder for this––espresso requires a super fine, consistent grind.)
If you’ve ever seen manual or lever espresso machines before––vintage La Pavoni machines are well known lever models––you’ll instantly see that the Flair is a contemporary take on this type of device.
A wide, sturdy base provides lots of surface area to withstand the pressure the machine will take, and for a travel-friendly espresso option, the number of parts is kept at a minimum.
The entire machine packs up in a handy padded case that’s small enough to throw in a carry-on bag.
The operation is fairly straightforward. You start out as you would for any other espresso machine: grinding the coffee into the portafilter and placing the portafilter in the machine. From here, the process differs.
You preheat a cylinder and then fill it up with hot water. Finally, place a piston in, and use the lever to press the water through the coffee. You’ll need to rinse and clean out everything afterward, and then you’ll be ready to make another shot.
Pros of the Flair
The Flair has a lot going for it. It’s one of the most inexpensive ways to make true, high-quality espresso, and the learning curve is straightforward.
I really do want to emphasize the price point; it’s literally hundreds of dollars cheaper than most entry-level machines. It’s also built to last and will require less maintenance than a non-manual device.
Travel friendliness and overall size are two big selling points here.
It breaks down easily and packs into a small case, so if you travel a lot and want to make espresso on the go, the Flair has you covered.
Alternatively, if you want to make espresso in your small kitchen (or just have an espresso option that doesn’t take up all of your counter space), the Flair is ideal there, too.
Finally, it just looks great.
Cons of the Flair
For all its benefits, the Flair espresso maker isn’t perfect. One of the most glaring disadvantages is the lack of a milk steaming wand.
If you want to make any sort of milk drink (like cappuccinos, lattes, or cortados), you’ll have to find a milk steaming solution. (I recommend the Bellman Stovetop Steamer, which can produce latte art-quality microfoam).
It also takes quite a bit of time to pull a shot on the Flair. It can range from 3 to 10 minutes depending on how long you take to do everything, including preheating.
And that brings me to maybe the biggest issue with the flair: temperature stability.
Hot water loses a lot of its temperature when poured, so the fact that you’re pouring hot water into the machine means the resulting shot won’t be too hot.
(I should note that while the fact that the flair is manual may initially seem like a disadvantage, it’s really not. It does objectively require more work, but non-manual machines have their fair share of problems.)
Should You Buy the Flair Espresso Maker?
The Flair espresso maker is definitely not for everyone. However, it’s perfect for many home brewers. So who exactly is it for?
The Flair is best for people who want a budget-friendly espresso machine that will produce high quality shots. It’s also ideal for espresso lovers who travel or move around a lot.
Finally, if you drink just espresso (read: no milk drinks), the Flair is worth a look.
However, if you’re super picky about your brewing parameters, it might not be the best due to the potential heat loss. And if you’ll be making mostly milk drinks, the Flair isn’t for you.
Buying a semiautomatic machine with a steaming wand like the Gaggia Classic will be a much better investment for you.
What are your thoughts on the Flair espresso maker? Tell us in the comments!