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My (unqualified) thoughts about the Flair Espresso Maker

Espresso is a special thing. It sometimes makes an otherwise bad day better, it can make business decisions clearer, and it helps give us those darn beautiful IG worthy latte art. I have been able to get decent coffee at home ever since lockdown started, I have been able to make espresso like drinks with an Aeropress, but proper espresso I thought I would only get when I venture out the house (and Cainta) again. Then Etica Lifestyle messaged me on Instagram and asked me if I wanted to try pulling shots of espresso at home with a Flair Epresso Maker. This isn’t a review, I am not qualified to do one, these are just my thoughts about it as a coffee consumer.

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Peep the bag of some Lakbay Brew beans I used to pull shots with the Flair Espresso Maker

The Flair looks stunning. It’s a simple enough thing: The main lever mechanism connects to the base easily and then the whole thing is solid and stable; then there’s a fixed circular mount in the middle where the portafilter and brew head mechanism get placed when brewing. Every part (except the delicate pressure gauge) feels sturdy but the design itself is far from being industrial; it looks sleek with all the round edges. Lastly, it’s both matte and shiny at the right places. Everything makes it so satisfying to look at as part of your coffee station. It’s beautiful and functional, the base even allows you to place a small scale underneath to measure the output as precisely as you can. Like James Hoffman said, the Flair Espresso Maker was designed by people who know what they’re doing.

But what I really like about the Flair, in the little time I was able to use it, is that it just works. You follow a few instructions, especially being careful not to brew with too much pressure to cause breakage, but overall, it’s easy to pull proper shots with the Flair Espresso Maker. There aren’t any mechanical parts in it, so in theory it should be pretty darn durable. It looks simple, but it absolutely delivers. When you do everything right, pulling a shot and seeing that beautiful crema forming in the mug is one of the most satisfying things you can experience coffee brewing wise.

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I’ve written a piece about my experience grinding for the Flair using my Timemore Chestnut C2, so it is possible even without getting a premium grinder. You just have to ensure your grinder can go fine enough for espresso, without making you sweat for it. If you have the means to get an electric grinder that can indeed grind fine enough, well good for you – it saves you from needing to do the forearm workout. Since this is espresso, you must ensure that the puck is even and packed tight. The unit I tried had an actual tamper with it but there is this canister thing that comes along with every unit (I think) that also works as a tamper. They also give you a funnel, which is essential when loading fine coffee grinds on such a small basket.

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Thick crema with some striping, visually this seems like a good espresso (in a tea cup)

Considering that I have never pulled shots of espresso before, me getting feedback from my IG stories of the shots I’ve pulled that it looks proper is a testament to how easy it is to use the Flair Epresso Maker. Of course, it could still taste terrible to a trained coffee professional, but to me it tasted decent enough – or I just have Stockholm syndrome. The shots I got towards the end of my time trying it out were slightly sweet (I suck at describing notes) with a smooth mouthfeel.

Now you always hear that one of the drawbacks of the Flair compared to other espresso makers is that it has too many individual parts, and that is true. You can easily lose any one of these, especially if you like travelling with your Flair, and then you can’t brew unless you are able to replace them. Also, since you have to pre-heat the brew head to as hot as it possibly can, you can easily get scalded if you don’t pay attention. If you think brewing with an Aeropress in the inverted method is scary, imagine having to handle a hot piece of metal with only a small piece of rubber keeping your fingers from getting burned. Oh, it does get hot. I found out about that personally.

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Also, some may find the process laborious to just a few ml of coffee. You can see how many steps there is with my workflow as follows:

  • Weigh the beans first. I typically went between 15g and 16g;
  • While grinding (because it takes some time), boil the water;
  • I time it so that when I finish grinding, I can also start pre-heating the brew head in a small bowl;
  • While that’s sitting in 100 degree water, I start preparing the puck (see how here);
  • Assemble the brew head-portafilter mechanism on its base in the Flair (don’t forget the dispersion screen!);
  • Pour the right amount of water in the brew head before finishing the assembly with the plunger;
  • Press down slow and firm, trying to maintain pressure at either 6 or 7 bars;
  • Take a picture of Spro and share on Instagram @shareyourkape

Although the Flair can be a nice toy to play around with by coffee professionals, I believe home coffee enthusiasts and even the casual home brewers will find the most value with it. It allows espresso making to be as simple as possible while coming in a beautiful form factor. It doesn’t take up too much space on your counter but if it does, it’s easy to pack up and put away. It’s easier to adjust your brew depending on the maturity of your beans. When it seems like nothing is working as it should, you can see what it immediately and adjust as necessary without the risk of making a bigger problem.

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It all fits in this small enough case that also looks like it could be packing a drone inside

Should you get a Flair Espresso Maker? That’s up to you. If you really want espresso at home, then this is more economical than getting a bigger machine. If you want to practice latte art, we’ll you’ll have to learn how to froth milk by other means. Should you upgrade your grinder? If you plan to pull more than 2 shots in a day, I’d recommend you get a good electric grinder. Should you get one for a small coffee shop? You know what, with additional brew heads, it could be possible. Do I like the Flair Espresso Maker? Absolutely, but I have to think about getting one for myself.

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The progress of my heart latte art at home, that’s a story for another post

Thank you to Etica Lifestyle for letting me play with a Flair Espresso Maker. If you’re planning to score one for yourself, and you’re in the Philippines, you can head on over to eticalifestyle.com to shop for your preferred unit or shoot them a DM in their socials. If you do get one, let me see your spro by tagging them with a #shareyourkape on Instagram.

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