The Flair Espresso Maker Review (All Models Included)
The original Flair Espresso Maker took the coffee world by storm with its simple design, low price, and outstanding espresso. It made top-notch espresso accessible to anyone willing to tackle the manual lever learning curve.
Since that first groundbreaking release, the Flair brand has continued to innovate, growing its product line-up to include four new models. This review looks at what has changed, what has stayed the same, and which Flair model is right for you.
Summary: The Flair Espresso Maker
- Manual lever espresso makers that achieve 9 bars of pressure.
- Simple and efficient design keeps prices affordable.
- High-quality build with no need for maintenance.
You have full control over pressure profiling which adds so much control to the process. It just makes it that much more enjoyable when you drink your shot of espresso.– Luke V., Customer
A Full Review of the Flair Espresso Maker Line-Up
The Flair line-up has expanded considerably since we reviewed the original Flair Espresso Maker, so let’s start with a quick summary of the new models. Along with the four below, there is the brand-new Flair 58, which is such a departure from the rest that we felt it warranted its own review.
What was once the only Flair Espresso Maker has been rebranded as the Flair Classic. This original model launched the Flair empire and still delivers on its promise of exceptional espresso at a reasonable price. It includes the stainless steel manual lever frame, the stainless steel group head, and the bottomless 2-in-1 portafilter. It supports a coffee dose of 12 to 18 g and can yield up to 45 mL of espresso.
The Flair Neo is one of the top starter espresso machines. The Neo was designed for beginners, as you might guess from its name. It is the least expensive and easiest-to-use model. It maintains the same stainless steel frame, attractive style, and capacity as the original but has a redesigned group head that makes it easier to pull the perfect shot.
The patented Flow Control Portafilter restricts flow to guarantee proper pressure and extraction time, even if your grind is off or your puck prep isn’t just right. It’s akin to using a pressurized portafilter in a traditional espresso machine.
Related: Flair Neo vs Classic: What’s the Difference?
The Flair Signature is one step up from the Flair Classic and offers particularly great value. The design is updated with a gorgeous copper-plated portafilter base, and it’s available in classic black, silver, or matte white. More importantly, it includes a pressure gauge, which makes it possible to pull reproducible, high-quality shots and to tinker with pressure profiling.
Note that you can also buy the pressure gauge as a separate add-on for the Flair Classic. So if you already own the original, there’s no reason to buy the Signature unless you love the aesthetics.
Flair Pro 2
The Pro 2 is the most advanced model discussed in this review. It builds on the Flair Pro with improvements to coffee quality and machine durability, but it costs nearly a third again as much as the Signature and double the Classic.
Like the Signature, the Pro 2 includes the all-important pressure gauge, but it is upgraded with a silicone case for greater durability. A silicone grip was also added to the handle for easier operation. The biggest change is the enhanced portafilter, which has a larger capacity than the other three models. With a 46 mm diameter, it can hold up to 24 g of ground coffee and yield 56 mL of espresso
Related: Flair Classic vs Pro 2: Which is Right For You?
Design – 4.5/5
The concept of the original Flair was that it was everything you need to brew great espresso and nothing more, and that holds true in subsequent models. The minimalist design shows that not much is needed to properly pull a quality shot. No matter the model, it’s essentially a sturdy base, a brew chamber, and a lever handle. And hopefully, you’ve followed our advice and opted for a pressure gauge.
All four models of the Flair feature a similar aesthetic, a defining feature of the brand. The smooth curves have an almost sculptural feel, making it a worthy showpiece for your counter. This is not a coffee maker you’ll want to stash away between brews. The Signature and Pro 2 models with copper-plated group heads are particularly gorgeous.
The Flair was designed to be portable, because good espresso should be everywhere. It’s relatively small when assembled, measuring 14 inches long by 10 inches tall by just 4 inches wide. And it can be fully disassembled and packed into the included custom suitcase for travel. It weighs around 7 pounds, with some variation by model.
Brewing Capacity – 4/5
The design of the Flair might look simple, but all the magic happens in that little removable brew chamber at its heart. The brew head is removed in one piece but disassembles into 4 separate parts.
The bottom portion is the portafilter. This is where you place the ground coffee and tamp it to create an even surface. Then you put a screen on top of the coffee, add hot water to the cylinder, and secure it above the coffee. Finally, you pull the lever, which forces the water through the coffee grounds producing a shot of espresso.
This action creates enough pressure to properly extract the coffee and make a great-tasting shot of espresso.
The piston creates the perfect amount of pressure for brewing espresso. Typically, around 9 bars of pressure produces the best espresso (1). The Flair achieves this easily, whereas other pseudo-espresso makers like the Aeropress or a Moka pot can only reach 1 to 3 bars.
Not only that, the manual control of extraction with a lever means you can experiment with flow profiling, changing the pressure as you pull the shot. In the past few years, flow profiling has taken off, explains barista and cafe owner Fabrizio Sención (2).
Flow control allows you to target totally new extractions and discover the full complexity of the cup. You can refine existing recipes and potentially find undiscovered ones.
Electric espresso machines with flow control paddles typically run upwards of $3000, more than ten times the price of the Flair!
There are some finicky aspects to using the Flair compared with some of the other best manual espresso machines. First of all, the large thermal mass of the brew group means that it must be pre-heated before pulling a shot. Otherwise, it will suck the heat right out of your espresso. Additionally, each time you prepare an espresso, you need to disassemble the device, reassemble it completely, and pre-heat it again. All of this takes only a few minutes, but if that sounds like too much hassle for a busy morning, the Flair 58 is for you. It was developed to tackle precisely these two inconveniences (3).
Build Quality – 4/5
The build quality of the Flair Espresso Maker is excellent, both in the materials chosen and the manufacturing process.
The tolerances are tight, everything fits together seamlessly, and the operation of the lever feels very smooth.
The base is a single piece of forged aluminum, which nicely balances strength with light weight. Most of the rest, including the group head, lever, and portafilter holder, is solid stainless steel. While a few little bits and bobs are associated with the group head assembly, they are more likely to be lost than damaged. All in all, you can expect the Flair to last you a long time, even if you plan to put it through the rigors of travel.
Cleaning and Maintenance – 5/5
While the workflow of the Flair might feel a bit more involved than a more traditional automatic espresso machine, the cleaning and maintenance are vastly easier – no backflushing, no descaling, and no special cleaning solutions. There is no need to worry about failing electronics or expensive repairs.
After brewing each day, rinse the components of the group head assembly in warm water. Once a week, I like to give mine a more thorough cleaning using soapy water and wiping it with a microfiber cloth. A fine needle can remove any clogs from the bottomless portafilter if needed.
And maintenance? What maintenance?
Value for Money – 4.5/5
Each Flair model has a different price, but they’re all excellent value for money. The price scales nicely with the additional features, ranging from under $150 for the Neo to just under $500 for the Pro 2. Given that a traditional lever espresso machine like the La Pavoni Europiccola is over $1000, the Flair is truly a bargain – especially given that the quality of the espresso is on par.
The value of the Flair can be diminisned depending on your needs. Most importantly, if you enjoy milky drinks like lattes and cappuccinos, the Flair doesn’t have a milk steaming system. You’ll have to budget for a separate milk frother, and to be frank, most milk frothers can’t match the silky smooth milk foam of a steam wand. Similarly, only the Flair Pro 2 has a large enough yield to approach a double shot. So if you like a hefty caffeine dose in the morning, make sure you value your time accordingly, as you’ll need to pull two shots in a row.
Things we liked:
- Amazing espresso quality
- Affordable price
- Good build quality and no need for maintenance
- Easily portable with an included carrying case
Things we didn't like:
- No way to steam or froth milk
- Low yields
- Steep learning curve
Don’t Buy the Flair Espresso Maker If…
- You want something more portable – The Flair might be more portable than the average espresso machine, but you can’t exactly carry it in your pocket. Luckily, many of the best portable espresso machines are designed for exactly that, perfect for an espresso emergency anywhere.
Our favourites are from the Wacaco brand: the Wacaco Minipresso, Nanopresso, and Picopresso. These all-in-one manual espresso makers are incredibly light and compact while still generating true espresso. The always-popular AeroPress paired with a Fellow Prismo is another great option if you’re willing to settle for strong, espresso-like coffee.
- You want a simpler workflow – If having to pre-heat your brew group before every shot sounds like a bit too much hassle before you’ve even had coffee, we get it and are happy to suggest some alternatives.
One option is to go with the Flair 58, which features an added external heater to avoid the pre-heating step. But it is substantially more expensive. A nice alternative is the Cafelat Robot, which uses a lower-thermal-mass group that only needs pre-heating if you plan on brewing very light roasts.
Learn more in our Cafelat Robot review and our comparison of the Flair and the Robot.
- You want something more affordable – It’s hard to beat the price of the Flair Neo, but if you want an affordable option that isn’t necessarily targeted to beginners, take a look at our ROK Espresso Maker review.
This espresso machine has a sturdy polished metal frame and rubber feet, so it won’t move around while in use or scratch your countertop. The value is even better thanks to the inclusion of the hand-powered ROK milk frother. On top of that, it comes with a 10-year warranty, ensuring you’ll never be without a cup of espresso.
The Flair is a unique take on home espresso. It removes all unnecessary elements to create a simple, enjoyable espresso experience. While it has a bit of a learning curve compared to an automatic espresso machine, the quality of espresso is well worth the extra effort – especially at such a remarkably low price.
The Flair Signature provides the perfect balance of features and price, and the Flair Classic with the pressure gauge upgrade is an equally great buy. If you’re new to the world of lever espresso and lack a quality burr grinder, the Flair Neo should be on your radar. More serious espresso lovers who appreciate a larger capacity should splurge on the Flair Pro 2.
- Hession, M. (2013, May 24). Espresso 101: The Methods and Machines Behind the Perfect Shot. Retrieved from https://gizmodo.com/espresso-101-the-methods-and-machines-behind-the-perfe-484457706
- Grant, T. (2020, July 29). How Flow Profiling Affects Espresso Extraction. Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2020/07/how-flow-profiling-impacts-espresso-coffee-extraction/
- Bryman, H. (2021, March 19). Flair Espresso Reveals the Flair 58 with Full-Size Heated Group. Retrieved from https://dailycoffeenews.com/2021/03/19/flair-espresso-reveals-the-flair-58-with-full-size-heated-group/