Truth be told, I have owned espresso machines for the better part of a decade, but I have never pulled a shot from a manual espresso maker. Each machine that I have owned has been a semi-automatic, so while I have done the prep work of grinding and tamping, technically it was simply the push of a button that did the rest.
That all changed when the team at Flair Espresso put a call-out for bloggers to have an opportunity to try their hand with one of their manual espresso makers. I submitted my pitch to them and was thrilled when they reached out to say I had been selected to experience their Flair espresso maker (I guess you can’t technically call it a machine…) since there are no electronics, no buttons, just a lever, gauge, and brew chamber.
And to be totally honest with you, in as much as I was excited to have the chance to experience this espresso maker, I was simultaneously nervous to brew espresso manually. It was something I had NEVER done before. Would it be easy? Would it take forever to dial in the grind? I had no idea what to expect. But before I share more about my experience actually brewing espresso let me share about the espresso maker itself.
A few days after hearing from the team at Flair, a box arrived at my front door. And so began my journey of getting familiar with the Flair Pro2 Espresso Maker. It has been a few weeks now and so I wanted to break this review down into a few specific areas of focus to share with you what my impressions have been like using this incredible piece of coffee gear. Let me be clear that while this item has been gifted to me, all thoughts on this are my own.
There is no question that the team at Flair have built this espresso maker to be portable. There is no place where this is more evident than in their sleek custom carrying case that the Fair Pro2 arrives in. This carrying-case includes custom-molded compartments to keep your Flair Espresso Maker secure wherever you go to brew some ‘spro. Each piece fits individually into its proper spot ready to be assembled when you’re ready to pull some shots.
Without having any electrical parts, this machine can truly go with you wherever you want to make cafe-quality espresso. Whether you’re off out enjoying a weekend in the mountains, or maybe in a hotel room on holidays with nothing but a sketchy coffee pot, there is no place where you can’t have some incredible espresso. And if you don’t want to carry around an electric grinder with you, the team at Flair have some great suggestions on their site for quality hand-grinders as well.
All that’s left for you to do is get some hot water and you’re ready to go. This espresso maker can go literally anywhere, and I have no doubt that once you get your hands on one, you’ll take it everywhere.
The Flair Pro2 is built to brew great espresso whenever-wherever. This machine is solid, strong, and you can feel that from the weight. While not overly-heavy it has a sufficient enough mass (weighing in at 7lbs) to it where you know it can handle whatever you throw at it…but maybe don’t throw anything at it! Absolutely nothing feels cheap or plastic-y on this unit…and when you consider the force you apply to this machine to pull a shot you can rest assured it can handle it. The Flair Pro2 comes with a number of improvements over their original Pro model, including:
- An improved bottomless portafilter for better flow dynamics
- A removable stainless steel spout
- A silicone handle grip for brewing ergonomics
- A silicone protective wrap to improve gauge durability
Options & Features
Flair offers their Espresso Maker in a four different models (Neo, Classic, Signature & Pro2). What I love is that they have designed each of these espresso makers for different experience levels and different budgets. Flair has not sought to simply create one manual espresso maker that is out of reach of many potential home-espresso enthusiasts, but instead gives their customers the option to chose what price-point and what features they are comfortable with. I think this is a brilliant decision!
When companies make coffee-gear that is priced out of reach for many people who are just finding their way into the specialty coffee community its doing them a disservice. Creating gear that is both priced competitively and approachable has definitely been at the forefront of the team at Flair.
Regardless of what model you select many of the core design and fabrication elements remain the same, so even with the NEO, their most affordable option, you’re not sacrificing quality. Or if you’re the kind of person who wants all the bells & whistles, then get your hands on the PRO2…with its upgraded copper-plated portafilter base and integrated pressure gauge. Whatever unit you decide to get I am confident you’ll be very happy with it.
Like I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I was a bit nervous about pulling shots from this simply because I had never done this before. While there were nerves as the beginning, those quickly disappeared as I pulled shot after shot after shot of incredible tasting cafe-quality espresso. Maybe those nerves disappeared because of a growing confidence, or maybe it was because of how many shots of espresso I had tried. Either way, I had to stop after a number of shots as I began to get quite the buzz…caffeine shakes are a real thing!
Any apprehension quickly disappeared, and I soon began to LOVE the entire experience. The team at Flair provides an easy-to-follow user guide to help you begin. Following these steps is simple, and great for people of any experience level. I truly found that the process of brewing manual espresso caused me to slow down, focus more on each element of the brewing process, and gave me great joy in this process.
While I recognize that I have years of at-home espresso experience I was thrilled to see that Flair also includes in-depth help-resource area on their website. This part of their site is dedicated to tips, tricks, tutorials and more which is a great one-stop spot for anything you may want to learn.
I had so much fun brewing espresso with this, and I have no doubt that you will too. And I think that’s something that few other pieces of coffee gear have achieved for me in recent years, the chance to truly have fun making coffee.
Areas of Improvement
It would be amazing to see future Flair’s come with an industry standard 58mm portafilter like some of the competition. Their included portafilter is cute for its smaller size, but transitioning to an industry-standard 58mm size would allow users to work with their own tamper and/or distributor that they’re already familiar with.
I found that putting the pieces back into the travel kit to be a bit cumbersome. It would be great if they provided a diagram of where each part went, because I was so excited when I opened mine up that I forgot to really pay attention to how they all initially came.
Other than these two small changes there is not much that I would suggest needs to be tweaked. The team at Flair really have done an incredible job in every aspect of this espresso maker.
Once again I owe a huge deal of gratitude to the team at Flair for sending this my way and giving me a chance to spend a significant amount of time learning the ropes when it comes to manual espresso.
I feel like for many people when when they decide to get into at-home coffee brewing they default to filter coffee feeling that its an easier option. The Flair PRO2 Espresso Maker proves that at-home manual espresso can be just as easy, and just as enjoyable.
What’s great as well, is that the team at Flair are super-cool with engaging with their customers through their social media, and have an incredible collection of videos to help you brew great at-home espresso. Here’s a great “how-to” video featuring their Flair Pro model.
Thanks so much for making it all the way to the end of this feature.
Go brew some coffee, you deserve it.