Have you ever made something with your own two hands? Maybe a bookshelf for your partner, a piece of art for a client, or a meal for your family. There’s a certain feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment that can’t quite be reproduced by any other means. Brewing coffee by hand gives me that feeling, but pulling espresso by hand is the zenith.
To pull a proper shot of espresso requires an incredible amount of pressure. Around 9 bars to be exact, which is the equivalent of 130 pound-force per square inch. If neither of those numbers mean anything to you, just take my word for it—it’s a lot of pressure. Automatic and semi-automatic espresso machines rely on pumps and valves to generate that kind of power, but manual espresso makers have to lean on primal technology.
In the same way that you probably don’t care how much PSI 9 bars of pressure is equivalent to, I don’t care too much to get into the physics of how levers work. All we need to know is that they work, and they make brewing espresso by hand possible.
There are a few different lever-style espresso makers to choose from, but none more noteworthy than the Flair Espresso Maker. At first glance it’s clear that the Flair is a precision crafted machine, and that evaluation will be confirmed in every way once you get your hands on it.
Packed conveniently in a sleek and stylish carrying case, the Flair can be assembled in just minutes. Included in the case is the base, the lever, dosing funnel, mini tamper, and all the group head components. The new and improved Signature PRO model ships with a pressure gauge, but we’ll talk more about that later.
It’s immediately evident that the Flair is crafted out of quality materials with considerable precision. The lever arm and base are strong and sturdy, and the Signature PRO model boasts stainless steel components where the original didn’t. It’s simple enough to assemble the bones of this brewer, but the group head assembly does require the instruction sheet.
The portafilter basket is created to contain 14-24g of freshly ground coffee, and the mini tamper (in addition to being adorable) is a nice addition to the kit. It’s comfortable and will enable you to build some muscle memory in order to replicate your brewing process time and time again. The brewing cylinder can contain 50-75ml of boiling water, enabling you to brew similar recipes to your favourite shops.
When it comes time for physics to shine and the pressing to start, the all new pressure gauge sets the Flair apart from the competition. Without a pressure gauge, manual espresso brewing might as well be a shot in the dark. There’s no way to effectively gauge your pressure or process. The included gauge not only allows you to confirm that you’re hitting your 9 bar target, but also enables you to simulate pressure profiling or dial in your pre infusion like the pros.
The brewing process is rounded out with the most aesthetically pleasing sight in the coffee industry—a bottomless portafilter. It serves for more than just aesthetics, too; the functionality allows you to evaluate the quality of your tamp and distribution as you watch for channeling.
The PRO qualifier doesn’t just describe the parts, though. I think it describes the type of person this machine is designed for. Automatic machines have a large margin for error, and are more forgiving of novice operation. The Flair shines in the hands of a brewer who understands espresso extraction and the variables that contribute to it. It takes a little bit of tinkering to dial in the perfect shot, but when you do, you’ll be rewarded.
I’ve used most of the world’s manual espresso makers, and the Flair Signature Pro model stands out above them all. It’s as close as you can get to the power and precision of a semi-automatic espresso machine, and this lever is a worthy substitution for a pump.