How to Pull the Perfect Espresso with the Flair Espresso Maker

The Flair Espresso Maker allows you to pull a shot of great espresso at home, but there are many variables that may affect the quality of the shot. However, these variables can be controlled by you.

This manual espresso maker requires you to do everything by yourself. Some people may like this and others may not. It is a personal preference.

You will be able to control all aspects of the brew. There are many professional baristas that have endorsed the quality of the shots it pulls. Now it’s all up to you to learn how to use it!

The shots are super floral and sweet with well-balanced acidity. If you really want to duplicate a shot of espresso that you get from a high-quality espresso maker, the Flair will get you there.

Lem Butler, 2016 U.S. Barista Champion

The Flair Espresso Maker has been the best portable espresso maker for the price and the best espresso solution. Check the price on Amazon here.

My Experience with Flair

So my first introduction to the Flair Espresso Maker was with Ryoya Takashima’s video reviewing the Signature Pro on YouTube. He makes very interesting and unique videos and I am a huge fan. In his videos, he roasts and brews his own coffee with the Flair.

He is from Japan so I find his setup and lifestyle videos extremely interesting. You can check out the video here:

After watching that video I immediately reached out to Flair on social media so I can introduce myself and ask them all about the product. Luckily the New York Coffee Festival was going on soon and we decided to meet up there. You can read about my thoughts about the festival here.

I met with Andrew Pernicano the Head of Brand at Flair Espresso. He gave me a demonstration and luckily he gave me the floor model used for displays during the festival! It was a great experience and I love the energy of the team behind the Flair.

Ever since I’ve been experimenting with the Flair. Whenever I long for a good espresso I go straight to the Flair. And, after a lot of trial and error, I feel confident enough to educate about the process to pull the best shot of espresso from a Flair Espresso Maker.

Dialing in your Grinder

Brewing a great espresso starts with your beans and more importantly how you grind them. A burr grinder is required for getting a consistent grind for brewing a great shot of espresso. Learn more about burr grinders and why you need one in one of our previous articles.

Your brew time will be influenced by your grinding. Depending on how coarse your grind size is you will have a different flow rate and as a result different levels of extraction. All other things equal, such as tamping pressure, the coarser your grind size the faster the shot time and the finer it is the slower the shot time.

The best way to learn how fine to grind your coffee would be with experience and a lot of testing. You will want your pull time to be between 25 – 30 seconds in my experience to get the best cup of coffee.

If your brew time is too fast, I recommend recording it down in a coffee journal and then adjusting the grind coarser. Then, brewing another shot of coffee to see if there is any change in brew time.

If your brew time is too slow, you should do the opposite. Record the experience and then adjust the grind so it is finer. By recording all your brews you can achieve consistently good espresso. Again, brew another shot of espresso and see how the brew time reacts.

The grinder that I would recommend is the Comandante Burr Grinder. Other than the beautiful bamboo exterior the mechanics are also amazing. There is stainless steel throughout the axel, crank, and ball bearings that give you a buttery smooth grind. The Comandante is capable of grinding for anything from fine, Turkish to coarse, French Press. Check out the price on Amazon if you are interested in this beautiful work of engineering.

How to Brew

There is a simple formula to pull a great espresso and it is consistent no matter what machine you use. You need to dissolve the soluble flavor and aromatic compounds from your freshly roasted beans into your water.

The three factors that affect the extraction of these flavors are dose, yield, and time. These are the three most important factors that will make or break any espresso shot.

More DoseMore espresso will be brewed
Less DoseLess espresso will be brewed
More YieldMore extraction but will be weaker
Less YieldLess extracted but will be stronger
Finer GrindMore surface area and contact so espresso will be more extracted and stronger
Coarser GrindLess surface area and contact so espresso will be less extracted and weaker

Graph by Barisa Hustle

Step by Step Guide to Brew with the Flair Espresso Maker

  1. Boil filtered water in a kettle and let it cool a bit so it is not at a rolling boil.
  2. While your water is boiling start grinding 18 grams of coffee beans. Make sure it is fine enough to brew espresso. Use our previous tips to experiment how finely you want to grind your beans.
  3. Use the funnel provided in the Flair set to pour the ground coffee into the portafilter and tamp down with a lot of force. It may seem like you will not be able to fit all the grounds, but after tamping so the surface is flat it will all fit. Put on the screen on top of your coffee grounds. It does not matter which side faces up or down.
  4. While you are grinding and setting up your portafilter heat your brew head and cup in boiling water for 1 minute. This is to make sure all parts of your equipment is at the perfect shot to pull your espresso shot. If the brew head is cold it will draw the heat from the boiling water and under extract your beans.
  5. Assemble the portafilter and brew head and pour water into the barrel up until the etched line. You can measure the amount of espresso that is brewed and you can expect around 40 grams of espresso to be brewed.
  6. Put the piston in and gently pull the lever down. You should not have any espresso coming out yet. This is to pre-infuse the coffee, and you should do this for about 5 seconds.
  7. Lastly, pull the lever down firmly so the espresso starts coming out. If you have ground the coffee correctly it shouldn’t be too difficult. If you have the pressure gauge follow that, and you are aiming for a 25 – 30 second brew time.

What to Focus on to Improve your Espresso Shots

One thing to make sure you do that will have a large impact on your espresso is preheating your equipment. Once I started doing this step it completely transformed the quality of my espresso shots. In the beginning, I was wondering why every espresso I brewed was sour.

One tip that was taught to me by Andrew Pernicano, and you can use this to preheat your brew head. Put your brew head on top of the steam hole of your water pot. As a result, while your water is boiling the steam will heat up your equipment and you can leave it for as long as you are working on the other steps.

Remember to pre-infuse your beans! This small step will make a huge difference if you are getting sour espresso. The 5 seconds of pre-infusion will help with the extraction of all the flavors. With just 5 seconds you can get so many more flavors from your espresso shots.

Common Questions

How does the Flair compare to other espresso makers?

Flair is a cheap alternative to many other espresso makers. There are many portable espresso makers on the market now, but I will tell you some of the reasons why I love Flair so much.

First, I have a personal connection with the people at Flair so I may be a bit biased about my reviews and judgment. They were the first company to give me a shot to review their products.

The feeling you get when handling the Flair is unlike anything I’ve experienced. While it may be a lot of work it feels like a ritual that is incorporated into my life. Everything feels like it is made with quality materials and parts and will last my whole lifetime.


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