Expert Review: Flair Espresso Flair 58 Manual Coffee EspressoPublished on 05/12/2023 · 7 min readThis review is my honest opinion of the espresso machine, which I purchased with my own money in December of 2022.
Using Flair 58. All photos courtesy of Michael Stumpfig
About this Review: This review is my honest opinion of the espresso machine, which I purchased with my own money in December of 2022.
The Flair Espresso Flair 58 is a beautifully minimal, manual-lever machine that is perfect for the straightforward espresso lover. What makes the Flair 58 so special is that it provides so much control over the extraction of an espresso shot. Everything from pre-infusion (gently wettening the espresso puck) to changing pressure throughout extraction.
About the machine I own
- Model: 2022 Flair Espresso Flair 58 Manual Coffee Espresso
- Boiler Type: Electrically heated chamber
- Pump Type: Manal lever
- Experience: I have worked in cafes for the past 10 years. I currently co-manage a cafe in Los Angeles where I work and train new baristas on the basics of espresso machinery and drink crafting.
- When I bought it: December 2022
- Days used: 125
- Cups per day: 1–2
- Grinder used: Mazzer Super Jolly 64mm flat steel burrs
- Coffee beans used: Vitoria, Oro blend, medium-dark roast
- Milk used: Oat
- Drink made: Espresso, latte
How it performs
What I was looking for
Because I’ve worked at cafes over the last decade, I previously never kept my own espresso machine at home. I was looking for something minimal, slightly more advanced, and would produce delicious espresso. I was also hoping to find a machine/device that would look nice in my kitchen, and wouldn’t be too expensive.
Why I chose this gear
I essentially decided on the Flair 58 because it ticked all the reasons previously mentioned. It gave me complete control over my extraction so I could truly hand-craft my espresso. It was an easy and minimal set up. And honestly… It’s just so darn nice to look at. The folks at Flair took the old school lever machine and put it through a contemporary lens, creating a super-sleek, matte-black device with beautiful wooden accents on the lever and portafilter. I had been playing with the idea of purchasing other machines as well: Prosumer E61 machines like the Profitec Pro 400 were near the top of my list. But I decided that these other options were something I wanted further down the line—while I refined my extraction skills and built up my budget.
What I love about it
- Durability: After using the machine for four months at least once a day, it operates as good as it ever has. It has a very solid build that I expect to last for a very long time. Its brew path is stainless steel, so no plastic will encounter boiling water. The frame is constructed from die-cast aluminum to promote longevity. The pressure gauge provided helps to avoid pressing too hard and potentially damaging the machine. Flair also offers a five-year warranty on the metal components if damages were to occur.
- Cleaning: I clean my portafilter baskets regularly—about once or twice a week. The brew chamber itself hardly comes into contact with any grounds or espresso, so I will only wipe it down once a week or so. Overall, cleaning the machine is very easy.
- Pre-infusion/Post-infusion: This is where the Flair 58 truly shines, and rivals machines far past its price point. The Flair 58 gives me all the control of my pre-infusing literally in the palm of my hand. I like to push the lever down very slowly until I begin to see the first few drops of espresso from my portafilter. Then I ramp up pressure to nine bars until I have about 25g of espresso. Then I back off the pressure to about six to seven bars and finish my shot at 40–45g. The fact I can do all of this manually is an extremely enjoyable experience. And the espresso it yields tastes even more satisfying knowing how involved the whole experience was.
- Ease of use: For those who already know how to dial in espresso shots, the Flair 58 will be a breeze to use. If one can pull a lever, one can operate a Flair. It’s that simple.
- Home/Commercial: While this device is more geared toward home use, the performance aspect it showcases could certainly add a “flair” to the casual coffee truck or cafe. I brought my Flair into the cafe one day and it sparked many conversations from customers watching me pull espresso.
- Other: One big plus about the Flair 58 is the overall size and build. Previous models like the Flair Classic and the Flair Pro 2 have a slightly smaller frame and lever. This can make extraction slightly more uncomfortable. While those models still produce good espresso, generally one will have to use both hands and slightly hunch over the machine in order to get the desired nine bars of pressure. The Flair 58 solves that problem. Because of the larger build and longer lever, weight distribution is more manageable. This provides an overall easier extraction that can even be done one-handed.
- Time to heat up: Obviously, we all want our espresso machines to heat up as fast as possible. The Flair 58 heats up in about 3–4 minutes depending on which of the three temperature settings selected. I like to place my portafilter over my electric kettle and let the steam heat my brew basket. By the time the water has boiled and the basket has heated, my Flair is up to temperature and ready to brew.
Issues I’ve encountered
- Efficiency: It’s wonderful that the Flair 58 doesn’t need to be pre-heated because of the electrically controlled brew chamber. However, it is a little disappointing that the heating element doesn’t turn off automatically after a certain amount of time. There have been instances where I forgot to turn off the heating element and it remained on for a few hours. At this price point, I would expect an auto-off feature.
- Heat control: There are three different heat settings on the Flair 58. Low: 185℉, medium: 194℉, and high: 203℉. I have used all three settings with different coffees and it seems the highest setting is the only one that produces good results. The lower temperatures of “low” and “medium” have consistently yielded a more sour-tasting shot, even with darker-roast coffee. The temperature settings are too spaced out for precise shot dialing. I recommend only using the “high” setting.
- Size: When sitting unused, the Flair 58 is a sensible size. A little over a foot in length, and about seven inches wide. However, while in use the Flair 58 becomes far too tall to be placed underneath a countertop cabinet. So be strategic about where in the kitchen it’s placed.
- Other: One of the best qualities of the Flair 58 is also one of its biggest downfalls. The heating system, though very functional, is slightly convoluted. The brew chamber has a cord that runs to a small plastic control box, which runs to a rather large power box, which plugs into an outlet. Once again, for the price I would expect a little better quality on the plastic control box, as well as one cord that would go directly from the brew chamber to the outlet. It seems like a little too many cords to power one small brew chamber.
Favorite moment with this machine
I had a few friends/co-workers come over for a movie night. Near the end of the night I decided to make some affogatos (espresso over ice cream) for my friends. It was so fun to show off how the Flair operated. Not only that, but my friends (and fellow coffee snobs) were very impressed by how a seemingly simple lever device made such good-tasting espresso. This sparked further coffee conversation and we all mingled for about an hour past what we had anticipated. One of my friends asked for another. I was happy to provide.
Value for the money vs. other options
I was looking for a simple device that made a good shot, and the Flair 58 succeeds in this endeavor at a fair price. Flair has a couple other models in their lineup: the Flair Neo and Flair Pro 2. These machines essentially work the same way, but they require the user to preheat the brew chamber with hot water before pulling their shot. This is a pretty time-consuming process and a focal point that the Flair 58 aims to fix. The quicker workflow, larger frame, longer lever, and naked portafilter are add ons I’m happy to pay for.
I would say that if one likes straight espresso, and likes to have control over their extraction, the Flair 58 easily rivals other far-more expensive machines. With an electric gooseneck kettle and a capable grinder, one’s ready to begin experimenting with manual extractions…and look good doing it.