Expert Review: Flair Espresso Flair Pro 2 Espresso Maker

Published on 12/11/2023 · 6 min readThis review is my honest opinion of the espresso machine, which I purchased with my own money in November of 2019.
Will K, Coffee Expert
By Coffee Expert Will K

All photos courtesy of Will K.

About this Review: This review is my honest opinion of the espresso machine, which I purchased with my own money in November of 2019.

My take

While the Flair Pro 2 might not appeal to everyone, being a manual machine, the quality of espresso shots one can pull rivals machines that are 10 times the cost, especially with dark roasts. I don’t miss not having steaming capabilities for milk, but I enjoy the shots straight up.

Steaming the Brew Chamber over my electric kettle

About the gear

  • Model: 2019 Flair Pro 2 Espresso Maker
  • Boiler Type: N/A
  • Pump Type: N/A

About me

  • Experience: My coffee journey started a bit later than most, using it only to study later. About 10 years ago, I started down the rabbit hole of espresso and coffee and only continued to dig deeper. I am a Mechanical Engineer by training, so I love to get into the nitty gritty on espresso machine and grinder mechanics, extraction methods, and roasting characteristics (but still enjoy a cup of airplane coffee). My most recent project is building a coffee roaster in my garage. Hopefully, the Frankesteinian monster will be up and running soon.

Test conditions

  • When I bought it: November 2019
  • Days used: 1200
  • Cups per day: 2
  • Grinder used: DF64
  • Coffee beans used: Trieste Caffe espresso blend by Kaladi Coffee Roasters
  • Milk used: Oatly Full Fat Oat Milk
  • Drink made: Mostly straight espresso with an occasional oat milk cortado

How it performs

Espresso Extraction
4/5
Heat Time
4/5
Ease of Use
2/5
Versatility
2/5

What I was looking for

When looking for a new espresso setup, my main goal was to find something small without sacrificing quality. At the time, I was living with three friends, so counter space in the kitchen was at a premium. I also wanted a setup that I could grow with, learn the intricacies of espresso, and not break the bank.

Why I chose this gear

After going way down the rabbit hole on Reddit, a manual espresso machine really appealed to me because of the cost versus results. A manual machine lets me pressure profile, pre-infuse, and understand the relationship between pressure and extraction (which is why I always suggest the Pro 2 version of the Flair with the pressure gauge). One won’t find all these features on a semi-automatic machine until they reach that $1000+ mark. I also romanticized taking this machine on camping trips and making the best coffee possible at the top of a mountain, but that happens much less than I told myself. I also found the online community to be much more active for this manual machine versus others like the Robot Manual Espresso Machine, which was a great reference for getting started and answering questions as they popped up.

All set up

What I love about it

  • Durability: When it comes to durability, there is not much that can go wrong with the Flair Pro 2. Most everything is metal. There are no electronics, and everything can easily be bought and replaced if it wears out. After 2000+ shots pulled on my Flair, the rubber handle grip came off, but that’s about it, and it cost me $10 to replace.
  • Time to heat up: I have to boil water because this is a manual machine with no electronics. I use a temperature-controlled electric kettle. The added benefit of this is I can steam my brew chamber over the kettle while the water is boiling, and by multitasking, my heat-up time for everything is about four minutes, which is much faster than most quality machines out there.
  • Size: The Fair Pro 2 breaks down into two components, along with the accessories like the brew chamber and pressure gauge. All of these fit into the included carrying case, about the size of a large textbook. The size and portability of this setup cannot be beat. When living with roommates, I would break down and set up the machine every morning to store in a drawer, and it would take me no more than 1.63 seconds to do each.
  • Pre-infusion/Post-infusion: Pre-infusion is number two on my list of ways to improve my espresso technique behind the Weiss Distribution Technique (WDT). This feature on a machine is incredible and is only available on machines in the $800 and above range. Since I can control the pressure with the manual Flair, it is easy to pre-infuse the espresso grinds for 5-10 seconds, dramatically improving my shots.

Issues I’ve encountered

  • Heat control: Since no power is going to this manual espresso machine, the clock starts ticking on my heat control as soon as I steam my brew chamber. This took me a while to get used to and can be a shortfall for lighter roast espresso, which requires a high extraction temperature to get all the fruity flavor notes out of it. I am a dark roast person, though, which doesn't require as high temperature, so it is not a deal breaker for me.
  • Steam Wand: A manual machine's lack of a steaming method is a large downside. I enjoy straight espresso mostly, but this is probably not the best fit for someone who wants a daily latte with silky steamed milk. I use a Nanofoamer wand, which does a decent job of frothing milk when I have the occasional oat milk cortado.
  • Ease of use: While it is a pretty forgiving machine in terms of puck preparation, there is a bit more involvement than a standard semi-automatic machine because I have to heat the water separately. I set the brew chamber on top of my kettle while it’s boiling to heat up from the steam and then manually apply pressure.
  • Home/Commercial: The Flair is made for home use because of its manual nature. It would not be ideal for commercial use.

Rubber grip fell off handle after 1500+ shots

Favorite moment with this machine

While it is not as often as I would like, I brought this machine camping with me, which led to one of my favorite moments with the machine. After my family laughed at me for going through the hassle of heating up the brew chamber, grinding my beans with a hand grinder, and finding a flat spot on a rock to place the Flair, the look of jealousy on my sister’s face as I sipped my delicious shot of espresso was definitely a top 10 moment (until everyone started asking for one).

Value for the money vs. other options

When it comes to value, in regards to the overall quality of espresso, the Flair Pro 2 is hard to beat. Since it allows me to pressure profile, pre-infuse, and monitor and maintain a true nine bars of pressure, the shot quality is on par with most Prosumer machines. At the price range the Flair Pro 2 falls in, one could go with the Breville Bambino, which would allow milk steaming, but the espresso shot quality is not in the same league.

Final verdict

I love my Flair Pro 2. I love being hands-on with my espresso shot, learning how to match pressure and extraction levels to certain bean types, and getting the best shot possible. I understand the lack of steaming and pre-heating involvement is not for everyone. But this machine will lead to some delicious espresso shots.

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