The Flair Signature Plus is an elegant manual espresso maker that makes great quality espresso, albeit inconveniently. The Flair Signature Plus is one of the latest SKUs in Flair's lineup, which includes a bottomless/naked portafilter option, chrome body option, and stainless steel tamper.
Who The Flair is For
If you're an espresso enthusiast who is looking for something that brews great espresso at an affordable price and with a small footprint, the Flair may be the perfect choice.
Who The Flair is NOT For
If you're looking for convenience, none of Flair's current espresso makers will be for you. Manual espresso is more about the craft and ritual of making straight espresso than its automatic counterparts.
If you're just getting started with espresso, then the Flair might not be for you either, since it has a slight learning curve.
- 100% Human-Powered, Manual Espresso Press
- Easy to Clean - with the market's only detachable brewing head and easy-clean portafilter
- Completely Portable - breaks down into handy carrying case
- Premium Styling - available in matte black or chrome with a copper-plated portafilter base
- Five (5) Year Warranty on Aluminum Press Stand and Stainless Steel Brewing Head
The Flair Signature Plus Espresso Maker is a thing of beauty. Whether it finds a permanent home on your kitchen counter or is strictly used when traveling, its looks alone will garner plenty of attention.
I'm not new to manual espresso makers, spending countless hours over the years pulling shots through the now discontinued MyPressi Twist.
So naturally, I wanted to see how the Flair compares to the MyPressi Twist in terms of both usability and shot quality.
After a few brews, I think it's safe to say that the Flair is not only easier to use, but the shots are just as good (if not better) than what the MyPressi was able to produce.
And initially, I wasn't so confident about this.
In fact, my first reaction when going through the instructions was "this is way too complicated." I mean, there are lot of parts and a lot of steps.
So honestly, I was a little bit nervous when I first started pulling shots.
My opinion quickly changed once I got the hang of it though. Now, I look forward to the ritual of pulling a shot with the Flair. I don't have to worry about running out of Nitrous Oxide (like I did with the MyPressi) and then starting all over again.
The Flair let's you focus on what actually matters in the espresso brewing process, without having to worry about mechanical malfunctions that come with fancier equipment.
Flair Models: Compared
At the time of this review, there are currently 6 different bundles across 2 generations of the Flair. In this review, we're specifically looking at the Signature Plus model, but as you can see in the table above there are not many big distinctions between the Classic and Signature lines.
In most cases, it comes down to the accessories that are included.
All "plus" models include the stainless steel tamper, and all "bundle" models include both the stainless steel tamper and an extra brew head.
Are either of these accessories necessary? Well, that depends on your needs.
If you're someone who tends to brew more than one espresso at a time, the extra brew head is beneficial because you can brew two shots without having to clean out the portafilter in between.
The stainless steel tamper is nice, but definitely not necessary. The plastic tamper/dosing cup should do fine for most people, assuming there is a good grinder as part of your setup.
The Signature Series
The "signature" series includes the 2-in-1 portafilter (option to brew bottomless) and the chrome color option instead of just black.
If having a bottomless portafilter doesn't mean anything to you or you prefer black a a color, then the Classic generation should suit you just fine.
The Signature Pro Series
The Signature Pro model is Flair's latest release, and it includes a pressure gauge, larger capacity filter basket, stainless steel drip tray, and an all-stainless steel bottomless filter basket.
Personally, if I had realized that this option was available, I would have gone for it. But because I went straight to Amazon to make my purchase, and the Signature Pro is currently only available on the Flair website, I missed out on my chance to try it.
You can, however, purchase the pressure gauge separately if that's something you want to use.
The stainless steel parts are nice, but if you don't have major plastic phobia, it probably isn't much of a value add.
If you haven't brewed espresso at home before, there are some important prerequisites you need to be aware of before even considering the purchase of an espresso machine like the Flair.
At the very least, you should be using filtered water and freshly roasted coffee, as these two components will have the biggest impact on the espresso's quality.
The other important component is the coffee grinder you're using.
Espresso is infinitely better when brewed with freshly ground coffee, so if you're considering the Flair, please don't use pre-ground coffee.
I'm not saying this as a coffee snob so much as I'm saying this as your friend. Using pre-ground coffee with a Flair is like using cheap motor oil with a Lamborghini (sorry if that was a bad analogy, car people), you're not going to get the best results by using inferior ingredients.
So if there is one thing I'd recommend doing before purchasing an espresso machine, it would be to invest in a good burr grinder that can grind finely enough for espresso.
For more on grinding coffee, check out our thorough guide here.
Here are some recommendations:
How To Use The Flair
Brewing with the Flair isn't difficult, but it definitely has a steeper learning curve than most coffee brewing methods out there.
Step 1: Attach the lever to the base
Despite all of the parts, the initial setup is very easy. Simply attach the lever to the base.
All Signature models come with an optional screw that you can use to attach the lever to the base more securely. The folks at flair suggest doing this if you plan to keep your Flair as mainstay on the counter.
Step 2: Preheat the cylinder
I actually found this to be the most confusing step in the instruction booklet, as a critical piece of information was missing.
Basically, the instructions say to detach the cylinder/reservoir from the filter basket and piston to prepare for preheating in a bowl or the sink. You are then pour your boiling water into the cylinder and let it sit for 30 seconds or so before repeating the process.
The problem is that the cylinder has an opening on the top and the bottom, so water basically just runs through the bottom due to gravity, since it's not plugged up.
Only after reading another review did I realize that the way to deal with this is by keeping the piston inside of the cylinder slightly, so it prevents the water from flowing out of the bottom.
This ensures that the cylinder is actually being fully heated
Step 3: Measure and grind the coffee
As you're preheating the cylinder, you should begin to dose your beans (15-17g) and dial-in your grind.
This step actually isn't much different from what you'd do with any other espresso setup, but there is one slightly tricky part, which is actually adding the ground coffee to your filter basket.
You see, once you get past 15 un-tamped grams of coffee, the filter basket easily starts to overflow. So you're pretty much forced to use the included funnel when dosing AND tamping.
It seemed weird to me that there was nothing mentioned about the filter basket's capacity. I actually figured Flair would have over-compensated for this with a larger basket, but this wasn't the case.
So to summarize: measure out your 15-17g using a gram scale, then grind the coffee directly into your filter basket with the funnel attached.
If there's clumping, put your palm over the top of the funnel and give the basket a few shakes until the clumps go away.
Unless I tamped the coffee with the grounds funnel still attached, I'd end up with a complete mess of coffee grounds all over the place.
Step 4: Tamp the coffee
With the funnel still in place, tamp the coffee. Since the tamper fits perfectly within the funnel, you can avoid the mess I described above.
Step 5: Place the screen on top of the filter basket
Add the included screen to the top of the filter basket so it is flush with the top.
Step 6: Attach filter basket to the cylinder and add hot water
Next, attach the filter basket to the cylinder, and place the now fully-assembled brew head on the holder.
Fill the hot water up to the line inside the cylinder.
Step 7: Place piston in cylinder and pull the lever
Now you're finally ready to brew! Carefully add the piston to the top of the cylinder and pull the lever. Don't forget to put your demitasse on the drip tray so it can catch that sweet, sweet espresso!
Flair vs. The Competition
If you're looking to get a great price on a Flair, your best bet is to head to their website and check out the "blemished" espresso makers that had slight manufacturing defects (aesthetically speaking).
Flair offers 15% off for these units. Grab 'em quick though, as they sell out quickly.
We reviewed the Flair Signature Plus across 8 different rating categories that we feel are important to the end user.
Let's take a closer look at each.
In my opinion, The Flair is one of the most beautiful pieces of coffee equipment out there right now. Whether you go with the Black or Chrome versions, it's bound to garner attention.
Design & Materials
The Flair is made of mostly stainless steel and aluminum parts, which is always a welcome sight. From a design perspective, it's built in a way that minimizes potential malfunction.
There is complete transparency in the brew process, making it a truly manual espresso maker.
Ease of Use
In James Hoffmann's review of the Flair, he used the perfect word to describe the brew process: "fussy".
And for the most part, I agree.
But with just a little bit of practice I was able to get the hang of it, especially when I figured out there's a more efficient way to preheat the cylinder (inserting the piston into the cylinder and flipping upside down).
At the end of the day, it's by no means the easiest or most efficient way to brew espresso, but if you set your expectations right and embrace the ritual, you may appreciate your espresso that much more.
The espresso shots I've pulled with the Flair have been consistently delicious. Yes, a lot of this has to do with the Flair itself, but it's also because I grind my relatively fresh coffee right before brewing and with a decent quality burr grinder. The water I use is also soft and filtered.
So yes, the Flair is capable of pulling top-notch shots, but don't neglect the other important espresso prerequisites I outlined above.
Cleaning the Flair isn't difficult, but it's still kind of a pain in the butt. Because there are so many different parts that make up the brew head, it feels a bit tedious to rinse all of the parts before pulling your next shot.
And the parts are small, so it's not like it's a great idea to leave them on a drying rack where they can easily be lost if you're not careful.
I also wish it were a little easier to knock the used grounds into the trash (or compost) from the filter basket. For whatever reason, my pucks were pretty stubborn even after aggressive knocks, so using a spoon is often necessary.
I have a really hard time believing that anyone would use the Flair outside of their homes. Yes, it can be easily disassembled and comes with a handy carrying case, but it's not like it doesn't have any heft to it.
Perhaps if it were lighter and had fewer small parts, I might consider it for a camping trip. But it would have to be car camping, since there's no conceivable reason I'd be lugging around an espresso machine otherwise.
To me, the price is worth it because I have a good feeling that my Flair will last a long time. Plus, all of the major parts are replaceable, so there is a very small likelihood the Flair will ever fail on me indefinitely.
Still, the price is high enough to make many people balk.
I don't think the Flair is in an unreasonable price range, but if compared directly to other manual, portable espresso makers, it does feel relatively expensive.
As I mentioned above, the Flair is definitely built-to-last. Nothing about its design makes me think that malfunctions aren't easily fixable.
The materials are solid, and the major parts are replaceable.
Regardless, only time will tell how well the Flair holds up.
I'm pretty happy with my Flair Signature Plus so far, which has been an excellent upgrade over the MyPressi Twist.
Again, I think the Flair is mainly for those coffee enthusiasts who don't mind the ritual of brewing. The Flair is almost like the Chemex of the espresso world: it's slow and manual, but it can brew up some excellent espresso.
If you don't want to spend a lot on an espresso maker and/or already have a lot of coffee equipment taking up space in your kitchen, the Flair may be a great option for you.
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Flair Signature Plus Espresso Maker$209.00
Design & Materials9.0/10
Ease of Use7.0/10
- Elegant design
- Capable of making high-quality espresso
- Great value
- Fussy to use
- Too many parts
- Not a convenient way to make espresso
Last update on 2019-07-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API