The Flair espresso makers are among the most prominent choices for people who are keen to brew espresso at home. A little while ago, we put our hands on their most budget-friendly model, the Flair NEO.
This review will assess the things that make a Flair espresso maker stand out from the crowd, as well as how to operate it. We will also make a comparison between the NEO and the more expensive Flair PRO.
Once we’ve detailed how the two are different from each other, you’ll be able to make a better-informed decision as to which model suits your requirements.
What Is The Flair Espresso Maker?
For those who unfamiliar with the Flair espresso maker, let’s take a brief overview:
A successful Kickstarter campaign saw Flair launch in 2016, with Sergio Landau, a Brazilian mechanical engineer, the product’s brainchild.
Flair aims to provide an all-in-one means of making the perfect espresso. It also has an appealing, simple design that highlights the idea that complexity is unnecessary for pulling a quality espresso shot correctly. Indeed, you’ll be struck by its simplicity at first glance, consisting of an espresso maker with just a handle and a small brew chamber for placing your cup under.
Models Of Flair Manual Espresso Makers
Following its launch, Flair has introduced a range of models and currently has the following espresso makers:
The original Flair model was launched in 2016. The Classic has a regular brew head for between 12 and 18 grams of coffee and a simple aesthetic.
This model followed the Classic and has an additional temper and pressure gauge. The brew head is identical to the Classic’s, but the look is even more stylish.
Flair PRO 2
The jewel in the crown of Flair’s range, the PRO came onto the market in 2018 and has a larger brew head than Flair’s previous models, with a capacity for between 16 and 24 grams of coffee.
Launched in 2020, this product has a new type of pressurized brew head and a simple design. It’s the cheapest of Flair’s range.
The Flair 58 is the newest product in the range, being released in 2021. It has a different design to the other models and is bigger. The workflow represents the most considerable change.
The Flair 58 has a 58mm portafilter that can be locked in and a group head that heats electronically.
It makes manual espresso brewing even more efficient, but it comes at a significantly higher price.
Flair NEO Review
The Flair NEO is a manual lever espresso machine intended to be simple to operate and affordable for people on a budget. In other words, it’s an entry-level espresso maker that can offer a solid introduction to the subtleties of espresso-making without having to spend significant sums of money immediately.
The Flair NEO is available in two color options – white and grey. Meanwhile, the build and design of the machine are similar to Flair’s previous releases.
The Flair NEO’s slim body is built from durable aluminum, with an oval-shaped base and a sleek manual lever curving downwards from the top. In the middle sits a stainless steel cylinder with the eye-catching red portafilter beneath it. Put together, this product is discreet, compact, and elegant, with an assuringly robust aesthetic and feel.
What Is Included With The Flair NEO?
A few items come with the Flair NEO. The brew head separates into the following: a water chamber with a 60-gram capacity, a piston, a dispersion screen, and a pressurized “flow-control” portafilter and brew basket for holding a maximum of 18 grams of coffee.
There are add-ons, too, with a dosing cup that doubles as a tamper, a dosing ring that helps prevent mess, and a removable drip tray.
Other models boast a sleek metal tamper or carry case. While the Flair NEO lacks these, they’re not essential, meaning you’ll still have all you need to brew espresso.
Ease Of Use
As with every Flair manual espresso maker, there are several steps to pulling a shot: preheat the portafilter, measure and grind the coffee beans, put together the brew head, pour in the water, and press the lever.
One of the best things about the Flair NEO is its convenience as it won’t need electricity. Another advantage is its relative affordability. However, on the downside, it does take longer to pull a shot of espresso.
Every time you want to make espresso, you need to take the device apart then put it all back together again from scratch. You also will have to preheat it and ensure everything is cleaned when you’ve finished.
What Sets The NEO Apart From Other Flair Manual Espresso Makers?
The NEO differs from other Flair products in some significant ways. The pressurized portafilter is far more forgiving to different grind sizes than an unpressurized one, making the NEO a good option for beginner espresso brewers.
In a standard portafilter, the water will move through the coffee and into the cup. However, with pressurized baskets, the water makes its way through the coffee before being held in a tiny exit hole, preventing it from exiting as rapidly. While you press, the coffee becomes stuck there, and it only leaves that exit hole slowly. Because of this, the espresso develops a synthetic crema via aeration.
Using a flow-control portafilter such as that of the NEO, newbies can brew an excellent espresso with a great-looking crema without the need for a costly espresso grinder. In general, then, pressurized portafilters allow more room for error, as well as more coarse grinds.
The Flair NEO is capable of many of the same functions as pricier manual espresso machines. However, you can make improvements with some add-ons too.
One example is the portafilter. There is also an option to buy a non-pressurized one that’s bottomless. However, before you consider this, keep in mind you’ll need a decent grinder.
We also suggest buying the pressure gauge kit. This is a great accessory for monitoring the pressure as you brew.
There is a range of other add-ons available too. This means that you can buy the NEO as a beginner and upgrade it as you gain experience without needing a new, more expensive espresso maker. However, if you do want a new machine, the PRO has all those extras included.
How to Make Espresso with Flair Neo?
Let’s look at the process of brewing espresso with the Flair NEO – a process that bears similarities with other espresso machines.
Preheating is a time-consuming drawback of Flair products, but it is a necessary one. The brewing chamber is a weighty metal section of the machine. Therefore, without preheating, it would take too much heat from the water.
First of all, steep the brew cylinder in some boiling water.
2.Grind Your Beans
While the brewer is warming up, measure 16 grams of beans.
We suggest a slightly coarser grind with the size of the grind than a regular espresso setting. However, if you don’t already have another espresso maker, you’re unlikely to have a dedicated espresso grinder. Therefore, if you have a grinder for pour-over coffee or drip coffee, ensure you grind it as fine as it will let you.
3.Distribute And Tamp The Grounds
Place the dosing ring at the top of the portafilter. You can move your grounds to the filter basket without spilling them.
Use several taps to ensure consistent distribution of the coffee grounds, then tamp down evenly using the opposite side of the dosing cup. Add a shower screen to the top of it.
4.Assemble the Flair Espresso Maker
Attach the heated brew head to the top of your filter basket. After putting together the brew unit, attach it to the portafilter base. Then, pour boiling water into the brew chamber until there is around 60ml of water in it (or the top of the marked line). This will produce around 45ml of espresso.
Position the plunger, and ensure your cup is well placed beneath the portafilter.
5.Pull A Shot Of Espresso
Gradually move the handle down to push the water through the grounds. Hold the handle in position to allow for pre-infusion. Once you detect drips emerging from the bottom, move the handle down gradually and at a consistent pace to ensure a steady stream of espresso from the filter basket. Continue this process until the handle is fully down. For the best results, try to make this process last for between 30 and 45 seconds.
By now, you should have a nice crema and a rich, dark-colored shot of espresso.
6.Clean the Flair Neo after brewing
To begin cleaning the Flair NEO, remove the base’s brew head, take off the filter basket, and tap the grounds out of it. Rinse everything with water. Now the Flair NEO is ready to be used again.
We also suggest brewing some hot water directly through the portafilter. This will help remove the oils in the pressurized basket.
Flair NEO v Flair PRO
Before deciding which espresso maker is best for you, you’ll have to consider several models. To make this process easier, we’ll make a comparison between the NEO and the PRO because they are the most well-loved Flair machines and sit at opposite ends of the price range.
*The PRO 2 is an upgrade to the PRO with an enhanced bottomless portafilter, a removable spout, a silicone grip for improved ergonomics, and a gauge guard, making it more durable.
The cost of the Flair PRO is nearly double that of the NEO.
The Flair NEO is the company’s least expensive machine and is competitively priced. However, as we await the release of the Flair 58, the PRO2 is the most expensive in the Flair range. So, with such a significant price gap between the two, let’s examine how they differ.
The Flair PRO has a protective case, which isn’t available for the NEO. The case is well-designed and convenient, as you can put everything you need in it and carry the Flair with you on your travels. The NEO, meanwhile, has a basic paper box.
The Build Quality
Aside from the color, the surfaces of the two models are different. Also, the brew head on the PRO has a copper holder.
Delving deeper into the elements of each device, the NEO has a standard piston for pressing. Meanwhile, the PRO contains a piston pressure gauge. This means you can both control and monitor the pressure while you brew.
There are also differences in the brew heads of the two machines, with the PRO’s brewing chamber weightier than the NEO’s.
The Flair PRO’s tamper is also of better quality, made from metal, and looking very professional. Meanwhile, the NEO’s tamper is plastic.
Similarly, the Flair PRO’s drip tray is built from stainless steel that can also hold wastewater. However, the NEO’s is made from plastic.
The Brew Capacity
Both the NEO and PRO can only pull a single shot in one go. However, each has a different capacity in both the water reservoir and filter basket.
The PRO’s brewing chamber can hold 70ml of water, equating to 56ml of espresso. Meanwhile, the NEO’s brewing chamber has a capacity of 60ml, amounting to 45ml of coffee.
Finally, the PRO’s filter basket can hold 16 to 24 grams of coffee, while the NEO’s is limited to 12 to 18 grams.
The Flair PRO is equipped with a regular 45mm diameter portafilter capable of holding 16 to 24 grams of coffee. Meanwhile, the NEO has a pressurized portafilter 40mm in diameter that can hold 12 to 18 grams.
There are some sizeable differences between the designs of the portafilters too. The PRO’s is bottomless, and while this doesn’t affect the flavor, it’s a nice touch to observe the entire extraction process.
The placement of the dispersion screen on the portafilter also differs between the two models. The NEO’s shower screen is situated on the portafilter and never comes into contact with the coffee. However, in the PRO, the shower screen is positioned on the coffee.
Summary – Flair NEO or PRO?
The Flair NEO is an attractive option for people on a smaller budget or who are inexperienced. However, the PRO is a one-off investment for experienced espresso brewers. The two models have identical handle designs, but the materials and quality of the builds differ elsewhere.
If you’re a beginner, the NEO allows room for error and isn’t too expensive. You can also invest in more accessories as you gain experience. However, with the PRO, all those accessories are included, so for those for whom money isn’t an issue, it is a good option too.
Disadvantages Of Flair Espresso Machines
Whether it’s the Flair NEO, Classic, PRO, or Signature, each has features in common. However, they all share disadvantages too. Let’s details them:
One Serve Only
Flair’s aren’t good when brewing for more than one person. Standard espresso machines have a regular portafilter allowing you to take out the puck, wipe the basket, dose and prep. However, the Flair is manual, meaning you need to preheat, take it apart, then reassemble to pull every shot. Even taking into account the PRO’s larger-capacity basket, making more than one espresso at a time is out of the question.
Standard espresso makers can work at the touch of a button. However, manual espresso machines such as the Flair need a reasonable amount of strength to pull down the handle.
You Need A Grinder
Grinders are vital for brewing espresso, and that’s true of manual grinders such as those in the Flair range too. While the NEO does allow for a coarser grind thanks to the pressurized portafilter, non-pressurized filters still give you the best results as you can tweak the grind size.
No Milk-Based Coffees
The Flairs don’t have steam wands, so there’s no scope for brewing milk-based coffees. So, suppose you generally enjoy drinks like latte or cappuccino. In that case, you might prefer a basic semi-automatic espresso maker with a grinder built-in for a similar price to a Flair maker and a separate grinder, and a milk steamer.
Hopefully, we have clearly explained what Flair espresso machines can do and how they operate. We’ve also explained how the least expensive of Flair’s range, the NEO, compares against the most expensive, the PRO. Armed with that information, you should now be in a position to make an informed decision as to which to buy or whether a manual espresso maker is even for you.
If you’re new to brewing espresso and don’t mind a little manual effort, a lever machine like NEO is worth considering. However, your ability to pull the highest quality espresso shots will be compromised by the small brew head and pressurized portafilter. However, you’ll have less coffee bean waste as you won’t need to dial in your coffee. The NEO is also ideal if you’re only an occasional espresso brewer and don’t own a grinder.
The Flair PRO is worth looking at if you have more money to spend, as it’ll reward you with a better build quality and more professional-tasting espresso. However, to produce that, you’ll also need some dialing-in experience and a premium grinder.
Generally, though, the Flair NEO is an excellent consideration if your main priority is making good espresso at home without the budget needed for more expensive espresso machines.