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The Flair 58 espresso maker is a coffee-lover’s dream machine

The best money I ever spent on coffee was buying myself the original Flair Espresso Maker.

The Flair has a cult following among espresso aficionados for making it easy to make espresso at coffee-shop quality in a compact, affordable design that requires no electricity. The roughly 6-9 bars of pressure necessary for a proper espresso are created with your own arm strength, rather than any fancy machinery.

But while the original Flair (and the Flair Pro follow-up) were capable of delivering incredible shots, there was a bit of a learning curve, and the process of actually pulling a shot was a little finicky, involving the assembly of a multitude of components with each shot.

This was particularly an issue with light roasts, which require high brewing temperatures. Likewise, delivering multiple shots in a row could be a time-consuming process.

Enter the Flair 58, currently on pre-order. It is so named because it uses the same 58 mm portafilters (the bit that holds the coffee) you find in commercial coffee machines. By introducing a larger basket, making a few design tweaks, and allowing just one electrical component — a temperature controller — the Flair 58 fixes every complaint I had about the earlier models.

At $529, it is the most expensive Flair yet, but for the quality of shots and flexibility you get, it is an absolute steal. I simply do not know how you can get a coffee maker this good, this consistent, and with so much flexibility for less money. The Flair 58 isn’t competing with entry-level coffee machines — it aims straight for the multi-thousand-dollar espresso makers of high-end coffee shops.

Here’s how making coffee works on the new model:

  • Turn on the Flair 58’s temperature sensor to preheat the brew chamber for the right roast setting: dark, medium, or light. This takes about 30 to 90 seconds.
  • Boil water in a kettle while you grind your coffee. It’s essential to have a good burr grinder and freshly roasted beans.
  • Place your grounds into the portafilter, tamp — a nice hefty one is included — and lock the portafilter onto the Flair 58.
  • Pour the water into the brew chamber
  • Pull down the lever for your shot, maintaining adequate pressure (as visible on the pressure gauge) for roughly 30-50 seconds.
  • Empty the coffee grounds, repeat (except your water is already boiling now).

It takes hardly any more time than making coffee on a traditional machine. The only limitation is really how quickly you can grind beans, which is no different than on a commercial or high-end machine setup.

If you’re not familiar with how the earlier Flair models worked, you should read my reviews of the original and Pro. But suffice to say, the Flair 58 significantly cuts down on the time to make a shot, especially if you’re making multiple shots; I always make a shot for my girlfriend before my own.

It is also much more comfortable when preparing for a second shot, as all the hot components are isolated (taking apart the brew chamber on the old Flairs always felt a bit too close to burn hazard). And the longer lever arm makes reaching 9 bars of pressure a cinch.

As for the quality of the shots, they’re sublime. Admittedly, I haven’t tried very many home coffee machines, but that’s only because I was spoiled early on by the Flair. The Flair’s lever allows you to intuitively do something called pressure profiling, something you’d normally have to spend thousands of dollars for.