I think my first coffee that I had was the black can coffee. I remember I hated its bitter taste. Only coffee that I liked at that time was Café au lait with a little bit of sweeteners that my mom made.
Little after I started to go to cafés or coffee shops, I got to know more types of coffee such as latte, cappuccino, macchiato, mocha, caffè americano or espresso. Since I liked sweet café au lait, I wanted to try something sweet as well, and I found caramel macchiato. It was perfect and exactly what I wanted.
I don’t remember exactly when or how, but I found myself drinking latte and getting used to have black coffee as well.
Latte became my go-to at the coffee shops eventually, after I tried most of the other types of coffee. Then, few years ago, I watched this video.
And I was like “I want to do this!!” I didn’t really know how each type of coffee differs from another but I wanted to make latte by myself at home. So I started to watch videos on YouTube about making coffee and espresso.
That’s how my pursuit for the right espresso machine started.
Requirements for my first espresso machine.
Certainly I could have started from something cheap and see if this journey of coffee making last even for a bit. However, I had certain things that I wanted from my first espresso machine. I wanted them to be manual and portable/movable.
I love literally everything he did in the YouTube video, roasting coffee beans, grinding, and pulling the shot using the lever, all by himself. I was sure that I would enjoy the process of making coffee/espresso as well as the results such as the taste. So for me, convenience was not the priority to start with.
However the price of manual espresso machine is relatively expensive and it was the only concern that I had before buying the machine. Unlike grinders or mills, manual espresso machines tend to be more expensive and it is much easier and cheaper to just get the automated espresso machine with milk steamers to make latte.
The cheapest model that Flair sells is Flair Classic Solo at $159 and it is still expensive since you can buy automated espresso machine under $100.
But I decided to stick to the manual espresso machine.
2: Portable or movable
Since I’m staying at the college dorm, I didn’t want to buy something too big that I can’t easily move every year when I change my dorm room or every time I fly back to Japan for long breaks. I just wanted to put them in my check-in bag and bring around wherever I go. Most of espresso machines are massive and I should be really careful when to move them because they are electrical products. The manual espresso machines, on the other hand, tends to be easier to move around.
So portability was key for me to choose.
Flair Espresso Maker was PERFECT.
I was searching for the espresso machine that is manual and I can bring back and forth between Japan and USA.
Then I found the one in this video!
As soon as I saw it fitting in the case, I thought this might be it.
The case didn’t seem too big to carry around and it’s a knockdown espresso machine, meaning you can break it down so it’s easy to move when it’s necessary or I want to. And obviously it was manual so all of my requirements were checked.
Right after watching the video, I went to Flair’s website and decided to buy one.
Why did I choose Signature Pro?
There are four models of Flair Espresso Maker, in order of price, Classic Solo ($159), Signature Black ($199), Signature Chrome ($209), and Signature Pro ($299). I bought the most expensive model, Signature Pro. Why did I choose it even though I’m a 100% beginner in making espresso or even coffee?
First of all, I’m such a huge believer of the idea that consumers set the price, meaning most of expensive products are sold at the specific price because consumers believe it’s worth that much. And through the research on how people like the Signature Pro, it seems it works as it’s priced.
Another reason which might seem stupid to most of people, is that I don’t want to upgrade later on. If I have bought the Classic Solo and if I like it a lot, I might want to pursue the best model later on. That means I have to spend $458 (Classic Solo: $159 + Signature Pro: $299) in total, but if I start with the best one, I won’t have to upgrade later on (unless the new model will be launched).
Also, I was afraid that this new hobby won’t last so long because I knew that it takes a lot of practices and times to make something good. I bought the most expensive one to urge myself to keep trying even though I might face with countless failures. I love to invest money in something that I love and put myself in a situation where I have to get better at it.
Of course, I had no idea how the shot that you can pull on Signature Pro would be better than the shot on the other models because I don’t know anything about making espresso/coffee or whatsoever. Only thing that I can recognize and knew it will help me (and absolutely it did) on Signature Pro was the Integrated Pressure Gauge which tells me how much pressure I need to put to pull a great espresso shot.
So… How is FlairSignature PRO Espresso Maker?
It is AMAZING!!! I’m more than happy that I got to start my coffee life with this Flair Signature PRO Espresso Maker. First of all, it is so much fun to make coffee by myself. I love the whole process from grinding beans to cleaning up. I’m still not sure if the espresso is the best choice to start making coffee with but I’m happy that I can make latte for myself.
Yes, I had a hard time at the beginning, not being able to pull shots in the way that I saw on YouTube. But now I am confident that I got to the point that I can pull decent shots every time and I can start exploring the espresso world.
Tips for Beginners
I don’t think there would be many people like me who buy the Signature Pro without knowing the basics of making espresso/coffee. But if there are and they face with problems, I can share few things.
- If you want to have a hot latte, you’ll need to buy an individual milk steamer.
- Unlike other automated espresso machine, it doesn’t come with milk steamer on the side. It’s not so easy to make the good milk foam for latte without it.
- Grind size affects more than you think. If you grind coffee beans too coarse, you cannot put that much of pressure on lever since water just drain through bean grounds. If your grounds are too fine, it’s almost impossible to pull the shots because it will take forever to get even a single drop.
- This might be mistakes only beginners make but the screen has two sides, a side with smaller holes and another with bigger holes. Smaller holes are supposed to be facing up to create the pressure. If you place it wrong, water just drain through bean grounds. So right before you place the cylinder on top of portafilter, make sure you see the screen with small holes.
- The portafilter is somewhat hard to clean. In the instruction, Flair says “Cleaning the Flair is easy. To remove used espresso grounds from your Flair you can knock them out against the side of a trash can or dig the grounds out with a utensil.” Either because I ground the beans too fine or because I put too much pressure, usually just knocking doesn’t work. I watched this video and I saw those guys blowing air into portafilter from the filter side. This sometimes works but it still don’t work if I grind beans too fine and I have to dig the grounds.
I was having a hard time especially #2 and #3 at the beginning. #2 lasted for a while until I found the right grind setting on the grinder. I recently bought the new grinder and it took few shots to figure out the right setting. #3 confused me figuring out the way to make a right shot, because when I failed making shots, I wasn’t sure if that was due to the grinding setting or something else.
What’s the down side?
I’m pretty satisfied with this espresso machine, but some people might put priorities on convenience or how fast and easy they can make espresso. Since it takes more time and energy to make an espresso shot with Flair than other automated espresso machine, you might not be able to have an espresso in the busy morning. For the same reason, you won’t be able to serve espresso shots for a lot of people in a short time. Even though my family or friends ask me to make latte for them, I have to tell them that it will take for a while. This happens to me a lot maybe because I use the manual grinder, but still pre-heating and cleaning takes time.
Even though the Flair Signature PRO Espresso Maker might not be the best option for some people and especially not for beginners, I am still pleased that I bought this particular espresso machine. It meets both of my requirements and it gives me so much of joy.
I actually had an opportunity to bring this back to Japan during summer. I just put all the equipments that I need into my check-in suitcase, and successfully brought it back. I could enjoy iced latte at home quite often since summer in Japan could get really hot.