Flair 58 vs Flair Pro 2
Flair Espresso has been a household favourite for portable espresso, more affordable espresso and Manual espresso. And the Pro2’s Features like it’s pressure gauge and 46mm bottomless portafilter have made high quality espresso accessible to so many more people.
But then Flair released this, the Flair 58: A electronically pre-heated Manual brewer with a commercial sized 58mm portafilter. Many features the Pro2 left me desiring.
And I thought, this would be an interesting comparison as the Pro2 makes incredible espresso… but is it worth upgrading to the flair 58? Who is the 58 for? And is the Pro2 Still worth considering?
Let’s get into this and hopefully I can help answer some of those questions.
Flair Espresso has easily been dominating the Manual Espresso category in the variety of options and prices available. They have brewers start as cheep as just over $100US ranging up to $530US and options in between.
So both of these options are not considered budget friendly in comparison to other models in Flair’s lineup. But rather, these are their top tier units available.
Let’s talk about the Pro2. It has a price tag of $309 for the Black and white and $329 for their chrome version.
The Flair 58 on the other hand has a price of $529. This is 58% more than it’s little brother.
What’s in the Box?
So what do you get for your money?
With the Pro you get a decent amount. It starts with its travel case which is fairly protective and convenient for taking the Pro2 on the go. This case has been used often traveling with the Pro to and from work, camping and anywhere I can honestly justify brewing espresso. It comes with a small functional tamper, dosing funnel, metal drip tray, a spout for the bottomless portafilter if you’d want to use it, a gauge for measuring pressure while brewing and of course the chassis and brew chamber.
The brew gauge is a personal favourite. Knowing what my pressure is at with live visual feedback enables repeating great shots much easier. While I do enjoy the small tamper of the flair, it can be difficult to use and it should be noted that there have been companies like crema coffee who have been making accessories for the Flair pro2 including tampers and distributors. I’ll link some down below if you want to check any of those out.
With the Flair 58 you don’t get the nice travel case. Something I do wish Flair included, but after using it I’ve come to understand that this machine is designed less for travel and more intended as a daily espresso brewer. More on that idea later on. The 58 also comes with a small but decent tamper, a portafilter with a wooden handle, rubber drip tray instead of the metal from the Pro2, the larger chassis and Grouphead… and what truly makes this device unique… an electronic controller for pre heating the device.
Once you turn the controller on, you can choose a temperature of Low, medium or high for your preferred temperature for the brew group. Personally I have always used High as I’ve never found it to be too hot.. even for darker roasted coffee. But it’s nice to have the option to choose temperature to adjust to your liking. Once it’s on, the group takes a few minutes to heat, but Flair recommends keeping the portafilter locked in and heating for 10 minutes to allow everything to get nice and hot.
The Flair Pro2 has always been a beautiful device in my opinion. It’s copper trim and metal drip tray show me that they put the detail into this one. It’s brew cylinder is thick and handle is solid. I’ve never been concerned about breaking this device. It uses few plastic pieces if at all and is a great size for traveling.
The 58 is also a beautiful device in my opinion. It’s long lever and wide base really speak to it’s design… to be a daily driver for your espresso routines.
The wood accents are a nice touch on both the handle and the portaflter - though I will say both don’t feel extremely premium… but don’t feel cheep either. I don’t love how the 58 uses a rubber drip tray instead of the metal one the pro2 has. I’m assuming this is where costs were cut to be able to produce this machine.
The electronics are a really nice feature and set this machine apart.. but again they don’t feel…amazing. They’re okay.. and will get the job done but they don’t scream premium while using them. Probably not a big deal for most, but thought it was worth mentioning.
The Brew cylinder on the other hand feels great. It’s a very thick metal coated in rubber that I think should last a while if taken care of. And the chassis feels great too. Similar to the Pro2… just bigger.
Manual espresso is fun and flexible in it’s ability to brew anywhere and pressure profile shots. But one obstacle that is fairly common with manual espresso like the Flair is it’s thermal stability and necessity to preheat the brew chambers. If you skip pre-heating the brew chamber, the brew water will be drastically cooled when entering the brew chamber and shots will often turn out sour and astringent. For optimal brewing you want to get the brew chamber HOT.
For the Pro2 this means doing one of two things. The safest option is to filling and dumping the brew chamber with hot water 3-4 times before brewing. But the way I pre-heat and the option that Flair has communicated is to use the kettle steam to heat the brew chamber. I personally do this while the kettle water is heating and coffee is being ground. A little hack I’ve found… I use the dose funnel from my Fellow Stagg X to sit on my Fellow Stag EKG and then place the brew chamber on this to pre-heat. It works well, but if you do this be sure to be safe and careful when removing the brew cylinder.
The Flair 58 can also be pre-heated a few ways. While most people are going to opt for the electronic heating with a push of a button… And I will too… if you do opt to travel with the flair 58 or find yourself without electricity it has the option to be pre-heated by hot water or steam as well.
And get this… I’ve found this really unique finding in that the brew group is the exact dimensions of the stagg EKG kettle lid. So it sits nicely on the kettle for easy heating.
Let’s quickly walk you though how each brewer’s workflow looks so that you can get a better idea of how you would use these.
Once the Pro2 is heated up, you’re going to dose 16-22 grams of coffee. Often I’ll go with around 16g BUT for this test, we will do 18g to match the 58.
Grind your coffee just slightly coarser than you would for a traditional 58mm portafilter. Because this is a 46 mm portafilter that water is going to have more coffee to go through so I’ll often adjust my niche zero a few notches coarser in its espresso range as a rough guide to start. This will vary per coffee and grinder.
Tamping is simple, and the funnel is nice to avoid mess. Place the pre-heated shower screen on the bed of coffee, assemble the brew chamber and place it on the chassis.
Then fill it to the top with water. I find myself brewing lighter roasted coffee so I normally get my water as hot as possible. Just off boil.
Then with press and brew your coffee. The pro2 has a decent sized lever so pressing isn’t too difficult as long as the grind size is right.
Once the Flair 58 is up to temperature it’s workflow is truly easy. It’s as close to a typical espresso machine as I’ve come to experience in a device like this.
Grind your coffee as you would for any other 58mm Portafilter machine. Place the Flair 58 Puck screen (which is sold extra) or paper filters on the bed of coffee to help avoid coffee being suctioned into the brew chamber. Lock the portafilter into place. Fill the brew chamber with water.
And then press.
The Flair 58 has an even larger lever than the pro2 so I’ve personally found brewing a breeze and little force is needed.
But here’s where I personally believe the flair 58 takes a large advantage. And that’s It’s clean up.
Once you’re done a shot on the Pro2, be sure to remove any water in the brew cylinder. Then knock out the coffee and the chamber goes to the sink. It’s not a terrible workflow, but with many pieces it can be a bit extra to pull multiple shots in a row. Possible! But extra.
The Flair 58: empty the water from the group head, knock the coffee, and wipe the portafilter.
- Good body
- Great sweetness
- Less acidity than traditional espresso
- Complex and Rounded
- Great body
- Good sweetness
- Good acidity
- Greater clarity than pro2 less complexity
Both are great espressos…. and I don’t feel comfortable tell you which you would prefer. As you guys know I mention often - taste is very subjective. But the Flair 58 feels like a more traditional espresso I would drink from my Lelit Bianca or dual boiler. It’s got great mouthfeel and excellent clarity. I would argue this has the potential to pull a wider range of shots than the average espresso machine without flow profiling or pressure profiling since you have that flexibility with it’s lever. Not necessary better… just more.
So which flair would I purchase? Well this is interesting because I believe as similar as they are… they appeal to a different customer. At almost 60% more money the flair 58 isnt a cheep device. It has electronics and is large. While you can remove the electronics and fold it up… It’s really not designed to. It’s meant to be a device in your kitchen or on your brew bar. And it’s great at that. For some this will be their only espresso brewer and others it will be a complimentary brewer. Regardless it is something I plan to use often for years to come.
The Pro2 on the other hand is portable and small. It’s a little more work to make espresso but if you want to save money… it’s a great option. And there are options cheeper than this with slightly less features. The Pro2 creates great espresso and it looks great doing it.
Both are excellent and if I had to, I’d likely choose the 58 since I don’t find myself traveling as often these days… but I also recognize that it’s much more expensive. I truly don’t believe you would regret the Pro2 if that’s what you decide on.
Flair Pro 2: https://geni.us/7qx0ip
Flair Neo: https://geni.us/QDEh
Flair Classic: https://geni.us/uxft9
Flair 58: https://flairespresso.com/flair-58-first-look/
Flair Pro 2 Tamper/Distributor: https://amzn.to/3dN88B9
Fellow Stagg EKG Kettle: https://geni.us/oeay