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Making Espresso At Home Without A Fancy Machine


Xris is a caffeinated content creator based in Boston documenting his journey into the world of specialty coffee through YouTube videos and Instagram

Making espresso at home can look intimidating. If you’ve put in the research, you might be overwhelmed between all the different options. From sub-$500 single boilers to heat exchangers and dual boilers worth thousands of dollars, the options are plenty and pricey.

Guess what? You don’t need any of that to make and enjoy delicious espresso right from your home. In fact, here’s everything you really need to pull some great tasting shots in just 5 simple steps – without a fancy espresso machine.

Let's Talk About Espresso

First, let’s talk about what espresso is before diving into how to make it at home. Espresso, in the most general sense, is a concentrated coffee beverage that is made by forcing hot water, at high pressure, through a bed of coffee in a very short window of time. The pressure is what makes all the difference! This pressure ensures that the fats, acids and sugars in your bed of coffee extract at a higher rate in a short period of time. This is what creates the thicker, more syrupy texture of espresso. It also means that it is typically higher in caffeine per volume compared to other brewing methods.

While espresso machines at your local café or roaster look very fancy, and they are, they really have one major job; forcing water through your coffee at pressure to create espresso. So, in theory, to replicate this process and brew espresso at home, all you’d need is the ability to generate pressure in your brewing chamber. Easier said than done right? Well, with the Flair Espresso Maker, it’s easily said and done!

The Flair Espresso Maker

The Flair Espresso Maker was designed to be an affordable manual espresso machine that was able to generate the pressure needed to brew espresso – all from your home – without any extra gadgets or doo-dads. It’s just pure and simple espresso, handcrafted manually.
Upon first look, you might be wondering, ‘how in the world can this little lever espresso maker replicate what happens inside a big commercial machine?’ Well, the answer is as above: pressure! The Flair’s lever-based espresso system uses a stainless-steel cylinder with a plunger at the top and portafilter on the bottom. Seals inside the brewing chamber prevent pressure from escaping, and as the lever is lowered, the bed of coffee acts as another partial seal, generating resistance until the pressure builds enough that your brew water is forced through the grounds.

And voila! Espresso in your cup from a humble little espresso maker that you can place right onto your counter.

The Materials You'll Need

Now let’s talk about the process for creating delicious espresso at home without a fancy machine.

First, you’ll need your Flair Espresso Maker! You’ll be glad to hear that the Flair Espresso lineup has options for all budgets, from the affordability-focused Flair NEO to the Flair 58 with an industry-standard 58mm portafilter. For the purposes of this demonstration, we’ll be using a Flair Classic, which was the original manual espresso maker created by Flair way back in 2016.

Flair Classic Manual Espresso Maker

The Flair Classic is the original manual espresso maker from Flair. Brew anywhere and get café-quality espresso all while benefitting from the immediate feedback and control of a manual system.

Second, fresh beans. This is an absolute no brainer when it comes to getting great tasting coffee. Check out a local coffee roaster for some freshly roasted options!

Third, hot water! Unlike some fancy pour over methods, a variable temperature controlled gooseneck kettle isn’t necessary, but surely helps with the precision of your pour. Depending on the roast level of your beans, you may also prefer to set your water to a desired temperature.

Finally, the grinder. A high-quality burr grinder will always result in the most consistent and fluffy grinds for your espresso: It’s a must when using a non-pressurized portafilter. The Flair Royal is a great hand grinder that travels nicely alongside your Flair Classic and With steel burrs and 72-steps of 0.02mm, you’ll have no trouble dialing in the perfect shot of espresso.

Steps to Follow:

Step 1: Preheat the Brew Chamber

As mentioned above, the Flair Classic is an entirely lever-based espresso machine, no messy cables or outlets necessary. Heck, you could pull a fantastic shot of espresso easily in the middle of a forest with the included travel case!

Be sure to put your brew chamber in a bowl, deep enough to submerge it, and pour hot water to completely cover the chamber or purchase a preheat cap from their website so you can ditch the bowl.
Step 2: Grind Your Beans

To dial in your Flair, we recommend starting with a 12-16g dose and to time your shot in the realm of 35-45 seconds. Too long or too bitter? Grind coarser. Too fast or acidic? Grind finer!

Don’t have a good grinder? No problem! You could easily swap to using the pressurized portafilter, included standard on the Flair NEO, and pick up some of your favorite pre-ground coffee.
Step 3: Prep the Portafilter

Add your coffee grounds into the portafilter with the included funnel, and give it a light tamp and set it up on your Flair Classic portafilter base. If you have something like the Flair Shot Mirror, which I’ve used in all the photos, you can remove the spout to convert your portafilter into a bottomless, letting you see your tasty shot pull.

Add your preheated brew chamber (careful, it’s hot!), fill it up with hot water, and add your plunger.

If you want to really geek out over your shot profile, you can even grab the Flair Pressure Gauge to monitor the pressure profile of your shot! As a general rule of thumb, aim for between 6-9 BAR of pressure. The custom Flair Pressure Gauge even features an espresso target “zone” to help you while you’re pulling your shot. These can be purchased as an accessory, or they come standard on all Flair Signatures, PRO 2 and 58 manual espresso makers.
Gently start your pull, aiming between 30-40 pounds of force (tip: you can use a body weighing scale under your Flair to monitor your force). Make sure you’re hitting those ratios and timings!

If you’re not seeing any drips or a steady flow, you’ve likely ground too fine or tamped too hard. Simply dump the remaining water and clean out the portafilter to try again.
Step 4: Enjoy

Now for the best part. Enjoy your delicious and tasty shot of espresso that you’ve made at home, all without the need for a fancy espresso machine! Without a doubt, the espresso that can be brewed with a Flair manual espresso maker will rival the quality you can get from your nearest third wave coffee shop or fancy espresso machine. With a Flair espresso maker, you can now make all sorts of espresso-based drinks from cappuccinos to flat whites- whether you’re at home or on the go.

The best part is, you don’t need a fancy steam wand either. Also available on the Flair shop, you can grab the Nanofoamer: One of the best and portable solutions to get latte art quality milk foam at home.

Did you know that most cafe drinks are variations of ratios of espresso to steamed milk and milk foam? Cappuccinos typically have a thick layer of foam on top, flat whites – a bit less. Lattes largely have the greatest ratio of espresso to milk, making great iced drinks on warm summer days. Add a few flavored syrups to your pantry and suddenly you’ve got all the options your local cafe has, made right at home without a fancy machine.

The Flair lineup has options for all budgets, from the smaller and simpler Flair Neo all the way up to the Flair 58 featuring an industry-standard 58mm portafilter. Check them out here and start handcrafting your own espresso, right from your home, without the need for a fancy espresso machine.


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