Preparing to Brew with your Flair - Before your First Shot
Your Coffee Beans
Contrary to popular belief, espresso is not a specific type of coffee bean or roast type. When you see a package of coffee beans listed as espresso, it only means that the coffee roaster recommends this blend of beans or roast profile for use in an espresso machine. In general, though, any roasted coffee can be used in any type of extraction method, including espresso. For the highest quality of espresso with the Flair, the following requirements must be met:
- Always start with whole coffee beans that were roasted within a few weeks of purchase. Pre-ground beans will never yield good crema as there is no standard grind size for espresso and pre-ground beans have lost nearly all stored CO2.
- Try to start with coffee that roasters designate “good for espresso”. These have been selected to work well with the enhanced flavor profiles that espresso provides and, in some cases, to enhance crema formation.
- It is imperative that your whole beans are not ground until minutes before brewing. This will ensure the highest quality, best flavor, and most crema.
Grinding Your Coffee Beans
Coffee ground for the Flair is finer than it would be if used in a drip coffee maker, but typically a touch coarser than you would normally use in a commercial espresso machine due to the differences in the geometry of the portafilters used on both. However, each coffee may require a slightly different grind setting to get the best extraction due to its solubility and age. To get the correct grind, you must use a burr grinder as opposed to a blade grinder. This is because burr grinders alone offer the level of control over grind size, and consistency, needed to brew with pressure. Without a burr grinder, it will be difficult to get consistent, and well-balanced extractions with your Flair.*
In the Flair, coffee ground too coarsely, or too large, will not extract correctly and won’t yield much if any crema, as no pressure can build when forcing water through the large grounds. Alternatively, coffee ground too fine will not allow the brew water to pass through evenly or at all, and could ultimately result in breaking the Flair. If you struggle to lower the lever when trying to brew, STOP, and regrind your beans more coarsely.
*The one exception to the rule on burr grinders is if using our Flow-Control Portafilter, which comes standard with our NEO. While we always recommend using a high-quality burr grinder, it is possible to get a decent extraction with your NEO using any grinder that you have.
Tamping Your Coffee Grounds
Tamping your fresh grounds refers to packing them into the portafilter. If the grounds are not evenly distributed, channels can form allowing water to pass through only parts of the bed of coffee rather than the whole, leading to some areas of the coffee bed being over-extracted while other areas are left under-extracted. It is important to ensure all grounds are evenly distributed and the surface of the coffee bed is level. If you are trying to brew and feel significant resistance when lowering the lever, your beans are likely ground too fine.
Temperature Of Your Brew Water
Water temperature is extremely important in brewing an espresso with good crema. As a general rule, 200-204 degrees F, or 93-96 degrees C, is a good starting point for brewing. The darker the roast, the cooler the water can be, down to roughly 195 degrees F. It is important to note that preheating the Flair brewing head (and the piston, if you have the stainless steel plunger or piston) is critical to maintaining temperature stability throughout the extraction.
We at Flair recommend using a gooseneck kettle to boil your brew water, and if you don’t have a temperature gauge on your kettle use it immediately off the boil . This should yield the best results and the best extractions.