For a while, I have promised myself that I would not get stuck down the espresso rabbit hole. I have been making filter coffee at home since August last year and I have been happy with the coffees I have made. But now I feel like I am ready for a new challenge. My previous reservation about espresso was that getting into espresso was expensive so I would have to spend a lot before deciding if home espresso was right for me. Fortunately, I discovered the Flair Espresso company and noticed that their entry-level NEO was 125 pounds, much less than an electric machine.
My Flair NEO arrived yesterday and I had time to set up the Flair and pull two shots. Setting up the Flair did not take much time because the device fits together by pushing and placing components. The base and the lever parts slid in easily. Assembling the brew head looked complex but the instruction manual made it easy for me to get my head around how to put the brew head together. With the device set up (which only took a few minutes), I was ready to pull my first shot. And I am still excited about being able to say "pull a shot". I am literally pulling shots with the Flair.
I decided that I would use 15 grams of coffee as I had heard recommendations that 17 grams may be a bit of a push for the NEO (although I am starting to become a bit sceptical of this and more experimentation on my part is necessary). I chose to use the 12 grind setting on my Baratza Encore. The 12 setting is designated for the "Aeropress" grind but I did not want to grind to finely for my first coffee. This was my starting point. My first goal was just to pull a shot and I knew that I could make changes from there.
After pulling my first shot, I noticed three problems with my recipe:
- The plunger was incredibly easy to push down.
- The coffee was sour.
- The coffee was sputtering.
The first shot tasted, in hindsight, alright. But I was left feeling I could do better. I cannot tell you the exact causes of all of these issues as I am still doing some research. I did know that a finer grind may help to remove some of the sourness and make the plunger easier to push down. In my next shot, I decided to use the 10 setting on my Encore instead of 12.
The result of my second shot was more sourness. The shot was drinkable but, again, I felt I could do better. So I pulled a third shot today with an even finer grind, set at 8 on my Encore, and the results changed. The plunger was harder to push down and I got some crema (which was absent in my first two shots). The shot was still sour, unfortunately, but I feel I am heading in the right direction. I felt more confident with today's shot.
My workflow is still a work in progress. The Flair NEO, unlike espresso machines, requires a lot of assembly on a shot-by-shot basis. I need to pre-heat the brew head, prepare my puck of coffee in the portafilter basket, add the dispersion screen on top of the basket, and then assemble everything on the NEO. I would estimate I spend about ten minutes preparing and then pulling a shot. My last shot took under a minute to pull.
I am set on experimenting more with the Flair NEO. I have enjoyed the espressos I have made so far although I do feel like there is more I can do to improve my shots. I am probably going to increase my dose from 15 to 16 grams to help build more resistance in the puck of coffee. I have to do some research to figure out how to improve my shots. I think a finer grind may be in order, too. In all, I am happy with the Flair NEO and I think the device is a great entry-point into the world of espresso making at home.
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