“Flexing” can often imply a show of strength or the display of a flashy new gadget. It’s somewhat amusing then that Flair’s newest creation, the Neo Flex, is the brand’s most budget-friendly offering.
Compared to their recently released premium 58+ model, the Neo Flex might not seem like much of a “flex”.
Replacing the outgoing Flair Neo, the Neo Flex is the new kid on the block.
But is this switch-up really a win-win for both Flair and us, the users?
Let’s dive in and get a better look.
➡️ Check Price at Flair’s website
Unboxing and Setting Up the Flair Neo Flex
Upon receiving the Flair Neo Flex, I was pleasantly surprised by the stylish and compact packaging, which contained most of the items needed to make a good espresso.
The package includes a pressurized basket for pre-ground coffee and a regular basket that can be converted into a bottomless version by pulling off a screen at the bottom. The brew head is identical to the Flair Classic.
A new addition to the Neo Flex is the ‘pressure release valve’ inside the piston, designed to break if the grind is too fine. This allows the water to pass through the valve, which can be replaced later. While this may be a handy feature, it also raises concerns about the durability of the valve.
Another notable change is the plastic stand, which is a bit “flexible,” which is likely the reason for the “flex” in the name. This stand is a departure from the usual metal body in previous Flair products. While it does make the Neo Flex lighter, I can’t help but wonder if it sacrifices some stability.
The machine’s lightweight structure (lighter than most laptops) and easy disassembly makes it more portable than other models. So if you want to bring this gadget on a road trip or over to a friend’s house, you can do it easily.
The Espresso Making Process with the Flair Neo Flex
To use the Flair Neo Flex, follow these straightforward steps, which are identical to the regular Flair Classic if you opt for the standard portafilter:
- Preheat the cylinder filled with freshly boiled water.
- Add the ground coffee to the basket using the standard basket if you own an espresso grinder. (Use the pressurized basket for pre-ground or coarsely ground coffee if you don’t.)
- Distribute and tamp the coffee, then place the dispersion screen on top.
- Put the basket into the stand, place the brew head on the basket, and fill it with piping hot water.
- Insert the piston and slowly pull down the lever until you feel some resistance for pre-infusion.
- Gradually ramp up the pressure until you hit your desired output, which can be measured using a scale.
The Flair Neo Flex offers a pretty generous amount of room for scales, although a traditional pour-over scale won’t fit. Popular espresso scales such as SearchPean Tiny, Weightman, and Timemore Black Mirror Nano can all be used.
User Experience and Performance
The Flair Neo Flex’s espresso-making ability mirrors the Flair Classic, delivering good-quality shots. The basket and brew head are practically identical between them, so that’s not so strange.
However, the standard brew basket on the Flair Neo Flex and Classic slightly differs from most other baskets on the market.
It has a narrow diameter with holes not extending much to the sides, meaning you’ll have to grind a bit coarser with this device than with a regular espresso maker.
I wouldn’t recommend the Flair Neo Flex for lighter roasts, which can be challenging to extract. A more developed bean is more suitable in this instance.
However, since this device is aimed at newbies, this is not a problem. If you want to brew light roast espresso, you should look at the much more expensive Flair 58, instead. No, most people looking at an affordable option like this probably want something more traditional.
During my testing period, one thing has kept me slightly worried: the pressure release system in the piston. If you grind too fine, this little seal will supposedly break and let water flow out from the top of the brew chamber. If that happens, you get an additional seal in the package. But what happens next time?
You’ll probably have to find a shop somewhere that sells these seals. This seems a bit annoying.
I don’t see this as an innovation made for the sake of the user; if that were the case, we would probably see a similar pressure release seal on the Flair Classic. Instead, it can be interpreted as a lack of confidence in the plastic frame’s durability from the company. Manual espresso can require “flexing” a lot of muscles, and I have used full body weight to lean on levers in the past.
It seems that’s precisely the thing that Flair wants to avoid. So instead of breaking the plastic frame, you’ll break the seal long before. I can’t think of other products that follow this design philosophy, although I’m sure there are probably some.
Likewise, users are discouraged from using the pressure gauge piston, which could indicate a concern about the plastic frame’s strength when full body weight is exerted.
The plastic frame did perform fine in my testing period, but it was sometimes somewhat creaky. For daily users, investing a little more in a steel frame device could provide a more reassuring experience since you won’t have to worry about anything breaking – neither pressure-release valves nor plastic levers.
The Flair Neo Flex is a super affordable, user-friendly manual espresso maker.
It’s suitable for newbies who want to try manual espresso without investing much.
Flair’s emphasis on user education and an active community add value for new users learning about espresso brewing.
However, the Flair Neo Flex does cut some corners, primarily concerning the plastic frame and the peculiar pressure release system. These are areas where the older Flair Neo with a steel frame excels.
So if I were out shopping, I might prefer the Flair Neo if it’s only a few bucks more expensive; however, if you want to get into espresso while on a budget, the Flair Neo Flex makes sense as a beginner- and budget-friendly device.
The original Flair Neo probably cut into sales of the Flair Classic. With the Neo Flex, the company has offerings at all price levels that stack well against the competition, so I can understand this move.
➡️ Check Price at Flair’s website