Recently I got to make an impromptu visit to my grandma’s, with my wild family howling like little wolves inside our new SUV. After a long ride down the old, rugged path that looks like a chapter of Little Red Riding Hood, we finally made it and were treated to little gorgeous cups of espresso.
Like the connoisseur of holiday gifts that my grandma is, I was thoroughly impressed to see that she still had the La Pavoni Professional we got her last Christmas.
Of course, this was a good chance to observe the differences between the La Pavoni vs Flair 58, which we currently use.
La Pavoni vs Flair 58 – Important Differences
1. Manual lever operation
The La Pavoni espresso machines are operated manually with the help of a lever. Lever-operated coffee makers are a relatively old technology. They have been gradually phased out and replaced with more modern models that use touchscreens, switches, or buttons.
To make a shot of espresso with the Flair 58, you have to pull and hold the lever down at just the right moment. Then wait until your espresso is extracted before raising the lever back up.
Manual operation for Flair 58
Like the La Pavoni, the classy Flair 58 also uses a lever to manually extract your coffee. However, the manual operation of the Flair 58 is slightly different.
For starters, the lever is an improvement from previous Flair models: it is relatively longer and replaces the rubber-covered handle synonymous with older machines with an elegant wooden T-shaped grip for easier pulling.
Secondly, unlike the La Pavoni, the Flair 58 spots the first 58-mm detachable portafilter in the industry, leading to a much faster and more seamless workflow.
This is because the new design allows you to pull several shots simultaneously without having to completely pull out and clean the brew chamber like we did with older models.
The La Pavoni coffee makers are designed for durability. Their longevity comes from the quality of their materials and components.
The boiler of the La Pavoni Professional for example, which is one of its most important components, is rigid (nickel plated) and can hold up to 38 oz of water.
Apart from the nickel-plated boiler, the La Pavoni Professional also features a strong metal construction that adds to its durability.
3. Pressure regulation
You need a certain amount of pressure to properly brew espresso. To make this easier for you, the La Pavoni espresso machines are equipped with an efficient pressure gauge that helps to monitor pressure when you are brewing.
The machine also features an internal thermostat for monitoring internal pressure. The purpose of the internal thermostat is to protect your machine from hitting dangerous pressure levels.
If you love making creamy lattes or frothy cappuccinos, you should go for La Pavoni is has an automatic dual frothing mechanism that eases the process of frothing milk.
This attachment is basically a tube that can be attached to the machine’s basic steam wand, along with a milk container for holding the milk foam generated.
3. Preheat Control
Arguably the most significant difference between the La Pavoni and Flair 58 is the addition of the electric preheat controller in the Flair 58.
Older Flair machines did not come with this feature, so you had to pour hot water over the brew cylinder before brewing in order to preheat it.
This process is not only time consuming, but it also leaves a lot of room for excessive temperature loss, which can in turn affect your extraction.
With the Flair 58, you get to skip these steps and preheat your brew cylinder, filter basket, portafilter, and stem with just the press of a button.
Flair espresso machines are known for their solid construction, and this is evident in the Flair 58. It features a robust frame made of die-cast aluminum, as well as stainless steel components like its counterpart the La Pavoni.
La Pavoni or Flair 58: Which is the best For You?
If you are wondering whether to go for the La Pavoni or Flair 58, the choice ultimately boils down to three considerations:
1. Do you need to steam milk?
If so, you need a traditional single boiler lever. You can also use a stovetop steamer, but these are typically difficult to regulate.
2. How are you going to temp surf?
The Flair 58 has a pour over design, so it will be much easier to achieve repeatable temps when brewing.
On the other hand, there are a few La Pavoni models that hold their own in this department. The Millennium La Pavoni, for instance, is pretty easy to temp surf once you learn how to use the machine.
3. The learning process
Both the Pavoni and Flair 58 use manual levers, so they probably have equal pulling shots. Generally, however, spring levers have a much easier learning curve. Temp surfing Pavoni is a lot more difficult to learn.
One significant thing to note about the 58 and the La Pavoni is the difference in the actual space for the cups. 58 has much more space and uses a 58mm portafilter. The Pavonis use a smaller portafilter, like the La Pavoni Europiccola, which uses a 49 or 51mm portafilter.
You can also feel the resistance of the La Pavoni when pulling down the lever, as well as the water as it rushes into the portafilter.
On the flip side, the Pavoni’s steaming performance is not as strong as it could be. It should be okay for making a cappuccino, but it’s really hard to get it to give a hard whipping noise like you would find with something such as the Decent.
The Flair gives you plenty of control over shot temp, but it will likely take some trial and error to figure out your methods. With the Pavoni, you can leave it on and come back after about fifteen minutes to find the machine just about ready to pull some tasty shots.
The 58 solves the main problem with its predecessor – the inability to adequately heat up light roasted coffee. It will also give you better control and repeatability than a Pavoni.
That said, some users do not like the junky nature of the 58 and would rather stick to the Pavoni, no matter how much time it takes to heat it up!
True, the Pavoni espresso machines are finicky and probably not ideal for beginners, but it will all depend on your mindset.
Are you are a tinkerer and don’t have an issue with a slower brew rate? Looking for something challenging and are comfortable with more waste at the beginning? If yes, a La Pavoni with a good grinder would suit you perfectly.
The Flair 58 has its own sense of difficulty in terms of the learning process, especially due to its manual lever and the need to pre-heat. All in all, spring levers are generally great if you are just starting the learning process – way better than a pump machine.
La Pavoni Detailed Features
If you have a knack for homemade coffee brewing like I do, chances are you are already familiar with La Pavoni – it is only one of the most well-known manufacturers of manual espresso coffee makers, with a long history dating back to 1905.
When it comes to lever espresso models in particular, very few machines compare to the popularity of La Pavoni. The machines typically feature:
- Highly polished exterior
- An efficient pressure gauge
- A manual lever
- Internal thermostat
- Dual frothing mechanism
The La Pavoni espresso machines are ideal for you if you appreciate traditional espresso-making, where making espresso is truly an art. It is a favorite pick for skilled baristas and espresso purists.
Flair 58 Espresso Maker
The professional Flair 58 espresso maker is a fully manual lever machine that is also popular among homemade Espresso enthusiasts.
The Flair 58 operates at a fairly high pressure for easy extractions. It comes with a highly robust frame and, as the name suggests, it boasts the first 58mm portafilter in the industry. The preheat temperature controller addition is a game-changer – with three temperature settings for optimal brewing.
The features of the Flair 58 include:
- Wood accents
- Die-cast aluminum frame
- Stainless steel interior
- T grip for lever control and comfort
- Elongated lever for easier pulling during higher pressures
- Wide base
- Ergonomic wood handle
- 3 temperature settings
- Temperature controller
- Manual lever extraction
The 58’s puck screen helps to facilitate even extraction. The grounds screen eases water flow to the coffee grounds to prevent channeling. It also holds any coffee residue that gets trapped in the mesh, so you can easily rinse it out with a tap.
Unlike the previous Flair models that required you to preheat the brew chamber before brewing for best results, the Flair 58 comes with three heat settings that you can adjust depending on whether you are using dark, medium, or light roasts (ideally higher setting for light roast and lower setting for dark roast).
Preheating can be done with just the press of a button and takes about 4.5 minutes to complete. You can pull your espresso shot when it’s ready. The preheat controller makes the workflow much easier, and it works like a regular espresso coffee maker.
The 58 stands out from other Flair products in that it requires a power supply, while Flair is usually known for its non-electric machines. This means that it is not that portable, although many owners use it like an espresso machine anyway for their daily coffee routine.