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The Francis! Francis! X3 espresso machine is one that, at first glance, seems a lot of style, and perhaps not much substance.
Early on when Francis! Francis! first became a known "espresso maker" name, the only machine we had to go by was the X1, the funky looking, wild colours, "is that a clock or is it a gauge" centre dial with the daughter of the company's owner pictured, tongue sticking out (…"I told you, you keep making that face, and one day it will stay that way!"). The X1 was uber-cool, but had a big problem - the first versions couldn't make a very good espresso. Temperatures were low, the materials and parts used inside the machine seemed to be below the common standard, and well, it seemed like all the bux went to looks, and not much to function, beyond being a "passable" pod machine.
How things have changed in a few years. More machines in the X lineup have shown up, including the X2, which is essentially two X1s, merged; the X4, which is a super high tech, temperature controllable automatic machine; the X5, which is Francis! Francis! version of a budget machine; and the X3, the third machine introduced by the company.
But more changes than the skin and shape took place. Francis! Francis! Has heard the complaints and pooh pooh commentary of espresso purists' (including myself) about the interior and performance of the machine, and have done a series of revisions. Gone are alum and steel boilers; now you find all brass heating systems inside. Gone are weak pumps, and you now have the same type of pump found in $1,000 machines. Gone are sub par thermal controls - now you have an electronic brain inside that, according the manufacturer, keeps very close tabs on the ideal brewing temps. And gone are the days of 185F temps. The current lineup, from the X1 to the X5 (X4 is excluded - you can control the temps directly on that machine) all feature heating systems that brew closer to Illy standards - that is, above 195F in the grouphead.
But that's what the manufacturer says. At CoffeeGeek, we've put the machine through a wide series of tests to find out if the marketing material is more than just marketing fluffery. The machine looks damned good; question is, can it walk the walk? We found out if it could, and I invite you to read on to see for yourself.