This is arguably one of the most 'famous' espresso machines in the consumer world. It's been featured in countless movies, routinely on television shows like Will and Grace, and even Mikhail Baryshnikov played around with one extensively on Sex in the City while training that woman (I can't remember her name, nor do I want to - Sarah something) about the niceties of making espresso in the home.
The machine I'm talking about is the Francis! Francis! X1 machine.
It's a machine that was designed for looks first, but I'll give the company credit - there's been extensive modifications to the inside (and outside as well) over the years in attempts to improve the productivity and shot quality of the X1.
When the machine first came out, I can remember all manner of posts in alt.coffee about the machine back in the late 1990s that talked about how crappy the performance was, how it was all looks, no show. I got to try one out myself in around 2000, and wasn't impressed. Back then, the machine had a variety of problems. It was underpowered for 110V, North American plugs. It had an aluminum (then steel) boiler. It had a substandard pump. It had problems with heat control.
Over the past four years, FF!! has worked to improve the machine inside. They went from alum to steel, then to marine grade brass for the boiler. They changed the pump, fiddled with the electrics, and changed the electronic box giving it electronic temperature controls. The portafilter setup has seen some improvements as well, and now the machines ship with both a stock 57mm chrome and brass traditional portafilter and the pod portafilter (it used to ship with just the pod PF).
We recently reviewed the sister machine to the X1, the Francis! Francis! X3, and the review showed a machine that was favourable in our testing. Now's the chance to look at a brand new X1 model, to find out if it works the same way as the X3 we tested, and also to look at two additional minor improvements to the machine. For now, this is CoffeeGeek's first look.