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Francis Francis X1 - Scott Smith's Review
Posted: February 8, 2006, 5:21pm
review rating: 8.8
feedback: (0) comments | read | write
Francis Francis X1
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Arrow The Francis Francis X1 has 43 Reviews
Arrow The Francis Francis X1 has been rated 7.20 overall by our member reviewers
Arrow This product has been in our review database since November 30, 2001.
Arrow Francis Francis X1 reviews have been viewed 255,895 times (updated hourly).

Quality Reviews
These are some of the best-written reviews for this product, as judged by our members.
Name Ranking
Scott Smith 8.75
Patrick Moss 8.00
Josh Alwitt 8.00
Steve Strawman 8.00
Phil M 7.60

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Ratings and Stats Overall Rating: 8.8
Manufacturer: Francis! Francis! Quality: 10
Average Price: $799.00 Usability: 9
Price Paid: $550.00 Cost vs. Value 6
Where Bought: Illyusa.com Aesthetics 10
Owned for: 2 weeks Overall 9
Writer's Expertise: I love coffee Would Buy Again: Yes
Similar Items Owned: Breville Cafe Roma
Bottom Line: Great machine for the espresso fan
Positive Product Points

I've been making 5-10 shots a day for the last couple weeks without a complaint.

Consistent temperature for either steaming or brewing, warms up fast (2 minutes or so), plenty of steam (which doesn't use up the water in the resevoir), makes great foam.

The water resevoir is big enough to make quite a few drinks, steaming uses hardly any water at all to heat 12-16oz of milk (Provided you don't run water through the machine after steaming to cool down the boiler.)

Very consistent draw times with either tamped grounds (using their tamper/filter gadget) or ESE pods.  

The temperature gauge seems quite accurate, and is very helpful, when used in conjunction with the "heat" light.

The stainless is easy to keep clean overall, but as with any brushed stainless steel products, there can be little discoloration spots that are hard to get off without a stainless steel cleaning solution.

Negative Product Points

Warmer doesn't work as well as running a cup under hot tap water for a few minutes.  

Steam knob feels a little flimsy / wobbly, but works fine to close off the steam wand.

Drip tray is small, as other  reviewers have indicated, but that's not a problem unless you're sloppy.

Can take a few minutes to lower the temp after steaming ( if you want to brew after steaming milk.)

Filling the portafilter with two full measuring spoons, then leaving the tamping screen in place can make it difficult to fit the PF into the machine for brewing - even with heavy-duty tamping.  Either the illy measuring spoon is a little big, or the PF isn't deep enough for a double with the tamping screen filter to be left in place. For doubles I do just shy of two full scoops.

(Update-using illy's included measuring spoon, and filling to about 1/8th inch under the top edge, this isn't a problem. It only happens when you fill the portafilter too full. I haven't tried other measuring spoons for comparison.)

Detailed Commentary

I wanted to buy from Illy to be sure I was getting the latest model, which has the same internal workings as their newer models.  

I'm not an espresso afficianado, but I'm learning.  After making 3 trips a day to Starbucks I decided the savings would easily pay for the high-end brushed stainless X1 model after a few months.  I wanted the red one, but the significant other didn't think it would fit into our kitchen's decor very well.

I tried quite a bit the first week to get a good pour without using the filter/dispersion gadget that's built into the tamper.  I could never get a consistent pour time and always ended up with a muddy mess in the PF afterwards.  I gave in and started using the tamper screen and results are very consistent, a nice, dry cake is left which is pops right out and is easy to clean up. It doesn't take a heavy tamping to get decent results.

I'm using a "#4" grind from Starbucks, and Illy's espresso grind which is comparable in grind to the former. Both yield good tasting espresso.

Pods result in extremely consistent shots - just not the best tasting - I prefer the taste from the ground coffee. I've tried a variety of pods, and haven't really settled on a favorite.

The PF gets nice and hot without running water through it, within a few minutes after turning on the machine.

I joined the illy coffee club to save a few bucks, since I'd be buying pods and grounds anyway. The brushed stainless model I got is usually listed for $850 to $950, with their monthly coffee membership, it was around $650, including the first shipment of coffee, shipping, a very nice set of original illy espresso cups and an 8.8oz can of ground dark roast. The coffee membership will cost around $50/month for  a year.

I've not had any of the problems other X1 owners in previous reviews have shown, except for the small drip tray, which isn't a problem.  I use a small bowl to capture the water run-off when I'm cooling down the boiler after steaming. There's more than enough power, the brewing pressure and the steam pressure are pretty steady, even when the boiler kicks in.  After a month of use, to speed up the cappacino process I've been brewing first, then steaming.  

The system comes with 3 separate portafilter screens for brewing ground coffee (short, medium, long shots), plus a separate PF handle for pods.  I've only used the medium.  The handles are heavy, very solid and feel professional compared to the last 2 machines I've owned.

Turning on the steam switch brings the heat up really fast - 1 minute or less, to 130C-140C, and unlike the Breville which I owned for a few weeks (before returning) there's no water when I start steaming - just steam.   Very hot, and very steady.

Steaming milk is a cake, but the steam wand is a *little* low for larger pitchers.  Sometimes when the foam reaches the top of the pitcher I have to tip the machine a tiny bit on one side to get the pitcher out from under the wand without spilling foam.  A small 1" stand under the machine would help this process a lot.

I can easily get microfoam by "surfing the side hole" as I read about on another article on CoffeeGeek.com. No low-end machine I've owned has made foam so well.

Cooling down the boiler after steaming takes patience - either wait for it to cool off or run several ounces of water through (which does work well to heat up the PF), but I don't like refilling the resevoir all the time.  I'll usually just run some steam out of the wand which cools things down some.

I don't notice as much crema using ground coffee as with the pods. It could be the grind I'm using currently. Flavor is comparable though.  My palatte is not expert enough to notce much difference from brew to brew, except when I let it run too long or start brewing without cooling down the boiler after steaming.

There was plenty of documentation with the machine - several guides on the portafilter for grounds, for pods, overall machine use and maintenance, etc. Having these in one large guide would be nice - it took me awhile to find the manual for the 3 separate portafilter screens (to see which was which).

Buying Experience

Illy apparently forgot to ship the machine with the coffee club membership kit, so I had ESE pods, a nice espresso cup set, and 4 cans of ground coffee sitting around for a few days.  It took 3 or 4 calls to get things cleared up and get a tracking number,  but they were very helpful and courteous.

The total price came to a little over $600 with shipping, with 2 boxes of 18 ESE pods, 2 can of ground coffee, plus the bonus coffee club items mentioned above. The membership requires a comittment about $50 a month, but that's pocket change compared to 2-3 trips to Starbucks each day.

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review rating: 8.8
Posted: February 8, 2006, 5:21pm
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