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Francis Francis X1 - Heather Snow's Review
Posted: December 16, 2006, 7:01am
review rating: 6.0
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 241,101 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: 6.4
Manufacturer: Francis! Francis! Quality: 5
Average Price: $799.00 Usability: 7
Price Paid: $800.00 Cost vs. Value 5
Where Bought: I'll explain this below Aesthetics 10
Owned for: 2 years Overall 5
Writer's Expertise: I love coffee Would Buy Again: No
Similar Items Owned:
Bottom Line: Good machine until it stopped working. For about a year and a half I was happy with it. Two years later it's broken and I wish I'd bought quality over design.
Positive Product Points

Sleek design
Good espresso
Good foam
Easy to use

Negative Product Points

Expensive for its class
Awkwardly placed water tank
Short frothing wand
Non-existent repair service

Detailed Commentary

Before purchasing the FrancisFrancis X1 I read a number of reviews, both good and bad, and I won't rehash everything the other reviewers are saying here. But my opinion so far boils down to this:

Yes, it's expensive for its class - you're probably paying $300-500 for the quality of the machine and the rest for the aesthetics. However, if you have the flexibility in your budget, there is absolutely nothing wrong, in my opinion, with paying for sleek design and high-quality materials - it's like buying a piece of furniture (hopefully it will last that long - I've only had mine for 3 months, so can't comment on that).

Yes, the water tank is a bit awkward to refill. Not a big deal though. This wouldn't affect my buying decision.

The frothing wand is short. This is the aspect I really want to comment on. I've read some reviews that claim the FFX1 makes great foam and others that say it makes terrible foam; the reality is that it comes down to the technique of the user. I'm not a professional barista and admittedly I started out making sub-par foam, until I read CoffeeGeek's detailed explanation on how to make foam. It comes down to holding the pitcher at the right angle and depth so that air can enter the milk just above the surface creating a sort of whirlpool effect. Now, given the fact that the FFX1 has a short wand, you can't do this very easily with a 20oz jug, especially if you're trying to make just enough for a single cappuccino. To make good foam with the FFX1 you'll need to purchase a jug that is 12oz or smaller. These can be a bit harder to find (they don't sell them at stores like Williams-Sonoma, Crate & Barrel, or the like, but I have seen some online). I don't typically like a lot of milk in my coffee, so I just use a little 5oz espresso warmer jug that I found at Sur La Table - I fill it with 2-3oz of milk and am able to make a perfect, thick, silky microfoam - of "latte art" caliber, if only I had the talent to actually draw in my coffee!

The one other draw-back to this machine is that, because it uses a single boiler, once you flip the switch for steam it becomes very hot very quickly and then takes quite a while to cool back down to the appropriate temperature for making espresso again. So it might be a bit of a pain if making several cappuccinos for guests (I haven't been in this situation myself yet).

However, it does warm up to espresso temperture pretty quickly (my morning ritual is to turn on the machine, feed the cats and brush my teeth, and then make my espresso), and it also heats up to steaming temperture very quickly. So you need to always make the espresso first and then the milk. If you're making several coffee drinks, this could result in the espresso cooling down before you get to the milk part. Personally, having piping hot espresso isn't a big deal to me since I tend to nurse my coffee until it's tepid anyway, but I could see how this might be problematic for some.

Bottom line is that I'm very happy with my machine. I love the way it looks sitting on my kitchen counter. It makes me happy every morning. And now that I've figured out the trick with using a smaller frothing pitcher to get good foam, I'm able to make cappuccinos that I'm proud to serve guests - far better than I get in most cafes.

That's all. Hope this is helpful...

Buying Experience

Above I said that the FFX1 cost $800; actually I bought it through the Illy program so I paid $540 (+ $30 shipping) and signed on for a 1-year coffee membership which amounts to about $50/month. This may or may not be the best value proposition depending on how much coffee you consume and whether you like recieving 4 cans of overpriced Illy coffee at your door each  month. However, the MSRP is about $800 - it's what we would have paid at Sur La Table had we not decided on the Illy option.

Three Month Followup

3-month follow-up - still works fine.

One Year Followup

After about a year and a half the thermostat started acting up - getting very hot and basically steaming my espresso. Then finally it overheated and blew a fuse (can't turn the machine on). Sending it in for repairs.

FYI - for others having similar issues and unable to find repair info online, the phone number for FF repairs is 1-877 854-4141 (couldn't find it online had to get it from my local espresso machine repair shop - who can't do repairs b/c FF won't ship parts).

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review rating: 6.0
Posted: December 16, 2006, 7:01am
feedback: (0) comments | read | write
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