Francis Francis for Illy 216557 X1 iperEspresso Machine, Black
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- All metal body
- Powder coat epoxy finish
- Works exclusively with illy's iperEspesso capsules for perfect espresso every time
- Ease of one touch brewing
- 19 Bar pump
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Francis Francis X1 iperEspresso/Cappuccino machine works exclusively with the illy iperEspresso capsules. Makes authentic Italian espresso.
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I purchased my first espresso machine, the black Francis Francis X1, a couple weeks ago. This is a great machine for beginners and for people who simply want authentic espresso drinks without elaborate preparation. Keurig-style pod machines for coffee are popular mainly for their speed and convenience, but since authentic espresso is more complicated to make, a capsule machine like the X1 really does save you a lot of time & trouble.
With illy's iperEspresso capsules, the preparation part is all done for you, so all you have to do is pop in a capsule and press a button for consistently fine tasting espresso. The illy X1 uses a 2-stage process (called "Hyper Espresso") which infuses the capsule with a small amount of water initially, pauses for a second, and then lets the rest of the water squeeze through. This system is advertised by illy as resulting in superior espresso. I don't know for sure if this method actually does make a difference, but I can tell you that the espresso always has the light layer of froth (called crema) on top, which is supposed to be evidence of excellent espresso. (Because people interpret the appearance of crema as an indication of superior espresso, I've wondered if coffee companies might add an ingredient to cause artificial crema to form, but I have no evidence of this.) Anyway, it tastes like good Italian espresso to me--but I'm new at this, and taste is subjective.
It's a fairly easy machine to use. The label on mine says that it's made in Spain. The enclosed manual is pretty basic, as is common these days (if you even get a paper manual.) You can also download it from the illy website. Although I've only called them twice, the support people at illy seemed easy to reach, knowledgeable and friendly.
To make espresso, all you do is fill the water tank, insert a capsule into the portafilter and lock that onto the machine. Then turn it on and wait until the blue coffee light stops blinking (it heats up pretty fast.) The amount of water that runs through the capsule is programmable by holding the coffee switch down for longer than 3 seconds until the machine fills up a cup or measuring container to the level you desire (1 oz. for a standard espresso shot.) The steam wand works fine to froth milk and comes apart for easy cleaning.
Possible health concerns:
This machine has a California warning about lead, but I presently don't know any details about that. I called illy in the USA and also emailed them in Italy to ask if the plastic parts (like the water tank & espresso capsules) have the chemicals BPA or BPS, but so far they haven't replied.
Dimensions: The X1 machine is approximately 12 1/2 inches high, but there is a cup warmer on top, so you might need more cabinet clearance than that for the cups. It's about 13 inches deep, including the portafilter handle, and 11 inches wide. The clearance under the portafilter capsule holder is only 3 inches. Any cups you buy for it will have to be shorter than that. The black & white Nuova Point cappuccino cups sold on Amazon are thick and (just barely) fit under the portafilter. Nuova Point makes a matching espresso cup too.
Rattleware sells a useful 3 oz. glass shot pitcher on Amazon which has ounce and millimeter measurement markings. It fits under the portafilter and handles espresso and hot water without breaking.
If you want to make cappuccinos & lattes, you will need a stainless steel frothing cup to put the milk in. I suggest a 12 oz. model sold by National Etching on Amazon, because it has handy ounce markings engraved inside that take some of the guesswork out of how much milk to put in. You might want their larger 20 ounce cup if you primarily make lattes.
Great retro style and consistent, easy to make, authentic espresso drinks.
All metal good quality construction, a brass boiler and a 19 bar pump. Automatic power saving mode.
One year warranty and illy said they will replace it during that period if ordinary support can't fix your machine.
Cons and concerns:
The heavy duty power cord comes out just above the corner of the water tank and if you need to plug it in the wall to the right of the machine, it hangs down & gets in the way when you are removing and installing the tank. This is a minor annoyance, but it's such a basic design flaw that I'm surprised they did it this way. Since the tank is in the back, it's tricky to slide it in & out while holding the cord up out of the way. One bothersome option is to unplug the cord each time you fill the tank and pile it on top of the machine. Of course you could turn the machine around each time, but who wants to have to do that on a regular basis ? Another thing I tried was to use a velcro cord retainer strip to raise the cord out of the way by fastening it to the rear portion of the cup warmer rail.
The X1 doesn't make espresso and cappuccinos quite hot enough for my American taste, but 10 to 15 seconds in the microwave fixes that. The top of the machine is supposed to be a cup warmer, but it doesn't get very warm, especially before your first espresso. I always put some hot tap water in the cup for warming.
The machine heats up quickly in about 90 seconds to coffee temperature and it's about another 90 seconds to get to the hotter steam temperature for cappuccinos & lattes. It takes about ten minutes, however, to cool back down to coffee temperature after steaming. There's no way around this, but it could take you ten minutes to drink your cappuccino, so just press the coffee switch beforehand to cool it down for your next espresso.
The X1 comes in red, black and stainless steel. Since this is an expensive machine that functions using water, in my opinion they should have also made the red & black models out of stainless steel and priced them accordingly. Although some websites claim the boiler is copper, it is actually made of brass.
illy iperEspresso coffee capsules will cost you approximately a dollar a shot (21 to a can) and are currently difficult to find at retail stores. The selection is also somewhat limited at present, but I expect that illy will be adding more variety. There are lots of vendor choices online, of course. If you happen to have one near you, Sur La Table retail stores carry a full selection and they will recycle the old capsules. illy will also recycle used capsules, but you are required to purchase an A080 "Capsule Recycle Kit" from their website for $15. (it holds 80 capsules) and then mail them back to illy.
UPDATE RE: the California lead warning:
I found this 2009 comment by a staff member on the Coffeegeek.com website:
"It's not just FF, any machine containing brass will have a minuscule amount of lead that is in contact with the water. That doesn't mean that there is any hazard associated with it, it's just that the CA government is a little screwy sometimes. Simply put, most brass alloys contain lead, not enough to worry about but it's there. CA says that anything that puts lead in contact with something you can eat or drink must have a warning."
UPDATE- AFTER 6 MONTHS:
Ok, after using the Francis Francis X1 for 6 months, I think it's a great machine and I'm still glad I bought it. It's operating well and I've saved millions by not having to go to my local "Fourbucks" coffee shop to get espressos & cappuccinos.
There is one problem that I have experienced, however. The programming feature on my X1 isn't reliable. You program the amount of water going through your espresso capsule by holding the coffee switch down for longer than 3 seconds and then release it when your cup is filled to the desired level.
Using a measuring cup and a stopwatch, I kept records for weeks on the espresso levels after programming and my machine simply isn't consistent. I called iLLY and the only suggestion they offered was to time my programming with a stopwatch, rather than just recording the ounces level visually. After programming, the amount I set would often stay steady for awhile, but then the X1 would start to vary, sometimes even not shutting off at all. Even considering the fact that the grind & packing in capsules may be slightly different, causing variances, I came to the conclusion that my X1 just doesn't perform the programming function well.
For me, this is not that big of a deal. The programming function often works properly, but I can't rely on that, so I simply keep my eye on the cup level and then operate the toggle switch manually if the X1 fills my cup with too much or too little espresso. Perhaps this is only a problem with my machine and others may not experience it. Anyway, I thought it might be helpful to others if I updated my review.