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Francis! Francis! X1 First Look
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MarkPrince
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Posted Sat May 22, 2004, 12:00am
Subject: Francis! Francis! X1 First Look
 

Francis! Francis! X1 First Look

One of the most famous consumer espresso machines gets the First Look treatment from CoffeeGeek - find out our early thoughts on this whacked out fashion accessory!
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espressobsessed
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espressobsessed
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Posted Mon May 24, 2004, 9:15am
Subject: Re: Francis! Francis! X1 First Look
 

Hi Mark,

Woo-hoo!  New article!  

One question, perhaps you can address this in the detailed review: do you think it would be possible for an elite amateur to rig up a three way valve onto the X-machines?  I know the water circuit is a little different than other machines, so I am not sure if it would work...

48 shots in 7 days?  Want to trade jobs?  ;-)

Can't wait for the full enchilada.  Very colourful writing style - always a joy to read!

-Jimmy

 
blog: espressolab.ca
work: museocoffee.com

owner/barista at Museo Coffee
Saskatoon SK Canada
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CoffDrop
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CoffDrop
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Posted Mon May 24, 2004, 2:04pm
Subject: Re: Francis! Francis! X1 First Look
 

Mark,
Thanks for the detailed review!  It provided some insight to the way my X-5 works, especially where you described the boiler cycle and how it kicks on and off while pulling a shot.  I  have also noticed how the volume of liquid changes throughout the shot.  That is why I had initially commented on how I thought my pump was weakening when I wrote a review for the X-5.
And yes, the portafilter "sneeze" makes a huge mess and it's difficult to quickly pull shots back to back if you are making more than one drink.  I'd be interested if there was a way to install a 3-way valve, like Jimmy had mentioned.
One quick question comes to mind:
Once you pulled the shot, how long did you have to wait until you could start steaming the milk?  The X-5 manual (I actually did read the manual ) specifically states that the shot should be pulled first before steaming the milk to avoid overextraction by too high a brew temp.  That is one thing that bugs me about the X-5 because it can take nearly 45 seconds before the indicator light (for steam) comes on.  Meanwhile, my shot is sitting there, cooling off as the crema starts to dissipate.  I'll set it on top of the machine to try and keep it warm while I'm waiting for the steam.  Then I transfer it into a prewarmed mug before I pour the milk.  Just wondering if you had run into this problem as well.
I'm looking forward to some follow-up writing on the X-1 so I can hopefully learn more about intricacies of my machine.
Thanks again!

Bob

p.s.  Don't think I would have gone with the bold neon alien green color, but it certainly is an eye opener!
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stash
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stash
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Posted Mon May 24, 2004, 8:35pm
Subject: Re: Francis! Francis! X1 First Look
 

Mark,

Could you look at how well the X1 dispersion screen works ?  I had an X3 for one day and returned it because the dispersion screen leaked around its outer circumference.  I never even ran any shots on the machine.  I set it up, filled it with water, let it warm up, and decided to just run some water through the brew group first.  Almost no water came out the holes of the dispersion screen.  Instead, the water leaked out at several spots at the outer circumference of the screen.  I tried tightening the screw on the screen and than loosening it, but the problem became even worse.  The dispersion screen just does not seal well on the brew head.  I think it is a design defect, not a manufacturing defect.  Maybe it doesn't really matter but I figure a dispersion screen should "disperse" the water, not leak it out the sides.

Thanks for the review !!!
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flimbag
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Posted Tue May 25, 2004, 3:53am
Subject: Re: Francis! Francis! X1 First Look
 

Hmmm.

Walking that tightrope between writing an honest and objective review and not completely alienating your advertisers is a difficult thing, isn't it? ;-)

Correct me if I'm summarizing unfairly here, but we have a very experienced home barista who probably has experience of using a wider range of home machines than anyone else in the world.

During the course of a week, he pulls over 40 shots and can't get a decent shot, let alone can't get one consistently.

Translate this to someone who wants to upgrade from their first steam toy to a 'real' home espresso machine. What chance do they have of getting a decent shot out of this machine? I'd hazzard a guess that it's no chance at all! Frankly, the size of the deadband is completely insignificant to me if I can't get a decent shot out of the machine.

Yes, it *is* a pretty machine, but as far as functionality and shot quality goes -- the things that most of us use to evaluate an espresso machine -- your First Look strongly suggests that that this thing is next to useless. If you can't get a decent shot in a week, what chance does a complete novice have of getting a decent shot in a month? Six months?

And what's this 'wallah' thing all about? I thought they *spoke* French in Canada? ;-)
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CoffeeForLife
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Posted Tue May 25, 2004, 10:07pm
Subject: Re: Francis! Francis! X1 First Look
 

The X-5 manual (I actually did read the manual ) specifically states that the shot should be pulled first before steaming the milk to avoid overextraction by too high a brew temp.  That is one thing that bugs me about the X-5 because it can take nearly 45 seconds before the indicator light (for steam) comes on.  Meanwhile, my shot is sitting there, cooling off as the crema starts to dissipate.  I'll set it on top of the machine to try and keep it warm while I'm waiting for the steam.  

Bob

Can you not purge the steam out of the machine. I'm not familiar with the setup of the Francis but most domestic machines have the hot water coming out the steam arm so after steaming I purge the steam by switching the pump on and directing it out the steam nozzle till water appears. This cools the boiler down and then you can pull your shot. I make sure the basket is full and ready to go so as soon as I've finished the frothing and purging i can get the shot out before the milk goes cold.

James
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Luca
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Posted Wed May 26, 2004, 5:28am
Subject: Re: Francis! Francis! X1 First Look
 

Hmmm ... interesting ...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't the FF! machines manufactured by Quaha, which manufactures the L'elit machines ... or did Illy move Quaha soley over to FF! production and have IMAT manufacture the IMAT/L'elit etc. machines?  Just wondering if there's any connection between the X1 performance and the L'elit because all of the feedback that I've heard about the Napoletana (L'elit + grinder) has been quite good.

Congratulations if anyone followed that; I don't think that I even know which machine is which after all of the manufacturer swapping and rebadging ... for all I know I could be manufacturing X1s.

Given your slamming of the boiler system on the X1, Mark, I'd really be intrigued to hear your throughts on the X4, with all its high-techery (the literature even makes it sound like it's got a PID in it!).

Thanks for the review,

Luca

PS.  Might interest y'all to know that the X1 design is so iconic that DeLonghi seem to have ripped it off.  Of course, from the two second glimpse that I got of it in David Jones the other day, it instantly seemed worse.  a) 700 mL reservoir b) curved cup-warming surface ... wtf?

 
General ramblings about coffee: http://www.pourquality.blogspot.com/

Reviews of Australian coffee: http://www.coffeereviewaustralia.com/
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phaelon56
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phaelon56
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Posted Thu May 27, 2004, 1:50pm
Subject: Re: Francis! Francis! X1 First Look
 

I appreciated the thoroughness for a "first look" but have a few questions

chrome-sheathed brass grouphead that is surprisingly beefy for a machine of this calibre and size.

Is it beefier and more substantial than the Isomac's in that price range and machines like the venerable Silvia? Not nitpicking here but with a $649 retial price I'd expect not only a heavy duty brass portafilter assembly (hell - even the cheaper Gaggia's have that) but also a three way solenoid for pressure relief.

Mark - more specific and not really about the FF....  are you saying that your inability pull shots as consistent from this machine relative to the X3 are just a function of an improved ability on your part to discern the subtle differences?  You mentioned that you can now tell the difference between rotary shots and vibe pump shots form comparable machines but were unable to do so in the past.  I understand that progression and refinement of sensory ability can evolve (not that mine is there yet!) but I'm trying to resolve the comparison. You said the shots were inferior on the X1 relative to your X3 experience but that when you did the side by side with the two machines they seemed about the same. Can you clarify that? Did you ultiamtely reach the conclusion that there was no tangible difference, at least in this early assessment?

 
Owen O'Neill
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CoffDrop
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CoffDrop
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Posted Thu May 27, 2004, 2:20pm
Subject: Re: Francis! Francis! X1 First Look
 

Can you not purge the steam out of the machine. I'm not familiar with the setup of the Francis but most domestic machines have the hot water coming out the steam arm so after steaming I purge the steam by switching the pump on and directing it out the steam nozzle till water appears. This cools the boiler down and then you can pull your shot. I make sure the basket is full and ready to go so as soon as I've finished the frothing and purging i can get the shot out before the milk goes cold.

James,

I'll give this method a try.  Hopefully, I can avoid wetting the coffee in the portafilter before I actually go to pull the shot.
Thanks for the advice.

Bob
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MarkPrince
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Posted Thu May 27, 2004, 11:09pm
Subject: Re: Francis! Francis! X1 First Look
 

phaelon56 Said:

Is it beefier and more substantial than the Isomac's in that price range and machines like the venerable Silvia? Not nitpicking here but with a $649 retial price I'd expect not only a heavy duty brass portafilter assembly (hell - even the cheaper Gaggia's have that) but also a three way solenoid for pressure relief.

Mark - more specific and not really about the FF....  are you saying that your inability pull shots as consistent from this machine relative to the X3 are just a function of an improved ability on your part to discern the subtle differences?  You mentioned that you can now tell the difference between rotary shots and vibe pump shots form comparable machines but were unable to do so in the past.  I understand that progression and refinement of sensory ability can evolve (not that mine is there yet!) but I'm trying to resolve the comparison. You said the shots were inferior on the X1 relative to your X3 experience but that when you did the side by side with the two machines they seemed about the same. Can you clarify that? Did you ultiamtely reach the conclusion that there was no tangible difference, at least in this early assessment?

Posted May 27, 2004 link

First question: No, it's not anywhere near what you'd find on an Isomac (E61 or not), or even the Silvia. My comments were more geared towards the market this machine is designed for - the person who will put style over substance.  There's only one reason why this machine appeared on Sex in the City in such a prominent way: it looks cool. From the beginning, the machine was designed to be artistic, with actual ability taking second place.

To FF!!'s credit, they've been revising the machine almost constantly. Gone are the crappy alum boiler, underpowered pump, questionable grouphead. Gone is the stainless steel boiler.  For the market this is designed for, the consumer is getting a seriously beefed up boiler, electronics, thermostat, grouphead, and even portafilters.

But I fear that once again, the old "we design it for 220, make comprimises for 110" has reared its head. Having a super tiny deadband in the thermostat is sweetness indeed. Having a pump that LOSES A PORTION OF ITS POWER when the boiler cycles is very bad. It's a problem FF!! have to address.

Also, I almost never compare a machine to other machines in a First Look. That's by design. (in this case, I did compare it to the X3, but they are very close in terms of materials and performance).

Second question - yeah, my palate has gotten to the point where I can really define and identify intricacies and differences in shots. As we continue to test the FF!! X1, I put the X3, the X1, an Innova (the Arc), and the SL-70 together in a test session last weekend with three people. All three could not see a shot taste difference between the X1 and X3. I could, clear as day. (don't ask me which machine came first out of the four tested... that's for the DR! :)).

So me testing on my own - I can see a difference. In some cases it was glaring. In most, it was subtle. I didn't quite know if I should even broach this in the First Look, but decided to do it since the pump variance was so noticable. Plus I hope FF!! will take note, and make continued changes to the machine.

Mark

 
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