I don't want to be too clouded by the Iron Barista competition mentioned in the Performance section, but as I stated in my First Look for this product, and in various parts of this here review, the X3 surprised me. In many ways, it redeemed Francis! Francis! in my eyes, and even made me put in a request for an X1 to review down the road.
Three and four years ago, the Francis! Francis! lineup was dealt an ongoing series of knocks against it, and rightfully so - the machines that were initially built and shipped four years ago had some problems in the North American market: the pump pressure was problematic, the brewing temperatures were too low, and the machine shipped primarily as a pod espresso machine, with a grounds coffee option that was at best an afterthought.
Not so today. My performance tests on the X3 show excellent temperatures at the grouphead, in the portafilter, and in the cup for singles and doubles; the temperature stability is short, but quick to recover. The 57mm basket for pulling doubles holds a good amount of coffee. The electronic thermostat they currently use in the machine hasa reasonable (not great) cycle range, and the machine looks great.
Steaming performance could be a tad better if Francis! Francis! used the trick that Solis machines use - a microswitch on the steaming knob simply activates the boiler's heating coil anytime the knob is "open"... this would give a lot more steam power. As it stands now, the steam gets pretty weak after about 10 seconds' of steaming time, but the boiler doesn't start cycling again until another 10 or 12 seconds pass by.
Since Francis! Francis! seems receptive to modifying and improving this machine in an ongoing basis, this is the best improvement I could suggest - make it applicable to anytime the steam knob is open. And maybe modify the froth aider so it can easily be removed, and the user gets a traditional steam wand if they want.
All in all, I give a hearty "recommended" for this machine. Not only does it look good, but the combination of small size, "big" performance, good parts inside and the choice between a pod or espresso portafilter (both in the box) make it a good starter machine and the ideal machine for the small kitchen or a condo.
The Final Word
The Francis! Francis! X3 surprised me, and in many ways redeemed F! F!. For its target market, performance, looks and ability, it gets an 8 out of 10.
The prices listed above are the valid prices as of this review, but they are subject to change. Aabree Coffee's prices include shipping, and there are no sales taxes. Call them for a special package price with any of their quality grinders.