The Francis! Francis! X3 is a bit messy. Blame it on the styling - the drip tray's grill doesn't always catch all the waste water the machine delves out; the brushed stainless steel walls that pick up lots of oily finger smudges, and the reservoir that is definitely more on the design aesthetic side than the usability side. Oh, and also blame it on the lack of a 3 way solenoid valve (but note, most machines under $400 do not feature this "pro grade" enhancement). But hey, it's messy, and that's the price you pay for a rather uniquely styled machine.
Let's talk about how to take care of this machine.
First, have a good rag always handy - you will make messes with the X3. It's inevitable. Every single shot I've done with the grounds portafilter makes some sort of mess - drips of coffee sludge on the counter, water leaked here and there, you name it. It's not a major problem, but hey, this is a "cool looking machine", and it just won't do to have coffee sludge on the counter next to it.
When you're brewing a shot, it is very important to remember to exercise patience and care when removing the portafilter after the shot. Do it too soon, and you'll get a spray of hot coffee grounds and water.
I always recommend doing something I call "the portafilter wiggle" after you're done a shot and have dumped the spent coffee grounds. It is simple to do - with a clean portafilter and filter basket, put it loosely in the grouphead, and activate the machine's pump. Water will start flowing. Wiggle the portafilter so it's totally loose, then semi tight, then loose again, and so on. This cleans the gasket, dispersion screen, and other parts inside, albeit just a "surface" type clean.
| Don't let this happen to you! |
When you're steaming milk, there's another concern - the froth aiding device does not remove easily (in fact, I haven't been able to remove mine), and there is milk inside of it. You can use boiling water to kill the bacteria (tip - boil water, put it in your froth pitcher, and froth the boiling water for a while - exercise great care when doing this - the water will be boiling and "active", gurgling all over the place. Then let the wand soak in the boiled water).
Every week or two, depending on how many shots and how many milk-based drinks you make with the Francis! Francis! X3, I recommend a more thorough cleaning. Let's start with the portafilter and baskets.
The steel filter baskets are made "like new" by simply immersing them in a solution of boiling water and a fave around these labs, Oxiclean. Just keep the Oxiclean away from aluminum or the brass parts - it will turn brass green.
For the portafilters and the dispersion screen, I recommend Urnex Cafiza which is one of the best cleaners I've ever used for espresso machines. Oxiclean would also do a good job, but remember, there's brass under that chrome in the portafilter, and the dispersion screen contacts with brass - we don't want green tools now, do we? Captain Kirk might like green, uh, aliens, but I don't want any greenish alien-like glow on my espresso equipment.
Wih the Urnex Cafiza, you simply add one teaspoon of the stuff to about 1 litre of hot water. It will foam up, so place a big sauce pan in the sink, and add the hot water and Cafiza. Add the portafilter standing up so the handle is outside of the liquid, add your filter baskets if you like, and unscrew the dispersion screen and add that. Let it soak for a half hour or so, and everything will be sparkly. Rinse well, and the parts are like new.
While the PF and screens are soaking, scrub and clean the grouphead parts with soapy water and some scotch brite pads. Rinse as well as you can. Then rinse again. Don't worry about the mess, you'll clean that up as well.
For dealing with the steam wand, you can buy something like Urnex' Rinsa, a great steam wand cleaner that lets you soak the entire wand in a solution that eats away at all milk bacteria and the like.
Given this is a consumer machine, there aren't many parts to maintain or worry about. Use good, filtered, medium water and you shouldn't need to do a boiler flush too often (maybe once every few years). I do recommend a good boiler cleaning every year or two, but covering how to do this is way beyond the scope of this Detailed Review.