Beautiful design, solid build, superior espresso quality for price paid, adequate steaming.
Negative Product Points
Small water reservoir, low cup clearance, akward frothing arm, too expensive at $500 retail price.
First let me say I bought this product as a secondary machine. I have an Isomac Tea (which I love to excess) that I keep at work where I drink my 2-3 daily shots. The X3 I keep at home for the weekends and weeknights where I need a little boost before going out.
I won the machine on eBay as a buyer's remorse return from Whole Latte Love. WLL was great, the unit arrived double boxed two days after the auction's end. As far as I could tell, it was brand new and I could not find one scratch, dent or indication of prior use.
Setting up the machine was easy and the manual was straight forward. The X3 comes with both ground coffee and pod portifilters. I immediately relegated the pod portifilter to a drawer where it will remain (pods = yuck). The only thing which was kind of wierd in the instructions was the included detatchable tamper. After tamping, you detach the top part and leave the bottom part in the portifilter to act as a secondary dispersion screen (I guess). The Francis!Francis! instruction video, which is available on WLL's website, states that this is optional. After some experimenting I found that leaving the tamper part in the portifilter doesn't really do anything except make cleaning the grouphead a little easier.
As far as asthetics, this is one beautiful machine. One really does get the impression of looking at the prow of a ship. The small footprint is great as well. The cup warmer is adequate and holds about six cups.
On to the shots. Using my home roasted Sweet Maria's Monkey Blend I was able to pull very respectable shots, not up to the quality of my Isomac (thank God, otherwise I would be kicking myself for spending $900+ for it!), but far superior to anything at 98% of the coffee shops around town. Shot quality and brewing temparature seem to be consistent. For less than $300, quite a Bahh-gan (as we say in Boston ;o)
Frothing, as I stated above, is adequate. At best I'm an occasional macchiato or cappa drinker and I would not recommend the X3 to someone making more than one lattes at a time. That being said, with very cold milk and a frothing pitcher cooled in the freezer I was able to get quite respectable micro foam.
As far as the downsides were concerned, the reservoir is definitely small and a little akward to remove and replace. Low cup clearance is a pain for someone who wants to pull their shot directly into a cappa or latte cup (impossible). Frothing was a little akward, as. you can only use a 12-14 oz. pitcher and your space to work with is a little cramped. Finally, at the $500 retail price the lack of a 3 way valve makes the machine a bit expensive if you ask me.
Overall, though, for someone who can get this machine for around $300, who is not a big or at least multiple milk-based drink person, and who appreciates a truly beautiful machine, I think the X3 would be a great purchase.
Purchased on eBay from Whole Latte Love. Very smooth transaction and very easy to deal with.
Three Month Followup
Well, this is more like a six-month follow up. I would say I'm definitely still happy with my X3 at the price I paid. At retail I wouldn't do it and would go with the Silvia for sure.