A uniquely designed, well built machine with an attractive price tag that can make a great shot of espresso, once you take the time to learn how.
Positive Product Points
The unique design and color. Compact size and solid construction. Brass innards, grouphead and portafilter for better heat stability. Easy to use, after a little practice. Only two buttons to work with. Clock on the front makes it easy to time the shots. Consistent shots as long as the prep is consistent. Beautiful crema, lots of steam capacity. It warms up fairly quickly, especially after a blank shot is pulled. Easy to fill the resevoir and dump the drip tray. Lots of room on top for shotglasses, tamper, small cups.
Negative Product Points
The clock is a nice feature, but it's made out of plastic. Kind of odd considering the machine is almost entirely made of metal. Yes, it drips after the shot is pulled (no 3-way doo-hickey), so you have to dump the tray fairly often. The steam wand is a little difficult to get used to and doesn't make the best microfoam. Would be nice if Francis offered a normal tip attachment. It could be a bit longer, too. The cup warmer doesn't really do the job, use a microwave or alternate heat source.
I love the way this machine looks on the counter - I have a red one and it definitely attracts attention. The design has almost a minimalist approach to it. It's a compact machine that fits well on the counter without taking up too much space, even with a Rocky right next to it. It's easy to use - two buttons; one for the extraction, one for steam. However, they are not labeled (that minimalist look again) so you have to get used to hitting the right button when learning how to use the machine. It's nice to have a clock right there to help time the shots, but again, it's plastic. However, you can't really tell until you put a battery in it. It produces good consistent shots as long as the user is consistent in the prep (grind, tamp, preheated cups, shot timing) and this does take some practice. But, it teaches you the basics of making good espresso and requires you to be true to form, sort of like operating a camera in fully manual mode. The one thing I don't like is having to pull the shot before steaming the milk (per the manufacturer's instructions). This is apparently to prevent a burnt tasting, overextracted shot caused by too high a brew temp. I hate watching the beautiful crema that this machine can produce, dissipate while waiting for the steam to come up to temp. The innards, grouphead and the PF are made of brass, which makes for consistent brew temps. The PF is heavy and well constructed - a 57mm tamp works well with it. I've owned this machine for nearly six months and pull two/three shots a day with it, so it has seen some use. BTW - the machine also comes with the ESE portafilter and a tin of Illy coffee pods. I used up the pods just because they were free and haven't bothered to buy any more. The pods are convenient and there is no mess to clean up, but they are expensive and not nearly as good as freshly roasted beans. I recommend shying away from the Illy promotions and going with a good grinder and a good bean. I've also heard that FF! has excellent customer service and will take care of anything that goes wrong with their machines. That's a definite plus!
I bought this machine from Aabree Coffe Company that advertised a sale on this website (without the Illy promotion). I bought a doserless Rocky and a tamper from Aabree as well. Great customer service and no shipping/handling. Everything arrived on time and was well packed. I would definitely buy from them again.
Three Month Followup
I had made a comment in my earlier review about how I thought that maybe the pump pressure was weakening a bit. Not the case. Three months later and it's running just fine. I'm not sure what the "problem" was, or if one actually existed. It could have been inconsistencies my grind, tamp, type of bean/roast or just my imagination.