Illy Francis Francis X7.1 Espresso Maker Review
Offers iconic design and simple brewing of good espresso shots, but the milk foam it produced wasn't so great.
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Machines like the illy Francis Francis X7.1 are what springs to mind when most people think of espresso, with an almost iconic design and style. The process of brewing a shot on this machine is simple, but we found that, while the espresso was good, the milk foam it produced wasn't so great.
The has a classic, almost iconic design that is immediately recognizable as an espresso maker. It is emblazoned with the signature illy red.
The process of brewing a shot of espresso with the is quick and easy, and we found that we could pull a shot in just 26 seconds. That's because the pod holding the coffee grounds does not require any placing, grinding or tamping: you just pop the pod into place in the portafilter, replace it on the machine, press the button and it does the rest. More on how we test the brewing process.
The produced good quality espresso, with good color and a decent amount of dark brown crema. Although it didn't match up to the quality of some more expensive espresso makers, it was very drinkable and attractive looking.
We don't judge the taste of the espresso, as this is a matter of personal preference. Instead, we test the total dissolved solids (TDS) of the brew, which is the main factor that determines the strength of the brew. An ideal espresso maker will produce a range of strengths that allow you to tweak the shot to your taste, but the can only produce one strength, with a TDS of 4.1%. This is an acceptable strength, but other machines are capable of producing a much stronger shot if required.
One thing to note here: we test most espresso makers with our standard espresso beans, but the does not allow for the use of your own beans. So, we tested with the illy medium roasted iperEspresso capsules More on how we test the brewing process.
The only offers one size of espresso shot: a rather small three quarters of a fluid ounce. If you want a double shot, you'll have to brew the two shots separately. More on how we test the brewing process.
Milk & Foam
A steam wand with milk frother is located on the right side of the device. This has a fairly standard design, with a thin, narrow steam wand and a clip-on plastic foam maker. You start the flow of steam by pressing the large steam button on the control panel. After a minute or two of heating up, the button is illuminated, and pressing it again starts the flow of steam.
We found that this did an adequate, but not great job. It foamed our test milk up quite quickly (in an average of about 46 seconds), but that the foam it produced had larger bubbles than we like to see. This might be fine for a cappuccino, but a latte requires a foam with smaller bubbles (called microfoam) that will stay together longer. There is also no way to control the steam flow: it is either on or off with no stops imbetween.
The steam wand is also not that flexible; it rotates in a circle, but cannot be pointed straight down, which means it is awkward to use with larger cups or containers.
The can't make any other drinks than the standard shot: there is no way to produce a long coffee or other drinks.
Thanks to the iperEspresso capsule system that this espresso maker uses, the brewing process is very simple and straightforward, making for hassle-free and quick espresso. We were able to go from starting to getting the final shot in just 29 seconds.
Remove the portafilter, drop in the iperEspresso capsule, and replace the portafilter in the maker.
Press and hold the brew button on the front of the control panel. After a couple of seconds, it beeps and the brewing begins.
About 29 seconds later, the shot is ready to drink. The used pod can be removed by twisting the portafilter off and discarding it. The coffee grinds remain in the capsule at all times, and there is no coffee remaining in the brewing container, so there is no need to clean up.
Cleaning & Maintenance
Very little maintenance is required: the only thing you have to do is to refill the water reservoir. This holds
There is no way to customize the brewing process: you can't tweak the temperature, the pressure, the speed or the amount of water used to brew. The steam wand also can't be customized: you can only turn it on or off, with no way to regulate the steam pressure or temperature.
Both machines are made by illy and share the same pros and cons. They are both easy to use, with straightforward designs that don't overwhelm the user with information. But the Y1 takes simplicity to a whole new level by only having two buttons (one for each size of shot) and no other controls. The X7.1 is a little more sophisticated, as it has to offer steam controls as well, but it is still simple to understand.
These two devices, although they are very different in price, have a lot in common. They both make the process of making espresso simple (although the Accademia is much simpler: just push a button) and don't require much cleanup afterwards (although the X7.1 does require you to remove the portafilter to put in a new espresso pod). Overall, the Accademia is much simpler in operation, but the X7.1 is cheaper and is probably simple enough for most.
Here we have an old-school manual espresso maker (the Rancilio Silvia) and a new pod-type machine (the illy). The illy is much more convenient than the Rancilio, needling less cleaning and preparation. It is also cheaper, being half the price. At least up front, that is: the pods that the illy uses are more expensive than the ground beans used by the Rancilio. However, you would need to drink a lot of espresso to make up the different. Really, it all comes down to the final result, and we found that the Rancilio was superior here, producing better espresso and doing a better job of foaming milk.
The is designed for the casual espresso drinker who wants hassle-free espresso without the cost of a fully automatic machine. And it does a decent job here, because the espresso is good and the brewing process is simple and mess-free. The steam wand does a merely adequate job, though: we found the foam it produced was a little inconsistent and had too large bubbles.
The cost of the individual pods ranges from about 60 cents to a dollar each (depending on the blend and if you buy in bulk), so this is also a more expensive machine to run than the others. But don’t buy this machine expecting it to be cheaper than the others: you buy it for simplicity and ease of use. And if you can live with the limitations that approach imposes, then it is a good, easy to use espresso and milk drink maker.