Espresso

Illy Francis Francis Y1 Espresso Maker Review

The illy Francis Francis Y1 won't lure Espresso connoisseurs, but it makes a decent brew.

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Introduction

The illy Francis Francis Y1 looks more like a piece of modern sculpture than an espresso maker, but it is more about caffeine than conceptual themes. It uses illys iperespresso pod system to brew espresso and doesn't offer a way to steam or foam milk.

Overview

The illy Francis Francis Y1 has a simple, blocky design that is almost like a sculpture. Illys signiature red is all over the device.

Front

Front Photo

Sides

Sides Photo

Controls

Controls 1 Photo

Brewing Chamber

Brewing Chamber Photo

Water Reservoir

Water Reservoir Photo

Espresso Speed

The is a speedy machine: we timed it as taking just 26 seconds to produce a single shot, and 36 seconds for a double. It is worth noting that the double shot does not use more espresso beans: it just puts more water through the same single shot capsule as the single More on how we test the brewing process.

Espresso Quality

We found that the espresso produced by the Y1 was good, but not great. Our test shots had good color and a decent head of crema, but the crema had large bubbles and broke down rather quickly.

We also found a mixed picture when it came to the strength of the espresso. We test this by measuring the TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) of the shot: the higher this percentage, the stronger it is. The single shot had a pretty high TDS of 7.1%, while the double shot was weaker at 4.1%. That's because, unlike other machines, the double shot is not two shots brewed sequentially. Instead, it is simply a larger shot brewed with the same amount of coffee grounds. Still, that is an acceptable range of strengths, especially for an espresso maker that focuses more on simplicity that customization.

One thing to note here: we usually use a standard type of beans in our tests, but the Y1 does not support using your own beans. Instead, you can only use the illy iperespresso pods, and our reference espresso blend is not available in these. So, we used the closest equivalent: illys own medium roast capsules. There is no way to use your own blend of espresso beans on this machine, but illy does offer a good selection of types of beans. A can of pods costs about $16 for the normal blends, and about $21 for the single origin pods, which works out at a range of about 76 cents to a dollar per shot. More on how we test the brewing process.

Espresso Shot Photo

A double espresso shot brewed by the illy Francis Francis Y1

Espresso Quantity

The quantity of espresso that the produces is pretty standard: the single shot is just under 1 fluid ounce, and the double is just under 1.6 fluid ounces. There is no way to produce a larger brew or anything between the two. More on how we test the brewing process.

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Other Drinks

Nope. The produces nothing but espresso, espresso, espresso.

Brewing Process

The brewing process on this espresso maker is very simple, taking only a couple of steps. Because it uses the pods, there is no grinding, tamping or other cleaning required, as the espresso is ground within the pod itself.

Step 1
Brewing Process Step 1 Photo

To set up the maker for pulling an espresso shot, you lift the lid of the brewing chamber, pop in one of the pods and close the lid again.

Step 2
Brewing Process Step 2 Photo

After putting your cup into place, you press and hold the touch control for the size of shot that you want. There are only two options: small and large.

Step 3

The maker then heats the water and makes the espresso without you having to do anything. You don't even need to remove the pod afterwards: opening the lid of the brewing chamber lifts the old pod out of the way and drops it into the used pod holder.

Cleaning & Maintenance

Cleaning & Maintenance Photo

There is very little cleaning or maintenance required: all you have to do is to fill the water reservoir once every 20 or so shots, and remove and empty the used pod holder once every 7 shots. Both of these tasks are simple to achieve. Because the pods are sealed, you don't have to rinse out or otherwise clean up the system.

Customization

There is no way to customize the shot: you can't control the brew temperature, pressure or the size of the shot. This may make it less than appealing for espresso enthusiasts who want to tweak these factors for the ultimate shot.

Comparison Overview

Both machines are made by illy and share many of 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.

Comparison Overview

With the Capresso Café, you have to grind, load and tamp your own beans, which can be time consuming and difficult. With the Y1, you just pop a new iperEspresso capsule into the portafilter and you are ready to go. That’s the main advantage of the illy over the Capresso, and a little convenience can go a long way. We also found that the illy produces better quality espresso and was more consistent, although it does not have any way to steam and froth milk.

Comparison Overview

A $200 machine vs a $2299 one? It seems like an open and shut case. But it’s more complex than that, with the illy Francis Francis Y1 performing a single purpose (making espresso), while the Gaggia Accademia does it all, making espresso, milk drinks and more, automatically. The Gaggia also does a better job: we found that the espresso it produced was generally superior, although the Y1’s brew was definitely acceptable. So, if you have just $200 and an espresso craving, go for the Y1. If you have $2300 and a group of people with a craving for espresso, lattes and more, go for the Gaggia.

Conclusion

The is an odd duck: an espresso maker that doesn't do anything but make espress, and doesn't let you tweak anything about this. For espresso purists, that makes it a heretic product that should be shunned, because you can't use your own beans, change the dynamics of the brewing process, try different tamping techniques or generally take control. For these people, buying this espresso maker would be like an NFL player buying a toy football; they are going to end up kicking it away in frustration, and it won't go that far.

However, the isn't really designed for the espresso purists. It 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. It is also cheaper than many other espresso makers, as you can get this machine for $295 in stores, or just $125 if you buy it direct and sign up for illys automatic recurring delivery plan, where they send you 2 cans of pods per month (each can holds 21 pods).

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 if you can live with that simplicity and the limitations it imposes, then it is a good, easy to use espresso maker.

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