Updated: March 13th, 2021
The Francis Francis X7.1 is actually a 2011 update of the original X7 where illy advertises having decreased initial heating time as well as the time it takes the system to return to brewing temperature from steaming temperature. The X7 was illy’s introduction of their iperEspresso capsule brewing system.
What are the iperEspresso capsules?
The iperEspresso capsules come exclusively from illy and can currently be found in 8 different blends (illy’s 4 standard roasts as well as their current featured ones). If you have never before tasted illy coffee you are missing out but it is important to note that this machine is ONLY compatible with the iperEspresso capsules and they are not refillable. This means you will have a consistent size and length to your espresso shots. More advanced coffee brewers may not like the lack of crafting required for this machine but the iperEspresso system takes all of the effort out of getting your morning cup. The ease with which I can now make a quality cup of espresso with a really nice crema at home has saved me something like 100 trips to get an overpriced cappuccinos and for that I am quite grateful.
Is the Francis Francis any good?
The operation of the machine is quite simple. It takes just a short while to rise to required heat and the display features a 20° incremental temperature indicator to let you know how close it is to where it needs to be. Once it has reached brewing temperature, it takes no more than a simple reloading of the capsule container and a button press. You have a lovely cup of espresso in less than 60 seconds. Admittedly, I am no connoisseur but to my simple tastes, every single shot out of this thing has been wonderful. It even does a good job of making espresso drinks as well.
The Pannarello style frothing wand
On the X7.1 there is a Pannarello style frothing wand with an auto-aerator included that really makes cappuccinos easy. The machine switches from espresso to steam with the press of one button and consistently takes under two minutes to get there. Once it has reached proper heat, all you do is hold your milk jug (or wedge it in there nicely) up to the machine so that the end of the wand is submerged and press the button. Once the level has risen to the top end of the steamer the aerator activates and the level rises no more but the device will continue to heat the milk to your desired temperature. On this model they improved the cool down time for switching back to espresso and you can further speed the process by covering the steam wand’s end and depressing the button for 3 seconds. This cools the boiler by flushing out some of the excess water and pulling in more from the reservoir to replace it. So not only does this machine make a wonderful quick cup of espresso, but it also does a decent job of making espresso drinks back to back.
One of the greatest aspects about the X7.1 is the overall design. It takes up little room and looks great on my countertop! I chose the black one because it matches my kitchen best. The black part is actually plastic but all the details are lovely stainless steel and it even has a space atop it to warm your cups. Aesthetics aside, the display is simple yet very helpful. No squinting necessary. Every action only takes one touch and the loading and removal of the illy capsules really takes one of the most frustrating and messy parts out of the whole espresso ordeal. In fact, there is virtually no cleanup because the grinds themselves never actually come in contact with the machine. The only maintenance necessary is routine decalcification (descale) and the system even provides an indicator for that.
Some downsides about the X7.1
My complaints are relatively minor but worth mentioning I suppose. The first one is that the water reservoir is pretty small and there is no easy way to get it out. My best advice is to use your fingernails and take your time. It seems like this is one of the things they could have redone when they upgraded to the X7.1. Literally, I’d be happy with a built-in handle! Additionally, limiting users to purchasing new capsules at nearly 80p/per is a pretty cheap trick. The design could be tweaked for reloading or at the very least, so that I could recycle and compost my own capsules without having to purchase a kit from illy and sending it back to them (each kit will ship a maximum of 80 capsules). In the end though, these flaws aren’t really damning, especially when you consider the price tag.
So Should you buy the X7.1?
For me, this was a terrific buy. The greatest perk of the whole system is the price tag for sure, but illy didn’t skimp on value. The X7.1 is fast, efficient, and mine has seen plenty of use without slowing down.
It is unbelievable how great a shot of espresso this sleek little machine makes and illy does really market some high quality coffee so using their blends exclusively is really not much of a complaint for a novice like me. I would recommend this product to any casual coffee drinker who can’t be bothered to labor over their brew but insists that their morning start off on the right foot.