Friday, January 27, 2012

The design of a lifetime

Francis Francis X1

I actually started out in 2009 by buying my first espresso machine, which was this wonderful retro design machine in baby blue. Back then I thought, wow it looks great and you can buy them a lot of places, they must be pretty good! About three years later I know i made a mistake, but a mistake I would do again if possible. See the thing is, that this machine just astonish you! Its similar to the folks driving in old cars and  having the time of their life even though it breaks down occasionally. Keep in mind that when I bought this machine it was nine years old, which is by the way a LOT for a espresso machine. I bought from a artist who didn't use it, but kept it around as a accessory of his home. The bargain of this was only 1.200 DKK ($205) inclusive everything (also shipping), which I thought was the buy of a century.

When I received by mail a couple of days later, I was in for a chock. The complete espresso machine was in great shape. All looked beautiful new and I was in love already with this 1960s beauty. I took it for a dance and everything worked perfectly, the temperature was almost perfect, seemed to have a good brew pressure and there were a good steam power. For those that don't know a single thing about this machine except it looks, I will just summarize the internals.

It weighs about 7-8 kilos, are capable of brewing both espresso pods and ground coffee. It has a water tank of 1,5 liter and its outer shape is pure metal. Its got a pump pressure of 15 bar and surprisingly an internal PID (I will blog about this later) and over pressure valve (OPV). The negative side of this newly bought beauty was the small aluminum boiler of 325 ml., which isn't a lot when talking stabile brew temperature and long lasting steam power. I can feel when making a big cappuccino that the steam pressure is dropping as going, which I think is a shame because it ruins the frothing of the milk. Therefore I stay with smaller cups and it works wonders with these, but it couldn't handle a coffee party of four people, without creating a long waiting time. Also this machine is only able to produce either an espresso shot or froth milk, because its a non-HX single boiler.

Nevertheless I have got great result out of this little miracle, go see the coffees of the day to verify. I must admit that in the beginning the machine wasn't very suitable with the hand driven Peugeot grinder that I first got. The grind from this wasn't fine or consistent enough for the Francis Francis to produce a quality shot. Then I got the Malhkönig Vario which turn things, now the machine delivers magnificent shots with a lot of depth and tasty flavors. I have experienced this machine have a second life after introducing if to the Vario grinder, but still I weren't completely satisfied.

The Francis Francis X1 comes with to different portafilters, one for espresso pods and the other for found coffee. The thing about the portafilter for ground coffee is that it isn't available in bottomless/naked portafilter versions, which I would prefer because I would be able to adjust my brewing method even more. Therefore I chopped off the bottom of the original portafilter, which made the last perfect adjustment.

The only things I really seek is a three vent valve, so you can remove the portafilter immediately after brewing and also a "normal" portafilter size. The old Francis Francis X1 had a portafilter size of only 53 mm, where the standard of today is 58 mm. The difference in the portafilter size is all about the extraction, its more easy to tamper a 53 mm, cause its a lot deeper but still there are some different ground rules which aren't debated a lot. The 58 mm makes a perfect puck, where the pressure of water is nicely distributed in every single corner of the pressured coffee. Compared to the 53 mm the grind must be a little coarser to get the same result because it takes more pressure to penetrate the deep puck.

Hope you liked this post and will follow when I post the next about the unknown Francis Francis X1 internal PID.

// Hendrup

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