Francis Francis! X5 and ESE pods



Warning: this entry has nothing to do with code.

As I blogged earlier (I think!) I have a rather nice espresso machine at home. You can pick one up for yourself at Whole Latte Love (that pun makes my dear friend wince 🙂 ) but it’s a bit big (and expensive) to have one at work as well, so I took advantage of this really cool offer from illy to get a Francis Francis! X5 machine for only $175. (The catch: you have to buy a year’s worth of coffee to go with it).

Anyway, the machine itself can use both normal ground coffee and ESE (Easy Serving Espresso) pods. I’ve always used ground coffee in the past (the pods are waaaaaaaaay too expensive), but the machine came with a free tin of illy ESE pods so I figured “what the heck — I’ll try them out.”

I must say that the pods are very clean and easy to use — no grinding, no tamping, no mess to clean up afterwards. But boy are they expensive, and I wasted a bunch of money just getting the things to work. Here are a few tips for newcomers to ESE pods, but first the price factor:

Each shot of espresso is supposed to take 7 grams (0.24 ounces) of coffee. You can buy 10 x 4.4 oz cans of illy for $100, which works out at 100 / 10 / (4.4 / 0.24) = $0.55 per shot. At two shots per cup, that’s $1.10 a pop. Still cheaper than ordering a double-tall from Starbucks, but let’s look at the ground coffee price: You can get 6 x 8.8 oz cans for $66, which works out at 66 / 11 / (8.8 / 0.24) = $0.16 per shot or $0.32 per double. Sure, the time I spend fiddling with real coffee is probably worth far more than the 78 cent saving, but I actually think making coffee is therapeutic and makes a nice break from doing work.

OK, so I unpack my machine (in the lovely baby blue finish!) and find the ESE holder. It’s kinda weird-looking, but whatever. I look in the manual and it says to just put the pods in the holder and go for it, making sure the printed side is facing down; the illy can has diagrams that indicate the same thing. Now usually with ground coffee you have a filter in the holder with tiny holes that stop the water just flowing out, but I figure that the whole “printed side down” must have something to do with the magic inside the pod to make it work. So I slap in a pod, hit the “hit me!” button, and watch in horror as dirty brown water pours into my cup; it looks more like tea than coffee. There goes 55 cents.

So I look at the instructions again; nothing there. I look in the box and see there are 5 filters. Two of them are obviously for ground coffee (single- and double-shot), but there are three that look like they might be for the ESE holder. They all look identical, so I pick one at random (assuming the others are “backups”) and try again with another couple of pods (I WANT MY COFFEE!). Hmmm, a bit better, but still too watery and it doesn’t taste too good. Another $1.10 down the drain.

Finally I find this other bit of paper stuck in the box that tells me there are three different filters shipped with the ESE system — fine, medium, and coarse. And of course, just my luck, I happened to randomly pick the coarsest one for my test. Grrrr. Later in the day I tried it with the finest filter (another $1.10), but it still doesn’t taste as good as real ground coffee. Maybe my Expobar has been spoiling me and the X5 just can’t compete; we’ll see. I’m going to grind some coffee at home and take it in to work tomorrow to see how the X5 fares the “old fashioned” (and messy) way.

Comments (22)

  1. Jon Galloway says:

    Peter –

    Judging from your post, you’ve almost certainly seen http://www.coffeegeek.com. If not, I think you’d like it.

    – Jon

  2. Peter Torr says:

    Yeah, it’s pretty hard-core. Way more so than I am 🙂

  3. Your experience pretty much matches the conventional wisdom on coffeegeek.com, and the "ultra hard-core" alt.coffee. You can’t get a great espresso from pods. The problem is mainly that the coffee is stale (besides the price, of course). I believe that the X5 is considered a reasonably good machine, so you should have much better results using freshly ground.

    What kind of grinder are you using with the Expobar? Most of the coffee snobs that I know think that the grinder is more important than the espresso machine.

  4. Jennifer says:

    Pete, I can’t figure out which is worse – the "whole latte love" pun or when people pronounce espresso "expresso"?

  5. Peter Torr says:

    Todd – I have the Mazzer Mini (linked in the last paragraph of the blog). It’s a good, SOLID machine.

    Jennifer – I know you’re making fun of me :-), but you are *soooooo* right on that one…

  6. Jeff Sirois says:

    What a coincidence, I just ordered this same package from Illy yesterday! Well, I ordered whole beans rather than pods, but you get the idea… <grin/>

  7. Mazzer Mini – now I’m really jealous 🙂

    So how did the shots turn out? Better espresso with ground instead of the pods?

  8. Peter Torr says:

    Heh 😉

    Give me a few more days to experiment and I’ll get back to you 😉

  9. bliz says:

    Don’t forget the cost of milk in your cost per serving calculation. One reason I switched from cappuccino to latte (when I’m out and about and have to get a fix) is because they cost about the same, but in a cappuccino you’re paying for tons of foam (as in air). What a racket! 🙂

  10. Teresa says:

    Im-a-coffe-freak,-too.-But,-for-some-reason,-Im-one-of-the-tallest-kids-in-the-grade.-Im-not-the-least-bit-vertically-challenged,-and-have-out-grown-2-pairs-of-jeans-in-a-week.-Strange.

  11. Peter Torr says:

    I think it’s kind of funny that if you Google for "Francis X5" this blog is the number 6 hit. "Francis X5 illy" is the number 3 hit.

    Pretty cool if you ask me 🙂

    I’ve already got one friend to buy a machine and two others are considering it based on this blog.

  12. David Wendel says:

    I just got my X5 two weeks ago. I love it!! It is a great machine and works very well. I got it through the Illy espresso program which a first looks a bit expensive. However you have too figure that you are going to buy coffee anyways so in the end it is very much worth it. An added plus is that you get six espresso cups from the Grey Koons collection which by themselves sell for $200. Yikes!! In the end the only real thing that matters is that the X5 makes a great shot of espresso. You wont be disappointed in this machine.

  13. I wish i had seen this article BEFORE getting the ESE pods. I would be all the wiser without having wasted the money. When I want the prepackaged stuff I’ll stick with my Keurig…great article!

  14. BPNYC says:

    I ran across this blog on google, so I assume it’s not too late to post a comment that will be valuable. I too just bought the Francis Francis X5 through the Illy deal. You price per shot is incorrect for the beans. They are 30 cents per shot, not 16.

    Here are my calculations:

    Each 8.8 oz can = $11 per can

    @ $66 total / 6 cans

    There are = 36.67 shots per can

    @ 8.8 oz per can / .24 oz per shot

    Each Shot = $0.30

    @ $11 per can / 36.67 shots per can

    For the E.S.E. pods

    Each can costs $10

    @$100 total/10 cans

    There are 18 shots per can

    Each shot costs $0.56

    @ $10 per can/18 shots per can

    Which is an 87% greater expense

    .56 / .3

    = 1.8666

    1.8666 – 1

    = 0.8666

    The pods are still quite a bit more expensive. However, I’ve tried them and have had perfect espresso every time. I’m using the dark roast. Not sure if the ease justifies the expense though.

  15. Peter Torr says:

    Ooops — thanks BPNYC.

    I divided

    66 / 11

    price per case / price per can ( == # of cans)

    instead of:

    66 / 6

    price per case / # of cans ( == price per can)

  16. Way says:

    I have taken advantage of that Lilly offer abotu 1 1/2 years ago, and i use the machine at work. The hassle of ground coffe is not an option, and the pods are super convenient. The mamchine has been very reliable so far, depsite daily use and abue. Pods produe a pretty decent espresso. Beats the standard corporate coffe pot any day…

  17. I’ll stick to making it the old fashioned way! =)

  18. Fsonline says:

    I have an X5 — a nice orange one, and my "main squeeze" has a baby blue one. I got mine one sale for $325- at an outlet (MSRP is $595,) She got her from Illy, and got the machine for $250 plus she has to buy X amount of pods. Anyway, If you search the web you can find the pods (ESE COFFE PODS are what they are called, regardless of brand.) I get a nice tall cup of good espresso, using the #1 ESE filter insert for 37 cents a pod. Use the #1 filter basket (It’s called the ‘Ristretto’ filter, and you can get a nice double from each pod. I like to put a packet of Splenda in the cup first, (or two if you like it sweet,) and then for a treat, immerse the nozzle of a can of regular real whipped cream below the surface of the espresso, and gently squirt in a quarter inch of whipped goodness. By the way, in Europe, like in Paris a demi of coffee is called (phonetically,) a "Kafay X-spray", so X-peresso is not so far off base. And since I’m a writer, believe me, I hate it when people mispronounce words… like Nuke-u-lar. But that’s simply a geographical anomaly.

    Anyway, if you try, the X5 will give you a wonderful morning cup, and the Illy deal on the machine is kind of like the Gevalia deal, they’re selling the coffe and giving you the machine at just above cost, or at the least at about half-price.  A-river-dare-chee.

  19. Fsonline says:

    I have an X5 — a nice orange one, and my "main squeeze" has a baby blue one. I got mine one sale for $325- at an outlet (MSRP is $595,) She got her from Illy, and got the machine for $250 plus she has to buy X amount of pods. Anyway, If you search the web you can find the pods (ESE COFFE PODS are what they are called, regardless of brand.) I get a nice tall cup of good espresso, using the #1 ESE filter insert for 37 cents a pod. Use the #1 filter basket (It’s called the ‘Ristretto’ filter, and you can get a nice double from each pod. I like to put a packet of Splenda in the cup first, (or two if you like it sweet,) and then for a treat, immerse the nozzle of a can of regular real whipped cream below the surface of the espresso, and gently squirt in a quarter inch of whipped goodness. By the way, in Europe, like in Paris a demi of coffee is called (phonetically,) a "Kafay X-spray", so X-peresso is not so far off base. And since I’m a writer, believe me, I hate it when people mispronounce words… like Nuke-u-lar. But that’s simply a geographical anomaly.

    Anyway, if you try, the X5 will give you a wonderful morning cup, and the Illy deal on the machine is kind of like the Gevalia deal, they’re selling the coffe and giving you the machine at just above cost, or at the least at about half-price.  A-river-dare-chee.

  20. Stevie says:

    I’ve had my Francis X5 for about 30 days.  I used it for about 5 days straight before it started making a noise and water began to shower out from the top left side.  When it did work, I think I impressed myself with the cappucinos (sp) I was able to make.  However, one set of instructions said to steam the milk first, then cool down the temperature by running water through and another set of instructions said to make the espresso first then steam the milk.  So I am a little confused about which is the right way.

  21. ptorr says:

    I’m no expert, but for the Francis I first warm up the cup by putting hot water in it (NOT from the coffee machine, because it doesn’t have much capacity, but from a water heater) and then I brew the espresso and then the milk.

    I beleive common wisdom says to do it the other way around, because you don’t want your espresso sitting in the cup for very long, BUT if you steam the milk first it takes too long for the machine to cool down (and you probably risk burning the coffee).

    On my home machine, which can do both at once, I steam the milk while grinding the coffee (so it’s always fresh 🙂 ) and then add the espresso.