We have carried Nespresso capsule machines for awhile now and we know that while they’ll definitely get the caffeinated job done, it’s unlikely that the shots they produce will ever knock your socks off. illy came to the scene recently with their reworked Francis Francis! machines that utilize the Iperespresso capsule functionality, so we decided it was time for a little side-by-side taste-off.
Note that there are a ton of variables at play here, especially since both of these use proprietary capsule systems and blends, we couldn’t necessarily judge the machine’s tech separate from the coffee’s flavor. Bunny selected a dark roast, light roast and single origin from each manufacturer for us to taste; watch as the crew gives their feedback on flavor!
Now that I have built my espresso connoisseurship from zero to somewhere above average, but still far below that of Juan Valdez, I was reluctant to go back to my lazy ways. New single-cup espresso capsule machines from Francis Francis for illy arrived awhile back and I played coy. I stayed away until I found out our crew of espresso machine technicians were proponents of this capsule craze.
I wrangled one each of the Francis Francis Y1.1 and the Francis Francis X7.1 Iperespresso Machines over to my desk. Mike and Jeff from the refurbish crew volunteered to be my guinea pigs …er, I mean taste-testers. They programmed the extraction time on both machines to their preferred shot length to assist me with a side-by-side comparison. The new illy coffee capsules come in a canister — like the whole bean and pre-ground illy coffees do — and in the same flavor profiles. I popped the top off of a can of illy iperespresso Dark Roast capsules to try in the two new machines.
In the end, it ‘all boils down’ to case style and drink preference. The illy iperespresso capsules have a patented pressurized design and both machines provide the right brew temperature and pressure to get the most flavor extracted. Upon Shiami’s suggestion we ran hot water through the machines to get them up to temp and to pre-warm the demistasse cups. Then we hunkered down and watched the espresso as it streamed out of the two machines for 29 seconds each.
All variables being equal, Mike and Jeff preferred the Y1.1 since it has one-touch operation right out of the box. Shiami preferred the X7.1 for her lungo. There may be a slight temperature advantage as the X7.1 maintained heat within the metal portafilter, but I did not taste a discernible difference as I sampled the espresso produced. If you are in need of steady milk frothing, the X7.1 is the one to pick. If your need for steamed milk is more occasional, an accessory frother like the Breville Smart Cafe paired with the Y1.1 is also a winning combination.
So who did we declare the winner? For me, at least, simple is always better, so the tie goes to … the Y1.1!
Is convenience king in your world? We know that sometimes the day doesn’t have nearly enough time in it, but we still want a delicious latte! So take back a few minutes by using illy’s super-easy and super-tasty espresso machines which utilize their iperespresso capsule system.
The the X7.1 (AKA ‘The Alien’) looks like several Francis Francis machines of yore, incorporating a traditional steam functionality into the mix for latte or cappuccino lovers. On the other hand, the Y1.1 is a sleek, espresso-only machine designed especially for ristrettos, shots, lungos and beyond!
Watch Gail take us through two Crew Reviews of these machines, discussing their features and functionality and then demonstrating making a drink.
Francis Francis X7.1
Francis Francis Y1.1
One of the most venerable names in the coffee business, illy is credited with creating the machine that eventually led to the espresso machines we know and love today. They’ve also been roasting coffee in Trieste, Italy, for a heckuva long time, mostly focused on their tried-and-true blends for espresso, drip and stovetop coffee.
They recently released a series of single origin beans, however, and so we wanted to see how they measured up! Check out this review and tasting video featuring their Ethiopian, Brazilian and Guatemalan offerings.
In the search for a clean, caffeinated world, Easy Serving Espresso (E.S.E.) pods make a tight little case for themselves. Individually wrapped and ready to rock, they make shot extraction a breeze — and clean up even breezier! But how do they taste?
Since you know we love nothing more than a grudge match, we pit a few brands against each other in this side by side tasting. Using the Saeco Via Venezia, Gail brews up shots with Caffe Umbria’s Gusto Crema, Lavazza’s Gran Crema and illy’s Medium & Dark Roast variations. Watch to learn which, if any, we prefer.
We offer a couple of different coffee varieties that are treated with a nitrogen flush during their packaging (specifically, Lavazza and illy employ this practice), and we often have folks ask about what this is and why it’s done.
Once a food is processed, it begins to deteriorate immediately with exposure to oxygen. Foods that are high in fat or oil content are especially susceptible to this degradation, as their oils will begin to break down and become rancid in relatively short order. Flushing the package with nitrogen forces out the majority of oxygen and, unlike vacuum-sealing, also provides a bit of packaging protection as well. Nitrogen-flushing is often used with more delicate foods (like potato chips!), but is also very popular in preserving coffee beans.
According to a few different roasters over on coffeed.com, coffee preservation experiments revealed that while packaging the coffee directly after roast did result in the out-gassed CO2 expelling oxygen through the one-way valve, their nitrogen-flushed counterparts lasted longer. In fact, one roaster reported that the shots pulled with a bag roasted 24 days previously still held up well! A major drawback, however, is that the nitrogen flushing process is not considered to be an organic-friendly practice, so roasters that are certified organic cannot employ this technique.
Whether or not you’re cool with this preservation process is sort of personal preference, but it’s something that a lot of large scale roasters practice — even some of the renowned third wave roasters, like Europe’s Coffee Collective. And while the coffee will stay fresher using this method, once the bag is opened, it will age just as rapidly as any other variety … so use it or lose it.
Brew up your tea, toss in the syrup, stir and enjoy. As Rade says, ‘this is damn good!’ Trust in him.
Sometimes you just don’t want too much extra skip in your step, but you’re not willing to give up the flavor of a great cup of coffee. We asked the crew to blind taste the four different decaf coffees we carry — Lavazza, illy, Caffe Mauro and Velton’s — to determine which ones they thought tasted like a good, solid cup of coffee.
If you’re interested in learning about the different methods used to decaffeinate coffee, you can check out this article we wrote a couple of years ago.
We do spend a lot of time talking about coffee in this blog — what do you expect?! — but we also do have a soft spot for tea. So we’re kicking off the first recipe of 2011 with a sweet and spicy tea recipe, certain to keep you warm on these chilly winter days.
- 3/4 oz. Monin Butterscotch syrup
- 1/4 oz. Monin Spicy Red Cinnamon syrup
- 8 oz. brewed Dammann Breakfast Blend tea
Brew tea to your taste/strength preferences. Mix syrups in the bottom of your mug and then top with tea. Add a little milk or cream, to taste, if you like. Mmmmmmm!
Gift hunting season is on! For those with caffeinated accoutrement in their sights — but who are not quite sure about their target — we’ve created a series of introductory Buyer’s Guides to give you some ideas.
Check ‘em out:
- Back to School Coffee Fix for Students: Next semester is going to be even better than the last! Right? Right. Make it so with these java preps which require very little equipment and can easily produce excellent coffee from the convenience of cramped quarters — like dorm rooms.
- Give your Student the Gift of Espresso: It will increase their focus and concentration. They will get a 4.0. There won’t be a grad school that won’t accept them. They’ll go on to be extremely successful in their field. They’ll build you a little retirement cottage on a river somewhere. You will both thank that little espresso machine for years to come. Live the dream.
- First Time Espresso Makers: 2011 is your time to shine. We’ve selected some excellent introductory espresso machines that will have you — and/or the lucky beneficiary — making your favorite espresso drinks at home with ease.
- Picking a Grinder for your Cup o’ Joe: If you know anything about us, you know we’re serious about picking a good grinder. There are several out there that work for a specific purpose or budget, and this guide is a great primer.
- Gadgets for the Espresso Enthusiast: Is buying coffee gear for someone in your life kind of like trying to buy Richard Branson something he doesn’t already have? Here are some options for items they may not have in their setup — although we make no promises here.