Francis Francis X1 - is it a problem with the thermostat or the boiler?


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Feb 15, 2015
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Hi guys,

I'm an a newbie who has just bought an used FF X1 as an entry machine... Not a great one I know, but at £60 I thought at least I could give it a go... I use a preground coffee from Pact Coffee (a weekly subcription service).

Anyways, first thing is the clock does not work. It always shows 20 C degree at the brewing mode, then pump to 45 at the steaming mode. The real temperature is much higher than that. When I put a meat thermometer under the flowing down water (without the portafilter) in the brewing mode, it shows 85 - 90 degree, and gradually decreases after the poured water reached half a soup bowl) .

This result is achived only after letting the machine heat for 20 minutes.

Still, the product is a bit watery and sour in my opinion.

Is the temperature too low? Do you think whether it is a problem with the boiler or thermostat? I'm thinking of fixing it myself as repairing looks quite costly without warranty :-?
The first run of X1 machines didn't seem to have much going for them as they had an aluminum boiler and had poor temperature control based on what I've read. Later versions of the X1 and the rest of the X line that followed have very solid brass boilers and excellent temperature control. I recently bought a barely used 12 year old X5 for almost nothing and am very impressed with the build quality and performance. Don't know about your X1, but my X5 has excellent temperature stability and the heating element kicks on quite often and sorta pulses to keep the boiler temperature within a few degrees of threshold. There is no high/low swing on temperature as is often the case with single boiler machines.

I wouldn't put much faith in the brew/steam temperature gauge if it appears that far out of calibration. You may be able to take it apart and calibrate it yourself to match temps based on your thermometer. I haven't measured the brew temp of mine, but may do that. I normally would with any machine, but there is no need to temp surf the X5 as based on the taste and color it's spot on. All I do is flush a few ounces to clean the screen while I'm grinding, dosing, etc. then lock the portafilter in and extract. I do find pre-infusion works great with the X5 and the stock double basket holds 18 grams with no problem.

I have only 2 minor complaints about this machine... one is the steam arm doesn't articulate like a ball joint, just swivels back and forth. Second is the lack of readily available parts. I've found that mine is made by Quaha and some parts can be sourced for Quaha/Nemox/Lelit and also appears to share some parts with the Ascaso line. Parts are out there, just not easily sourced as with more popular machines. I know for a long time the FF line has been frowned upon as more form than function, but I can honestly say that after having a lot of experience running some fantastic commercial and home machines the espresso I've been squeezing out of the X5 is pretty damn righteous and deserves a lot more attention than most snobs will give it.

FWIW I always let my machine heat up a minimum of 30 minutes. True the boiler may come up to temperature in 5 mins, but all of the metal around it needs to be super heated as well or it will suck the heat right from the boiler and you end up with pale/thin/sour extractions. Your brew temperature of water exiting the group should be around 200 degrees give or take. Also, you may want to consider descaling as if there is a lot of scale on the element it may not be heating to its full potential. Basic citric acid or any descaler recommended for espresso machines will work fine. Usually 1 TBSP of citric acid dissolved in 1 liter of warm water will suffice.

Ditch the pre-ground coffee ASAP, source fresh coffee and a decent grinder and you will see a night/day difference.
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Hi Shadow745, thanks for the advice. About descaling, I bought a powder pack from Scale Away which is basically citric acid. However is there any caution while descaling? My friend told me descaler's acid is usually strong and advise me to use vinegar instead.

Also do you know how to find which generation the machine is? I notice the new ones sold this year have a clock with coffeeand steam symbols at the end, while mine has 120 and 140 C degree.
Citric acid is quite harmless... think dehydrated lemon juice. Vinegar is a joke for descaling as it's very weak and takes quite a bit of rinsing to get rid of the taste/smell.

You may be able to determine what machine you have based on the nameplate number. Not sure if you can tell externally on the X1 whether the boiler is brass or aluminum. They are quite easy to take apart for further inspection.

This guy has written a lot on the FF machines and has done quite a bit of tinkering...

Coffee stuff
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Hi Shadow745,

Just want to give an update that after descaling the performance is much better, I guess the guy who sold it to me had let it sit there for a long time. I'm researching to pick a grinder, though with my budget (below £150) there seems to be not many choices.

I find the steam wand very hard to use though, because it's so short. Just can't make decent foam yet.
Yeah I agree on the wand being short. More of an issue for me is that it has very little articulation. Surely it could be swapped out for something better, but it's not a deal breaker for me. Still a great compact machine.

Don't know what routine you follow for steaming, but once you switch to steaming mode wait for the "heat" light to go OFF, open the valve with a mug under the wand and bleed off any moisture. You should have plenty of dry steam afterward. BTW, when you descaled did you flush some of the solution through the steam side? If not, there could be some clogging there as well which will not give you full steam power. When you submerge the tip into the milk do so until the milk is just above the hole in the side of the wand tip. Open the valve wide open and let it swirl into that air hole, which will give proper microfoam texture if done just right. If you are too aggressive you will end up with lots of large bubbles. Not aggressive enough and you have mostly steamed milk.
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Hi Shadow745,

How to not be 'agressive' s exactly what I'm struggling at. I did it twice and the first time it was just hot milk, and the second time it was bubbles. Also when I tried to pour the milk out the non-bubble milk below always comes first (coz it's heavier), and it dissolves into the coffee immediately. Any tips? :-s