Cigar Aficionado

illy Francis Francis! X7

The perfect cup of espresso can be elusive. Even assuming the roast is right and the gear is well calibrated, a brain-dead barista can ruin everything. Try to roast, grind, tamp and brew one yourself, and further disaster can ensue. Which is why illy has spent years perfecting the new Francis Francis! X7, a countertop machine that simply will not allow you to make a bad espresso. The patented Hyper Espresso Method that illy uses works in conjunction with its proprietary coffee capsules to eliminate every possible variable that might keep you from your ideal demitasse.

Once the system warms up, place a ground-coffee capsule (premeasured to an exact amount) in the holder and lock the handle into the unit the way you would secure a traditional portafilter handle into a standard espresso machine. Then press the big tactile button in the middle and the aromatic extraction begins.

If you want your espresso ristretto, or short, the big button allows you to control the amount of coffee easily. Just hit it again when the coffee line reaches the desired level in your cup. Prefer a lungo, or taller espresso? Let it run a little longer. Either way, you will have effortlessly pulled an espresso with a picture-perfect crema—the velvety foam that blankets the surface—that is so thick and substantial that a small mound of sugar will float on top like an island in the Mediterranean. Aesthetics aside, the X7 will also produce a rich espresso that is intensely alive with complex flavors and a resonant finish that stays on the palate long after you've replaced the capsule for a second cup.

Because all the water infusion takes place within the disposable capsule, no coffee grinds will come into contact with any metal elements, keeping your system clean and preventing metallic aftertastes.

The machine retails for $699 and is available in black or red. A steam-wand will froth milk for cappuccino with the same push-button ease. Unlike its predecessor, the X7 only accepts capsules, which run you about 76 cents a shot.