Hey! Illy caffe is running a really sweet promotional deal: sign up for monthly (or bi-monthly) delivery of their coffee (whole bean, ground or pods) and get a FrancisFrancis X5 Espresso machine, 6 really cute cups/saucers and a box of Illy sugar sticks (actually kind of wow) all for $125 plus $25 S/H.
For those of you heretofore unfamiliar with FrancisFrancis machines, they're the really cool retro-looking machines designed by Luca Trazzi & available in a bunch of shiny, bright colors. You may have seen the X1 machine in the Williams-Sonoma or Sur La Table catalogs. The X5 is the little brother of that machine and normally retails for $349.
I was a bit skeptical about the whole deal, but since my Krups machine krapped out and I've been lusting after the X1 machine which, at $499 isn't in my budget this year, I took the plunge.
My candy-apple red machine arrived via FedEx this (snowy) afternoon. I immediately unpacked all my booty. The cups are well made and cute as hell & come packaged with a can of ground (Illy) espresso -- bonus #1. The sugar sticks -- like individual sugar packets only gorgeously long and thin -- are packed in a pretty cool folded translucent plastic box of 100. And there's also a box of 3 machine-decalcifying packets.
And the MACHINE. Firstly, it comes bundled with a can of Illy coffee "pods" (about which, more later) -- bonus #2. The machine requires no assembly, unless you call popping the included battery into the clock, setting the clock and tucking it into its hole, assembly. Maybe it's because I already had 10 years' experience with a Krups machine, the operation of which was vaguely similar, but 2 minutes with the instruction booklet & I was ready to go (although the English translation was a bit shaky & I had to flip to the French for clarification).
The crux of the biscuit: this baby makes an insanely great cup'o'joe. Standing there in my kitchen with the snow frittering around outside and turkey soup fumes rising from the stove, I could have sworn I was sitting in a cafe in Paris in, say, September (haven't been to Italy yet). And it makes amazing steam for foaming milk, but I wasn't in the mood for cappucino.
Coffee "pods", for the uninitiated, are premeasured, precompressed doses of espresso wrapped in filter paper, and they make for idiot-proof espresso shots. They're spendy, to be sure, but (IMHO) worth it for the neophyte. You can get into roast, grind, moisture content and tamping some other time. The Illy pods (in full-strength or decaf) come 18 pods to a can, 10 cans to a case. At $100/case (you can find them slightly cheaper elsewhere, but then you'd miss out on this INCREDIBLE deal) that works out to about 55¢ a dose. So you sign on for bi-monthly delivery of 1 case of pods for a year. You're out 600 clams, but you're into some really swell coffee, for a long time, and I won't even mention the 1000% improvement in kitchen decor.
Okay, you're on your own, now. But CHECK IT OUT.
Small print: I am not an employee of either FrancisFrancis or Illy Caffe (Jaguar Cars, if you must know).