Anyway, having read the very positive in detailed review of the X3 I placed a bid or 2 on a Francis Francis! X3 in barely used condition. Then I won the Gaggia Carezza. Then I won the X3. At some point in the future I will also tell you I bought a 3rd machine (mystery machine - I am not 100% sure what I am getting) that week. Oops. Really. Auctions and red mist. Ah well, I said to my wife - I can use both and keep the one I like best, and on sell the other(s). Good plan. Shame it won't work.
Now, about the X3 I won. It was listed as barely used and in good condition. It was only set up for pods (as was the way in NZ) and I was worried it might be a Trio (pod only - really! You cannot ever use ground coffee.). The vendor didn't know what a Trio was, and the product plate on the machine didn't say Trio, so I took a gamble and bid.
As you can see, a very clean grouphead with minimal discoloration of the brass. Really has seen little use. Seeing the brass here is a 100% confirmation that the boiler is also brass.
The problem was... while I was waiting for the X3 to be delivered I had tried to find a grounds portafilter. Not in NZ. Nope. No way. Damn. I looked on the web, and found a couple of places in the UK and one in the US, but once shipping etc where factored in, the price would be more than I paid for the X3. That would be crazy.
So. What to do. This machine is made by Quaha. These guys made machines with the 57mm portafilter before they made the Francis Francis! machines, they also made various other machines at the same time that also have a Quaha produced boiler/grouphead such as Lelit, Imat and Nemox. Manufacturers are not silly - they like to avoid tooling costs and they love to save money. It is inconceivable to me that these machines would not share such major components.
A slightly left field possibility was the Spanish Ascaso Dream, Basic and Arc which seem similar and share the 57mm basket dimension. I came across a comment in the GC first look review of the Ascaso Arc that stated that the Arc had an identical pod portafilter to the X3, and a better heavier grounds portafilter. That was a real clue. I contacted Alan Frew at Coffee for Connoisseurs who confirmed the Ascaso portafilter would fit the X3 (and obviously the later X1 and X5). Yay! Score! These were available locally in NZ under the Ascaso part number I.302.
I picked an Ascaso portafilter up on the way home with my X3 and it fitted perfectly. Job done. So, yes, you can convert your X1-5 series (not Trio) to use ground coffee with the Ascaso ARC/Dream portafilter. Here is my X3 at home, with the Ascaso portafilter.
No comments on the grinder please. I do miss the em0480. I have plans...
Have a look at the earlier photo of the grouphead. The red o-ring seals the edge of the pod against the pod portafilter. Note also the small dispersion screen - needed to use pods. I will never use pods, so the small dispersion screen is a compromise that may effect the machine's performance on ground coffee. I should point out that the official grounds coffee kit for the X1-X5 includes a detachable tamper head that fits in this space and MAY increase the effective screen area. I don't have one, and don't much like the idea. So, what is my solution?
A longer stainless steel M4 machine screw and the dispersion screen nicked from the Carezza (all Gaggia ones are the same). I also removed the red o-ring that seals the edge of the pod, which means that the Gaggia screen bottoms out on the outer brass edge. When I run water through the head the screen flows very evenly.
Very nice and easy mod to do.
I can't tell you for sure that it helps, but I expect it does (looks better anyway).
I would have loved to have found this sort of info on the web when I bought my machine - but apart from a couple of reviews there is nothing. Nothing at all about mods. So I have put this out in the hope it helps someone.
I did this for the Gaggia Carezza, so to be fair...
Things I do like about the X3:
- Great quality bass group head, boiler and (now) portafilter.
- It makes great coffee.
- It is gorgeous!
- Drip tray works well
Things I do not like about the X3:
- Steaming wand. It sucks. Badly.
So, I need to find a better steaming wand. I have had a look, and while it is tight in there, I think I can probably work something out.
Keywords: francis ground coffee conversion, FF!, Dispersion screen conversion.