You can survive a pandemic. With patience, discipline and a little sensitivity. But it gets difficult when the right espresso is missing. Then everything becomes a problem, and performance and well-being are at risk. The minutes of a crisis. Almost car-free.
It started with the first lockdown. Restaurants and bars closed. The breakfast at the Italian and the traditional espresso were from now on out of reach. Pandemic is one thing. To cope with it without a good espresso is entirely different. It was clear to me that all fully automatic coffee machines within my reach would not be able to replace espresso at Italians.
A solution was needed. Fast, because the espresso withdrawal was already showing the first effects in the form of bad temper.
The drama takes its course
My job is digital. For over 30 years - before the word digitization even became popular. This is probably the reason why I prefer analogue things in my private life. Analog cars for example, which means that this article is not car-free again. Of course I'm looking for an analog portafilter machine. One without AI that optimizes my espresso.
I find one that suits me. Analog, designed by architect Luca Trazzi. The FrancisFrancis! X1 is offered cheaply on a large platform. It is red, striking, brings color to life. I can't say no and hit the order button.
What I did not suspect at this point in time and which is probably only documented somewhere in the blockchain: the machine is not new. It has already been repaired, repackaged and sold as new. But I don't notice it until much later.
Everything goes well in the beginning. The X1 conjures up an espresso in the cup that couldn't be better and a smile on my face. This is how a crisis works, and what can happen when the supply of caffeine is secured? I like my little analog machine that doesn't even have a cleaning program. Yes, it takes time to heat up, but the conscious preparation of espresso is by nature an archaic, decelerated affair.
The crisis begins after a few weeks. It will go down in the annals of my life as an espresso crisis. The X1 causes trouble, short circuits and blows the fuse. Then she kills her manometer, but continues to conjure up perfect espresso.
In the hope of an exchange, I contact the platform from which I purchased the machine. There they no longer have an X1 in their range, but they offer the return and full reimbursement of the purchase price. That's fair, because I've been making my espresso with her for six months. On the other hand, I'm attached to the machine. And notice that there are no more red FrancisFrancis X1s for sale anywhere.
I'm usually very structured and pragmatic. If something is close to my heart, then unfortunately I tend to act illogically. I don't want to give up the X1 and am considering repairing it. So I call Illy Kaffee, the home of FrancisFrancis! I find a phone number in Munich and I find out first hand how a large corporation works.
Because, no surprise, nobody answers the phone in Munich. Illy is also outsourcing and optimizing. Processes and profits, of course. I land, a positive surprise, in Italy. The Italian contact is warm and positive. Illy will fix it if I want it. Without costs. I will receive an email address for my repair request and, just as security, another Munich phone number.
While waiting for feedback from Illy, I prepare my replacement plan. Because even in the espresso crisis, supplies must be secured.
The plan is simple. A small, cheap machine should bridge the time without X1. Then I have another use for it. A De'Longhi Dedica Style EC 685.BK is ordered, and already when unpacking I suspect the mistake. Plastic wherever you go. How is this thing supposed to make espresso?
The De'Longhi is programmable, but so is how to set it - it just puts a terrible mixture in the cup. She doesn't survive with me for 24 hours. Then it is packed and on the way as a return.
What do you do in an emergency? There is still the tried and tested coffee maker from Bialetti. Italian tradition, and now the preparation becomes completely archaic. But it works, slows you down and is a pleasure. Of course, the result is not an espresso in the real sense of the word.
In the meantime, Illy's repair service has called. Of course he is outsourced too, not in Munich and not in Italy, but around the corner from me. In fact, reason has now returned to me. I waive the repair and send the X1 back for credit. Somehow I lack confidence in repairing a machine that has already been repaired.
The Spanish idea
It looks like 2020 is my Spanish year. Looking for a replacement for the X1, I'm already back in Barcelona. After a Saab from Catalonia also an espresso machine? Ascaso manufactures portafilter machines whose concept I like. Stainless steel instead of brass, a separate brewing group instead of a boiler.
There's one not far from me Ascaso partner. Shopping in times of the pandemic works - at least in theory. There are other reasons why it will fail in practice. Ascaso Partner Hommel has a sophisticated hygiene concept, advice is given by appointment.
The team is motivated and oriented and likes Ascaso. The espresso tastes great, the advice is intensive, and I quickly find my preferred machine. The prices are good, just like on the internet. I'll take the machine with me, I say.
But fail immediately.
Corona hits some industries hard. Others benefit. RVs, for example, sell extremely well. Kitchens too. And also devices such as espresso machines. A new Ascaso 2020? No chance. The warehouses at Hommel are empty, as are those at the German importer. Delivery date sometime in 2021. I leave disappointed.
Because at this point it is the end of October, and I cover my espresso needs with my Bialetti coffee maker. It won't last forever. My wife has followed my espresso crisis and at some point she can no longer see the crisis. She advises me to order another X1. Another color, she says.
Women can be so pragmatic
Yeah yeah Why not? Then just black, the main thing is analogue and perfect espresso. I still have an Illy voucher, the machine will be a little cheaper. A few days later a black one lands here FrancisFrancis! X1. A very different serial number than the old machine, and it behaves differently from the start.
Yes, it has a long preheating time. And she can only do espresso, you have to make everything else yourself. But the espresso is perfect.
Espresso crisis overcome. And we'll manage the pandemic too.