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Illy Iperespresso X7.1 review: Tricky name, easy espresso

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
156
inc VAT

A stunning, well-priced machine that produces fantastic-quality coffee

Pros 
Fun to use
Fantastic quality coffee
Comes with a steam wand
Cons 
Can't be used with big cups
Not as quick to use as other pod machines
Some steam wand issues
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It’s no secret that most pod machines are fairly similar when it comes to brewing. The capsule goes in the top, you press the button and out comes a coffee. Every so often, however, a product turns up that blows convention out of the water. Enter the Illy Iperespresso X7.1: a “barista-style” coffee pod machine that does things a little differently.

Instead of popping them into a slot on top, the Illy’s pods are locked into the machine using a capsule holder – or for those down with the barista lingo, a portafilter. This unusual method is designed to give you a more authentic experience at home, minus the mess and fuss of a manual espresso machine.

It might seem a little gimmicky, but the Iperespresso X7.1 isn’t all razzle-dazzle and no functionality. It has some premium features and produces quality coffee that’s worth shouting about, too.

Illy Iperespresso X7.1 review: What you need to know

  • Coffee capsule machine
  • Compatible with Illy Iperespresso capsules
  • No pod bin
  • Steam wand
  • 15 bar pressure
  • 1l water tank capacity
  • Approx 1-2 minute heat-up time
  • Dimensions (WDH): 28 x 33.5 x 32cm
  • Weight: 6kg

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Illy Iperespresso X7.1 review: What do you get for the money?

The Iperespresso X7.1 costs £156 and is available in either red, off-white or black colourways. In the box, you get a detachable cup warmer, which sits atop the machine and a selection of pods to get you started.

It also has a steam wand function, which is quite impressive at this price. Plenty of pod machines have options for milk frothing but few have professional-style wands and those that do will set you back a pretty penny. The Sage Creatista range of Nespresso machines, all of which have this feature, cost between £329 and £649.

Aside from this, it’s a fairly straightforward setup. On the front of the machine is a power button, steam button and a brewing button. Unlike most other machines, which have multiple buttons for different drink sizes, the Iperespresso only has one, which is set at a standard single espresso shot. However, you can customise this size and the steam wand allows you to craft longer drinks if you wish. The water tank is at the side and has a sizeable one-litre capacity. When the time comes to refill it, you simply pull it out and top it up at the tap.

Illy Iperespresso X7.1 review: What do we like about it?

Style might not have anything to do with features or coffee quality but the design of the Iperespresso X7.1 is, nonetheless, stunning. The red is particularly striking and somehow manages to look both retro and futuristic simultaneously. Pair its red glossy casing with a striking chromed front panel and those big soft-touch buttons and it’s a style-conscious coffee lover’s dream.

Then there’s that unusual pod system. While the portafilter doesn’t improve the quality of the coffee in any way, it's fun to use. Moreover, it gives you a taste of a professional barista experience without the mess, fuss or cost.

Fun and style aren’t the only two areas where the Illy Iperespresso X7.1 excels, though. It also produces very good coffee. There aren’t any flavoured or overcomplicated blends in Illy’s capsule line-up, just a handful of impressive single origins and classic roasts that are a real pleasure to drink. Don’t be fooled by this simplicity, though, there are still plenty of options to choose from. What's more, they won't set you back any more than other pod brands. If bought directly from the site, capsules work out at just 38p per coffee. Pods come in tins of 21 and cost £8. You can also pick them up on Amazon, which is handy if you just want to add a tin or two to a larger order.

The steam wand is also very impressive. Although it looks rather small and unassuming, during testing it packed a powerful punch, whipping up milk to a velvety consistency with ease. It would be nice if there were functions to adjust the levels of steam to create different types of froth but, at this price, the steam wand is already a luxury feature that you wouldn’t expect, so it’s hard to complain too much.

Illy Iperespresso X7.1 review: What could be better?

The biggest benefit of pod machines is that they’re easy to use and while the Iperespresso isn’t difficult to master, it’s not as user-friendly as traditional models. The process of putting the pod into the portafilter then locking this into place means the coffee isn’t an instant as it could be. However, this is part of the experience of the Iperespresso, so if you don’t mind putting in the extra effort, then it’s really only a small niggle.

The addition of the portafilter underneath also means the cup clearance is on the small side. With only 6cm between the base and the pouring spout, there’s no way to fit a full-sized mug underneath. If you’re making a milk drink and don’t want to have to transfer your espresso to another vessel, you’ll need to use a shorter, cappuccino style cup instead of a tall, latte cup.

For the most part, the Iperespresso was a dream to use but, occasionally, using the steam wand would prevent the machine from being able to pour coffee. This is because excess air in the system sometimes causes a blockage and a subsequent error. The only way to fix this is to let the steam wand run for a full cycle to eject any trapped air.

Illy also advises not preparing coffee immediately after using the steam function as the higher temperature of the water can impair the flavour of the coffee. In fact, it locks the coffee button for up to ten minutes after you use the want. There is a fairly quick workaround for this in the manual, however, which will have you preparing coffee again after just a minute. Simply pop a cup or milk carafe under the steam wand, hold the steam button down for three seconds and a set amount of water will come out. This will stop automatically, after which the machine will be ready to make coffee again.

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Illy Iperespresso X7.1 review: Should I buy it?

If you’re an espresso fanatic looking for a pod machine that’s a little different, the Iperespresso X7.1 is a great choice. It’s reasonably priced, attractive, fun to use and pours quality espresso without any mess.

There are a couple of little niggles that make it harder to use than other machines and making drinks for a crowd isn’t exactly easy but the pros far outweigh the disadvantages, making it well worth your time and money. You could spend more than double on the slick Nespresso Creatista Uno, which comes with a more professional-looking, automatic steam wand but when the coffee quality is this good, there’s really no need to spend extra.

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