Fracino Piccino Review
I’m not sure about you, but when I see that a coffee company was formed by ‘The Godfather of Espresso’, I get a little excited about what they might produce, and to be honest expectations are raised a little bit.
That’s what we are faced with here, with the Piccino from Birmingham-based company, Fracino. Formed in 1963 by a machine tool designer named Frank Maxwell – the Godfather himself – they have been making high-end coffee machines from the heart of The Midlands. Initially from Frank’s garden shed…
They only started trading under the name Fracino in 1990, by which time they had moved to more professional manufacturing premises! Since the turn of the Millennium, they have become one of the UK’s fasting growing enterprises, winning countless awards, and have even had their machines installed in 10 Downing Street, in the process.
So you can imagine my delight when I was told that I was going to review the Piccino. An espresso machine priced towards the high end compared to much of the competition – with their track record I was expecting big things. Let’s see how they got on with my Fracino Piccino review.
Fracino Piccino Specifications
There is something about this coffee machine that you notice as soon as you lay your eyes on it. It’s stunning – a thing of absolute beauty.
Let’s just take a moment to fully appreciate it. It’s the chrome finish that is the first aspect that really hits you – the whole machine just seems to sparkle and shine with such a crisp and classy sheen. This is complemented by the matt black finish of the base and sides of the machine – just there to highlight the supreme finish of the main body of the machine. Its sleek curves just add to the feel of high quality.
That’s something else that might get overlooked – the look of it really reassures you immediately that this is a sturdy and well-made machine. You may think this is an obvious point, but you would be surprised at how many machines give off a cheap and plastic-y vibe – undoing a lot of the great design work that went into the mechanics of the machine. This looks like it is built to last, which is reassuring when you are spending so much money on a coffee machine.
What is quite surprising for a machine of this capacity, is that it is quite compact. Measuring 46 x 43 x 33.5 cm, it is certainly big enough to do the job, but without being overwhelmingly large. It would fit nicely onto most kitchen worktops.
Now on to what it can do. It is fitted with a 15 bar vibratory pump, which is generally considered to be the optimum for an espresso machine, although you don’t really need more than 9 bars of pressure to pull a great espresso. Having that extra capacity does help it to have more consistent performance, though, without losing any pressure.
The way that the Piccino really separates itself from much of the competition is in the mechanics. They are the only UK company to make ‘traditional’ espresso machines like this. They use brass to make the group and the steam valve, a nod to the way that the first espresso machines were made.
It is also a semi-automatic machine. What this means is that you are in control of when the extraction starts and when it finishes. This little extra control means that you get to produce your absolutely perfect shot of coffee – the flow of water and therefore the amount of extraction. An automatic machine doesn’t afford you this luxury.
Similarly, the professional brass filter holder, with 58mm filter, gives you plenty of control. It is hefty, which helps with temperature stability, and you get to choose the amount of coffee that you add – rather than the machine automatically loading for you. You can experiment with different quantities until you have found that perfect amount.
The steam valve is there for you to make your milk, obviously. It has a pressure gauge attached to it so that you can be precise when frothing or steaming – this level of detail is something you just don’t get with most espresso machines and really is a touch of class.
The twin boiler has a capacity of 300ml. This may not sound like very much, but it is large enough for 10 shots of espresso, and to be honest, you should be using the freshest possible water when you are making your coffee in order to get the best taste, so the relatively small capacity should not hinder your enjoyment of this machine at all, and it obviously helps when it comes to keeping the size nice and compact.
What It’s Like To Use The Fracino Piccino
In order to accurately describe what it is like to use the Fracino Piccino, I thought it would be best to walk you through the process, step-by-step. So here goes:
First of all, check that you have enough water to make your drink by lifting the lid and checking the boiler at the back of the machine. I found it easiest to have a jug of fresh water on hand to top up when necessary by pouring directly into the water tank. You will need about 30ml of water for each shot of espresso that you are making.
Next, load your coffee. Remove the filter and carefully place in the required amount of coffee. As I mentioned above, this really is up to you – use however much coffee you want, but as a rough guide use between 6-8 grams. It is a good idea to get a tamper to pat down the coffee so that the extraction is nice and even.
Place the filter back into the brass filter holder, and position your cup underneath, ready to receive your drink.
If you are making a milky coffee (cappuccino, latte, etc) then you will want to start to prepare your milk here. Again, make sure that there is enough water in the steam boiler (max capacity 300ml), and fill up a stainless steel jug with the required amount of milk. When you are ready, you can process your milk to your required density and temperature, by using the pressure gauge. This is a really sophisticated feature that you just don’t get with many domestic espresso machines.
You can also set the temperature of the water by using the display on the front of the machine. The temperature will differ depending on what drink you are making – again it is wonderful to have this amount of control over your drink.
Crucially, you can pull your espresso at the same time as you froth your milk, thanks to the dual boiler. This genuinely saves you some time and means that you can put together your drink when both components are at their optimum temperature.
I have given you a quick run-through of how to make a coffee there, and you will have seen that it is straightforward – however, it does require an element of skill and practice to perfect. Steaming and frothing milk, for example, is not something you can do unless you have practised. Using this machine is not just a case of shoving in a pod and pressing a button – it takes more than that, and if you are not prepared to put in a bit of effort to perfect these skills, you may find the results disappointing.
Fracino Piccino Taste Test
If you get this right though, then the results are out of this world…
This is honestly the machine that has produced some of my favourite coffees that I have ever made – I’m talking the very best that you would buy in an upscale café or coffee shop. They promise to bring ‘a professional barista experience’ and they absolutely deliver.
The milk was foamed to perfection for my cappuccino, the coffee delightfully rich and strong to power through and the two worked together perfectly, and at the ideal temperature. The thing is, though, that that is just the tip of the iceberg – I made a great cappuccino, tomorrow I’m going to experiment with a latte. There are no limits here – anything you can buy in a coffee shop, you can make in your home and at the same quality.
A wise man once said “life is what you make it” – and that is exactly how I feel about the Fracino Piccino.
There’s no getting around the fact that it is a major investment. It is priced at a point where you need to be sure you are getting something that you will make the most out of. That means that you will need to commit to practising your work with the steamer and experimenting with the coffee.
I appreciate that this won’t be for everyone – many people don’t have the time or inclination to spend this much time and money making coffee in their own home, and I fully understand that. This machine is not for people that just want a machine to make them a coffee.
This is for people that don’t just see coffee as a drink – it’s a hobby, a passion. If that sounds like you, and you want to start making genuine barista-quality coffees in your own home, then this machine will allow you to do that. That it will look incredible in your kitchen is just an added bonus.