Decent starter machine, but adds a variable or two to the process that serious beginners (going to go beyond a cup at home once in awhile) may want to avoid.
Positive Product Points
Easy to use and learn. Looks nice on the counter. Portafilter is a bit heavier than others in its price range. Water reservoir is easy to remove and fill. Plenty of steaming and frothing power.
Negative Product Points
While heavier than most, the portafilter is still lightweight. Other than that, considering the price, the only real draw-back is what Briel calls its "crema-master". A tiny rubber fitting on the bottom of the grind basket that "makes perfect crema every time".
I purchased this machine after about three weeks of research. Being new to espresso, I didn't want to lay out hundreds of dollars for a machine that might not get used. After much debating (and CoffeeGeek reviews), I chose the Artemis based on three factors. It is pump driven (good) it has a boiler (good) and it is under $200 (o.k.). What I've learned since then is to avoid anything that speaks of making "perfect cream every time". While it is a good beginner machine, the fact that it uses this little rubber seal to help aerate the flow of espresso (thereby creating foam on top of the shot) is a huge draw back. Crema is one of the signs of a good shot and if you're getting foamy stuff every time, it doesn't help you zero in making a good shot each time. Plus the little rubber seal expands and shrinks with use and with heat. This, I found, lead to too fast a pull and sometimes, no pull. It simply adds another variable to a process that has plenty of its own already. I'm not too disappointed though. This taught me that I do love this art/science enough to get a "real" machine and it still makes a decent shot when all the planets align.
Purchased this unit from Amazon with all the usual perks. No troubles there. Of course, I've not attempted to return it. (Interested in picking it up? Email me. I'll put it toward the Silvia I'm lookin at) :-)
Three Month Followup
The original review will have to stand alone as I have given theis machine to a friend and moved on to a Solis SL70. My friend is new to espresso and so far has been able to pull some drinkable shots without much learning curve, so I guess the Briel is still a good starter machine.