A solidly made and practical unit that produces excellent espresso.
Positive Product Points
Good design makes filling and brewing straightforward. Heats and recovers quickly between espresso shots. It's easy to clean. Construction seems very solid.
Negative Product Points
The upper panel on the drip coffeemaker does't fit perfectly - strictly a cosmetic problem as drip unit works well. The pump is louder than I expected it to be.
This is my first "serious" machine, selected after reading almost every review posted at CoffeeGeek. I couldn't be happier. The third shot I made came out better than any I'd ever done with the steam machines that preceded the Briel. Briel's "Crema Master" filter has been giving me shots that look as good as any I had in Vancouver, and on a consistent basis. Controls on the unit are straightforward and the portafilter is a massive block of metal.
Those interested in obtaining one of the Briel ES200 units might do well to consider the ED271, which contains the ES200 mechanism side by side with a drip coffeemaker. I was surprised to find that prices for the ES200 were greater than for the combined espresso/drip unit. Perhaps there's less appeal to serious espresso geeks when the drip unit is in close proximity.
I suppose that with any new espresso machine, there is a period where the owner experiments, trying to find the technique that yields the best cup on a consistent basis. I think Iíve now completed that period, and Iím extremely pleased with the results Iím getting.
The key contributors to my improved performance are the grinder (a Turkish hand mill) and a properly sized tamper (from EspressoPeople). Iím using Peruvian Fair-Traded coffee beans and Iím getting consistently good results by running hot water through the portafilter before loading it and making a double. The unit seems to give better coffee when the portafilter is warmed prior to pulling the shot. The portafilter is not a lightweight piece of aluminum, but a solidly made chromed brass unit.
The crema-producing filter gives a consistently pleasing result and the ďno-dripĒ feature works reasonably well. Iíll typically get a drop or two when I pull the cup away about 15 seconds after the pump has stopped. The Briel takes about 25 seconds to pull a double shot (actually more like a 1.7 shot cup the way I make it).
Some other numbers about the unit: The dimensions are approximately 18 inches wide, 12.5 inches high and 10 inches deep. Itís a very attractive unit and the chrome and black give a solid look that goes well with the light wood cabinets and dark green counter it sits on. Itís very easy to keep the Briel looking shiny and clean. Itís not a light piece of machinery and Iíve put felt pads on the base to make it easier to slide on the counter.
From a cold start, it takes about 2 minutes for the boiler to heat the water to brewing temperature. After pulling my double, the unit takes about 35 seconds to recover so that another shot can be pulled.
The slide that controls the amount of water used is conveniently located just below the brew buttons. The markings donít correspond to the absolute amount of coffee that you will get Ė my setting is just a bit above the 1-shot mark and Iím getting a bit over a shot and a half.
Speaking of water, filling the reservoir is a snap. A clear plastic water container slides out from the right side at the rear of the unit. There is a water filter at the end of the takeup tube. The amount of water available can be seen through a viewing window in the front of the machine, and there is a red floating ball that lets you see how much water remains even if the light is poor.
Thereís a very nice touch with the filter coffee unit as well Ė the carafe has two sets of markings. One shows the level of water needed to produce a given number of cups and the second set shows how many cups were actually brewed. If you want to get six cups out, you need to put more than six cups of water in and this carafe takes the guesswork out of figuring exactly how much more water is needed. In addition, there's a "no drip" feature that prevents leakage from the filter when the carafe is pulled away.
I havenít used the frother yet since neither my wife nor I drinks cappuccinos or lattes, and I havenít purchased any espresso pods in order to try the pod filter that comes with the unit.
I really couldnít be happier with my choice. I get an excellent cup of espresso on a consistent basis and my wife gets her filter coffee, all from a single unit that looks good and saves space.
As always when buying on eBay, check the feedback for the seller. I purchased this unit from Bertsbest and the transaction was trouble free.
Three Month Followup
I've added a number of additional points into the main description to give a more complete picture of the machine and my impressions of it. With every month that's gone by, I'm more satisfied with my purchase than I was the month before. The Briel continues to operate flawlessly for both the drip and espresso components. It's very easy to keep clean and the bright metal stands in contrast to the plastic appliances that sometimes share counter space with it. If you recommend this machine to a friend, he or she will thank you for it.
One Year Followup
I've used the Briel now for a year with absolutely no problems with either the drip or the espresso unit. I've used the pod portafilter for the first time and found that it produces a decent cup of espresso - it also makes the brewing of multiple espressos much simpler if you're entertaining guests. It takes about 20 seconds to re-heat after pulling a single with the pod.
My experience has been good enough that I have recommended the unit to friends, and I've been thanked for my recommendation. I really can't imagine a combination unit working better than the Briel.