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Briel Machines - Other - Thomas Down's Review
Posted: January 16, 2002, 11:52am
review rating: 7.4
feedback: (1) comments | read | write
Briel Espresso Machines - Other
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Arrow The Briel Machines - Other has 17 Reviews
Arrow The Briel Machines - Other has been rated 7.00 overall by our member reviewers
Arrow This product has been in our review database since November 30, 2001.
Arrow Briel Machines - Other reviews have been viewed 129,359 times (updated hourly).

Quality Reviews
These are some of the best-written reviews for this product, as judged by our members.
Name Ranking
Gary Rocco 8.50
Todd DeYoung 8.00
Mike Dahlor 7.66
Thomas Down 7.40
Greg Keough 7.16

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Ratings and Stats Overall Rating: 7.0
Product Reviewed: Chamonix
Manufacturer: Briel Quality: 6
Average Price: Varies Usability: 7
Price Paid: $150.00 Cost vs. Value 8
Where Bought: Whittards Aesthetics 7
Owned for: 1 year Overall 7
Writer's Expertise: Intermediate Would Buy Again: No
Similar Items Owned:
Bottom Line: Reasonably priced pump machine which can make some good drinks -- once you lose the crema disc.
Positive Product Points

Reasonably priced pump machine, which fits well into my (small) kitchen.
Makes some pretty good espresso, and got me hooked!  Heats up quickly,
and has plenty of steaming power.

Negative Product Points

This isn't a heavy duty machine: the case is plasticy, and the portafilter feels very light compared to higher-end machines.  The crema disc didn't seem to help my coffee, and eventually clogged.

Detailed Commentary

I bought this machine without knowing a great deal about home espresso.  For the first few months when I was using it, I managed to produce quite pleasant strong coffee, but nothing which could really be called espresso.  When I tried grinding coffee fine, flow was reduced to a drip, and then choked completely, so I went back to coarse grind -- not much finer than for drip coffee.  Then one day the flow stopped completely.  

Ouch, had I broken it?  The pump still seemed to be running, and without a portafilter, water was still coming though.  I started to suspect the flexible plastic disc which filled a chamber at the bottom of the filter basket. Figuring that I didn't have anything to lose, I first enlarged the hole in this disc, then removed it completely.  Having done this, the machine was transformed!  I could use a much finer grind, and finally, I was getting true espresso from the machine -- much closer to what I hoped for in a cafe.  Once I'd got the grind right and made myself a suitably sized tamper (forget the built-in one), I also started to see real crema: far more than I got with the crema disc in place!

One thing this machine has never had any trouble with is steaming.  There always seems to be plenty of steam on tap when you ask for it, and milk froths and heats quickly.  I've never had any trouble with the frothing device on the end of the steam wand, except that it needs to be dismantled and cleaned fairly regularly.  I'd be interested to try frothing without this, but the wand on it's own is far too short to get to the bottom of a pitcher.

Nowadays, I use the machine with a Rancilio Rocky grinder and home-roast beans (yes, I've learned a lot more about coffee over the last six months!), and I'm getting some really pretty good shots.  However, there's recently been a lot of water leaking out around the grouphead (doesn't seem to be a gasket problem).

I've been using this machine several times a day, and it's done a lot to get me interested in espresso.  Since removing the crema disc I've experimented and learned a lot about the variables controlling a good cup, too.  But I'm starting to doubt that I'll still be using it a year from now -- especially if the leaks get worse.

Buying Experience

Bought this machine from a high-street shop (an attractive option, since I'd never owned an espresso machine before), and had no trouble.  Actually paid UKP100.

Three Month Followup

Since writing the review, I've given and upgraded to a Rancilio Silvia.  It's clearly a better machine (as you'd hope, given the price!).  But it was still the Chamonix which got me hooked on home espresso!

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review rating: 7.4
Posted: January 16, 2002, 11:52am
feedback: (1) comments | read | write
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