This would be a very minor "mod", but this seemed like the most appropriate forum. I bought my husband a used Briel Chamonix espresso machine for his birthday. So far he seems to like it - maybe in part because he "doesn't know how" to use it, and therefore I make all the drinks :)
When I bought it, I didn't even think to check the filter baskets, since I've only worked with professional grade equipment (a decade ago) and didn't realize there was more than one option. The pressurized baskets it comes with are crap, IMO, and I've found some recommendations as to replacement filters, but I can't find the answer to a simple question:
What size IS the Briel Chamonix's filter? Or barring that, how do I appropriately measure a filter?
If I knew the answer to either of these things, I could get a much less expensive generic replacement to try out. The outer edge of the basket seems to be 60mm but the inner diameter is 55mm. I'm hoping it's really a standard size...but wishful thinking does not automatically make things work!
I have a similar Briel and if you search my posts you'll find a few pics of the unpressurized filter basket and portafilter mod I did. That machine pulls really great shots with the unpressurized basket.
With those stock baskets with the pressure device at the bottom - it is really hard to get anything good. But save those baskets - they are very handy to fill with water and use to clean the group screen and gasket by doing the portafilter wiggle and let the water in those baskets slosh all around to rinse off the group gasket. And if you just simply don't have a good grinder, then you do need the pressurized baskets. To use the non-pressurized baskets like I have, you MUST have a decent espresso grinder.
I may be able to find the email address of the guy I bought filter baskets from - they were very inexpensive and work great. Or you can find the whole modified PF and baskets sometimes online at SCG. But the guy I bought my baskets from (ebay) was much, much cheaper and they work great!
Thanks for your quick reply. I took a look at your other post:
I also removed the crema device from the portafilter and cut down the spout so there is more room for cups under the spout (it is very little clearance) - and I use a non-pressurized basket with straight walls. The shots from this machine are very good.
Is removing the crema device as simple as taking a pliers to it and ripping it out? I've wanted to do that, but don't want to break it, and then be forced to spend an inordinate amount of money on a replacement holder when I only spend $40 for the whole machine & accessories! (The crema thing is bothering me largely because it pools extra espresso which gets all over the counter as soon as I remove the portafilter from the machine...who designed that thing?!)
As far as a grinder, I don't believe we will be investing in one right away - however, we have a roaster about 10 minutes away that will sell fresh roast/ground coffee. It won't be perfectly consistent, but I figure that's a better alternative than getting a cheapy home grinder.
Finally, if you do come across your old seller's information, I'd greatly appreciate being referred to him/her. Thank you!
This machine (like most espresso machines under $300) does not have a 3-way valve to release pressure after you pull a shot of espresso. That means there will be a lot of pressure inside the filter basket afterwards and if you try to remove the Portafilter it will spray wet coffee grounds all over. You will still get that even with a non-pressurized basket (only not quite as bad) because you will then be grinding your coffee fine enough to give you the same pressure (due to the fine grind) that you are now getting due to the pressure device on your filter basket.
My Briel is a Lido model ... I'm not positive about the Chamonix. I think yours has the same Portafilter and filter baskets that mine came with - but I don't know for sure.
Are your filter baskets rounded at the bottom with a brass piece on the bottom?
That brass piece has a rubber piece that presses against the bottom of the filter basket - that is what creates the back pressure so you can use more coarsely ground (or pre-ground) coffee and still get the higher pressure that espresso requires. So that is one part of the equation. You can unscrew that brass piece (the pressure is adjusted by how tight that is) and remove the rubber device and then screw the brass piece back on to hold everything together (and while you have it off you can clean all the old coffee gunk that will be under the filter disk). That will make it a "sort of" non-pressurized basket - but not nearly as good of a basket as the real thing that I'm using.
When I said I removed the "crema device" - I was referring to a black plastic disk in the very bottom of the portafilter (the handle that the filter basket goes into) - that little disk may have some function (I assumed it was to help enhance the fake crema that you get with these pressurized baskets) but I took that out so the spout was open at the bottom. I can't remember - I think I used a screwdriver to pry it out so the espresso could freely flow out into the cup.
The portafilter spout was a little stainless steel piece designed to split the pour into two streams so you could put two cups underneath. I don't ever do that and there was so little room for cups (only the shortest shot glass or tiniest espresso cup would fit) so I cut that off which gave me an extra 5-10mm of clearance for cups. Your machine may have more room than mine did and this was not anything you need to do as part of going non-pressurized. It was simply to gain clearance for slightly taller cups.
EDIT: They guy I bought from no longer has any - it was a one time liquidation lot he picked up. I found the email address of the guy I bought my baskets from - this was two years ago so I don't know if this is still good - I looked for the same ebay store where I bought it and the ebay store no longer exists - but here is the email address I used two years ago address removed.
He did not know if the baskets would fit Briel - I think they were for Solis and Saeco - after I bought mine, I told him to add Briel Lido to the list of machines it would fit. So you may need to tell him that info to get the right basket. Seems like it is 53mm basket but you might need to measure yours.
This looks like the exact same basket (but I don't have first hand experience with it - just going by looks and description) but for a higher cost than I paid Click Here (www.seattlecoffeegear.com)
YOU MUST have a good espresso grinder to use this. This basket will require a very fine grind. I don't see how your local roaster can grind for you since you really need to sit and experiment a little bit at a time going finer, finer, finer until you find the right spot (and it will change as the coffee ages - the fineness that is right today will be wrong tomorrow).
Everyone that starts down this road (me included when I first started) thinks they are going to find a way to do this without an espresso grinder - it just isn't going to happen. I thought going from a whirley blade grinder to a $50 cuisinart burr grinder was going to do it - wrong. But you are right to not be going with a cheapy grinder like I tried to do - better to get one that will really do the job.
Posted Sat Jun 30, 2012, 6:17pm Subject: Re: Briel (Chamonix) Non-Pressurized Filter
I've had a few emails asking about how to go non-pressure on the briel so I thought I'd take a couple of pictures. I should have cleaned the PF before I took the closeup as it has some coffee goo. But you can see that I only cut the spout a little to give me a bit of clearance - there was no reason to cut it any further since the handle would still be in the way. And it really doesn't look like any point in trying to go bottomless since the bottom is where the handle gets at least half of its strength - so I'd be afraid of the handle breaking off if I cut the bottom out. Though I could cut most of the bottom out ... but, oh well, it works great like this and the clearance is so tight, I'd never be able to see a bottomless pour anyway with a cup under there.
NOTE: this part has nothing to do with depressurizing the PF - this is just to gain a little clearance for cups.
Posted Sat Jun 30, 2012, 6:24pm Subject: Re: Briel (Chamonix) Non-Pressurized Filter
And this is the little crema disc that was pushed down into the spout inside the Portafilter. I have no idea what it was meant for - probably to stop any spatters from the pressurized baskets from spraying out the spout. But this disc caused a lot of the coffee to remain inside the portafilter and never made it out to the cup --- so I pried it out with a screwdriver or pliers.
Posted Sat Jun 30, 2012, 6:32pm Subject: Re: Briel (Chamonix) Non-Pressurized Filter
Before I found the real non-pressurized basket for the Solis and Saeco machines, I attempted to make the stock filter baskets non-pressurized and this worked pretty well ... but not as well as the real thing. The main problem with this is that you still have a filter disk inside with space underneath it where old coffee gets trapped so you have to dismantle this frequently to clean under the filter disk. But it does work "sort of" ... but I highly recommend getting the solis basket as it makes a big, big difference. Though --- this modified stock basket works better with coarser grinds if you don't have a proper grinder. The Solis basket requires a very fine grind unless you really overdose it with 18 grams or so (it will hold a lot if you pack it down hard). These stock baskets modified by putting tiny stainless steel acorn nut on in place of the brass pressure device - these will take small doses of coffee that isn't ground quite so fine - but the quality of the espresso is not up to what you get with the Solis basket.
Posted Sat Jun 30, 2012, 6:33pm Subject: Re: Briel (Chamonix) Non-Pressurized Filter
And finally ... here is a picture of the two stock baskets (one with the stock pressure device and the other with the acorn nut instead), the Solis basket and the Portafilter after cutting the spout down and removing the crema disk.
And ... let me say that with the Solis basket and the thermometer I added to help me temp surf, I am able to pull fantastic shots on this little machine. The temp surf is a little difficult, so I don't use this machine very often (I have better machines I can use). But if I were to pull it out and practice a few times to remember the temp surf routine, I could pull a shot on this that is the equal of anything I can pull on much better machines. Of course I'm using a Mazzer Major grinder and a good grinder is key.
Thanks again for all your replies. We were out of town this weekend, but maybe now I'll have a chance to try a few of these things out. I may try out the acorn nut semi-non-pressurized option to allow use of coarser grinds, but I was pleased to see that the site you recommended actually offers USPS as a shipper...and therefore the shipping is only like $4. (It's depressing to buy a small, lightweight item online only to have them charge $12+ for UPS...ugh!)
I'll keep in mind what you said about the grinder, but for now, we've gotta see if the interest level stays high enough to justify the expense & counter space.
Though...I found the espresso maker on craigslist for cheap (the seller said it was a gift that almost never got used)...maybe I can do the same for a decent grinder :) I'll just know this time around to research ahead of time, since this equipment is much more varied than I ever expected!
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