Great entry level product, with great customer service. If you upgrade from a steam (non-pump) machine, you will be shocked by the improvement.
Positive Product Points
Great entry-level pump machine. Stands up nicely to twice-daily use. Is a ridiculously huge improvement over a $40ish Krups steam machine.
Negative Product Points
None really, but Is it really necessary to prime the pump before each use? I do this quick series of steps each time, as directed, but I'm not sure exactly why (other than warming the parts and cup, as noted on the instructional video). It is a little difficult to see the water level in the tank, as some folks have pointed out--but it's not a big deal.
I had been using an entry level Krups steam machine, almost daily, until a friend came over and told me about a deal on a Briel pump machine. I ended up getting this one, after some comparison shopping. It has worked extremely well and, after upgrading to a burr grinder, I'm able to make consistently tasty shots. I make at least 4 shots each morning with this thing and have yet to encounter any problems.
It's very sturdy and cool looking, heats up fast, and has plenty of steam for frothing milk. Since the improvement from my old steam machine (better quality shots, more available steam, less panic in trying not to miss the window of opportunitiy to froth, no steam leaking from the top) is so huge, I can't find anything wrong with this one.
I am completely happy with it, although I can see the appeal of a fully automatic machine (maybe someday).
I bought this new, in box, from a guy on Ebay who sells quite a few of these machines and had a high feedback rating. I had no problem with the transaction and got the machine quickly. Who knows where these guys get them?
I don't know if the Starbucks 2-year warranty is valid, though, given how I purchased.
Nonetheless, I called customer service today to see about ordering a replacement basket (it didn't break or anything, I just wanted a 2nd one so I can prepare 2 baskets of espresso grind--instead of having to empty, wash, and dry the the thing to make a second round) and they promised to send one at no charge. I was willing to pay, but they offered to send one for free. I'm really impressed with the service and my experience is consistent with what a lot of other folks have written. Poor customer service ratings is what scared me away from buying a Briel. And the great service today is what prompted me to write this review.
I hate the fact that there are 4 starbucks within walking distance from my office and that the local coffee shops are struggling (the Evil Bean closed recently). I go out of my way to support the local shops, but the quality of the service and the products at Starbucks is really pretty awesome.
Three Month Followup
Still a consistently great product. I use daily and have had no problems.