The home espresso machine market is heating up. Coffee lovers are investing more and more into their home espresso set up and there is a wealth of options to choose from.
I invested a lot of time into working out exactly what home machine I wanted to take a chance on and make sure I got value from my investment.
I wanted a machine that could give me high-quality results and close to cafe level espresso extraction, without having to pay thousands of dollars on one of the smaller versions of a commercial espresso machine.
In this review, I will share my experience with the Breville Bambino Plus, an espresso maker that I have been using almost every day for the last 6 months.
Who Is The Bambino Plus For?
Breville has some solid options for home espresso machines, with the Bambino Plus sitting at the lower end of their price range.
The Breville Bambino Plus is an entry-level home espresso machine, and whilst the machine itself is well priced, there is the cost of the separate grinder that needs to be taken into consideration.
A machine like the Barista Express could end up being cheaper overall with its built-in grinder.
The Bambino Plus has a lot of features that come as standard with a higher-priced espresso machine.
This home espresso machine is easily adapted to the user, from functioning close to an automatic espresso maker to being quickly switched into a fully manual espresso machine to make perfect espresso at home, no matter what your interest or experience level is.
Getting Started With The Breville Bambino Plus
Straight out of the box you’ll see that the Bambino Plus is a nice, modern-looking machine.
It comes equipped with a 19-gram capacity pressurised coffee basket and portafilter, as well as a tidy little on-brand coffee tamper and the Breville coffee distribution trimming tool, known as ‘The Blade’.
The machine has a minimalist design with ease of use in mind.
It has 3 main buttons on the front that control the shot size and the steam wand button.
An additional 2 smaller buttons control the milk temperature and the amount of foam for the automatic milk froth function, all customisable to if you like a flat white, latte or a cappuccino style milk texture.
Key Features And Benefits
Breville has become well known for its advanced settings designed to help users get the best out of its appliances and the Bambino Plus is no different in that department.
Pre-set or manual modes
The option of pre-set profiles or manual mode for espresso extraction, as well as a steam wand that is designed very similarly to a professional-level milk wand, means that, from the machine’s specifications alone, the Bambino Plus should be capable of producing an excellent final product.
You have single and double espresso shot buttons that can be programmed to your desired specifications, which includes pre-infusion.
Heat up in three seconds
The Breville Bambino Plus offers an incredibly quick, 3-second heat up time, which means you don’t need to wait for the machine to pre-heat before starting to make your espresso in the morning, and its close to a two-litre water tank keeps the machine going for a while before needing to fill it up again.
Design and Construction
The Breville Bambino Plus is a great looking machine. Compact, minimalist, sleek and well thought out.
It is made up of plastic and brushed stainless steel, and whilst I wouldn’t say it feels cheap at all, the overall feel of the machine is a little lightweight, so much so that when you are taking out and locking in the portafilter, you may need to hold the machine down or else you are going to move the whole thing around.
The space that the Breville Bambino Plus takes up is something that really stands out, it is a very compact machine that has a very small footprint and can easily slide in-between other appliances on your kitchen counter.
Brewing with the Bambino Plus is as simple or complicated as you want it to be.
Fill the basket with ground coffee, distribute, tamp, insert into the machine and press either the single or double-shot button, depending on how much coffee you want to make, and you will get some good results.
Pressurised filter baskets come in handy for users who don’t want to put too much effort into their coffee-making routine. The way that the filter baskets are designed helps to correct potential mistakes that can lead to channelling.
For the more advanced user who likes to measure everything in order to create a consistently high-quality espresso, this machine is able to match your demands too.
Holding down either of the shot buttons puts the machine into manual mode and starts the extraction process with a lower pressure pre-infusion. When you release the button the pressure will move the machine up to the full 15-bars of pressure for optimal espresso extraction.
You can then allow the espresso to pour and extract until you press the button again to stop the process.
By adding a non pressurised basket, espresso scales and a timer to your set up, the Bambino Plus lets you really get into the specifics of speciality coffee in an easy and approachable way.
Taste and Consistency
The Bambino Plus has all the tools needed to generate consistently high-quality flavours and get the most out of the quality beans you are using for your coffee.
The pressure is very consistent throughout the extraction process and the espresso you can make with this coffee machine is truly excellent, especially for the price that the Bambino Plus is available for.
The Bambino Plus’ steam wand is designed perfectly for high-quality milk steaming.
You have the option between using the automatic steam wand function, where you can set the rough temperature of the milk being steamed as well as how much foam you add to it, without having to hold the jug and the automatic steam wand purge is also a really great feature.
You need to make sure that the milk jug is fully covering the ‘auto milk sensor’, as this will detect the milk temperature and stop automatically when it is ready.
Auto Milk Steaming
You can also steam your milk manually, letting you get to grips with how to produce high-quality micro-foamed milk that can be used to pour perfect latte art.
The biggest downfall of the steam wand is that it can only be placed in two different positions, neither of which are optimal for milk steaming, so you will need to adapt your own milk jug positioning to get the best out of it.
Cleaning for the Bambino Plus is very straight forward. The stainless steel body of the machine is very easily wiped clean and the drip tray is easy to remove.
Make sure to keep an eye on the level of water build up in your drip tray, it can fill up very quickly and makes a bit of a mess
The machine comes with cleaning tablets and a ‘stopper’ that can be put into your portafilter and let you clean the inside of your coffee machine.
You can then push the two espresso shot buttons together which will then put the machine into the clean mode, which runs a full cleaning cycle to keep the inside of the machine like new.
Value for Money
The value for money on the Breville Bambino Plus is excellent.
I was a little apprehensive when I first started using the Bambino Plus but was quickly won over by the quality of taste it was able to produce.
You can get some great coffee without any other accessories apart from a decent grinder, which is very impressive, but with a couple of additional items in your setup, you can produce coffee that you would be happy to receive from any cafe.
Easy additions to get the best out of the machine
If quality and consistency is your main focus in coffee and, like me, love to taste the full range of flavour available from single-origin coffee beans, an espresso scale, a non pressurised basket and ‘coffee water’, will all quickly bring your results up a couple of levels and help you fully understand the process that high-quality cafes go through to bring the best coffee to their customers.
A lot of users move towards a bottomless portafilter, as you can watch the extraction process up close. The only downside if that you can only make one cup of coffee at a time, and will need to make the grind size finer to counter act the lack of pressurised coffee basket.
The Breville Barista Express is often seen as the top of the Breville home espresso machine range.
Its built-in grinder saves you from having to purchase a quality burr grinder separately, which helps to cut down on fuss and cost.
The Barista Express is for someone looking for an all in one machine that still needs the loving touch of the barista.
It also boasts a much larger water tank and is a little more sturdy than the Bambino Plus.
The Sunbeam Barista Max is an all in one espresso set up, very similar to the Breville Barista Express, but at a lower price point.
The built-in grinder is great to get you started with making espresso straight out of the box and has a perfectly designed steam wand to texture your milk just the way you like it.
The Sunbeam Cafe Series is the pinnacle of Sunbeam’s espresso machine range.
This great looking machine offers Sunbeam’s standard, full-sized 58mm portafilter along with some great features, like a built-in milk thermometer that tracks the temperature whilst milk frothing and the ability to steam milk whilst also pulling a shot at the same time without sacrificing any quality, which makes the Sunbeam Cafe Series a perfectly balanced choice between ease of use and budget.
Within this price range, the potential of this machine is hard to beat.
The Gaggia Classic pro is seen by many as the best entry-level fully manual home espresso machine on the market.
The machine’s design is simple and efficient, and it can be easily upgraded to include a PID that controls brew temperature, shot time and volumetric (although these features already come as standard on Breville machines)
Before I even used the Breville Bambino Plus, I was a little sceptical.
There are some great home espresso machines on the market in the same price range, but Breville has left me pleasantly surprised with this one.
The quality of espresso and textured milk I get from this coffee maker is better than I have had from some commercial coffee shops.
This compact coffee maker works for all different types of coffee lover, with the choice between running the machine manually or taking advantage of its automatic espresso and milk functions, it is accessible to everyone.
The Bambino Plus is a nice looking machine that doesn’t over-complicate anything in the brewing process and has a small footprint, not taking up too much space on the surface it sits on.
The only issue I have had with the machine is the capacity of the drip tray, but that’s knit picking.
Obviously, you’ll need a good grinder to sit next to the Bambino Plus, but the other additional accessories needed to really bring this machine to its full potential aren’t too expensive and can make a huge difference in your cup.