Are you pining for an espresso machine of your own but looking at your already crowded kitchen, wondering how you’d ever fit one on your counter? Breville is aware of most people’s lack of kitchen counter real estate and has a solution:
The Breville Bambino (aka the Sage Bambino in Europe) is a superb small espresso machine for anyone who wants to perfect their home coffee game. With professional-level features, this pocket-sized coffee maker punches well above its weight. It’s a superb option for anyone on a tight budget of either money or space.
But, does compromising on size mean you have to compromise on quality? Can you really get café quality coffee at home? Our Breville Bambino review answers these questions (and more) after putting this tiny but mighty espresso maker through its paces.
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The Breville Bambino is a superb espresso machine for the money or space conscious coffee lover.
Breville’s proprietary “4 Keys” formula ensures all the elements needed for cafe quality espresso are in place. Having this level of quality at this price is superb.
To get the best from this machine you do need a high quality grinder and scale. But you can have a top set up, including the machine, for around $500 total.
Some practice is needed to nail those espresso shots, but the double walled filter baskets hold your hand in the beginning. After a few weeks, you’ll be pulling pro level shots and doing stunning latte art.
- Very small footprint
- Good value for money
- Great espresso is possible
- Amazing milk wand
- Thermojet heating system
- Easy to use
- Very few features
1. Large Portafilter
The professional-style 54mm portafilter allows a maximum dose of 18g. This larger dose and wider, flatter puck can give barista-worthy espresso shots.
2. Double and Single-Walled Baskets
Double-walled baskets are more forgiving for espresso beginners to get high-quality espresso shots. Single-walled baskets produce better espresso once you’re more experienced. We love that both come with the machine so you can switch it up once you’re comfortable using the Bambino.
3. Thermojet Heating System
The Breville thermojet heating system means it only takes 3 seconds for water to be heated to the correct temperature for brewing coffee or steaming milk.
4. Low Pressure Pre-Infusion
To get really top-quality espresso, pre-infusion is a crucial first step to de-gas the coffee grounds (allow the CO2 to escape). On the Bambino, you can adjust the pre-infusion time to suit your preference and chosen coffee beans. As a result, your espresso will be more balanced with more prominent aromatics.
5. High-Temperature Steam
The powerful manual milk wand produces steam at 266°F (130°C) to quickly heat milk and allow you to create perfect microfoam and latte art. This “drier” steam makes it easier to create cafe-quality drinks like cappuccino or latte.
6. P.I.D. (Proportional Integral Derivative)
The Bambino constantly monitors the water temperature, making small adjustments where necessary so it is incredibly accurate.
On easy mode, you can use pre-ground coffee with the double-walled basket and you’ll get something that looks and tastes like espresso.
As easy as measuring the grounds, tamping, and pushing a button.
Now obviously the quality of that espresso won’t be very good. Pre-ground coffee isn’t great and double-walled baskets, while simpler to use, can’t get the same nuanced flavor as single-walled ones or a bottomless portafilter.
Those of us looking for a really good espresso will need great quality, fresh roasted whole coffee beans, a high-quality grinder (we use the 1Zpresso J-Max and LOVE it,) a coffee scale, and a good tamper. Having a full setup will allow you to dial in the Bambino properly and level up your shots.
This isn’t straightforward if you’ve never done it before, and it takes time. But in the end, it’s 100% worth it.
The single and double shot buttons are pre-programmed so you just need to push and wait. You can also set your own volume by pushing and holding the button, then pushing it again when you have the quantity you want. Your custom espresso shot volume will then be saved for next time.
For those looking to make milky drinks, the manual wand on the Bambino espresso machine is also good. However, it will take a little practice to get used to (as all manual milk wands do). But this shouldn’t take more than a week really to get the milk you like.
Pro tip: Use a milk thermometer to help.
This means you’ll either need to buy a grinder if you want really good espresso from your Bambino. Or you’ll have to use pre-ground coffee, which is nowhere near as good.
Grinder shopping can feel overwhelming as there are so many different types. But you want one that will excel at grinding fine enough for espresso.
We recommend a good manual grinder like the 1Zpresso J Max or JX Pro – this plus the Breville Bambino is still cheaper than an entry-level super-automatic, and has the potential for better espresso too.
For an electric grinder option, we’d recommend going full Breville fanboy and opting for the Smart Grinder Pro (see our review, here).
The Bambino is a simple machine of brushed stainless steel and plastic.
You have just 4 buttons: single shot, double shot, steam, and hot water. That’s it.
This clean, simple look is nice. It’s not going to set the world on fire, but it’s a nice-looking little machine that you certainly wouldn’t feel the need to hide.
Those with a small kitchen will love the super compact Bambino espresso machine. It’s only 6.3 inches wide and 13.7 inches deep. That’s a very small footprint to find space for on your counter. It’s still 12 inches tall but it shouldn’t cause any issues with overhead cabinets unless they are very low.
Breville is a very reliable brand with a great reputation for high build quality.
Having a stainless steel body is always nice for durability, though there are some plastic elements to the Bambino.
However, the Bambino is very light. So when you’re twisting the portafilter into place the entire machine tends to twist too if you don’t stabilize it with your other hand. I found this a little disconcerting at first but it’s otherwise a very solid build.
To keep the machine small, the water carafe isn’t huge – just 47 oz. But refilling it is easy so you likely won’t need to do it more than twice a week. This is a pretty standard size on affordable espresso machines too. Just remember it’s plastic, so it won’t survive being dropped!
If you happen to be unlucky and something goes wrong, there’s a 1-year warranty and we’ve always found Breville’s customer service team to be great.
As there aren’t many moving parts, there isn’t much to go wrong. So you can be reasonably confident of getting 5 years out of the Bambino if not significantly longer if you take good care of it. Which is great for a budget machine.
If you’re not sure that a Breville machine is right for you, check out how they stack up to one of their main competitors, DeLonghi:
With relative ease, you can make a full range of good espresso drinks.
The PID system means the water temperature is very precise, you have pre-infusion to de-gas the grounds and the Bambino delivers a really good, consistent 9 bar pressure for extraction. This combination is why the Bambino is one of our favorite espresso machines under $500.
The espresso is as good as it’s possible to get at this price.
Better than many more expensive machines, especially super-automatic machines. But you need good beans, a tamper, a good grinder, and an accurate coffee scale to really get that quality from the Bambino.
This super hot steam means no water gets into your milk and it’s also very powerful. This is critical for getting the right milk texture for latte art or creating foam for cappuccinos.
We do prefer the 3-hole design on the Bambino Plus. But it’s also slightly harder to learn to use than the 1-hole version on the Bambino. If you’re a straight espresso shot human, this won’t even matter though.
Yes, you’ll need to practice your milk frothing skills. But this isn’t complicated and you’ll be nailing your milk texture in a week. Though we make no promises on how long it’ll take to make beautiful latte art.
If you press and hold either the one or two-shot button for more than 1 second the Bambino will start pre-infusion. Release the button to start extraction. It will pre-infuse for a maximum of 4 seconds but you can play around with it to suit.
Depending on the beans we’re using, we pre-infuse for different lengths of time.
Having pre-infusion is pretty rare on an espresso machine at this price, even some of the very best espresso machines don’t have it. Being able to manually adjust it is basically unheard of so we love this feature.
It makes a huge difference to the quality of your coffee.
After knocking out the puck, you’ll want to rinse out the basket in warm water to make sure there are no grounds left behind. Check that no rogue grounds are stuck to the shower screen where to portafilter attaches too. This is all standard for portafilter-style espresso machines.
Then it’s just the usual emptying the drip tray and making sure the milk frother stays clean.
Milk-frothing wands get really dirty, really fast. So you should always blast steam after using it to clear any residual milk, then wipe it down with a cloth immediately. Give the wand a good clean daily to avoid any build-up of milk on the outside too.
Like most espresso machines, you’ll still need to descale it – the thermojet system will suffer from mineral build-up like any boiler. But it’s a once every few months job and doesn’t take more than 20 minutes.
I like to set a recurring reminder on my phone so I do it before it’s mission-critical as the machine won’t work when it needs to be descaled. And nobody wants to wake up in the morning to discover this.
The Bambino Plus
As the Bambino’s big sibling, the Bambino Plus is a little bigger and has a few upgrades:
In addition to the manual wand, it has automatic milk frothing with 3 temperature and 3 texture levels to choose from. The steam wand also has 3 holes rather than one. So it’s faster to foam great milk, but it’s slightly harder to learn with.
The biggest downside is the price difference to get these features. At Breville’s RRP, it’s a $200 difference.
For us, the extra is absolutely worth it. Being able to get your milk automatically makes so much sense for a lot of people and makes it the better Breville machine. Plus the wand is better for manual wand enthusiasts.
However, if you’re not bothered about automatic milk then the Bambino has the same espresso brewing as the Plus, so save yourself the money.
If you’d like a full blow-by-blow account of this battle you can check out our Breville Bambino vs Bambino Plus article.
Breville Bambino vs DeLonghi Dedica Arte
The DeLonghi Dedica is about the same size and price as the Bambino. It looks suspiciously similar too.
However, it doesn’t have anywhere near as good a steam wand as the Breville Bambino. And whilst the espresso can be good, it’s simply not at the same level as the Bambino.
There’s no adjustable pre-infusion and the boiler on the Dedica isn’t as good as the Breville thermojet system for consistent and accurate water temperature.
The Bambino is the clear winner over the DeLonghi Dedica. For us, it’s easily the entry-level espresso lovers’ machine of choice.
Pair it with a great grinder and you’ll be drinking café quality coffee in no time. The milk wand is good enough for latte art if that’s what you’re into, or any other form of milk.
The budget-friendly price and size make it accessible to most people.
The only downside is that it needs to be part of a full setup with a grinder, tamper, and scale. But it’s such good value that you’ll have plenty of money for those things.
There’s also a bit of a learning curve, but you can use the double-walled baskets if you want to ease yourself in.
Those looking for a budget-level espresso machine capable of pulling exceptional shots will be delighted with the Breville Bambino. Whether it’s your first machine or an upgrade over something less feature-rich, you’ll take your morning espresso game to the next level.
Don’t forget to Buy Your Breville Bambino Today
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