Until Star Trek-esque replicators become commonplace in every home, excellent espresso at home is gonna take some serious designated equipment.
But which one to choose?
Even once you narrow down your options to a solid brand, like Breville, you still have to be sure you’ve got the right model. I mean, you’re not gonna waste money or precious specialty roast beans on a subpar espresso machine.
So is the Breville Bambino Plus the espresso machine you’ve waited for all your life?
I’ve researched the ins and outs of this compact beauty. Consider this your ultimate research cheat sheet guide to Breville’s Plus and see if it’s the perfect counter mate for your coffee cup.
Breville Bambino Plus Overview
The Breville Bambino Plus is a great beginner espresso machine that doesn’t ask a lot from you. It’s great for people who want to automate their espresso-making for consistently high-quality coffee at home.
- PID control and pre-infusion
- 3-second heat-up time
- Automatic milk frother
- No built-in coffee grinder
The Breville Bambino Plus is like an automatic hybrid espresso machine.
With this machine, you can automate the full process when making espresso or reclaim manual control over much of the brewing process and even when frothing milk.
This compact espresso machine has all the standard parts for an espresso machine from a drip tray to the steam wand.
This is a great mid-range espresso option. Not quite a budget model, but cheaper than many comparable machines (and much cheaper than any prosumer machine), the Plus offers surprisingly good espresso at a price more are willing to pay for.
What I Like
There are a dozen perks to this Breville espresso maker.
It has common advantages like:
- A low-pressure pre-infusion feature (which improves espresso extraction by soaking the grounds thoroughly for a few seconds beforehand), and
- PID temperature control (which ensures the brewing temperature reaches and stays at the right temperature for pulling shots).
It also has less common advantages like its fully automated brewing and steaming (should you want to take advantage), automatic wand purging, and a three-second heat up time. It also has a cleaning cycle to help you flush out the machine.
It comes with the basics: a 54 mm tamper and dosing tool, 16 oz pitcher, and a double and single wall filter baskets for the portafilter.
It also comes with some of the cleaning tools you’ll need including a blank basket and the Breville ‘cleaning tool’ that can be used to clear out holes in the steaming wand.
For those who want high quality shots without going to their favorite coffee shop, the Bambino Plus is a fantastic machine.
If you aren’t a professional barista and you aren’t interested in becoming one at home, this coffee maker will provide consistent, great coffee without fuss.
And for beginners, the Bambino Plus is a great first machine. The automated processes ensure consistent results, while the room for manual control allows you to slowly learn how to modify your straight espresso and milk drinks.
Think of it as a set of training wheels. Only more delicious.
The automatic steam wand makes milk frothing a cinch. Just place the milk pitcher on the temperature sensor and the wand will do the rest. Thanks to the temperature sensor, the wand will stop before your milk can burn.
Using button controls, you can also set the milk temperature and level of foam you want, too.
Even better, you can still steam milk manually. So although you probably won’t get real latte art with the Bambino Plus, you can certainly froth milk with better control and more professional results if you don’t want to rely on automatic milk frothing.
The steam wand even self-cleans automatically, blasting hot water to clear the pipe of any milk froth after use.
What Could Be Better
Don’t let the descriptions fool you: There is NO built-in coffee grinder with the Breville Bambino Plus.
When the company advertises its “dose control grinding” what they really mean is the 54 mm portafilter (standard size for espresso machines) holds a consistent 19 grams of coffee — the ideal amount for quality espresso.
If that language smells like bull excrement to you, you’re on the right track. In other words: the portafilter functions normally and you would be wise to fill it normally.
The other major downside to the Bambino Plus is the lack of manual control.
Although you can reclaim some control over the brewing process — timing the shots and pre-infusion process — and you can steam milk
Sure, for some, an automatic espresso machine is perfect. If you want brews almost as good as what you get in a coffee shop without putting in the work to learn/use a better machine, then fully automatic will get you there if you’re not fussy.
But for those who want the best results possible and are willing to do a little more manual work, you’re sacrificing some quality (and fun) by losing manual controls.
Review: Breville Bambino Plus
The Bambino Plus has an eye-pleasing brushed stainless steel exterior. That makes it a cinch to clean.
It also makes it very pretty. In fact, it was a Red Dot Design award winner in 2019. The designation recognizes quality function, too, so don’t think this is just a pretty face.
One of the best aspects of the Plus is that it’s compact (which is probably why it’s named for the Italian word for ‘child’), despite its power.
When you think of espresso machines, you don’t always think “small,” but this machine will save some counter space, even with its sizeable water tank capacity of 1.9 L. (Comparable machines often have a water tank that holds closer to 1.5 L. And the regular Bambino’s water tank holds just 1.4 L.)
The most important features of this Bambino model are the PID temperature control and the pre-infusion ability.
PID temperature control ensures the water reaches the precise temperature needed for optimal extraction — and stays at that temperature.
It’s automatic (and trust me, you want temperature control to be automatic, even if you’re the hands-on type), so shots pull consistently.
Pre-infusion — which you can control manually on the Plus to your heart’s content — ensures better brewing, too.
By soaking the coffee grounds in the portafilter before extraction, the grounds get evenly wet.
When brewing, the hot water pushed through the grounds will be able to go everywhere in the portafilter (rather than sticking to narrowed channels). And that water will pick up more flavor on its way through.
Oh, and the Plus has an auto-off feature that kicks in an hour after last use. So you won’t waste tons of electricity and money if you’re absent-minded in the morning. (And who isn’t?)
The Bambino Plus has a few other features that make brewing thought-free.
You can easily brew a single shot or double shot using the volume control options. And you can choose from one of three different milk texture options (more below).
The automatic milk steaming feature (discussed more below) is also great for latte and cappuccino lovers who don’t know how to achieve the right microfoam textures on their own.
It comes with three preset options for desired temperature and texture. You really just need to know where to sit the milk pitcher on the drip tray.
What could be easier than that?
What It Doesn’t Have
The major thing the Bambino Plus doesn’t have is a dual boiler. Dual boiler machines have separate boilers for steaming and brewing, ensuring the right temperatures and pressures are achieved for both and typically allowing you to make both parts of your latte at once.
You can certainly get good espresso and perfectly decent milk without a second boiler, but it separates the Plus from many prosumer machines.
The Plus also lacks a built-in grinder. Most espresso makers don’t have one integrated into the machine, though you can certainly find good models that do.
Finally, the Plus doesn’t come with cleaning powder.
That’s not a big deal since you can always order your own (it’s the blank basket and regular filter baskets for the portafilter that can be harder to fit and find), but since some machines send you a starter amount with your machine, it’s too bad the Plus doesn’t.
Note: Some users say the Plus doesn’t come with a single wall basket for the portafilter in the U.S., but that doesn’t seem to be true anymore, at least not for all sellers. Be sure to check product descriptions carefully to be safe.
Ease Of Use
For the most part, the Plus is as easy as it gets.
As a semi auto which pushes into full auto territory, this one is super simple. An automatic machine, this coffee brewer will do all the work for you. You’ll just have to labor over tough decisions like single shot or double shot, or which of three preset milk options you want.
It’s a hard knock life with these hybrid semi automatic espresso makers.
If you take advantage of automatic settings for brewing and steaming, using this machine is truly as hard as reading the user guide.
Of course, you can complicate the process if you want to and treat the Plus like its sibling the Bambino, a brewer which functions like a traditional semi-automatic machine.
In semi-manual mode, the Plus is about average for home espresso makers. Once you get the hang of steaming and figure out your brew time and temperature preferences, this Breville maker is reasonably easy to operate.
Espresso is where the Plus shines. Double shot or single shot, this coffee maker makes good espresso. Which is good, because that’s the most important aspect of an espresso machine.
As I said in the features section, with PID and pre-infusion, espresso brewing is already set up for success. Your shots will be well-primed for better extraction and the temperature will always be at the ideal point.
The final ‘ingredient’ in brewing espresso is pressure, and the Plus’s automatic pump-based system is pretty powerful.
It’s capable of reaching 15 bars of pressure, which is on the higher end for espresso. Some prefer this in home espresso machines, however, since it allows for some of that pressure to be lost on its way to the brew head and still have (effectively) 9 bars at the site of brewing.
Since the Plus is automatic, you can get this optimized espresso every time. Unlike the semi-automatic Breville, which leaves room for more user error.
Milk Steaming: Yey Or Nay?
As for steaming milk, the Bambino Plus could be your best friend, or the person you were REALLY hoping you wouldn’t have to partner with for the group project.
The overall quality and power of this machine is pretty darn good. And it offers a wand with full rotational (360 degrees) ability, so you can finagle your milk jug into the best position for steaming, and your wrist.
But the real perks are for those without a lot of steaming and frothing experience with the Plus’s automatic steaming.
This espresso brewer has three presets for steaming by temperature and texture. Think flat white, cappuccino, and something in between.
Not only will your microfoam turn out consistently well regardless of your experience level, you can be sure your milk won’t scald due to negligence or inexperience either.
Is it worth it?
On the one hand, this little guy really pulls his weight thanks to the automatic milk frothing and milk temperature sensing. On the other hand, his skills are middling and you won’t achieve professional results.
For beginners/those who want great coffee with near-Keurig-like automation, the automatic milk frother is incredible. The milk froth quality is pretty darn good and requires zero knowledge to operate. Just set your milk jug on the drip tray above the sensor and let ‘er go.
But if you are pretty good at steaming yourself, this is an unnecessary feature. You may want to get the regular Bambino instead (which is a little simpler, cheaper, but just as high quality).
Manually or automated, the steaming abilities of the Plus are darn good, but not exceptional. You’ll see a difference between your lattes and the ones you get at coffee shops.
Bambino VS Bambino Plus, What’s the Difference?
For the most part, the Breville Bambino and Bambino Plus are the same machine with the same general capabilities and power. They differ on the perks — including several of the automatic features of the Plus.
In terms of espresso brewing ability, the two machines are essentially the same. The Bambino has the same core machinery and pressure-building abilities, pre-infusion, PID temperature control, and manual brewing controls.
As far as straight shots go, these machines are identical. And that’s really what matters most.
Raw steaming ability is also equal (they have the same heating system) and both have a professional-like steam wand with full rotation. But the Bambino Plus has a few advantages.
The Plus, of course, has extra features and a larger water tank (holding 1.9 L to the Bambino’s 1.4 L). It’s also a bit larger in size, though both of these Breville machines can be considered quite compact.
For beginners/those who are spending money so they don’t actually have to work so hard for good coffee, the Plus has that automatic milk temperature control with three options corresponding to the desired temperature and texture (e.g. latte or cappuccino).
You can choose whether you want to learn to steam milk on the Plus, but on the Bambino, you will have to actually learn how to do it. It’s simple to do with videos, but if you’re buying a home espresso brewer for convenience, you’ll probably want to spend a little extra for the Plus.
Likewise, the Plus is a fully automatic espresso machine if you want it to be. But the Bambino is semi-automatic, requiring a little skill and know-how.
So again, absolute beginners will have to learn a little about espresso to get consistent results. (Although the Bambino machines both make it quite easy.) And only the Plus will spare you the trouble.
As a final curious, but minor difference, some swear their Bambino — and not the Plus! — actually has a sturdier drip tray.
Which Is Better?
It all comes down to the fundamental difference in automation.
Do you want a machine that does it all so you don’t have to? Or would you rather skip the bells and whistles (which can be as confusing to learn as manually brewing for those of us who are technologically challenged) and just enjoy a good quality espresso?
Fortunately, neither the Bambino nor the Plus is a poor investment.
The Breville Bambino Plus Isn’t For You If…
You REALLY Want A 2-in-1 Machine
Specifically, if you want a functional espresso machine that also has a built-in grinder, you’re out of luck.
Frankly, most users are better off buying a grinder to go with the Plus. Grinding is not a difficult step to add for most thanks to electric grinders and having more control over your grinding process means you can play around with the grind size (and therefore the extraction).
But if you’re eyeing this Breville model because you basically want Robo-barista on the cheap, well, this is one step the Bambino Plus can’t help you with.
If you need a 2-in-1 (or is that 3-in-1 with steaming abilities?), try the Breville Barista Express.
With the grinder integrated into the machine, you have almost nothing left to do yourself when making your morning cuppa.
You’re Serious About Steaming
Most home espresso makers don’t achieve commercial-quality foam. Let’s get that straight now.
Still, some home machines are better than others. And the Plus is pretty darn good — but not to die for. You’ll be able to make satisfactory, even pleasing microfoam and you can certainly achieve different textures. Your cappuccino and latte will actually look different!
But you probably won’t be able to make real designs in your latte, even if you steam manually. And if you’re after the perfect flat white, you may be disappointed.
So if you want your milk to be as good as your espresso, try a dual boiler machine like the Rancilio Silvia Pro X.
The Final Verdict: Breville Bambino Plus
The Breville Bambino Plus is a compact, but mighty tool.
This automatic espresso machine is ideal for beginners and lovers of convenience who don’t want to sacrifice good quality brews. Best of all, you can still take advantage of manual brewing and steaming options if you ever do want to get hands-on.
Whether you love the Plus or want to try its simpler sibling, the Bambino machines are excellent mid-range espresso options.