The era of third wave specialty coffee is here. Which means it’s time for third wave cups at home.
If you’re an avid espresso drinker, you know it matters what tool you use to brew. But knowing what’s up to snuff is a different story, especially when you’re faced with multiple models from the same series.
So if we’re talking Breville Bambino vs. Bambino Plus, which of these espresso machines is best?
After extensive research, I can tell you there IS a difference between these two, no matter how similar they look. I’ll detail the differences between these Breville machines so you can pick the right one for your home coffee bar.
Breville Bambino And Bambino Plus Summary
Naturally, these espresso machines are practically twins, but there is a reason the Bambino Plus gets its own name — and it’s not just to sell more machines.
This is one instance when the new model truly has upgrades to offer. Yet for the right person, the semi-automatic Bambino might rise to the top.
This compact espresso machine is small, but mighty. With a strong core delivering high-quality espresso for a fair price, the Breville Bambino espresso machine is worth much more than the tiny counter space it takes up.
- PID control and pre-infusion option
- 3-second warm up
- Automatic steam wand
- Semi-automatic machine requires espresso knowledge
- Limited milk steaming abilities
The Breville Bambino is a semi-automatic coffee machine that packs a punch when brewing espresso.
The Bambino comes with a fairly standard 54 mm portafilter that holds 19 grams of ground coffee(which is on the higher side of average for a portafilter of that size). The Bambino takes up a modest space on your kitchen counter, just under 8 inches wide and 12.6 inches long.
It has PID temperature control which guarantees shots will be pulled at the optimum extraction temperature, every time. It heats up quickly, within about 3 seconds, which is pretty sweet for a home machine that’s able to pull some high-quality shots.
The Breville Bambino also has a low-pressure pre-infusion feature, which allows the coffee grounds to soak thoroughly in the portafilter, resulting in a better espresso shot.
One of the best features about the Bambino is the fully rotational steam wand, which mimics a professional wand’s movement. It offers a fair amount of power and can make a variety of microfoam textures.
The steaming abilities on the Bambino are pretty good for a mid-range machine. With some work and practice, you can achieve pretty nice microfoam.
As a final bonus, the Bambino usually comes with a 1 year warranty. Breville products are generally well-made, but the company does sell several replacement parts for the Bambino. You have better odds of keeping your machine around and in fighting shape for years.
On the one hand, the Bambino is semi-automatic, which allows you plenty of control over brewing and optimizing your own process.
On the other hand, the Bambino is only semi-automatic, and with great power comes great responsibility. And room to mess up your sweet morning nectar.
Semi-automatic machines are doable, but a bit of a learning curve for beginners. They can also seem like a lot of money to spend for coffee that won’t necessarily come out consistently perfect every time (because who among us is at our A-game first thing in the morning?).
Depending on your needs and experience, a semi-automatic espresso model is a blessing or a curse.
Another downside to the Bambino is the relatively limited milk steaming abilities. Although the Bambino has a good steam wand and performs well, you won’t be making latte art with this one.
Both automatically and manually, you will be able to steam milk pretty well, but it probably won’t have a mouthfeel or look that’s as professional as the shots can be.
Like the Bambino Plus, the Bambino doesn’t have a hot water dispenser (more on this below). You have to learn how to make boiling water come out of the steam wand, which is a little annoying.
Breville Bambino Plus
The Breville Bambino Plus offers everything the Bambino does, plus quite a bit more. This fully automatic espresso machine makes exceptional espresso drinks at a steal of a price.
- PID control and pre-infusion option
- Automatic steam wand
- Extra controls/presets
- Automated brewing = no manual adjustments
- No water dispenser
Like the Bambino, the Breville Bambino Plus espresso machine is a powerful machine for its small size (9.6 x 16.3 inches) and price point.
The Bambino Plus comes with the same 54 mm portafilter that holds 19 grams of freshly ground beans. The core of the machine is the same in terms of functional brewing and steaming ability.
The biggest difference? The Bambino Plus is fully automatic, from espresso extraction to milk steaming.
Both the Bambino and Bambino Plus have the same core power and pull shots quite well for the size and price.
The Breville Bambino Plus offers the same PID temperature control and pre-infusion features for maximum flavor extraction. And unlike the Bambino, the Bambino Plus offers more consistent results thanks to its fully automatic brewing.
You can brew 1 or 2 shots and the machine will do the rest for you, ensuring you have great results every time.
The milk frothing is also a major plus here overall as it is with the Bambino. You can adjust milk temperature and microfoam level with a few buttons and leave the automatic milk frother to do its thing.
Both the milk temperature and microfoam level come with three different options, based on preferences and your desired drink.
The automatic steaming function is pretty good, too; you pay extra for a better home model. But if you’re someone who hates the thought of automatic milk steaming, you can always steam milk manually. It’s an automatic function you’re not forced into.
The Bambino Plus is also said to outshine many other Breville machines in terms of milk steaming speed.
Like the Bambino, the Bambino Plus’ steam wand is fully rotational and fully automatic — but again, you can choose to use it manually if you wish.
One of the major flaws with the Bambino Plus (carried over from the Bambino) is the lack of hot water dispenser.
There IS a way to get water from the steam wand, but it might take a few tries to work out. Otherwise, the only way to make an Americano with the Bambino Plus is to physically steam it with the wand, which is pretty silly, or boil the water separately.
(Barista hack: You can always dispense hot water through the grouphead! Just pretend to pull espresso with an empty portafilter.)
Still, you really shouldn’t have to work so hard to get boiling water with such a fancy machine.
Like the Bambino, the Bambino Plus offers pretty darn good, but not professional level steaming abilities. You won’t get latte art with the automatic milk frothing, but it’s possible you might manage it if you steam manually.
For some reason, the portafilter that comes with the Bambino Plus seems a bit cheap. It works fine, but it’s odd that an important part should feel so cheap.
Luckily, the grouphead seems to be a standard Breville size and shape, so you can use any other 54 mm portafilter from Breville in the Bambino Plus.
Breville Bambino VS Bambino Plus
The Bambino and Bambino Plus are nearly identical in build and inner workings. They are nearly the same size, though the Bambino Plus is a couple inches wider and about 4 inches longer.
Both have a small drip tray, a cup warming rack on top, and the same portafilter size. Although some users swear the Bambino has a sturdier drip tray.
The biggest difference is in the automation of brewing and steaming that the Bambino Plus boasts.
Another, smaller, difference is in the water reservoir size. The Bambino Plus holds almost an extra half liter (1.9 vs. 1.4 L) than the Bambino. This might have some impact if you plan to steam milk regularly for lattes or will use extra hot water for Americanos.
But the biggest trouble is having to refill the reservoir more or less often. And since both are removable for easy fill-up, this is a small issue for most.
Ease of Use
The Bambino Plus certainly wins here.
It doesn’t get easier than a fully automatic espresso machine (with an automatic steam wand). With no knowledge of coffee or milk frothing, just about anyone can get high quality espresso and some pretty solid milk foam with this bad boy.
The Breville Bambino Plus is an entry level espresso machine in every sense of the word. The hardest part will be learning to operate the button controls and, for beginners, learning which settings offer the results you like best.
Still, the Bambino is hardly a difficult espresso maker to master. As a semi-automatic machine, it will actually require some understanding of espresso shot extraction and a little more of milk frothing, which can be learned.
But compared to other semi automatic espresso makers, the Bambino is pretty easy to use. The only thing that would make it easier would be if it had extra presets, but that’s not likely on the smaller/budget model.
Finally, with both the Breville Bambino and Bambino Plus it may take some time to perfect milk steaming manually, but this is unavoidable.
There’s no way to make milk frothing as straightforward as pulling shots, though the automatic steam wands on both machines make it as easy as possible. Even steaming automatically on the Plus may take some getting used to.
As for steaming the milk manually, the full rotational abilities of the wands will at least open the doors for better results, even if there’s a necessary learning curve.
As for coffee brewing, the Bambino and Bambino Plus really shine.
Both the Bambino and Bambino Plus have a 9-bar extraction pressure on a 15-bar pump. That’s a fairly high pressure (and right in the sweet spot) for extracting great espresso at home.
The quality of freshly brewed coffee is pretty high. Although it’s not quite what you’d get at a coffee shop, it’s pretty darn good, better than you’d expect for high-quality home espresso brewers that are (relatively) cheap.
If you’re not going to go for a mega-pricey double boiler machine, the Bambino/Bambino Plus are about as good as you’ll get.
There is also the same heating system on both the Bambino and Bambino Plus espresso machine. Breville’s “Thermo-Jet” heating system heats up faster than earlier Breville models, which explains the Bambino boys’ speedy 3-second warm up.
That’s impressive for compact machines with a single boiler.
The heating system also speeds up brewing and steaming time, so don’t be too alarmed if your espresso shot pulls quickly despite your best efforts to slow it down!
Overall, your espresso drinks shouldn’t suffer in quality despite the lightning speed. The Bambino/Bambino Plus are still capable of delivering a shot with rich and complex flavors.
For home espresso machines, both the Bambino and Bambino Plus truly froth milk well.
But if you’ve ever worked as a barista or want a wand that will help you make true latte art like you’d get at a coffee shop, you’ll probably be disappointed. Especially if you use the automatic milk frother function.
The Bambino Plus has automatic milk frothing with an adjustable milk temperature and a great steam wand with a full 360 degree rotation.
You can control the temperature and even the microfoam on three levels, ranging from 50 to 90°F and from flat white-fine foam to a dry (but rather thick) cappuccino texture.
And again, you can always operate it like a manual steam wand, if you want more than just the three milk foam options.
The Bambino, on the other hand, requires you to actually know what you’re doing! While that’s not unheard of, and may be a blessing to some, it’s a learning curve for many.
The Bambino and Bambino Plus still compare well to other models, even more expensive espresso machines, on milk frothing performance. This is just a common failing for home machines; it’s one area that never seems to quite measure up to the professional standard.
One small annoyance: the Bambino doesn’t always come with a milk pitcher. While it’s easy to purchase one from Breville and the price isn’t exorbitant enough to make this a slap in the face, it’s frustrating your machine doesn’t come ready to use (for lattes anyway).
Would it have been so hard to throw in some sort of milk jug automatically?
Value For Money
Measuring an espresso machine’s value to the number on the receipt is always a tough call.
But overall, both the Bambino and the Bambino Plus are on the cheaper side for espresso makers, which can go well upward of $600 (and even upward of $6,000 if you’re looking at prosumer machines).
The quality is darn good for a single boiler, non-prosumer machine and you certainly don’t pay for what you’re missing.
Likewise, the price uptick for the Bambino Plus seems proportional to the major increase in automation. Given how much “smarter” the machine is — and how much less you need to know — it might even be a budget upgrade.
Both the Bambino and Bambino Plus are cheaper than the Breville Barista Express. The Express’ main advantage is the built-in coffee grinder, although it doesn’t have the automatic milk steaming the Bambino/Bambino Plus offer.
For such great little machines, the Bambino/Bambino Plus have a fair amount of extra features. In addition to the Bambino Plus’ fully automatic brewing.
The fact that both have PID control and pre-infusion is a major plus, especially since the Bambino is the simpler model — and the smallest in the Breville lineup.
The automatic milk frothing ability of the Bambino Plus is also far from automatic (get it?) in a mid-range espresso brewer. Adjustable milk temps and a few foam options go a long way.
Plus, the drip tray on the Plus even has a heat sensor to help the machine track the temperature of your milk, helping it to produce consistent results. Even if you may not get professional results with your little milk jug, you at least won’t have to drink scalded milk!
Both the Bambino and Bambino Plus have that little cup warmer on top, too, which is a sweet touch.
Final Verdict: Bambino VS Bambino Plus
Both the Bambino and Bambino Plus are great espresso machines. They yield high-quality results for anyone who loves espresso drinks. They have the same power and core strength.
Practically the only thing neither machine can offer is a coffee grinder. (You’ll need the Breville Barista Express for that.)
So how to choose? It all comes down to automation.
If you want your high-powered espresso maker to do the brewing and steaming for you, go for the Plus. But if you’re spending the money so you can optimize each espresso shot yourself, the Bambino offers you that freedom.
Either way, you’ll be in good hands with a Bambino machine if you’re looking to drink espresso every day.