Serious Eats / Nick Simpson

Home espresso machines can be tricky. Typically, the more expensive they get, the easier they are to use—which can be a tough equation for those who are just espresso curious. Thankfully, we have a solution: the Breville Bambino Plus. Since we first reviewed espresso machines in 2021, the Breville Bambino Plus has been our top pick for its myriad of features and approachable (for an espresso machine) price point. To make sure it still deserves the crown, we put the Bambino Plus through another round of testing to assess its ease of use and ability to make great espresso and steam high-quality foam.

The Tests

Espresso Tests: We dialed in a medium roast espresso blend to taste with the Sette 270, our favorite espresso grinder. We then pulled back-to-back shots with the Bambino Plus to assess their quality and the machine’s consistency.Milk Steaming Tests: We used the machine’s automatic steam wand to froth milk on all nine of the machine’s temperature and foam settings. We then assessed the quality of the foam’s texture by pouring latte art and tasting the drinks.Usability Tests: We evaluated the overall design of the machine by testing every function available as well as noting its overall design. We also assessed user-friendly details that helped simplify the shot-pulling process. Cleanup Test: We ran a cleaning cycle on the Bambino Plus according to the manufacturer’s instructions, and evaluated how easy it was to perform. 

Good to Know

It’s Easy To Use

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The Bambino Plus is a snap to set up. All you need to do is fill the removable water reservoir, place a bowl under the portafilter, and plug it in. The machine automatically flushes the boiler the first time it’s turned on, and in less than a minute it’s ready to pull a shot of espresso. 

The buttons are clearly labeled, so you know which ones are for espresso, steam, and steam settings—and every function on this machine is automated. Both the single-shot and double-shot buttons are programmed to a set volume that stops on its own, and the steam wand has a built-in aeration function that creates microfoam for you. When we tested espresso machines, we found the volumetric espresso buttons to be less accurate than desired, but at the same time, their convenience is helpful for beginners who are just learning the steps of how to pull an espresso shot. 

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Finally, the machine has all the cleaning instructions clearly printed on the backside of the reservoir for easy reference. But more than that, the Bambino Plus has a built-in shot counter that reminds you to deep clean it every 200 shots. Cleaning is the best way to prolong the life of an espresso machine, and it’s extremely helpful to have failproof systems to make sure you don’t forget. 

It Heats Up Quickly 

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The Bambino Plus uses a ThermoJet boiler that flash heats water on demand, so you don’t have the long heating times common in other espresso machines. It’s a zippy little system that also uses a PID controller, which is a computer board that runs an algorithm that predicts temperature swings in order to maintain a water temperature at a single degree Fahrenheit. This ensures that your espresso pucks are never brewed at too low of a temperature (resulting in flat, sour flavors) or scalded by boiling water—a surefire way to extract more bitterness. PID controllers are typically only found in high-end expensive home espresso machines or commercial models, which makes it impressive to see this technology incorporated into the Bambino Plus.

It Pulls Excellent Shots of Espresso

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Hands down, the Bambino Plus pulls excellent espresso shots. No matter which coffee we threw at it, we were able to dial in the grinder to make a great-tasting shot with minimal effort. It’s a forgiving espresso machine and, like most other Breville models, the secret is the way it builds pressure. Espresso machines use a pump to generate nine bars of pressure (or about 400 to 600 pounds of direct force), and most machines apply that force immediately to the surface of the coffee. The Bambino Plus, however, slowly ramps up to the nine-bar pressure over a period of around 10 seconds. This helps the coffee saturate evenly, which gives the user a wider window of grind settings that work (full-pressure espresso machines require precise grind settings from a dedicated espresso grinder to achieve the best possible extraction). 

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And while the pre-infusion setting on the Bambino Plus makes pulling shots a breeze for beginners, Breville also lets you bypass pre-infusion by holding down either espresso button. Switching to full pressure mode lets the user grind finer, which helps extract even sweeter espresso shots. It also cancels the volumetric programming, so you can stop your shot at the precise volume you’d like. It’s a small design detail, but it means that the Bambino Plus is a great machine for beginners and experts alike.  

The Automatic Steam Wand Is Surprisingly Great

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As skeptical as we were, the Bambino Plus’s automatic steam wand delivered. Commercial espresso machines have large steam boilers that allow the barista to whip air into the milk to create a homogenous microfoam, and most home machines lack the power to nail that texture. The Bambino Plus skips the traditional steaming process by directly injecting air into the milk while it’s heating. All the user needs to do is select one of three milk temperatures and foam settings. The steam wand will shut off automatically when it hits the designated temperature, and your milk is ready to go—almost. 

Serious Eats / Nick Simpson

The one hitch to the Bambino Plus auto steam is that it tends to leave the microfoam floating as an island in the middle of the pitcher. In order to pour latte art (or just to get a silkier overall texture), you still need to swirl the pitcher to better mix the milk and foam. This is pretty standard for home espresso machines since most don’t have the power to whirlpool the milk in the pitcher while steaming, though, and the overall microfoam texture is truly impressive. 

It’s Chock-full of Thoughtful Design Elements 

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One of the best things about the Bambino Plus is all the user-friendly details. The drip tray has a bobber that pops up to tell you when it’s full, the water reservoir is removable which makes it easy to fill, and it comes with a full suite of cleaning tools, a sturdy tamper, and a milk steaming pitcher so that you have everything you need to make a cappuccino right out of the box.

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There’s also a little diagram on the grouphead to show you where to insert the portafilter. While that may be a small detail, it’s a thoughtful touch for making espresso feel more approachable for beginners. Same with the steam wand—the elbow has a silicone ring so you can easily pull it out to insert your milk pitcher. Altogether, these details make the Bambino Plus fun to use and easy to make drinks with. 

The Verdict

The Breville Bambino Plus is a streamlined, high-performing, compact espresso machine that’s well-priced for its numerous user-friendly features. It’s a great option for beginners and experts alike. 

Pros

It’s hard to overstate how truly great this espresso machine is. It pulls excellent shots of espresso whether you’re a beginner or a pro, it has an automatic steam wand that creates microfoam for you, and it’s extremely easy to use. On top of all of that, it’s lightweight and compact and is priced on the lower end of the espresso machine scale. It’s hard to know what else you could want. 

Cons

While its price point is more approachable than other espresso machines, it’s still an expensive piece of equipment at $500—and you have to buy a grinder, too. It also has a plastic body and isn’t as heavy-duty as some other models we’ve tested. Still, for the price and all the included features, it’s an incredible value that’s hard to beat. 

Key Specs

Dimensions: 8 x 13 x 12 inchesWeight: 11 pounds Portafilter diameter: 54 millimeter Capacity: 1 liter PID: YesAccessories: 54mm tamper, the Razor precision dosing tool, 16-ounce stainless steel milk jug, 1- and 2-cup single wall and dual wall filter baskets, cleaning tool, cleaning discCare instructions: Backflush with coffee detergent according to the manufacturer’s instructionsSerious Eats / Nick Simpson

FAQs

What’s the difference between the Breville Bambino and Bambino Plus?

The Bambino and Bambino Plus are similar-looking machines, but there are a few key differences. While they both have a super fast ThermoJet heating system, the Bambino Plus has an automatic milk steaming wand that has three temperature and foam settings. But one of the main advantages is that the Bambino Plus relieves pressure inside the machine immediately once the pump is stopped so you can remove the portafilter more easily. 

Do I need a grinder with the Bambino Plus?

Yes—the Bambino Plus doesn’t have a built-in grinder, so your best bet is to buy a standalone espresso grinder. The machine does come with a set of pressurized filter baskets that help the user pull espresso shots with a less-than-ideal grind setting, but the quality of the espresso won’t be as high. 

Is the Breville Bambino Plus easy to use?

The Bambino Plus is one of the easiest espresso machines to use. It has an intuitive interface, simple-to-read buttons, and an automatic steam wand that creates microfoam for you. But the best feature is its pre-infusion cycle, which helps new baristas pull better-tasting shots and is more forgiving than a traditional home espresso machine. 

Does the Breville Bambino Plus dispense hot water?

The Bambino Plus dispenses hot water through the steam wand, but it’s not an efficient way to heat anything. Instead, it’s more useful for dampening a rag to wipe down the drip tray or lightly pre-heating a cup. We recommend using a standalone electric kettle for most hot water needs. 

Why We’re the Experts

Jesse Raub was the commerce writer for Serious Eats. He worked for 15 years in the specialty coffee industry and was our resident coffee expert, having tackled numerous coffee-related stories for the site, including reviews of small coffee and espresso machines, handheld coffee grinders, and espresso grinders.For this review, he used the Breville Bambino Plus for a week to asses it’s everyday performance, pulling over 100 shots of espresso and comparing the results to our espresso machine review.

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