If you’re looking for your first espresso machine, it’s usually a toss-up between the Breville Bambino, the Delonghi Dedica, or the Gaggia Classic Pro.
In this Breville Bambino review I’m going to explain why, after putting the machine through its paces, I think that the Bambino is the best of these three options for the vast majority of people.
Should I Buy the Breville Bambino?
Yes. The Breville Bambino is a fantastic purchase. It’s the least expensive espresso machine that can pull consistently delicious espresso shots and steam milk to a texture that allows you to make latte art.
Breville Bambino Pros
- Ready to brew in three seconds
- It can still pull a good shot even if your tamping isn’t perfect.
- Its steam wand allows you to create microfoam for latte art.
- Its steam wand is about as easy to use for beginners as one can be.
- Its drip tray and water tank are easy to remove/reattach (you’ll be surprised by how uncommon this is).
Breville Bambino Cons
- You can get an espresso machine that will last you much longer for only slightly more money.
- It only comes with pressurized portafilter baskets in the USA.
I particularly recommend pairing the Breville Bambino with the Baratza Encore. This will give you a setup that can produce espresso close to what you’d get in a coffee shop for under $500.
The only people who I wouldn’t recommend the Breville Bambino to are:
- People who want one-touch lattes: Then it’s worth paying a premium for the Breville Bambino Plus’s automatic steam wand.
- People who want to get into espresso machine modding: The Breville Bambino just isn’t built for modding. The best entry-level espresso machine for modding is the Gaggia Classic Pro.
Breville Bambino Overview and Features
Semi automatic espresso machine with manual steam wand
Automatic shot volume dosing
Heat up time/ transition from heating to steaming
3 seconds/5 seconds
PID temperature control
Steam wand type
Pin hole steam wand with one hole
Water tank capacity
47 oz (1.4 liters)
Dimensions (width x depth x height)
7.7” W x 12.6” D x 12.2” H
Shape, Size, and Design: Lightweight but Ergonomic
The Breville Bambino is compact and ergonomically designed. However, it is so lightweight that it will move around a lot when you lock/unlock its portafilter.
My first instinct when locking in its portafilter was to grip the espresso machine from the front and I accidentally pressed its hot water button and squirted boiling water on my counter (and alarmingly close to my crotch…).
So yeah… push down on it from the top, rather than from the front, to hold it in place when you lock/unlock its portafilter.
I really like how the Bambino gives you lots of cup clearance.
This gives you the room to brew with a scale under your cup – something that’s necessary when you’re initially calibrating its shot buttons.
Both the Delonghi Dedica and the Gaggia Classic Pro require you to remove their drip tray if you want to brew with a scale under your cup. This can lead to coffee dripping onto your counter after you remove your cup.
User Interface: Could Give You a Bit More Information
The Breville Bambino has a very stripped-back user interface. I’d have liked it to give me a bit more information when dialing in, but I accept that they sacrificed UI complexity to keep the machine compact.
While the Bambino’s control panel makes it obvious how to pull shots and steam milk, it could give you a bit more feedback when you’re changing the machine’s shot volume settings.
If you want to adjust the machine’s shot volume you need to hold down its single/double shot button for about three seconds and this puts the machine in “programme mode”. The Bambino will then dispense water until you press its shot button again and this volume will save as its default shot size going forward.
The machine doesn’t actually do anything to tell you that it’s in program mode when you do this. You just need to hold down its shot button and hope for the best.
Sometimes you hold down the button for too long and the machine thinks you’re telling it to stop brewing, sometimes you don’t hold it for long enough and it thinks that you’re just brewing a shot in automatic mode. The machine could benefit from a dedicated “program” button, like on its upgrade the Breville Barista Express.
The Bambino would also have benefitted from either a pressure gauge or shot timer to help you diagnose if you need to grind finer or coarser.
You need to make these adjustments on taste alone which isn’t easy for a beginner espresso drinker. Often your espresso will just taste bad, but it’s hard to know whether it’s over or under-extracted.
So in short the Bambino’s UI isn’t the best, but a more informative UI was always going to be a challenge on such a compact machine.
Heating Mechanism: Three-Second Heat-Up Time and Superb Thermal Stability
The Breville Bambino’s thermojet heating system means that it can go from off to being able to brew in three seconds. Its PID means that it makes much more consistent shots than any other espresso machine at its price point
The Bambino’s lightning-fast heat-up time and superior thermal stability to other entry-level espresso machines are the most impressive things about it.
The table below shows how the machine fares against the Delonghi Dedica and Gaggia Classic Pro (two similarly priced machines) in terms of heat-up time and thermal stability:
Stable within 2 Fahrenheit
Subject to swings of over 15 Fahrenheit
Gaggia Classic Pro
Subject to swings of over 10 Fahrenheit
The Bambino’s inclusion of a proportional integral derivative (PID) is what gives it this thermal stability. No other espresso machine under $400 has a PID, and there are quite a few espresso machines over $600 that still don’t have a PID.
The Bambino’s thermal stability means that you can pull consistent shots with the machine without needing to develop a temperature surfing routine (if you don’t know what this is then watch this three-minute video).
This makes the Bambino far better for beginner espresso makers than any other similarly priced espresso machine.
Automatic Shot Volume Buttons: Accurate to Within 3 Millilitres
The Breville Bambino has two brew buttons, one for a single and double shot. Single shot dispenses 30 ml ± 3ml and double shot dispenses 60 ml ± 3ml out of the box.
I tested each button three times with a scale to see how accurate the machine’s dosing is.
This accuracy remains even after you have adjusted each button’s shot volume.
I’m impressed with this volume’s accuracy. I’ve tested a lot of coffee machines with automatic shot volume dosing and this is pretty much the most accurate dosing that I’ve found (tied with other Breville machines).
A 3ml change in volume, either way, will not affect your espresso’s taste or body.
Steam Wand: Very Good Milk Steaming Performance and Easy for Beginners to Use
The Bambino’s steam wand is another one of the Bambino’s highlights. It steams your milk gently, making it a great machine for beginners to learn. You’ll also never run out of steam pressure, unlike with the Delonghi ECP and Dedica machines.
The Bambino’s stem wand will start pushing out steam within five seconds of you pressing its steam button.
I’d recommend putting it in your milk before you press the steam button otherwise there’s a big chance you’ll spray milk everywhere (I’ve done this more than once, sadly). This will spray a tiny amount of water into your milk, but that’s better than covering your kitchen in milk.
The Bambino steams your milk relatively slowly. I found that it takes about 35 seconds to heat up 5 oz of milk to 140 Fahrenheit.
While this means that your milk’s texture won’t be quite as thick and creamy as what you’d get from a high-end espresso machine with a more powerful steam wand, it makes the Bambino an excellent machine to learn how to steam milk on.
You’ll have lots of time to play around with steam wand positioning before your milk starts scalding.
Yes – you can make latte art with the Bambino’s steam wand. Any espresso machine with a pinhole steam wand (rather than a panarello steam wand which the Delonghi Dedica and ECP models have) can make latte art.
Your skill in steaming and pouring technique is more important than your ability to make latte art than your machine’s steam wand.
I really like the fact that the Breville Bambino can steam milk infinitely until its water tank runs out (this will take several minutes if its water tank is more than halfway full).
Cheaper boiler-based machines, like the Delonghi Dedica, can only steam milk for around 30 seconds.
This means that you can run out of steam before your milk is at its ideal temperature and texture and you’ll have to wait for the machine to heat up again before you can finish steaming.
You will never have this problem with the Breville Bambino, making it an excellent choice if you’re going to drink a lot of milk drinks.
Portafilter: Lightweight but Adequate
The Breville Bambino’s portafilter is a bit lightweight and cheap feeling. I do like how you can lie it flat on your table as this makes it easier to get a level tamp.
As you can see from the above photo, the Bambino’s portafilter is a bit smaller than my Breville Barista Pro’s.
I even weighed the two portafilters, and the Bambino’s was about half the weight of the Barista Pro’s (176 grams vs 346 grams respectively).
This follows Breville’s overall design concept with the Bambino which is to cut corners with the machine’s more peripheral parts in order to create an espresso machine that has a three-second heat-up time and can brew at a consistent temperature for under $350.
One thing I do like about the Bambino’s portafilter is that you can lay it flat on a counter and its head stays level.
This allows you to tamp your ground coffee puck with your portafilter lying on your counter, making getting a level tamp (one of the more fiddly parts of espresso making) relatively easy.
The Breville Bambino has a 54mm portafilter diameter.
This can make it more difficult to find aftermarket portafilter baskets than if the machine had a 58mm portafilter. You’re kind of wedded to buying baskets from Breville. They’ve taken a (poisonous, in my opinion) leaf out of Apple’s books here.
Water Tank: Big and Nicely Designed
The Breville Bambino water tank is big, visible, and easy to remove and reattach.
The Bambino’s water tank is made out of clear plastic. It’s fitted to the back of the machine (rather than on the inside of the machine like the Gaggia Classic Pro or Rancilio Silvia) so it’s very easy to see how much water you’ve got in it.
I find that I can make six or seven milk drinks before I need to refill the machine’s water tank – this is more than most compact espresso machines.
I also really like how the Bambino’s water tank lifts backward rather than upwards. This means I can just swivel the machine slightly to pull its water tank out rather than having to turn it all the way around.
One word of warning – the Bambino won’t tell you when its water tank needs filling. I have on occasion run out of water mid-shot. This wastes a dose of coffee.
Drip Tray – Fairly Big Given the Machine’s Size and Easy to Remove
I love how the Breville Bambino’s drip tray can pull out without you needing to lift it up.
So many espresso machines have a lip under their drip tray that you need to lift it over to get it out – you can see an example of this below (watch from 14:23 – 14:50):
Admittedly the video above is a very extreme example of this, but a lot of espresso machines have this problem and I’m grateful that the Bambino does not. This alone means it has one of the best-designed drip trays of any espresso machine.
Even if your drip tray gets full (and this is a possibility as its float isn’t the best) you can still remove it without making a mess.
Accessories – Non Pressurized Portafilter Baskets is a Big Miss
The Breville Bambino doesn’t come with non-pressurized portafilter baskets in the US. This is a big miss and you should buy these separately if you want to brew with freshly ground coffee.
I’m based in the UK and my Breville Bambino came with:
- Single and double, pressurized and non-pressurized portafilter baskets
- Tamper (lightweight but does the job)
- Instruction manual
- One sachet of descaling solution
- Water filter and filter holder
Most US-based Bambino users say that their machine only comes with pressurized portafilter baskets.
This is annoying as you want to be using non-pressurized portafilter baskets you’re brewing with pre-ground coffee. Using freshly ground coffee with pressurized baskets is a waste of a grinder. You’re not going to get the extraction required to make the most out of your freshly ground beans.
Breville’s website is the only place where you can get non-pressurized baskets that will definitely fit in the Bambino’s portafilter.
Unfortunately, Breville is often out of stock of these baskets (and all their other accessories).
Your next best option is to look for 54mm non-pressurized baskets on Amazon – look for reviews that specifically say that they fit the Bambino’s portafilter. I won’t recommend specific baskets myself as I have not had to do this.
Modification and Repair Potential: There is None
The Breville Bambino is not a buy-it-for-life product. You’ll have to replace the machine if an internal part breaks down.
This is in stark contrast to the Gaggia Classic Pro which can be (relatively) opened up and repaired if its pump or heating mechanism deteriorates.
Thermojets (the Bambino’s heating system) tend not to last more than 4-5 years of consistent use, so the Bambino will likely only last you this long.
This lack of longevity compared to many slightly more expensive espresso machines is the Bambino’s biggest weakness.
Now that I’ve gone through the Bambino’s features, I’m going to rate the espresso machine in terms of its:
- Espresso quality
- Milk steaming performance
- Ease of use and cleaning
- Design and build quality
- Value for money
The Breville Bambino can pull consistently good espresso shots. It cannot quite get the extraction of higher-end (or professional-grade) espresso machines.
Honestly, for 99% of people’s palettes (mine included) the Breville Bambino will pull a shot indistinguishable from what you’d get in a coffee shop (especially if you temper it with boiling water or frothed milk).
The best evidence for this is this video where a barista makes a better-tasting latte with a Breville Bambino than an “average coffee person” with a $30,000 commercial machine.
If you’ve been drinking espresso for years and years and you’re really into it, you’re going to find that the machine struggles to get a good extraction with lighter roasted beans.
But you honestly don’t have to worry about such details unless you’ve been playing around with espresso day in and day out for years.
Espresso Quality Rating: 8/10
Milk Steaming Performance
The Breville Bambino can steam milk to a fine microfoam suitable for latte art. It’s also one of the easiest machines to do this with.
Just like with its espresso, the Bambino cannot quite replicate the milk texture that you’d get from a commercial machine, but unless you’re a real latte aficionado you’ll struggle to notice the difference.
Combine this with the fact that the machine’s steam wand is far, far easier to use than a commercial (or most domestic) machine’s steam wands, and milk frothing is truly one of the Bambino’s highlights.
Milk Steaming Performance Rating: 9/10
Ease of Use and Cleaning
The Breville Bambino is the easiest-to-use espresso machine that doesn’t have special automated features that would otherwise drive up its price tag.
The Bambino is easier to use than most similarly priced machines because:
- Its PID temperature control means you don’t need to temperature surf.
- Its automatic preinfusion means that you can still get a good extraction even if your tamping is a bit off.
- Its gentle and long-lasting steam wand gives you ample time and room for error when steaming milk.
The machine is easier than most to keep clean because its pucks come out solid and you can remove its drip tray without having to tilt it.
Soggy pucks and drip tray spills are the two biggest mess makers with espresso brewing. You don’t have to worry about this with the Bambino.
Ease of Use and Cleaning Rating: 9/10
Design and Build Quality
While the Breville Bambino is compact and ergonomic, it’s not as durable as many other espresso machines in its price range.
The Bambino was designed with ease of use in mind. This is particularly apparent with its large amount of cup clearance, visible water tank, and easy-to-remove drip tray.
The exterior of the machine is plasticky, but not flimsy.
The interior of the machine is very high performing given its price. It can brew espresso and steam milk better than a lot of espresso machines twice its price.
Its weakness lies in its lack of durability. Its thermojet heating system tends to deteriorate after 4-5 years of consistent use. Once this happens the machine will need to be replaced.
Lots of espresso machines can be opened up and repaired, so if you want a machine that’s going to last you decades then I’d recommend avoiding the Bambino.
Design and Build Quality Rating: 7/10
Value For Money
The Breville Bambino is the best value-for-money espresso machine on the market if you aren’t interested in modding.
It has the highest price/brewing and steaming performance ratio of any espresso machine.
The only reason why I’m not giving it a ten here is because it can’t be repaired when it breaks down.
If you’re the make-do and mend type then you might find better value with a more moddable machine like the Gaggia Classic Pro.
Value for Money Rating: 9/10
Product Alternatives: Breville Bambino Plus, Gaggia Classic Pro & Delonghi Dedica
Three machines that I often see being compared to the Breville Bambino are the Breville Bambino Plus, Gaggia Classic Pro, and Delonghi Dedica. I’ll give my thoughts on who each machine is best suited for.
Breville Bambino vs Bambino Plus
I’d only recommend the Breville Bambino Plus over the Bambino if you like the idea of an automatic steam wand.
The Breville Bambino Plus is just the Bambino with an automatic steam wand – and a ~$120 premium.
The Bambino Plus’s steam wand allows you to steam milk hands-free.
You can’t get quite as uniform a texture as you would if you steamed manually – but the Bambino Plus also allows you to steam milk manually.
I think that the Breville Bambino is a better purchase than the Bambino Plus for the majority of people. If you’re going to drink a lot of milk drinks then it’s worth learning how to steam milk to get a uniform texture.
However I do understand that some people would like the convenience of an automatic steam wand, so it’s nice that the option is there.
For more information on how these two machines compare, please see my article on Breville Bambino vs Bambino Plus.
Breville Bambino vs Gaggia Classic Pro
I’d only recommend the Gaggia Classic Pro if you want to get into espresso machine modding as a hobby.
The Gaggia Classic Pro is around $100 more expensive than the Breville Bambino and makes poorer espresso out of the box.
Why would anyone want it then?
Well, unlike the Bambino you can easily open up and upgrade or repair the Gaggia’s internal components. This means that, with a bit of work and money, you can get the Gaggia Classic Pro to outperform and outlast the Bambino.
This makes it a much better value purchase – for the right person.
Breville Bambino vs Delonghi Dedica
I’d always recommend the Breville Bambino over the Delonghi Dedica.
The Bambino outperforms the Dedica in every way (except perhaps its durability where there’s not much in it).
While the Bambino is about $100 more expensive than the Dedica, I think that it’s such a superior machine that you’re spending your $100 wisely.
If you’re highly budget-conscious then you can find out more about the Dedica in my Delonghi Dedica EC680M review.
Breville Bambino Review: Final Verdict
I’d highly recommend the Breville Bambino. It’s the best value-for-money espresso machine under $500 and outperforms many machines twice its price.
Do I Need a Grinder with the Breville Bambino?
You’ll need a grinder to get the best possible espresso with the Breville Bambino. The Breville Bambino does not have a built-in grinder. You can also use pre-ground coffee with the Bambino, and if you do so then make sure you use its pressurized portafilter baskets or your espresso will be under extracted.
How Often Should I Descale the Breville Bambino?
Breville recommends that you descale the Breville Bambino every 60-90 days depending on your water’s hardness. The Breville Bambino does not have a descale warning light to tell you when you need to descale, so you might want to set a reminder to do this.