This is my comparison of the Breville Bambino and Breville Bambino Plus, two of Breville’s most affordable espresso machines.
I have never owned either of these machines.
I do however own the Breville Barista Pro and therefore have some experience with this manufacturer and its products.
I also spent a whole day researching users’ experiences with these two machines online to put together this review.
The Bambino Plus was designed to be a direct upgrade of the Bambino and thus cost around $150 more than the Bambino.
I’ll therefore be paying particular attention to whether the Plus justifies this additional cost or not.
Should I Buy the Breville Bambino or the Bambino Plus (Quick Verdict)?
You should buy the Breville Bambino over the Bambino Plus. The Bambino Plus’s new features, most notably its automated steam wand, actually worsen its overall performance. If you buy the Bambino Plus you are buying an inferior machine to the Bambino for more money.
Overview of the Two Machines
The Breville Bambino and Bambino Plus are both automatic espresso machines without grinders.
This means that you grind the coffee and dose up the machine’s portafilter and tamp the ground coffee yourself. The machine will dose out your water and brew your espresso for you.
The machines both have steam wands to allow you to heat and froth milk, however, the steam wands on these two machines work in different ways.
The Bambino Plus’s steam wand is much more automated than the Bambino’s one.
With the Bambino Plus, you set the steam wand to steam the milk to a specific temperature and texture before you start frothing. The wand will turn off immediately when the milk reaches this preset temperature.
The Bambino uses a more conventional steam wand where temperature and texture are purely controlled by how long you steam the milk and where in the milk you position your wand.
The table below shows the key specifications of these two machines:
|Specification||Breville Bambino||Breville Bambino Plus|
|Dimensions (width x depth x height)||6.3” x 13.7” x 12.2”||7.7” x 16.3” x 12.2”|
|Available drinks||Single espresso |
|User interface||Button operated||Button operated|
|Portafilter type||54mm diameter portafilter|
Comes with pressurised and non-pressurised baskets
|54mm diameter portafilter|
Comes with pressurised and non-pressurised baskets
|Steam wand type||Pin holed (one-hole) manual steam wand||Pin-holed (four holes) automated steam wand|
|Heating system||Thermojet (3-second heat-up time)||Thermojet (3-second heat-up time) with PID|
|Water tank volume||47 oz||64 oz|
|Available colors||Brushed Silver||Nine available colors|
|Buy on Amazon||Check latest price||Check latest price|
What are the Differences Between these Two Machines?
The image below shows the three differences between these two machines:
I’m now going to explain these differences in a bit more detail and assess how they impact the performance of these two respective machines.
The Bambino’s Manual Steam Wand vs The Bambino Express’s Automatic Steam Wand
The steam wands on these two machines are so different that I am going to explain how each works individually and then evaluate them against each other afterwards.
If you do not want to read my breakdown of each of these steam wands, the quick verdict is that I think the Bambino’s manual steam wand is the better of the two.
Breville Bambino’s Manual Steam Wand
The Bambino uses a typical steam wand where you hold the milk jug and then heat and texture your milk based on where you position the wand in the jug.
The steam wand has one hole in its nozzle and one power setting.
It sits on a ball joint meaning it can swivel in a 360-degree direction in your milk.
The Bambino’s steam wand is good. You can make larger-bubbled and finer steamed milk with it depending on how you position your steam wand in the milk.
While steam wands with more than one hole can steam milk faster and more evenly than a wand with only one hole, you can still make excellent steamed milk in a variety of textures with the Bambino’s wand.
Breville Bambino Plus’s Automatic Steam Wand
The Bambino Plus has a steam wand that heats up milk to a specific temperature and texture which you programme prior to steaming.
Instead of holding your milk jug and “working” the milk by manoeuvring your wand in it, with the Bambino Plus you put your milk jug on the drip tray and put your steam wand in it.
The key to the Bambino Plus’s steam wand is that the machine has a heat sensor in its drip tray just under where you place your mug.
This heat sensor tells the steam wand when to turn off based on the heat of the jug sitting on it.
The steam wand has three temperature settings. These are:
- Low (122 Fahrenheit, 50 Celsius)
- Medium (158 Fahrenheit, 70 Celsius)
- High (194 Fahrenheit, 90 Celsius)
Personally, I’m not convinced by these temperature settings.
In his milk steaming guide, former Barista World Champion James Hoffmann argues that milk should never go over 65 Celsius (149 Fahrenheit).
Hoffmann says that once milk gets over this temperature it starts to develop a “burnt egg” like smell and taste.
I have definitely experienced this smell when heating milk; it is very easy to “overcook” steamed milk in this way..
If this does indeed happen at 65 Celsius, and I have no reason to believe it does not, then it does render the two hotter settings on the Bambino Plus redundant.
The machine also has three texture settings depending on how thick you want your foam.
I really struggled to find information on how this texture control works online or how much actual difference there is between the three textures.
Judging by what users of the machine have said on Reddit, it seems that this automatic milk frother is good for larger foamed milk, but struggles with finer foamed milk for lattes.
You can still froth milk manually with the Bambino Plus.
If you steam milk manually then the Bambino Plus does create marginally better milk than the Bambino because the Plus’s steam wand has four holes in its nozzle rather than the Bambino’s one hole.
More holes mean that heat is dispersed more evenly in the milk, resulting in finer and more uniformly textured milk.
Still, I think that it is preposterous that the Bambino Plus’s “upgraded” automatic milk frother actually decreases the machine’s ability to steam milk when used.
Which is Better: The Bambino’s Manual or the Plus’s Automatic Steam Wand?
While the Plus’s steam wand is marginally better than the Bambino, I don’t think that this difference is sufficient enough to justify the difference in cost between these two machines.
Most people seem to ditch the Plus’s steam wand’s automation and just use it as a manual steam wand.
When used as a manual steam wand, the Plus’s steam wand is still better than the Bambino’s because it uses four holes rather than one to disperse steam more evenly.
I do not, however, think it’s worth paying significantly more money for the Plus just to have this slight upgrade in steaming.
Bambino Plus’s Three-Way Solenoid Valve vs Bambino’s Lack of Valve
The Bambino Plus uses a three-way solenoid valve to close the machine’s brew head as soon as it stops brewing. The Bambino does not use this valve.
The Bambino Plus’s use of such a valve gives you three benefits above the Bambino. These are:
- The machine does not drip after it makes a coffee
- The brewed pucks of ground coffee are much firmer in the Bambino Plus compared to the Bambino
- You can backflush the Bambino Plus. You cannot do this with the Bambino
You can see a video of someone backflushing the Bambino Plus below:
These three benefits of the Bambino Plus all make it easier to keep your machine clean and well-maintained.
I still, however, think that the Plus’s use of this valve does not justify its price tag over the Bambino.
The Bambino Plus is Significantly Bigger than the Bambino
The Bambino Plus is about four inches deeper than the Bambino.
This means that the machine will “jut out” more on the front of your counter, taking up food preparation space.
If you have limited food preparation space then this would be one of the few good reasons to opt for the Bambino Plus over the Bambino.
I am now going to assess the two machines against each other across the following criteria:
- Quality of Drinks
- Ease of Use
- Ease of Cleaning
- Design and Build Quality
- Value for Money
Quality of Drinks
The two machines make almost identical espresso. The Bambino Plus makes slightly better milk-based drinks than the Bambino due to its superior four-holed steam wand.
Espresso and Black Coffee
The two machines have identical espresso brewing mechanisms. This means that they should make espresso exactly the same.
The only difference that may affect the quality of the espresso that these two machines make is the Bambino Plus’s ability to be backflushed.
Backflushing helps cleans the machine’s internal brewing unit of any coffee residue. This residue could otherwise end up in your cup.
Although the main benefit of backflushing is to keep your machine’s brewing unit in top condition, it can make a small improvement to your espresso’s taste.
Milk Based Coffee Drinks
This is where things get a bit complicated…
The Bambino Plus has a better-performing steam wand than the Bambino. However this extra performance is negated, and then some, when you use its automatic steaming system.
This means that if you steam milk manually with the Bambino Plus, it will foam milk better than the Bambino.
However, if you use the Bambino Plus’s automated frothing system, it will not steam milk as well as the Bambino.
In short, the Bambino Plus can make better milk-based drinks than the Bambino, but only if you ignore its automated milk frothing system and steam your milk manually.
If you use the Bambino Plus’s automated milk frothing system as intended, then it will not make as good milk-based drinks as the Bambino.
Quality of Coffee Winner: Bambino Plus (but only by a tiny margin)
Ease of Use
The Bambino Plus’s automatic milk steaming makes it slightly easier to use than the Bambino.
The two machines are exactly the same to set-up and have an identical process to make coffee.
The only difference between these two machines as far as their ease of use is concerned, is that the Bambino Plus uses this extra automation in its milk frother.
While this does make frothing milk easier with the Bambino Plus compared to the Bambino (the Plus allows you to froth milk without even holding your milk jug or steam wand), I think that frothing milk with the Bambino is already so simple that this additional automation isn’t really needed.
The feeling that the Bambino Plus’s steam wand is superfluous only gets stronger when you bear in mind that the automatically frothed milk from the Plus does not even seem to be as good quality as the Bambino’s manually frothed milk.
Ease of Use Winner: Breville Bambino Plus (again the difference here is marginal)
Ease of Cleaning
The Breville Bambino’s larger drip tray makes it easier to clean than the Bambino Plus.
Both machines require the exact same regular cleaning. I will list what parts of the machines need to be cleaned, and how regularly they need to be cleaned below.
- Portafilter: The portafilter and its baskets should be cleaned after every use. Both the portafilter and its baskets are dishwasher safe.
- Brew head: You should pull a blank shot to run water through the brew head and give it a wipe with a cloth after every coffee you make.
- Water tank: This should be rinsed at least once every few days.
- Drip Tray: Should be removed and emptied when full. Both machines have small buoys in their water tank that tell you when it’s full.
- Descaling: Both machines tell you when they need to be descaled (roughly every three months). Both machines have a descaling mode to help you with descaling.
There are three small differences between these two machines that affect how easy they are to keep clean. I will list them below:
The Bambino Plus’s Smaller Drip Tray Means that it Needs to be Emptied More Often than the Bambino
The Bambino Plus has a smaller drip tray than the Bambino because the heat sensor in the Plus’s automatic steam wand is built into its drip tray.
This lack of space means that the Bambino Plus drip tray needs to be emptied more often than the Bambino’s.
I think that this is quite a big black mark against the Bambino Plus.
I like to pull blank shots and purge my machine’s steam wand after every use and this means that the drip tray fills up fast. You don’t want to compromise on capacity here.
Here is a screenshot of one of several complaints about this on Reddit:
The Bambino Plus’s Three Way Solenoid Valve Makes it Less Messy to Use than the Bambino
The Bambino Plus’s use of a three-way solenoid valve means that the puck of coffee that ends up in your portafilter will be very firm and will come out as a whole lump.
The Bambino tends to produce a sloppier coffee puck which is a lot messier to clean up.
You’ll have to wipe clean the Bambino’s portafilter with a sponge to remove this sloppy coffee puck, whereas the Bambino Plus’s portafilter will just need a quick rinse after every use.
The Bambino is Silver and Therefore Shows Up Smudges. The Plus Comes in Dark Colors
The Bambino is only available in silver which means that splashes and smudges on the surface of the machine are really visible.
Just look at my Breville Barista Plus in the same color below:
The Bambino Plus is available in a wide range of colors, including very dark ones. I would always opt for a darker color where possible so the machine needs less wiping down.
Ease of Cleaning Winner: Bambino
Although the Bambino is a bit messier than the Bambino Plus, it is still easier to clean overall due to its larger drip tray.
Design and Build Quality
The Bambino is a better-designed machine than the Bambino Plus. The Bambino Plus’s automated milk frother is simply a step in the wrong direction as it impedes the machine’s performance without providing any real benefit to you.
I just don’t like the concept behind the Bambino Plus. Hence, I don’t think that it is designed very well.
The Plus’s automated milk frother solves a problem very few people had and creates new problems as it reduces the quality of milk foam that the machine can create and decreases the capacity of its drip tray.
Although the fact that you can backflush the Bambino Plus may slightly increase its lifespan compared to the Bambino, I think that this benefit is too slight to make up for the fundamental conceptual and design flaws of the Plus.
Design and Build Quality Winner: Bambino
Value For Money
The Bambino is a better and more inexpensive machine than the Bambino Plus.
Value For Money Winner: Bambino (by a long way)
What Users Say
Here are what users’ of this machine had to say about it on Amazon and Reddit.
As of September 2022, the Breville Bambino has been reviewed 44 times on Amazon and has an average rating of 4.3 stars out of five.
Positive reviews of the machine talk about how easy it is to use and that it creates black espresso comparable to more expensive Breville machines like the Barista Pro.
Amazon review, September 2022: “We bought this smaller machine for my son’s dorm room. He loves it. He has not had any issues and says the espresso is just as great as the larger Breville machine from home.”
Several negative reviews of the machine say that a lot of water gets stuck in the machine’s portafilter after it brews, making emptying the ground coffee from the portafilter basket a messy process.
Amazon review, August 2022: “This unit leaves a lot of water behind in the portafilter. Even with nothing in the portafilter, the machine will leave it half full of water. The end result is a huge mess. Either the portafilter will spill or splatter when knocked out, or if you do a bit of an extra pull (as I do to get a more flavorful americano) the portafilter will overflow when being removed.”
The Bambino Plus was fitted with a three-way solenoid valve specifically to rectify this problem.
Breville Bambino Plus
As of September 2022, the Breville Bambino Plus has been reviewed 1,116 times on Amazon with an average rating of 4.4 stars out of five.
Positive reviews of the machine talk about how easy it is to use and how compact it is.
Amazon review, March 2021: “The machine is very slim and wont take up too much space on your counter. It heats up almost immediately and you can pull a good shot without too much effort on your end”
Negative reviews of the machine often talk about its automatic steam wand not being able to steam milk as well as a manual steam wand.
Amazon review, April 2019: “This machine is capable of producing great cappucinos and lattes, if you skip its main attraction/feature – automatic milk steaming and frothing. The automatic process produces weak bubbly froth, but thankfully you can skip it and do it manually.”
A redditor sums up the difference between this machine really well in a Reddit thread about this topic:
I’d recommend the Breville Bambino over the Bambino Plus.
The Bambino Plus’s automatic milk frother is basically the only feature it has over the Bambino and this does not come close to justifying its additional price tag.
The Plus’s automatic milk frother actually detracts from the machine in as many ways as it benefits it.