How to decide between the Breville Bambino vs Bambino Plus? It’s a major debate because both machines make excellent espresso and look similar. The question is whether you want to pay up for automatic milk frothing on the Bambino Plus or have the flexibility of the Bambino at a lower price.
I’ve worked with and tested a lot of espresso machines, and in my opinion, the Bambino is the better choice. The Bambino is simpler to operate, with fewer bells and whistles. It also easier to dispense hot water for Americanos, and costs less while delivering the same high quality espresso as the Bambino Plus.
Both the Breville Bambino and the Bambino Plus bring the coffee shop home. I’ll review the main differences between the two espresso machines based on my experience. The Bambino Plus has an automatic milk frother, which takes some of the mystery out of making latte art. The Bambino offers more flexibility and a lower price.
Breville Bambino vs. Bambino Plus: The Breakdown
Espresso machines can have a lot of variations in performance from one machine to another, and even within the same brand. To make up your mind on which espresso machine is best for you, it’s important to compare the key features and functions of each.
For the Breville Bambino vs Bambino Plus, it comes down to whether you want flexibility and value (Bambino) or a guaranteed result (Bambino Plus). The Bambino Plus includes features like automatic milk steaming and a few presets which means you get precise results from the very first use. The Bambino puts more control in your hands, with a manual milk wand and fewer automatic functions. That level of control means you have more flexibility: you can choose the temperature you want your milk to be, the texture, and so on.
But to get a better idea of what each machine brings to the table, we need to dive into the details.
Design & Build
Both the Bambino and the Breville Bambino Plus have a compact, solid design and high quality build, but there are a few key differences. I ultimately tend to prefer the Breville Bambino, in spite of some very strong points for the Bambino Plus.
The Bambino Plus comes in a range of different colors, where the Breville Bambino only comes in brushed steel. The Bambino Plus also has the longer warranty: 2 years as opposed to the one year warranty for the Bambino.
While each espresso maker is compact, the Bambino is just a little bit smaller, which is important to me; I have pretty limited counter space. To break down the dimensions a bit:
- Breville Bambino: 7.7 in x 12.6 in x 12.2 in, 1.4 liter reservoir (47 fluid ounces)
- Bambino Plus: 9.6 in x 16.3 in x 16.9 in, 1.9 liter reservoir (64 fluid ounces)
While the water reservoir on the Bambino is half a liter smaller than the Bambino plus, it won’t be noticeable. You can still make a dozen espressos with one tank.
Also, the Bambino’s drip tray feels a little more solid than the Bambino Plus. The drip tray on either machine is on the smaller side, since the espresso machines are compact. But the Bambino Plus features an integrated temperature sensor in the base, which leaves less room for the drip tray on that espresso machine.
Sometimes a bigger espresso maker will out-perform smaller ones, but in this case, there’s almost no difference in the size and feel. The Bambino wins this category for me as the smaller machine and slightly more solid build.
Steam Wand & Milk Frothing
The steam wand is the most important feature difference between the Breville Bambino and Bambino Plus.
If you prefer milky espresso drinks, like lattes and cappuccinos, the steam wand on your espresso maker is a big consideration. This category is where the two machines differ the most.
Both the Bambino and the Bambino Plus feature barista-quality steam wands and deliver a rich microfoam result. The machines both use the innovative Thermojet heating system, which means there’s no lag time between pulling an espresso shot and steaming milk.
But the Breville Bambino has a manual steam wand, as opposed to the automatic milk frothing that comes with the Bambino Plus.
I’ll discuss each espresso machine separately in this category because they are really different.
The Bambino Plus: Automatic Milk Frothing
The automatic milk frothing is the magic behind the Breville Bambino Plus. In short: all you have to do is place the pitcher on the tray with the milk wand inside of it, press the buttons for the preset you want, and let the machine do the rest.
The temperature control is the real gem on the Bambino Plus thanks to the sensors in the drip tray, which work with some tweaks to the steam wand itself. The Bambino Plus has two extra buttons for adjustable milk temperature (either 50, 70, or 90 degrees C) and texture of steamed milk.
There is some impressive technology behind this functionality. To start, the steam wand is bigger on the Bambino Plus. Second, the Bambino Plus wand has four holes vs the Bambino’s one. That means, the Bambino Plus can steam milk in about 30 seconds, which is 20 seconds faster than the Bambino.
You just have to fill your milk jug, choose a temperature and texture, and push a button: the Bambino Plus does the rest. No worrying about the angle of the jug or how far to put the nozzle down.
It’s not exactly clear to me how the texture control works, and I’m a little skeptical it’s different on the settings. That said, I’ve talked to people who attest that it is really different. The high setting uses more pressure (or less pressure for longer stretching?) for a thicker microfoam and perfect latte or cappuccino.
The one downside with the Plus is the wand only goes up and down. You can’t rotate it to manually froth milk.
The Bambino: Manual Milk Frothing
The Breville Bambino comes with a more traditional steam wand. The tip has one hole and there is one button to start and stop steaming. You’ll have to hold the jug and froth milk by hand.
The nice thing is the steam wand is on a ball point and swivels completely, so you position it easily in your jug. I couldn’t complain about the power of the steam either:
Now, I’m a little bit old school and actually prefer a manual wand. I first learned to make espresso and cafe-style drinks on a manual espresso machine. So to me, it’s valuable to learn the tricks for steaming milk manually.
Learning the art of milk frothing matters if you want to explore other espresso makers. Also, plant-based milks like oat or almond milks have different needs and techniques compared to dairy milks. The automatic texturing may not be quite the same with those.
Final Verdict: Which Steam Wand Is Better?
There’s no doubt the automatic frothing on the Bambino Plus makes life easier and is better overall. The temperature and texture control are really helpful, especially if you don’t want milk steaming to be a ritual.
That said, the Breville Bambino delivers the same performance with a manual wand. You can make beautiful latte art, although it takes longer with the one-hole wand. The Bambino also gives more flexibility with its full rotation which can help get more specific texture.
I compare the Bambino Plus automatic frothing like using GPS for directions. GPS helps if you’re unsure of direction, but doesn’t matter if you know you’re way around town. Decide how much convenience matters for you.
The single key performance question when it comes to espresso machines is the espresso quality they provide. Breville machines all have strong reputations when it comes to coffee brewing, and the Bambino and Bambino Plus compare equally because they have the same core.
Both machines offer high quality espresso through a few important, well-designed features. They both include low pressure pre-infusion and optimal water pressure, as well as optimum extraction temperature. One Breville Bambino espresso machine won’t give you a better result than the other one.
Both machines also feature digital temperature control (PID) for precise temperature control. The PID gets the water up to the exact temperature you need for optimal espresso extraction quickly.
Brewing espresso also requires sufficient water pressure, which both the Bambino and the Bambino Plus supply. Pump-based systems deliver better results than steam-based systems, and each espresso machine boasts a 15-bar Italian pump design that competes with any commercial machine.
The built-in low pressure pre-infusion setting helps with precise espresso extraction by priming the ground coffee in your portafilter before espresso brewing really begins. This helps bring out the rich and complex flavors that espresso demands, whether you use freshly ground beans or pre-ground espresso.
Digging a little deeper into both, the best choice depends on your level of comfort with a learning curve. Maximum flavor extraction on a semi-automatic machine takes some practice. Temperature control, espresso dosing, tamping and other factors can also make or break any solo or double shot you pull.
Both the Breville Bambino vs Bambino Plus have the same technology inside, so there’s no difference here.
Ease of Use
For me, ease of use comes down to a few factors: how many bells and whistles something has, how intuitive the controls are, and whether or not it’s easy to maintain. In this domain, I personally prefer the Breville Bambino, though the Bambino Plus has its preset milk options. It ultimately comes down to your comfort level with a learning curve.
Both machines have preset options for 1 oz single shot and 2 oz double shot of espresso. You can program each option manually by holding the button and then manually start and stop the shot. You’ll have to dial in each machine by either adjusting the grind size to the preset shot or adjust the shot time to your grind size.
The Bambino doesn’t come with built-in presets for milk steaming, so you’ll have to learn how to manipulate the steam wand and the milk jug to get the right results. Because it doesn’t have those presets, you run a higher chance of burning the milk, or not getting the texture you want.
On the other hand, the Bambino is the better choice for me because it has fewer buttons and features. Years of training and practice mean I can hear when the milk is steaming correctly, and I can tell when espresso shots brew the way I want them to at a glance.
Another key difference between the two is that the Breville Bambino features a direct, push-button hot water function. This is an obvious plus to anyone who makes Americano-style drinks. The Bambino Plus has automatic milk functions, but not an obvious hot water outlet.
To dispense hot water with the Bambino Plus push the one cup button and the milk texture button at the same time.
The Breville Bambino gets my seal of approval for the reason that it’s ultimately simpler and easier to maintain. Also, I’m suspect of the extra sensor in The Bambino Plus drip tray, which makes it harder to clean and adds an extra worry maintenance issues later.
For those who aren’t as confident in their espresso making and milk frothing skills, the Bambino Plus is probably the stronger option. The Bambino Plus offers barista quality milk performance without the need to learn anything from scratch.
Both machines let you press a button to get either a single espresso shot or double shot, but the steam button options on the Bambino Plus mean you get high quality milk foam without any trickery.
But ultimately, I find that the added sensors and controls that machines like the Bambino Plus need to make third wave specialty coffee happen at the push of a button lead to annoying repairs down the road, and also tend to make the machine harder to clean and maintain. So for me, the Breville Bambino wins the day.
Price point is a tricky issue when it comes to espresso machines, because the cost doesn’t always translate to quality. In the case of Breville Bambino vs Bambino Plus, the cost difference does translate to big feature – automatic milk frothing. That said, the better value for the money is still the Breville Bambino.
The Breville Bambino Plus has a lot of additions to account for its higher price tag, there’s no question of that. The added sensors, the efficiency of the steam wand, and the automatic presets for temperature and texture all add value. You can set it and forget it with the milk jug.
But when it comes to the key things that an espresso maker needs to do, both machines come out about equal. Both machines feature digital temperature control, low pressure pre-infusion, and Italian pumps to provide optimal water pressure for both brewing and steaming. The Thermojet heating system the machines share means no lag time: water heats up quickly, and bounces between temperatures just as fast.
Let’s also look at what accessories separate the Bambino vs Bambino Plus.
Both machines come with the following accessories, which you definitely need to make your home espresso experience happen:
|One-cup and two-cup dual wall filter baskets||One-cup and two-cup dual-wall filter baskets|
|54 mm portafilter||54 mm portafilter|
|Plastic tamper||Metal tamper|
|Steam wand cleaning tool||Steam wand cleaning tool|
|16 oz stainless steel milk jug||16 oz stainless steel milk jug|
|Razor precision dosing tool|
|One-cup and two-cup single-wall filter baskets|
You’ll notice a few differences: the extra filter baskets, the razor dosing tool, and the tamper.
The tamper is the biggest difference for me, and the plastic tamper is almost a deal-breaker. The plastic tamper is cheap tends to slip on the grounds, which makes it hard to get a flat puck. An uneven puck will lead to channeling and worse espresso extraction, which has a real impact on taste. You can spend a lot on great beans and an espresso machine, all to be negated by a tamper that is $5 cheaper!
Now, the nice thing is there are plenty of tampers out there for $30 or less. Most of them are better than Breville’s metal tamper, which frankly, is pretty basic. I recommend getting the Luxhaus 53mm tamper. It has heft and it’s inexpensive.
Another key tool is the razor precision dosing tool, which levels out the espresso grounds in the portafilter with just the right space. It’s sort of helpful to start, but you won’t need it once you dial in the dose.
Last, there are the single-wall filter baskets, also known as non-pressurized baskets. These can deliver better espresso but are harder to use. You should start with dual-wall filters and if you feel confident, find some single-wall filter baskets.
These differences are small individually, but they are annoying altogether. The nice thing is you can spend $50 and get all three and still save money with the Breville Bambino.
I personally find that the Breville Bambino is the better value for the money. Both machines perform the essentials at the same level (read: make excellent espresso), and I can supplement the perks of the Bambino Plus.
Final Verdict: Breville Bambino vs Bambino Plus
Which is better? For me, the Bambino is the better buy. The Bambino is simpler to use and maintain, and packs the same quality in the essential areas you want in an espresso machine. The Bambino also offers more flexibility and a little more sturdiness compared to the Bambino Plus and at a better price.
The Breville Bambino is the best espresso machine at its price point. It uses Breville’s latest Thermojet technology that heats in three seconds, makes excellent espresso, and has no downtime between steaming and milk frothing. The manual steam wand gives you more flexibility with a 360-degree rotation and dispenses hot water.
If you prefer a machine with an extremely easy milk frother, the Bambino Plus is the better buy, even at a higher price point. The higher cost of the machine goes directly into quality features, so it’s still a good value for the money.
The Breville Bambino Plus comes with an automatic milk frother. You can choose a temperature, milk texture, and let the machine do the rest. The Bambino Plus includes Breville’s latest Thermojet technology, which heats in 3 seconds. It has the features and convenience of a high end machine at a reasonable price.
If you’re looking for a wider range of espresso machines, check out our espresso machine buying guide for beginners.