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 simplicity of the Bambino at a lower price.
I tested both espresso machines, and the Bambino is the better choice. Why? Price. You can buy a Bambino and use the savings for a better grinder. If you want the all-in-one package with easy milk frothing, choose the Bambino Plus. I do have some gripes about the automatic milk wand.
It’s a nuanced discussion, and I’ll review the main differences between the two espresso machines so you can make the best choice.
Breville Bambino vs. Bambino Plus: The Breakdown
For the Breville Bambino vs Bambino Plus, it comes down to whether you want flexibility and value (Bambino) or a guaranteed result (Bambino Plus). You can see the main differences in the graphic below:
The Bambino Plus includes features like automatic milk steaming with a few presets to get precise results on the first use. The Bambino puts more control in your hands, with a manual milk wand and fewer automatic functions. That level of control means a little more work, but also saves about $200 on the price.
But to better understand 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 nine different colors, where the Breville Bambino only comes in brushed steel. I gotta say – the Black Truffle and Damson Blue are awesome (Breville’s site has more color options). Also, the Bambino Plus also has a 2-year warranty versus the 1-year warranty for the Bambino.
Now, the dimensions are also a little different as you can see below (both in WxHxD):
- Breville Bambino: 6.3 in x 12.3 in x 13.3 in, 1.4 liter reservoir (47 fluid ounces)
- Bambino Plus: 7.5 in x 12.3 in x 14.5 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. More importantly, I like that the Bambino is narrower and less deep, which saves on counter space
Also, the Bambino’s drip tray is more solid than the Bambino Plus. The problem with the Bambino Plus is it’s designed with an integrated temperature sensor in the base, which makes the steel cover tray much more flimsy.
The Bambino Plus is also super light. Too light actually. It can’t be 10 pounds, and the machine will slide around any time you insert the portafilter. You’ll need to use two hands to lock in the portafilter before brewing espresso.
The Bambino wins this category for me as the smaller machine and slightly more solid build. That said, I love the color scheme on the Bambino Plus.
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 of the Bambino Plus, thanks to the sensors in the drip tray. The Bambino Plus has two extra buttons for adjustable milk temperature (either 50, 70, or 90 degrees C) and the texture of steamed milk.
Breville put 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 versus 60 seconds for the Bambino.
You have to fill your milk jug, put it under the wand, 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.
Even better, when you remove the frothed milk jug from the steam wand, the machine automatically sprays out a little water to self-clean itself.
I’ll admit the texture control on the Bambino Plus automatic steam wand mystifies me. I’ve frothed many pitchers of milk, and the higher texture level creates a thicker foam for a nice cappuccino. You can see the result below:
However, texture can also be influenced by other factors, like milk temperature. If I put warmer milk in the jug, the milk has less time to froth and therefore has less texture.
There were a few downsides to the wand for me:
- The Bambino Plus isn’t as good for non-dairy milk. I like oat milk, which has a lower protein and fat content. That means getting the right aeration for a proper foam takes more finesse, which the Plus doesn’t quite do.
- The wand doesn’t rotate, so it’s difficult to froth milk manually. *Although you can froth manually in one position*
- The self-cleaning is aggressive. The wand sprays four times, which splashes over the back plate and your counter if you don’t cover it with a towel.
The self-cleaning also means your drip tray will fill faster. Overall, the Bambino Plus has its puts and takes to it.
The Bambino: Manual Milk Frothing
The Breville Bambino comes with a more traditional steam wand. The tip has one hole with 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. 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. Plant-based milks like oat or almond milks have different needs and techniques compared to dairy milks. The automatic texturing was not quite the same there.
The one-hole wand does mean it takes longer and means more water in your frothed milk. However, it’s also more forgiving with more time, so it’s great to learn on.
Personally, I think I can create a better microfoam with the Bambino than the Bambino Plus’s automatic steam wand on the Plus. But, that’s just me, and with some practice.
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 is helpful, especially if you don’t want milk steaming to be a ritual.
That said, the Breville Bambino delivers the same performance. 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 a 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 to you.
You can see a demonstration in our video:
The single key performance question regarding espresso machines is the espresso quality they provide. Breville machines all have strong reputations in coffee brewing, and the Bambino and Bambino Plus compare equally because they have the same core ThermoJet heating system.
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.
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.
Both machines offer high quality espresso through a few other important, well-designed features. They both include low-pressure pre-infusion.
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.
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 both buttons and then manually start and stop the shot. You should get a scale and dial in your setting with a longer pre-infusion time to match the coffee volume. Target a coffee-to-water ratio 1:2 or 1:3 ratio works best, and you can see our full guide here.
Obviously, the Bambino doesn’t have built-in presets for milk steaming. You have to learn how to manipulate the steam wand and the milk jug to get the right results and learn how to monitor temperature as well.
On the other hand, the Bambino is the better choice for me because it has fewer buttons and features. Training and practice mean I can hear when the milk is steaming correctly. I think anyone can get the hang of it with a few weeks of practice and the help of YouTube.
Another key difference between the two is that the Breville Bambino features a direct, push-button hot water function. This is a 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, lift the wand and 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.
For those who aren’t as confident in their milk frothing skills, the Bambino Plus is the stronger option. The Bambino Plus makes 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 is always tricky when it comes down to choosing espresso machines. The case of Breville Bambino vs Bambino Plus is harder than usual because there’s a big cost difference but a big feature different too – automatic milk frothing. To me, 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 a great heating system, 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. Each one has easy presets for controlling shot volume.
Personally, I think you’re better off buying a Bambino and also buying a great milk frother like the Aeroccino 4. Or, spend the savings on a great burr grinder (which you’ll absolutely need) like the DF64.
Before moving one, let’s look at the accessories on 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
|Steam wand cleaning tool
|Steam wand cleaning tool
|16 oz stainless steel milk jug
|16 oz stainless steel milk jug
|Razor precision dosing tool
|*sometimes included* One-cup and two-cup single-wall filter baskets
|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 and slips when tamping, 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 end up spending a lot on an espresso machine, grinder, and beans, 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 is pretty basic. I recommend getting the Luxhaus 53mm tamper. It has heft and is 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 learn to dial in the dose. Buy a basic scale like the Apexstone, which will be more helpful.
Last, there are the single-wall filter baskets, also known as non-pressurized baskets. These can deliver better espresso but are harder to use. We discuss different baskets here; in short, start with dual-wall filters and move to single-wall filter baskets as you learn how to dial in espresso.
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 less expensive option for a manual steam wand, and it is worth the savings.
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 machine cost 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 for a higher price. The espresso quality is the same as the Bambino.
If you’re looking for a wider range of espresso machines, check out our espresso machine buying guide for beginners.