I’ve had the pleasure of brewing with both the Breville Bambino Plus vs Gaggia Classic Pro. And what a journey it’s been! But which one stole my heart? Was it the Bambino’s quick heat-up or the Classic Pro’s traditional vibes?
Overall, the Bambino Plus is the better choice for beginners and it’s what I recommend. Preset dosing, automatic milk frothing, and PID make it easier. But you can make a better espresso with the Gaggia Classic Pro (now called Gaggia Evo Classic Pro)…if you are willing to learn it.
Buckle up, coffee lovers, as I take you on a caffeinated ride comparing these two espresso giants. Let’s find out which machine truly brews to perfection.
Breville Bambino Plus vs. Gaggia Classic Pro: Feature Comparison
Design and Build
The Bambino Plus is a little more compact than the Gaggia. They are both narrow, but you’ll mostly notice the smaller height on the Bambino Plus.
You’ll also notice the Bambino Plus is light. Actually, it’s too light. You’ll feel it slide any time you lock in the portafilter and will need to hold it down.
The Bambino Plus has a more modern look with rounded edges, and I really like its brightly lit display.
Meanwhile, the Gaggia Classic Pro has a more traditional look. This machine has been on the market for over 30 years, and the design hasn’t changed much since then. Not that I mind, because it looks great. It is boxy, and I strongly recommend a colored option, as the matte blue looks better than the steel.
While we can debate the look, the Bambino’s design is far more functional with quality-of-life points.
The Bambino Plus has more cup clearance at six inches, while the Gaggia is annoyingly low at four inches (at most). If you’re using a spouted portafilter and scale, you’ll need to angle the glass underneath the spout every time. Meanwhile, the Bambino Plus can easily fit bigger cups.
The water tanks are pretty similar at 72oz for Gaggia and 64oz for the Bambino Plus. What’s noticeable is the Bambino Plus has a low water sensor, saving the frustration of running out of water mid-shot.
Also, the Gaggia water tank is also hidden beneath the drip tray, so you have to pour water into the machine, as it’s near impossible to remove the tank like the Breville Bambino. I like having the option to remove the tank, and the water tubes in the Gaggia also feel so outdated.
The new Gaggia Evo Classic Pro has rocker buttons and indicator lights. I like how these look, but the Bambino Plus has clearer labeling with one and two-cup dose volumetric buttons and steaming options.
Note: There’s also The Bambino, a smaller version of the Bambino Plus. The Bambino is just a smaller and less expensive version of the Plus that I’ll come back to.
Heating System and Espresso Performance
There’s a lot to unpack when comparing espresso quality between the Breville Bambino Plus and the Gaggia Classic Pro (GCP). I count about six different features in regards to the internals, each favoring a different model.
There are strong opinions here, but it comes down to this: the Bambino Plus is more accessible for beginners, while the Gaggia Classic Pro can make better espresso. Personally, I think the Bambino Plus is 85% of the quality of the Gaggia, but also 50% of the work.
I walk through this in our video review and discuss each separately to understand the differences.
Gaggia Classic Pro: Boiler Is Better, But…Temperature Surfing
The Gaggia Classic Pro has a 58mm portafilter and boiler. This is better on two fronts:
- The boiler has better temperature stability because it heats more water. And better temperature stability means you’ll get a more even extraction of coffee, so your espresso tastes smooth and balanced.
- The 58mm portafilter is wider and allows water to flow more evenly across the coffee puck. Your extraction is more even with a bigger portafilter. Also, there are more accessories for 58mm.
Also, the Gaggia Evo Classic Pro uses 9 bars of pressure by default. This is an overdue change compared to the previous model, which started at 12 bars. I’ve modified my old Gaggia, and the 9 bars of pressure make a difference.
Also, the updated version of the “Evo” Classic Pro features an upgraded brew group, and the boiler has a non-stick coating that prevents scale and buildup. This makes the maintenance easier but also ensures better espresso flavor, with less water impurities.
That’s the positive. But, the GCP has challenges. It lacks a Proportional-Integral-Derivative (PID) controller. A PID constantly monitors the temperature inside the machine and makes the changes to ensure no big temperature spikes and constant extraction.
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The problem is the GCP overheats if you leave it on too long. You need to “temperature surf” on the Classic Pro, where you manually adjust the temperature down and up by purging water or patiently waiting for the boiler to heat. It’s like surfing temperature up and down, which is a manual process that most home baristas don’t want to deal with.
Personally, I think temperature surfing complaints are overblown. Anyone can figure this out.
It boils down (pun intended) to this: wait five minutes to let the Gaggia Classic Pro heat up, then purge water for 5-10 seconds before preparing the puck. I heat the portafilter with the purge, then prepare the puck as usual, and rarely have issues. It’s not that complicated.
Breville Bambino Plus: Advanced Thermoblock + PID + Pre-infusion For Consistency
On the other hand, the Breville Bambino Plus has a thermocoil heating system with pre-infusion and a PID controller. Thermocoils are typically inferior because you’re running cold water quickly through hot metal, which isn’t as stable for water temperature.
But, Breville makes up for this in a few ways.
- Bambino uses a ThermoJet, which transfers heat efficiently. The machine is ready in three seconds!
- There’s a PID controller, which manages the water temperature.
On top of that, there’s pre-infusion. Pre-infusion is a process where the coffee grounds are gently soaked before full pressure is applied, ensuring a more even extraction.
Moreover, as mentioned, the Bambino Plus heats impressively fast, which is great if you don’t want to worry about setting up the machine’s temperature first thing in the morning.
Note: you must pre-heat the Bambino by running water through an empty portafilter!
What Espresso Machine Makes Better Espresso?
Despite much spilled ink on this topic, both espresso machines get a similar result. The difference is the Bambino will be easier and more consistent. Meanwhile, the GCP has more potential, if you can manage the temperature swings.
Steam Wand and Milk Frothing
There’s a big difference here, as the Bambino Plus makes frothing simple, while the Gaggia Classic takes some work and adjustments.
One standout feature of the Bambino Plus is the automatic steam wand. The Plus has a temperature sensor in the drip tray and presets for milk temperature and texture. Place the wand inside the pitcher, and press the buttons for your chosen presets. The Bambino Plus will do the rest.
The Thermojet heating system means there’s almost no wait time between brewing and steaming. When you’re done, the steam wand even purges itself too, which makes cleaning easier.
I will make a few caveats to the bambino Plus steam wand. First, there aren’t many settings to choose from – I often default to the lowest temperature and texture. Second, the self-cleaning is aggressive and can spray everywhere.
Meanwhile, the Gaggia Classic Pro can make better steamed milk, if you put in the effort. It’s steam wand has challenges, starting with the steam wand tip. It has two holes that point to either side, making it challenging to achieve that desired whirlpool motion in the milk pitcher.
Moreover, the wand lacks mobility, and it’s hard to angle the milk pitcher properly.
I solved these challenges by getting a new steam wand tip. Suddenly, it was a lot easier to froth milk on the Gaggia, and I actually could make a really smooth foam that worked well for latte art. The boiler comes into play again, as it gets hot for a nice dry steam that will froth the milk.
Overall, if milk-based espresso drinks are your go-to, the Bambino Plus is the better choice. It’s so much easier with automatic milk frothing.
Ease of Use
When it comes to ease of use, the Breville Bambino Plus stands out as the more user-friendly option between the two.
The Bambino Plus has volumetric dosing buttons. You have a consistent shot volume each time, leading to more consistent espresso quality. It’s easy to run a manual shot by holding the button and starting and stopping the shot.
You can reprogram shot volume by holding both buttons and running a manual shot to set a new volume too.
Then, there’s the automatic milk frothing which is consistent and obviously easier.
On the other hand, the Gaggia Classic Pro offers a more hands-on experience. It lacks features like volumetric dosing and pre-infusion, so you need a coffee scale with this model.
This is more challenging for beginners, and the lack of cup clearance makes the scale difficult, too…Not to mention, temperature surfing requires a learning curve and is generally more work than Bambino’s thermojet system.
The Bambino Plus is definitely easier and more convenient to use than the Gaggia Classic Pro.
Both Gaggia Classic Pro vs. Breville Bambino Plus are good value for money, and they are about the same price.
The Breville Bambino Plus, with its user-friendly features like volumetric dosing buttons and pre-infusion, offers great value for those who prioritize ease of use. Its advanced milk frothing capabilities and sleek design also add value to the machine.
On the other hand, the Gaggia Classic Pro, while lacking some intuitive features, offers a more hands-on espresso-making experience. Its robust build and traditional design appeal to purists and those who enjoy the art of manual espresso brewing.
This machine might require a steeper learning curve, but for those who appreciate its nuances, it offers value in terms of the quality of espresso and the satisfaction of mastering the brewing process.
Recommendation: Which Machine Is Better
The choice between the Breville Bambino Plus and the Gaggia Classic Pro comes down to individual preferences and where you are on your espresso journey.
Breville Bambino Plus and the Bambino are better if you’re a beginner or value ease of use. The user-friendly features, such as volumetric dosing buttons, pre-infusion, and advanced milk frothing capabilities on the Plus, make it a breeze for beginners. It’s designed to deliver a quality espresso shot without the steep learning curve.
Gaggia Classic Pro is a better choice for those who want to invest time in learning the craft. You can make a better espresso with the 58mm portafilter and boiler (and steamed milk) if you’re willing to learn.
I’ve pulled better shots on the Gaggia, but it’s more inconsistent. It takes time to get used to the temperature variance, and a 58mm portafilter can be harder to dial in, not to mention the frustrating low cup clearance…. I often go back to the Bambino for ease of use.
Which Espresso Machine Should You Choose?
Choose the Breville Bambino or the Bambino Plus if you want a simpler and easier machine to use and maintain. If you are confident in your espresso-making and milk-frothing skills or want a machine that’ll make you improve your barista skills, choose the Classic Pro.
Remember that none of these machines come with a grinder, so this is a separate purchase you’ll have to make. Luckily, we’ve got you covered. Here are our best grinders for espresso.