Breville Bambino Review
Pros: Great espresso, impressive milk steaming performance, compact design
Cons: No built-in grinder
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|Pros||Great espresso, impressive milk steaming performance, compact design||Pulls excellent shots, great milk steaming||Good espresso and milk steaming, quite inexpensive||Good taste, small and sleek||Easy to use, quick and convenient, good taste, makes brewed coffee also|
|Cons||No built-in grinder||Has a learning curve, no pressure gauge to help beginners, no grinder||Doesn't quite achieve cafe quality results, somewhat slow, no built-in grinder||No grinder||Uses expensive capsules, only a limited number of espresso flavors available|
|Bottom Line||One of the smallest machines we've found that can achieve cafe-quality results||An excellent machine if your familiar with the process of manual brewing, and already have a high-quality grinder||Offers good taste and overall quality at a far below average price||Not a bad choice if you already have a nice grinder and can find it on sale||Great if you don't mind paying for convenience and want the ability to make brewed coffee too|
|Rating Categories||Breville Bambino||Breville Duo Temp Pro||Gevi||De'Longhi EC685M||Nespresso Evoluo|
|Ease of Use (30%)|
|Ease of Cleaning (15%)|
|Milk Steaming (15%)|
|Specs||Breville Bambino||Breville Duo Temp Pro||Gevi||De'Longhi EC685M||Nespresso Evoluo|
|Dimensions||7.7" x 12.6" x 12.2"||15.5" x 13.3" x 17.6"||13" x 10" x 16"||5.9" x 13" x 11.9"||9" x 12.2" x 12.3"|
|Milk Frother||Steam Wand||Steam Wand||Steam Wand||Steam Wand||None|
|Water Tank Capacity||47 oz||61 oz||42 oz||37 oz||54 oz|
|Cost per Shot||$0.45||$0.47||$0.45||$0.35||$0.85|
|Lifetime Cost per Shot||$0.58||$0.64||$0.50||$0.50||$0.93|
|Number of Cafe Replacement Shots to Make Up List Price||118||158||51||132||93|
|Number of Cafe Replacement Lattes to Make Up List Price||70||94||30||80||52|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Breville Bambino is the smallest and least expensive machine we've found that can produce cafe-quality results, but the lack of a grinder somewhat limits both its value and space-saving design. That said, if you're all set in the grinder department but are short on space and cash, this machine comes highly recommended.
For all intents and purposes, we think the espresso from the Bambino is almost as good as what you'd get in a cafe. We were consistently able to pull full, robust shots with great flavor and solid crema. If you really want to split hairs the espresso is maybe a slight step below what an experienced barista at a really nice third wave cafe could pull with a machine costing $10,000+, but for the most part, we think even picky coffee drinkers are going to be more than satisfied with this little workhorse.
That great espresso taste is backed up by a steam wand that can achieve near-perfect results. In our tests this allowed us to enjoy lattes and cappuccinos that were almost indistinguishable from what we could get in a cafe. Additionally, the Bambino heats up impressively fast, allowing you to steam your milk immediately after pulling a shot. Many fancier and more expensive machines can't do this, meaning your espresso shot — no matter how lovely — will be left to sit and flatten as you wait for the machine to be ready to steam milk. With the Bambino one can follow the other with no wait which made our barista testers very happy indeed.
Ease of Use
Any semi-automatic machine is going to take a bit of practice for beginners to figure out, and a bit of effort to make each shot — grinding, tamping, and brewing manually takes some time and effort no matter how experienced you are. However, thanks to well-designed and well-built components, the Bambino makes this process easier than most. It is never going to match the ease and convenience of the fully automated machines, but in our experience, this is a sacrifice you have to make for truly great taste.
Setting up the Bambino takes hardly any time at all. The instructions are clear and easy to follow. It may take you some time to find the right dosage and grind, but the instruction manual offers guidelines that we found to be both helpful and accurate. This machine also has a short pre-infusion feature, where low-pressure water is added to the prepared portafilter before the fully pressurized water starts to flow. This helps create a nicer finished espresso shot and can help even out inconsistencies in grinding and tamping technique.
Ease of Cleaning
Here again, the Bambino offers a fairly standard experience, comparable to that of most semi-automatic machines. Wiping down the steam wand and cleaning out the portafilter after each drink is fairly easy. Likewise, the drip tray is well designed and has a full indicator that lets you know when it needs to be emptied. The descaling process takes about 10 minutes and the machine comes with a descaling solution packet to make things a bit more convenient.
For daily maintenance, all the Bambino requires beyond emptying the small drip tray is cleaning out the portafilter and wiping off the steam wand. Running some extra hot water out of the empty group head will help purge any leftover espresso grounds, and pressing the steam button will similarly purge any remaining milk particles from the steam wand. This machine also comes with a little tool, conveniently housed in the back under the water reservoir, to clear the tiny hole on the steam wand should it get plugged up. A small but thoughtful addition that we appreciate.
In our opinion, the steam wand on the Bambino is near perfect. Its consistent and powerful stream of steam allowed us to get great microfoam time after time. As long as you're willing to go through the effort of manual milk steaming, this machine can get you cafe-quality results.
Our testers with barista experience actually preferred this machine to the upgraded model, the Bambino Plus, specifically because of the steam wand. While the Plus is fully automated, a selling point for some folks, the manual steam wand on the regular Bambino allows for much more control. If you're the type that wants to be able to change angles and techniques on your own terms to achieve top-notch microfoam for latte art and creamy lusciousness for a proper cappuccino, you'll likely prefer this model too. On top of that, it's considerably cheaper than the Plus.
If you come from a coffee background and have used a professional espresso machine before, one thing is worth noting about the Bambino. Unlike a multi-thousand dollar machine, the steam wand takes a moment to ramp up and even longer to turn completely off. Don't expect to turn off the steam wand and immediately remove your pitcher — if you do, you'll spray milk all over your counter. You'll need to turn it off and be prepared to wait about 10 seconds while it slowly winds down.
The Bambino is one of the least expensive machines we've found that can reproduce the kind of espresso drinks you'd get at a cafe. It doesn't have any sort of built-in grinder, so you'll need to purchase one to use the machine. Still, if you already have an espresso grinder, it is a great value for those seeking truly great espresso drinks.
The Breville Bambino is a great choice for anyone that already has an espresso quality grinder, or that is looking for a compact machine that can still produce great espresso and steamed milk. Several of our ex-barista testers choose this model for their homes and are very happy with it — high praise indeed. We wish it came with a heftier and higher-quality tamp, but that is easily replaced without totally blowing your budget.
— Michelle Powell, Max Mutter, and Penney Garrett
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