This is the Breville Bambino. It’s an espresso machine that costs just $350, which is relatively low in the world of espresso machines.
And I’m gonna say it. This just very well might be the best espresso machine for beginners on a budget.
But this machine has been a pleasant surprise for sure and honestly something I should have considered more in hindsight way back when I decided to purchase my first espresso machine, a Gaggia Classic Pro.
In fact, I’m inclined to suggest this machine for a lot of people looking to dip their toes into the realm of espresso without breaking the bank.
I did purchase this machine myself for full retail price of $350 and this review is not associated with Breville in any way. I later gifted this machine to my sister.
The build is what I would call, utilitarian or maybe, functional. It provides everything you need and nothing more or less. The body is a thin and lightweight stainless steel with mostly plastic features around.
Again, I have to reiterate, this machine is just $350 so I’m not expecting bent chrome thick stainless steel panels here.
In the box you do get a few accessories including different baskets, single and dual shot sizes as well as pressurized and non pressurized, and also descaling powder and a milk pitcher.
The machine is extremely lightweight and tiny at just over 6” wide, 14” deep and a foot tall. The water reservoir here has a 47oz capacity but the drip tray is quite tiny and you’ll likely need to frequently empty it. It does have a little plastic piece that will float to indicate when it needs to be emptied.
I do like that unlike on a lot of prosumer level machines, the water tank is visible. This makes it easy to know when it needs a refill prior to pulling a shot. And luckily, again, unlike a lot of prosumer machines, it doesn’t need a long wait time to get hot.
I don’t know what kind of black magic Breville is implementing here, but water gets to brewing temp in literally seconds. But more on that part later.
The buttons are okay, nothing particularly good nor bad about them. I do feel like there could’ve been a dedicated on/off switch but instead you simply press the brew buttons to turn on and then press these 2 buttons to turn off.
The steam wand is not insulated and will burn you, I sort of made that mistake after being used to the machines I own already having a no-burn feature. But there is a little rubber piece that you can hold onto attached to the steam wand. However, there’s not a ton of room for maneuvering the steam wand, and I’ve had best results using my smallest 10oz pitcher.
The portafilter itself is probably my least favorite part of the build. It’s incredibly lightweight and feels like it's made of cheap aluminum. It’s functional, but it's not pretty or inspiring to use.
Same goes for the plastic tamper that was included, but again, $350 for this entire machine.
So, the build itself its, functional. Nothing particular stands out quality wise but nothing screams poor quality either, except maybe that portafilter.
But the machine being so light weight does mean that you will need to hold it down when locking in your portafilter or the machine will shift. A good hard press on top helps solve this.
Okay, so with the build quality aside, what’s it like to use this machine? What are my thoughts coming from using $3,000+ machines on the daily?
It’s surprisingly good. Especially as a beginner, and honestly something that I really really wish I considered more back when I had a Gaggia Classic Pro.
The workflow is pretty identical to any other semiautomatic espresso machine without a built in grinder. You still dose, grind, tamp, and weigh everything in between. Only difference being, its a little bit smaller.
That’s where Crema Coffee Products comes in with a great lineup of Breville focused accessories that they graciously sent over. This includes a nice bottomless portafilter, dosing cup, tamper, and funnel.
So once your puck is prepped, you can simply lock it in, and press a button.
Now here, I’ve generally stuck to using the dual shot button because I use the dual shot basket exclusively. And where it gets interesting is in the fact that you can either let the shot complete on its own, with the single shot dispensing roughly 30ml or the dual shot at 60ml.
But you can also program it yourself by holding either button for 3 seconds to start the shot then pressing again to end the shot - the machine will then save this timing for future use. Effectively a good way of keeping your dialed in shot without having to manually watch for it.
It’s actually a really nice feature that I would’ve loved as a beginner.
Interestingly enough, you also can do a sort of mock-pre infusion on this machine by holding down either button to dispense water and releasing the button to continue with the extraction.
For me, I've generally had best results using 16g doses and a puck screen. Which by the way I will work on stocking some 54mm puck screens real soon.
Now in terms of steaming, this machine acts similarly to a single boiler Gaggia Classic Pro, where once the shot is done, you can hit the steam button to get steam going.
You will need to do a decent purge, which the wand does nicely aim directly into the drip tray hole to dispense that bit of water. But if the drip tray is full of water, it will get a little messy.
After that you can steam your milk.
And of course it does take a little longer than my prosumer machines, but I’ve been able to get perfectly silky milk just fine.
I’ve done about 5 seconds of aeration at the start, and then push a little deeper to get that whirlpool going and generally found this process takes roughly 30 seconds.
It’s relatively easy to pickup as a beginner, gives you a bit more wiggle room compared to a prosumer machine, and you’ll be able to learn how to steam milk properly with this machine for sure with a little bit of practice. Just check out some of the pours I’ve been able to do with this machine.
Again, this steam wand is not insulated so it is hot, use the little rubber grip. I wish it had a little more maneuverability for larger pitchers but given the size of the machine and the workflow, I’d expect you to be making one to two drinks at a time at most. So a smaller pitcher works just fine.
Cleaning the wand immediately after steaming is a bit tough because its not insulated, the milk dries very quickly onto the wand. I’ve found the best way to clean this without burning yourself is using this little steam wand cleaning tool I picked up that I’ll leave a link to in the description.
Okay, so the shots I’ve been getting from this machine have been surprisingly good and reasonably consistent. I’ve definitely had better results using a light-medium or medium roast rather than very light roasts.
When pulling for lighter roasts, I’ve gone with a 1:2.5 or sometimes even a 1:3 ratio in 30-35 seconds, and for beginners, that means I’m dosing about 16g in and getting 2.5x or 3x that weight out in espresso, aka 40-48g out with a 16g dose within that 28-33 sec time.
I am also typically starting time when I hit the button which is why I’m at a 30-35 second shot versus a more typical 25-30, because there’s a few seconds delay at the start from pushing the button.
The espresso quality is good, it has a nice little layer of crema, the texture is nice with a rich body, and the mouthfeel is smooth. On lighter roasts I’ve found a bit more acidity coming through the shots than I’d personally like.
At this budget, a nice premium hand grinder might be a great pairing with this machine. Now granted I have been using a $1,400 Acaia Orbit in testing but you should be able to get plenty great results with a more budget grinder.
Again, be sure to use good water, good freshly roasted coffee, and have a good grinder - and you’ll be pulling shots comparable or better to your local shop.
I’ve had surprisingly excellent consistency with this machine. Back to back shots have been very good and I’ve been able to use that pre-programmable shot volume feature to get repeatable shots day after day with just a little dialing in.
Now this machine, like any other, will require some cleaning on the regular. To do this is quite simple and they guide you through it in the manual, but it's literally just filling the tank up to the descale line with the descaling agent added in, and then pressing a combination of buttons to get it going. Easy.
So before I share some final thoughts, here’s your reminder to drop a like and subscribe if you haven’t already as it really helps support the channel. Also feel free to leave a comment about this machine, whether it’s something you like, don’t like, or a question you want answered.
Okay, final thoughts.
This machine is very, very capable for just $350. It’s definitely going to scratch that itch for those of you wanting that home-barista experience and get great tasting espresso or lattes at home.
For a beginner, it’s super intuitive and easy to use, a lot less intimidating than some more prosumer level machines, and has the perks of a larger company meaning you get better direct customer support, replacement pieces, and community help.
But obviously, it’s not perfect. The machine has some little quirks like the steam wand being difficult to clean and maneuver, the drip tray being way too small, and the machine just shifting around a ton.
This machine might not be for everyone though, and if you’re looking to make several drinks back to back in a shorter time frame, then you’ll probably want to explore a more prosumer option.
Additionally, if you are a straight espresso drinker, you might want a machine that could offer more capabilities like flow control or PID temperature control.
But for the average home user, maybe for those that want better quality commodity coffee, and for someone who wants a machine they could almost just set it and forget it, that’ll provide great quality with a little practice, then this is hard to beat, especially at that $350 price point.
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