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The Breville Bambino is so good I don’t care that it lacks a grinder
The Breville Bambino is the exception that proves the rule.
The Breville Bambino is an extremely likable coffee machine that looks nice, works well and doesn't take up too much space in your kitchen. It's not going to be ideal for newcomers, but those who know what they want in a coffee machine will likely be thrilled with the feature set here.
The tasty world of coffee machines is full of duality. Manual versus Automatic. Pods or portafilters. Entry-level and industrial grade. The Breville Bambino is the rare coffee machine that runs against this inclination. Instead of caving to either side, it carves out a compelling middle-ground for itself.
The Bambino is relatively light on features, but it absolutely nails the essentials. It's a less-is-more take on manual home espresso making that's approachable enough to appeal to beginners without alienating more advanced constituencies.
If the intersection of slick design and sleek functionality is what you're looking for, it's easy to unlock the potential embodied by the Bambino.
How much does Breville Bambino cost in Australia?
In Australia, the Breville Bambino starts at $499.
That price makes it relatively affordable for a manual espresso machine. It's definitely more than you could be spending on a fully-featured pod or drip coffee machine, but a lot less than something that's automatic or has an integrated grinder.
Still, as always, it's good to shop around and look for the best price. Check out the table below for a quick round-up of how Australia's retailers rate when it comes to offering the best price for the Breville Bambino.
Breville Bambino - Design and features
One of the biggest downsides associated with manual espresso machines tends to be their size and noise. Compared to pod machines or drip coffee makers, machines of the Bambino's ilk are often bigger and harder to ignore.
The Breville Bambino feels designed to play up the contrast as it subverts those expectations. Rather than look like an industrial-sized machine, it's a sleek and curved presence that feels like an addition rather than a burden on the limited kitchen bench space.
The stainless steel chassis makes it easy to keep the Bambino clean between uses and the loop-shaped handle for the lid on the water reservoir makes refilling the reservoir feel that much more elegant. As someone who doesn't have a huge amount of space to play with, I really appreciated both this kind of attention to detail and inclination towards streamlining.
Setup for the Bambino was even more elegant than usual, with the entire unit coming more-or-less assembled out of the box. The coffee-making machine also comes bundled with a quartet of filters, a portafilter group handle, a plastic tamper and some cleaning solution. It's a decent haul, though the tamper does come across as a little cheap compared to the one that comes with the De'Longhi Dedica Arte.
Breville Bambino - Performance and maintenance
Operating the Breville Bambino is much the same process as with other manual coffee makers, though I was a little thrown off when the machine jumped right into an automatic cleaning routine the first time I booted it up.
Beyond that, familiar territory awaits. You slide the handle in, select either a single or double shot and watch the magic happen. There are a total of four keys here, with the remaining two buttons handling hot water and steam output on the built-in foaming wand.
The Bambino is naturally a little louder in action than something that works with coffee pods. However, relative to other manual machines I've used in the past, I found the hardware to be relatively subdued when it came to the noise it produced during use.
As with machines like the aforementioned Dedica Arte, the Breville Bambino's smaller form-factor does come with a fairly significant caveat. It lacks a built-in grinder. Unless you're keen to keep to pre-ground beans, you'll need to pair the machine up with a grinder to get the best use out of it.
Your mileage with that detail may vary. As someone who already owns a dedicated coffee bean grinder, it wasn't much of a barrier to either my usage or enjoyment of the Breville Bambino. Once I had made it over the hump of having familiarised myself with the layout of the unit, it was smooth sailing.
The Breville Bambino consistently and quickly produced delicious and invigorating espresso whenever I needed it to. That said, the portafilters could be frustratingly tight-fisted in their attachment to the group handle. Compared to the loose filters on the Sunbeam Barista Max, this quality made emptying used beans fast and easy. Less good: I managed to cut myself or rip a fingernail while pulling used filters out of the handle more than once.
Filters aside, the Breville Bambino itself only requires a quick wipe-down between uses. Same goes for the milk wand. Every so often, you'll have to slide out and empty the drip tray.
Even if this process is fairly analogous to other manual espresso setups, there's an impressive elegance and simplicity to the execution here. It's minimal fuss, with every aspect of both operation and maintenance boiled down into a single elegant motion.
On top of being easy to clean, the milk wand on the Bambino also offers up an impressive degree of flexibility, easily allowing you to fit it inside larger vessels when needed.
While dedicated and automatic milk frothers (like this one from Nespresso) do allow for worry-free and more consistent milk frothing, the advantage that a wand like the one found here offers is the opportunity to get good at foaming the milk that goes into your espresso-based beverage of choice and the ability to better compensate for the lower boiling point of plant-based milks. I recently changed over to almond milk, so that latter point proved to be particularly useful to me.
Is the Breville Bambino worth buying?
The Breville Bambino isn't a coffee machine that comes accompanied by a laundry list of bells and whistles. You're not going to find a built-in grinder here, nor are you going to find a fancy LED touch-screen with pre-programmed recipes.
Fortunately, this sense of focus has obvious upsides. If you're after a space-saving yet solid manual espresso machine, the Bambino sets a high bar.
It's a tad too expensive for those who might prefer the potential savings of pod machines like the Nespresso Vertuo Next or beginners looking for a way to dip their toes into the world of home espresso. On the other hand, if you don't mind that little bit of friction between you and your next brew, the Breville Bambino is a delightful way to turn that task into a little treat.
How does the Breville Bambino compare?
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|15 bars||Manual espresso w/ grinder||See it at Amazon|
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|19||Manual espresso w/ grinder||See at Bing Lee|
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|15 bars||Pod coffee||See it at Amazon|
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|15 bars||Automatic espresso w/ grinder||See it at Delonghi|
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|15 bars||Automatic espresso w/ grinder||See at Amazon|
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|15 bars||Manual espresso||See at Amazon|
How we review coffee machines
The short answer: by making (and drinking) a lot of coffee. The longer one: We spend some serious time not just using the coffee machines we review, but also thinking about the type of users they're for. We don't just read and regurgitate a spec-sheet. We take stock of what the landscape looks like, and how machines like the Sunbeam Barista Max fit into it.
Even if there are clear differences between home espresso machines like this one and cheaper pod-based options, those differences can be bridged by a thorough assessment of how successful both approaches fare when it comes to solving the problem of delivering the quality homemade coffee possible with as little effort as possible.
For a full breakdown of our approach to reviewing coffee machines, visit this page.
Breville Bambino coffee machine FAQ
The Breville Bambino Plus boasts a larger form-factor that accommodates more buttons plus a bigger drip tray and water reservoir. It also features a more advanced steam wand that allows for automatic milk texturing.
While the functionality and performance of the two machines is mostly identical when it comes to espresso, the Breville Bambino Plus boasts a few extra bells and whistles that enthusiast users may appreciate. However, those additions do come at a cost to the compact form-factor that makes the standard Bambino stand out.
The Breville Bambino cannot grind coffee beans. It does not have a built-in grinder.
The Breville Bambino is very straightforward to clean. A quick wipe-down between uses is all it takes.