I Tried Breville’s Most Affordable Espresso Machine — and It’s Just as Good as the Fancier Version
Confession: I am deeply in love with my Breville Express Espresso Machine. I have been using it almost twice a day for a couple of years now, and it’s truly elevated my daily coffee routine. It’s such a treat to be able to brew cafe-style drinks right in my own kitchen, and perfecting my hand at espresso making has been a treat in itself (my homemade cappuccino would put your local cafes to shame). But at $700, this machine is undoubtedly a pricey indulgence. So when I found out that Breville launched their most affordable espresso machine yet, the aptly named Bambino, which costs $299.95, I was curious to try it out for myself. I spent the last three weeks testing it out and pegging it against my own Breville Express Espresso Machine to see if it delivers the same high-quality coffee at a lower price point. Here’s how it went.
Breville Bambino vs Breville Barista Express
Weighing a little under 11 pounds, the Bambino is super lightweight compared to the 27-pound Barista Express that’s made with porcelain and stainless steel. Unlike my Barista Express that only my husband can lift, I loved that I was easily able to move the Bambino around, which is such a plus when it comes to cleaning countertops or just clearing space for meal prep.
The machine itself includes a portafilter that’s fitted with a lightweight plastic handle, as well as two Dual Wall filter baskets and a tamper to get that even extraction. It doesn’t come with a dedicated hot water outlet (handy for brewing teas or making an Americano), a stainless steel milk jug, a bean hopper, a grinder, or a filter attachment for the water tank. But at the lower price point, I expected it to be pared down, which in no way impacts the machine’s ability to pull a beautifully robust shot of espresso.
How easy is the Breville Bambino to use?
While most espresso machines have a learning curve, I found the Bambino fairly straight-forward to use. I had to spend a few weeks watching YouTube tutorials and learning how to adjust the grind and digital temperature controls on my Barista Express.
I made several drinks (including lattes) simultaneously with both machines to see how well they performed against each other. Since the Bambino is missing a built-in grinder, I used pre-ground beans from Nguyen Coffee Supply and loaded up my Breville Express with whole beans from Equator Coffees. One of my favorite things about the Breville Express is the flexibility to choose between a single or double shot (for two cappuccinos or one extra-strong latte) and the Bambino has that same option.
The next step was testing the steam wand, which is crucial if, like me, you enjoy lattes, cappuccinos, and cortados. While the Breville Express uses a dial selector, in the Bambino it’s simply a button. Both work like a charm, even on non-dairy milk options that are generally harder to froth.
So Much Bang for Your Buck
For a coffee maker with more bells and whistles, the $499.95 Breville Bambino Plus would be the next upgrade, followed by the $699.95 Breville The Barista Express Espresso Machine. Of course, Breville has pricier options too, like the $999.95 Barista Touch and the top-of-the-line $2,799.95 Oracle Touch Complete. With higher upgrades, you get (ahem) perks like temperature control, digital touch screens, the ability to customize grind amount, filter size, and an in-built hopper and grinder. But if all you’re after is a delicious espresso shot with a handy-and-effective frother to make fancy drinks, the $299.95 pint-sized Bambino is a solid option. It’s also easy to clean and maintain, and if you’re short on counter space, it’s light enough to be packed away in a cabinet after you’re done using it. I also have to call out the attractive design and shiny brushed stainless steel finish that make the Bambino look a lot pricier than it actually is.
So while the Bambino might be Breville’s most affordable espresso maker yet, it doesn’t skimp on the ability to deliver delicious coffee. It’s cute, compact, and relatively cheap, and as my fellow tester (aka my husband) put it, “If I knew they had a cheaper option that’s easier to use, I would have got the Bambino in the first place.” Dear Barista Express, I hope you’re not reading this, because I still love you very much!
Buy: Breville Bambino Espresso Machine, $299.95