The Best Espresso Maker for Home Baristas

Learn how to make cafe-quality espresso drinks at home with the Breville Bambino Plus espresso machine.

Breville Espresso machine with the taste of home we tried logo

Nicole Doster/Taste of Home

Late one night my partner asked me, “What’s the one thing in the house you couldn’t live without?” Before I had a moment to answer, he blurted, “I’ll go first: our coffeemaker.” I laughed with a snort at the comment but ultimately agreed. Our Breville Bambino Plus espresso machine has held a firm grip on our morning routine for years. We use it to make lattes in the morning (mine, hot and foamy; his, chilled and sweetened), after-dinner espressos and hot chocolates for the nieces and nephews around the holidays. When we’re feeling especially indulgent, we even treat ourselves to the occasional espresso martini. It’s truly our most-used appliance.

As a former barista, I had always dreamed of owning my own espresso machine. I could never bite the bullet, though, as traditional espresso makers were bulky and thousands of dollars outside of my price range. And while I’ve tried dozens of coffee products to mimic the lattes I served at my former cafe, it wasn’t until I bought the Breville Bambino Plus that I was able to make cafe-quality espresso drinks at home.

What Is the Breville Bambino Plus?

The Breville Bambino Plus is a compact espresso machine that’s great for novice and pro baristas alike. The machine has the same core features as any traditional espresso maker: the ability to make rich, flavorful espresso and foam milk until it’s light and frothy. However, what sets the Bambino Plus apart is its pre-set push-button controls that make brewing your favorite coffee fast and convenient.

What’s more, it has a super small footprint that doesn’t take up much counter space. I’ve designated a small kitchen island cart as our defacto coffee bar and the Bambino Plus fits with plenty of room for must-have accessories like a grinder, knock box and kettle.

How We Tested It

@nickidoster I am simply OBSESSED with my espresso machine. It’s small and perfect for making lattes while I work from home. Also, LOL at my latte art #brevilleespressomachine #mustbuy #coffee ♬ Say So (Instrumental Version) [Originally Performed by Doja Cat] – Elliot Van Coup

I’ve been using this product for about two years and I’ve found it to be extremely reliable for espresso and other coffee drinks as it brews quickly and consistently.

To put my trusty Breville Bambino Plus to the test for this review, I performed a time trial to show just how quickly each pre-set option works:

  • Pull one shot of espresso: 20.98 seconds
  • Pull a double shot of espresso: 24.89 seconds
  • Steam 9oz of milk using the auto sensor: 1 minute — However, I prefer to manually steam my milk, which takes about 40 seconds.

From start to finish, it takes just about 2 minutes to make a hot latte and under 30 seconds to enjoy a shot of espresso. The Breville Bambino Plus heats up quickly, meaning you spend less time waiting for your morning pick-me-up.

To see how it would perform for larger groups, I’ve also put this machine to the stress test of a large family dinner, where it was capable of serving up to eight espressos with ease. I didn’t even have to refill the machine’s tank, which conveniently holds up to 64 fl. oz. of water.

Breville Bambino Plus Product Features

Breville Espresso machine with a mug

Nicole Doster/Taste of Home

The Breville Bambino Plus is more compact than most coffeemakers and espresso machines, measuring just over a foot tall and 7 inches wide. The machine clocks in at 12.6 inches deep. Measure your space if you have shallow countertops to ensure you can access the water tank.

The machine has an illuminated front display with buttons for one-shot, two-shot and steam presets. The milk steaming presets come with three settings for temperature (warm, ideal and hot) and three settings for desired texture (low, medium and high foam). There is a small metal sensor at the base of the machine that detects when your milk has reached the right temperature for hands-free frothing.

The Breville Bambino Plus comes with most of the accessories you’ll need to get started, including a 54-millimeter portafilter, two single-wall filter baskets, two dual-wall filter baskets, a tamper, a stainless steel milk jug, cleaning tablets, descaling powder and a leveler they call “The Razor” for sculpting your grounds into a perfect puck. (I admit, I seldom use the razor as I find it a bit fussy.)

Pros

What we liked about the Breville Bambino Plus:

  • Simple push-button controls for pulling cafe-quality espresso
  • Built-in steam wand with an automatic setting that adjusts to suit your preferences
  • Lightning-fast heat-up time
  • Small size that doesn’t take up much counter space

Cons

What to consider about the Breville Bambino Plus:

  • Does not come with a grinder
  • High price point, which may not be worth it for those who do not regularly drink espresso
  • Routine cleaning can be confusing

FAQ

How to Clean the Breville Bambino Plus

The Breville Bambino Plus needs light cleaning after every use.

  • To clean the espresso maker, remove the portafilter and run a shot of water through the machine. Wipe down the surface and dump the drip tray as needed. I use a microfiber cloth to get the machine sparkling clean.
  • To discard used espresso, you will need a sturdy knock box to remove the grounds from the filter basket. With a few deliberate thwacks, the puck will fall right out. Rinse the filter and save the grounds for gardening.
  • After using the steam wand, clean the surface with a damp cloth to remove residue. Always be sure to return the wand to its lowered position as the machine will automatically run a rinse cycle to prevent clogging. If the wand does become clogged, there is a small pin-like cleaning tool hidden beneath the water tank.

How to Descale the Breville Bambino Plus

The machine will signal that it needs to be descaled by flashing the one-shot and steam button and the two-shot button alternately. This may happen every 60 to 90 days.

  1. Fill the water tank to the descale line and add in the descaler. Stir until dissolved.
  2. Press and hold the one-shot and steam button until the machine powers down.
  3. Place a large bowl on the drip tray and place the steam wand inside.
  4. Press and hold the one-shot and steam button simultaneously for 5 seconds to enter the descale mode. Both buttons should illuminate solid.
  5. Press the one-shot or steam button to start descaling. The machine will purge water intermittently for about 5 minutes. Resist interrupting the process or you’ll have to start over.
  6. Once the machine has finished, empty the water tank and fill it with clean water. Run the rinse cycle by pressing the one-shot or steam button again. The machine will continue to purge water for a few more minutes.
  7. The machine will signal it’s finished when all the lights are illuminated. Refill the water tank and dump out the water in the drip tray.

How to Backflush the Breville Bambino Plus

When the Bambino starts “winking at you” (aka when the single-shot and double-shot buttons begin to alternately flash) you’ll know it’s time to backflush the machine. This step forces water back through the system to remove buildup.

  1. Remove water from the drip tray.
  2. Insert the 1-cup basket and cleaning disc into the portafilter. Add a single cleaning tablet. (I prefer this kind compared to the pricier name-brand tablets.)
  3. Place a large bowl on the drip tray and fill the water tank to the max line.
  4. Press the one-shot and two-shot buttons simultaneously for a few seconds until they both are illuminated.
  5. Press either the one-shot or two-shot button. The buttons will begin to flash and the system will begin to backflush for about 5 minutes.
  6. Once the lights are all illuminated, the machine is ready to go. Rinse the filter before using.

How to Turn Off the Breville Bambino Plus

To manually turn off the machine, press the one-shot and steam buttons. The Breville Bambino Plus will automatically shut off after a period of time if not in use.

Does the Breville Bambino Plus have a grinder?

This machine does not come with a coffee bean grinder.

If you are looking for a quality grinder, I’d recommend buying a burr grinder. Experts say burr grinders help protect the coffee bean’s flavor and achieve a consistent grind. For ease of use, look for a model that grinds directly into your portafilter basket.

I recently purchased the Breville Smart Grinder after months of using a budget-friendly blade grinder and noticed a huge difference. The Breville Smart Grinder has super precise settings that are fun to play with to get the perfect taste. It also is great for grinding beans for French press and other brewing methods.

What are the best espresso beans to order online?

Arguably the best part of making your own espresso is finding your favorite flavor profile. There are so many options for ordering whole beans online that it really comes down to personal taste. If I’m not sourcing my beans from my local coffee shop, I often opt for these two brands:

  • Kicking Horse 454 Horse Power Dark Roast: This whole bean coffee is smooth and chocolatey with no bitter taste. It’s the perfect crowd-pleaser.
  • Lavazza Super Crema: Lavazza is a great Italian brand, and this medium roast coffee is rich, bold and bright. It’s great for drinking on its own or pairing with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for a decadent affogato.

Unsure of where to start? Try a coffee subscription box to get a sense of what type of beans you like.

What Other Reviewers Had to Say

Breville Bambino Plus On Counter Jvedit

Nicole Doster/Taste of Home

Many experts in the coffee community deem this coffeemaker as a good beginner’s espresso machine.

Reviewers rave about their purchase, too. Joseph Qamar says, “I got the Bambino plus instead of a grinder/espresso maker combo because I live in a condo and don’t have much room in the kitchen. It heats up in 3 seconds which is amazing. Temperature is very consistent and the machine produces amazing coffee.”

In his 5-star review, user Seven Bates comments “This Bambino unit is actually worth the hype. You likely watched a bunch of YouTube videos where people were obviously sponsored in their reviews, and you’re likely skeptical. I was too. I took a risk and splurged, instead of buying a bunch of the units in the same range, between $500 and $700 bucks. I could tell by the first cup, that I had made a smart choice.”

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