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The main thing that sets the Barista Express apart is its built-in grinder, but it also features a pressure gauge and a level of control that you don’t quite get from the Bambino Plus.
The key question if you’re trying to decide between the two is whether you want to pay the extra money for a grinder. In our view, you need a grinder for espresso. Fresh coffee is essential, so buying pre-ground coffee beans is not ideal.
So if you get the Bambino Plus, you’ll probably have to set some money aside for a grinder anyway. We’ll give you some final thoughts about this at the end of the post.
First let’s take a closer look at these two coffee machines.
The Bambino Plus espresso machine is an upgraded version of the old Breville Bambino machine. It has everything that’s included in the original, but with more automatic features. It’s also built a touch wider to incorporate the added features, but still quite smaller than most espresso machines.
The Bambino Plus is a gorgeous-looking machine, with its automatic microfoam texturing manual steam wand located just to the side of the espresso pull. The steam wand includes temperature adjustments so that you can get the exact degree and texture you want from your milk.
This unit can heat up water in just three seconds, enabling a fast extraction of quality espresso flavor and delivering a delicious frothy drink.
- Compact for your kitchen, but still easy to handle and operate.
- Quickly heats up water and milk, so you don’t have to fumble around in the morning.
- Automatic steam wand creates a nice frothy milk texture.
- Fits large mugs, including 16-ounce tall insulated cups, as well as a tiny standard espresso cup.
- Like its smaller companion, it’s pretty bare bones out of the box. You’ll need to buy your own grinder, measuring tools and scales as needed.
- Drip tray is quite small and requires regular cleaning to prevent overflows. See our post about how often to clean your Breville espresso machine.
Our pick for the best value in a Breville espresso machine, the Barista Express is possibly the best known as well. This one is more expensive than many other units in the line, but its features more than justify the price.
This gorgeous appliance boasts a durable and slick-looking stainless steel body, and it’s a pretty big machine due to all the unique features it carries.
The Breville Express comes with a built-in conical burr grinder that nicely grinds beans from the bean hopper on top. You can fill the portafilter to your desired dose. Although the grinder has set industry standards for shot sizes, the Barista Express lets you make easy adjustments to meet your taste.
- Built-in conical burr grinder sets this model apart from others in the Breville line, making it easy for you to get started crafting perfect cups of in-home espresso.
- Components on the unit are very easy to clean.
- Thermocoil heating system quickens the heating time for making coffee, delivering a delicious espresso taste.
- Easy-to-use frother creates an elegant texture for your shot.
- Although main components are made of durable stainless steel, some other components are plastic. For some people, plastic can be a deal-breaker.
- Regular maintenance is needed to prevent leftovers and messes from gathering, otherwise the machine becomes very noisy.
- This is a BIG machine. It will occupy a significant amount of your counter space.
Making Your Decision
As we said in the intro, you’re going to need a grinder if you buy the Bambino Plus. That might have you thinking, “OK, I might as well get the Barista Express then.” But wait.
You can buy a pretty good grinder for the $300 price difference between the Bambino Plus and the Barista Express. And to be honest, the integrated grinder on the Barista Express is OK, but not great. I bet you can find something better for $300.
In fact, the Breville Smart Grinder Pro comes in well under $300, and it’s a more versatile grinder than the one on the Barista Express. You can use it for drip coffee, French press, pour-over—whatever you like. The Barista Express grinder really just does espresso.
So why not pair the Smart Grinder Pro with the Bambino Plus, or shop around for a great used espresso grinder to pair with it? That’s what we’d do, although these are both excellent machines.