The Bambino and Barista Express are Breville’s most popular espresso machines. But they look quite the opposite:
- Breville Bambino is a compact espresso machine with a minimal control panel and no built-in grinder.
- On the other hand, Breville Barista Express is a large espresso machine with a built-in grinder, a control panel with many buttons, and a pressure gauge.
Budget-wise, Breville Bambino is about half the price of the Barista Express. Which only makes sense due to the lack of a built-in grinder.
In this guide, I will share my thoughts on why I believe that buying the Bambino and your choice of a grinder is a much better option than buying the Barista Express.
Top Reasons Breville Bambino Is The Winner
– A better heating system that is ready in 3 seconds vs Barista Express’s 30-second heat-up time.
– With the price difference, you can set a budget for a high-quality burr grinder that works for both espresso and other coffee brewing methods and still save some money.
Keep reading below for a detailed comparison of features and design.
Breville Bambino vs Barista Express – The Differences
Bambino with Your Choice of Grinder vs Barista Express with Built-In Grinder
Pros of a built-in grinder
- Easier all-in-one solution
- Made specifically for espresso brewing
Cons of a built-in grinder
- Can only be used for espresso
- Harder to clean and maintain
One of the selling points of the Barista Express is the fact that it has a built-in grinder that you can dose and adjust to your liking. It makes preparing your espresso shot easier and it’s a great feature in an entry-level espresso machine for a beginner.
But here’s where a built-in grinder lacks:
- Having a built-in grinder means you can only use this grinder for one particular job, grinding for espresso.
- Cleaning a built-in grinder can be a hassle. If you ever need to tip or upside-down the grinder to get rid of any coffee residue, you need to deal with the entire espresso machine.
On the other hand, having a stand-alone coffee grinder gives you the freedom to grind beans for espresso or other coffee brewing methods.
Later in this post, I will help you choose a burr grinder that offers a range of grind sizes and performs better than a built-in grinder.
The Bambino uses Breville’s ThermoJet heating system that is up and ready in a blazing fast 3 seconds. While Barista Express uses a Thermocoil heating system that requires 30 seconds to heat up.
Both models have a PID Temperature control. So you can expect similar temperature consistency from the two models.
Design and Dimensions
If there’s one thing Breville does consistently, it’s high-end quality and materials. Both Bambino and Barista Express have Breville’s classic looks with brushed stainless steel construction with minimal plastic parts.
When it comes to dimensions, these espresso machines are two worlds apart:
- the Bambino is 6” wide, 12” high and 13.7” in depth
- the Barista Express is 12.5” wide, 15.9” high and 13.8” in depth
It’s understandable that the Barista Express is twice the depth due to having a built-in grinder and a larger control interface.
When it comes to water capacity, Barista Express has a 67 oz reservoir while the Bambino has a 47 oz reservoir.
Control Panel and Settings
The main functions of both espresso machines are the same:
A button for a single shot, a button for a double shot, a button for steaming, and one for dispensing water.
What are all the extra buttons and controls on the Barista Express then?
Because it uses a built-in grinder, you’ll find controls for adjusting the grind settings, grind amount, and a pressure gauge that guides you on the extraction power.
Barista Express has a ‘Program’ button for manual settings. While the Bambino doesn’t have one, you can still reprogram coffee volumes by using the same brew buttons.
Price and Budget
On average, the Barista Express costs $699 while the Bambino costs $299. (Retail prices sourced from Breville’s website)
Buying the Barista Express at that price, you get everything you need out of the box: the espresso machine, the grinder, and the accessories. So you are all set.
With the Bambino, you still need a burr grinder. You can get a great grinder for espresso and other brewing methods for around $200, bringing your total for the Bambino + a grinder to around $500.
Buying the Bambino with a stand-alone burr grinder will still save you around $200, which you can spend on accessory updates later on.
Steam Wand Design
Both Barista Express and Bambino have a similar steam wand design with a plastic ring that makes swiveling the wand a lot easier to handle.
But there’s one detail that makes all the difference:
Bambino’s steam wand is a single-hole design, while Barista Express is a three-hole design.
What does this mean?
While a single-hole steam wand (the Bambino) is actually not as powerful as Barista Express’s three-hole steam wand, it is easier to use.
With a single hole tip, the jet of steam is directed in a single direction. All you have to do is find the correct angle to hold your frothing pitcher in to get the milk swirling. Using a three-hole top steam wand, the steam is more powerful but can also be less consistent if you don’t know what you are doing.
If you prefer a more powerful steam wand, then Barista Express is the better option. But if you are looking for consistency in milk texturing, the Bambino’s steam wand is the better pick.
Both Bambino and Barista Express include a similar set of accessories:
- 54mm portafilter with a single and double shot, Dual wall, and single wall baskets.
- Milk jug
the Barista Express does include some additional accessories like Cleaning tablets, a dosing funnel, a Water filter, and a filter holder.
I have a complete guide on Breville Portafilter sizes.
Summary of Bambino and Barista Express Specs
|Feature||Breville Bambino||Breville Barista Express|
|Type||Manual Espresso Machine||Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine|
|Built-in Grinder||No (requires a separate grinder)||Yes|
|Milk Frothing||Manual steam wand||Manual steam wand and automatic milk frothing (steam wand and frothing pitcher)|
|Programmability||Limited, no presets||Programmable shot volumes and water temperature|
|Pressure Control||15 bar pressure||15 bar pressure|
|Grind Size Adjustment||N/A (no built-in grinder)||Adjustable grind size|
|Water Reservoir||47 oz||67 oz|
|Size||Compact and space-saving||Larger and takes up more counter space|
|Price||Generally more affordable||Typically higher price point|
|Ideal User||Beginners or those with a separate grinder||Enthusiasts with more control preferences|
|Notable Feature||Compact design, simple operation||Built-in conical burr grinder|
Recommended Conical Burr Grinders
For the price range, I prefer the Breville Smart Grinder Pro the most. It gives you the most value for your money in terms of design and accessories. But if prices at the time of your purchase vary, I would say pick the one with the best deal or discount.
Breville Smart Grinder Pro
This is Breville’s own grinder. Not only does it have fantastic features, but it will also match the design of the Bambino espresso machine.
- You get 60 precise grind settings from coarse to fine (for French press, percolator, pour-over, espresso)
- An LCD display to easily adjust your settings
- 18 oz bean hopper capacity
- Portafilter holder for handsfree espresso grinding.
- Stainless steel burrs.
Fellow Opus Coffee Grinder
Fellow has been a leading brand in the world of specialty coffee. And their Opus grinder is a favorite among their customers for its great value for price.
This conical burr grinder has 41 grind settings for any brewing method. One of its special features is that it works on minimizing grind retention and has anti-static features that eliminate the mess.
While this grinder does not have a portafilter cradle, it does include a funnel that helps you easily transfer the coffee grounds into the portafilter.
Baratza Encore ESP
This is the new and improved Baratza Encore with true espresso grind settings. I personally use the older version of the Baratza Encore for my daily brewing, which I had to manually adjust to get the correct grind size for espresso.
With the ESP version (which stands for Espresso), you are guaranteed to get the perfect grind size for espresso or other brewing methods.
The grind setting range on the Encore ESP is 40. The ranges 1 to 20 are for espresso, so you get plenty of micro steps to experiment with.
This one doesn’t include a cradle for hands-free portafilter grinding, too. But it does include a funnel.