Why I don't Recommend the Breville Bambino Plus
I've had my Breville Bambino Plus for around 8 months now. In that time, I've become quite fond of it. It was very affordable, and it makes great lattes. However, it has several major downsides that can make it a frustrating experience compared to Breville's other units.
Here's why I don't recommend buying the Breville Bambino Plus.
Drip Tray Leaks
Firstly, the Bambino Plus tends to leak from the drip tray. Due to the machine's design and lack of seals around the drip tray, jets of water from the pressure release pipe and steam wand can spray over the edges and leak onto your bench top. Although you can significantly reduce these leaks by installing your own seals (see my guide here), it's not a perfect solution and you may still see some leakage.
Secondly, the Bambino Plus has mandatory cleaning. It automatically tracks the number of espresso shots pulled. When you reach 200 shots, the machine shuts down and doesn't allow you to pull more shots or use the steam wand until you perform a cleaning cycle. This can be absolutely maddening. There's nothing worse than pulling a shot for your morning latte only for the machine to shut down and prevent you from frothing the milk to finish it. I have resorted to cleaning my machine every four weeks, whether it's required or not, just to avoid being caught by surprise.
Messy Cleaning Cycle
Finally, the Bambino Plus's cleaning cycle is extremely messy. If you try to follow the manual, you will quickly discover that its cleaning instructions are completely wrong. The manual says to place a 2L container beneath the portafilter to catch the cleaning fluid; however, the cleaning fluid actually gets ejected straight into the drip tray via the pressure release pipe, bypassing the portafilter and 2L container beneath it. The 2L container serves no purpose whatsoever.
The reason this is so messy is because the Bambino Plus' drip tray is far too small to hold all the cleaning fluid, so you need to be prepared to empty it every time fluid is ejected. The bigger problem is that cleaning fluid is ejected into the drip tray with so much force that it will spill out no matter how good your seals are. Cleaning fluid always gets everywhere.
The only practical way to clean the Bambino Plus is to move it so that its drip tray overlaps the edge of your sink. This allows you to quickly empty the drip tray as it fills up and ensures that the inevitable leaks go straight into the sink. It's still messy and inconvenient, but better than the alternative.
Despite these flaws, I'm really happy with my Bambino Plus. It's otherwise a fantastic machine. Its compact size is perfect for my small kitchen. It heats up very quickly, and makes excellent espresso. However, these flaws make it difficult to recommend to others, especially when Breville's other espresso machines are completely frustration-free.
Instead of the Bambino Plus, I would consider the Breville Barista Express. I've used the Barista Express extensively at work, and while I'm not a fan of built-in grinders1, it's extremely enjoyable to use and doesn't suffer from any of these flaws.
Alternatively, there's the Breville Infuser. I've never used one, but it seems to be the same as the Barista Express sans grinder. Based on that, I suspect it is also free of these flaws—but confirm before buying!
As for me, I plan to hold onto my Bambino Plus for as long as it works, then upgrade to a Breville Dual Boiler.
The Barista Express grinder is perfectly adequate, but only has five grind sizes to choose from. If you're approaching espresso as a hobby like me and want freedom to experiment, you'd be better off buying a separate grinder with more options. Quality grinders like the Eureka Mignon Specialita have stepless grind adjustment, allowing for extremely precise selection.↩