Considering to upgrade my Bambino Plus

Recommendations for buyers and upgraders from the site's members.
Tiekone
Posts: 6
Joined: 2 months ago

#1: Post by Tiekone »

Hello to Everyone. I am based in London, UK. I am Considering to upgrade my Bambino Plus which I modded with a IMS shower screen, bottomless portafilter and IMS competition 14g basket. Having started my espresso journey 1 year ago I am quite happy with what I have at the moment but always thinking about the next move into the real espresso.
I would say we use the machine every day for steaming (my partner uses the steamer for some milk based drinks without coffee) and 4 days a week for espresso too. So let's say 11/15 espresso and 20/25 steam sessions a week.
I have a manual grinder (J-Max) and my coffee is usually regular medium/dark roasted like Lavazza, I sometimes buy freshly roasted but I am not yet so refined in my taste to justify the 4x price differential.
I have limited space on my counter and considering compact size a very important decision factor.
First question : Does it make sense to upgrade from a Bambino to a more pro-sumer real machine in the 800/1100 £ range? Is the quality of the shots really that much better?
Second : I think I decided that IF I upgrade I will go for a E61 style machine.
I selected 7 potential "candidates" which match the budget and the size that I think is an important factor : Bellezza Chiara Pid , Bezzera BZ10, Lelit Mara x, Profitext Pro 400, Stone Espresso, VBM domobar Junior and VBM domobar Junior 2B.
Here is a table with the "Candidates"


I already spent a bit of time on this project and I think I am leaning towards Mara X but my I am also very attracted by the Domobar Junior 2B given the £860 price tag that I think will manage to get.
The Lelit Mara offers more temperature control but limited control on preinfusion compared to the Domobar and the size is the Same. I also like the idea of the Stone espresso which is also similarly compact but no control over temperature and no preinfusion I think is not good enough even if £830 is quite cheap.
I think Profitetc 400 I on the table but it's slightly too big for my space. Bellezza Chiara PID sounds perfect but what about the quality?

Thank you for any advice from experienced coffee lovers in advance.

Diego

Quester
Posts: 592
Joined: 8 years ago

#2: Post by Quester »

Getting a new machine is a nice step, and it's exciting. Do it. You may not like what I'm going to suggest next, but if you are interested in making better coffee, consider investing in high-quality beans first. It will likely make much more of a difference than a new machine. Or, at least try some top roasters (as suggested by members here) for a few months and see how much difference you notice. My daughter tried well over a hundred different beans from a wide variety of roasters on her Breville Infuser. There are a few tweaks that help get better results on a low-end machine like that, but the difference between shots on that machine and my Decent DE1 is smaller than one might imagine.

Since I've not used any of those machines, I'll let the many others here who have speak up.
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Jeff
Team HB
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Joined: 19 years ago

#3: Post by Jeff »

On the core question, a solid machine in that price range can have better repeatably and adjustability than the Bambino. Better repeatability can mean that changes you make are more evident in a cup or two. Also, those "I didn't change anything but this one isn't so good" shots aren't as far off the mark.

Lavassa is, for a lot of people, a dark roast coffee. Among traditional Italian blends and roasts, there are much better options. There are people that believe that Lavassa "goes stale" very quickly after opening, perhaps as short as a single day. I would explore if incrementally spending even a small fraction of 1,000 £ a year on coffee will get you a better result in the cup. My feeling is that better coffee in a Bambino will easily beat out stale Lavassa in an expensive machine. If you are looking for traditional Italian blends and roasts, there are a wide range available at various price points, such as discussed here at The hunt for best Italian roasted coffee beans

The Mara X is the machine that I'd strongly recommend over the others. It is the only one that you won't have to manage the brew temperature using a flush technique as its PID is effectively controlling brew-head temperature to the set point, not boiler temperature.

The lack of a PID on the VBM dual boiler puts you into an even worse position than an HX as you now have a boiler swinging potentially 5°C or more with no way to manage brew temperature.

Jonk
Posts: 2201
Joined: 4 years ago

#4: Post by Jonk »

I'd suspect the Bambino Plus is part of the reason why the difference in flavor might not have been enough to justify the cost of better beans and I think you've got the right idea to upgrade.

My suggestion would be to keep it for steaming, that's one thing those Breville/Sage machines do pretty good and it's even got an uncommon auto feature. Then you could pick up a Cafelat Robot to do your beans justice :mrgreen:. It's only £300, pretty much as quick to "heat up" and you can put it away on a shelf between uses. You don't need a hulking machine do brew great espresso.

seacliff dweller
Posts: 122
Joined: 16 years ago

#5: Post by seacliff dweller »

My Swiss made 39 year old Armellin with upgraded fluid-o-tech gear 11 years ago just broke with no pump action. First suspect was the gear pump, which cost me nearly $475 at that time. Went to Espresso Parts and a special order new pump will cost me over $1,300 with no rebuild kit available!.
With no espresso machine available, went to Amazon and purchased an Australian designed $300 Bambino as a stand by until my Armellin is fixed.
I am amazed by the heat up speed and quality of coffee coming out of that little machine with thick crema floating on top!
I once bought a more expensive fully automatic Jura (which I had to return) for my wife and even my wife found the quality subpar and it is day and night compared to the little Bambino.
Luckily with further diagnosis, gear pump was not the issue and without knowing the exact cause yet, I was able to get the Armellin working with 3 external switches for now.
Will I keep the Bambino? 100% yes as a back-up. Yes, it does not have temperature control nor pre-infusion (pre set) and pressure adjustments, but still it is a decent machine for the price. Not sure about longevity but IMO, should last me at least for a few more years.

Tiekone (original poster)
Posts: 6
Joined: 2 months ago

#6: Post by Tiekone (original poster) »

Hi Quester. I tried good freshly roasted beans already and I understand that they are better but so far my taste for coffee is not sophisticated enough to justify to pay 43 or 4 times more..believe me, I tried. So you are advising me that maybe does not make sense to upgrade from Bambino and would be better to focus on Bean selection and extraction?

Tiekone (original poster)
Posts: 6
Joined: 2 months ago

#7: Post by Tiekone (original poster) »

Thanks. So the Lelit Mara X still makes sense even if it's nearly £250 more expensive than the VBM Domobar Junior or 2B.

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Jeff
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#8: Post by Jeff »

I would say that if you've got reasonably good beans that are fresh and an adequate grinder, the Bambino can turn out a very solid cup of espresso.

Note that "reasonably good" comes before "fresh", though both are needed. Unfortunately, not all locally roasted beans are both good quality beans to start with and then roasted well.

Here in the US, I can get what I consider a very good coffee with a quality roast for around $40-50/kg, which is about a month's worth of coffee for me. While that isn't the $10/kg price of Lavassa, around £10 a week for coffee doesn't seem like a lot to spend to get something you enjoy a lot more. Just as an example, Red Brick Espresso is at £13 / 350 g on the Square Mile website. I'm not saying that is a blend you'd enjoy, but it suggests that there are quality options available in that price range.

---

On the Mara X, I would keep one of those that I received as a gift. I'd sell the others without hesitation, if I even could. While they had their time, that time for me is past and some are just wearing a lot of fancy new makeup.

Quester
Posts: 592
Joined: 8 years ago

#9: Post by Quester »

Jeff wrote:Unfortunately, not all locally roasted beans are both good quality beans to start with and then roasted well.
Indeed.