Sage is one of the most trusted brands for home coffee making. Chances are, if you’re looking for a coffee machine for your home set-up, you’ve considered a Sage appliance.
Sage has different coffee machine options, from filter coffee makers to semi-automatic bean-to-cup machines. The Sage Bambino sits somewhere in the middle in terms of price and features.
It’s a compact machine that charts a path between easy-to-use appliance and hobbyist-friendly espresso maker. If you have a household in which one person wants to learn how to brew the perfect espresso and the other just wants a reasonably easy way to make a coffee in the morning, it could be the purchase for you.
Machine build quality and design
1.4 litre water tank with removable filter
Height to dispense straight into mug
Compact, premium build
The Bambino is a beautiful espresso maker, curved, shiny and sturdily built. We’re testing the model with a stainless steel finish, but it’s also available in blue, black and white. The stainless steel finish definitely looks good but is easily marked by fingerprints.
It has a generously-sized drip tray with a red float, plenty of space to warm cups on top and enough height to dispense straight into a mug. The 1.4 litre water tank sits at the back of the appliance, but thanks to the nifty handle on the top, it’s easy to lift it out without moving the whole machine.
It’s compact, measuring approximately 30cm x 30cm x 19cm. Not only will it be easy to find a spot for it on your counter but you wouldn’t want to hide it away. In any case, this is a machine that should be used every day. If you only want a coffee maker to use on special occasions, you might be better off buying something simple, like a Moka Pot, which is easy to clean and store.
What sets the Bambino apart from other compact espresso makers – and pushes up its price point – is its build quality, its integral steam wand, the accessories it comes with and the thoughtful touches that elevate its design.
In the box, you’ll get the machine itself, which comes with a removable portafilter and water reservoir. There’s also a stainless steel milk jug and a tamper. The latter is pretty lightweight and you may want to replace it at some stage with something heavier and more pleasing to use.
Also among the accessories are four portafilter baskets: two single wall (for one and two cup volumes) and two double wall (again, with two volume options). These create some versatility of use for households with varying levels of interest in the art of coffee making.
Here’s why. Single wall filter baskets should be used with fresh, evenly ground beans. They’ll allow baristas-in-training to experiment with their espresso grinding, dosing and tamping to get the perfect cup.
Pop in a double wall basket, however, and you’ll be able to use older, less evenly ground or lower quality beans and the basket will regulate the espresso produced. You might not get a mind-blowing espresso with one, but you’ll get a perfectly drinkable cup – every time.
There’s another well-thought-out addition to the kit: a filter that fits into the water tank. Over time, limescale will affect the running of your coffee machine – especially if you live in a hard water area. Although it’s pretty easy to clean a coffee machine by adding a cup of white vinegar to the water reservoir and running the machine several times (and then running it a couple more times to avoid making yourself the most unpleasant ever morning beverage) – it’s much easier to forget to do it altogether.
The water filter will last for three months. Yes, it’s another thing to buy but ultimately, it should increase the longevity of a relatively pricey appliance and improve your coffee, so it’s well worth it. There’s also a descaler sachet included, with instructions on how to use it.
Using the Bambino
Hot water dispense option
Manual steam wand
1 and 2 cup volume options
Once you’ve cleaned the machine and added the filter according to the instructions in the manual, it’s ready to go.
(A word on the manual: it’s clear and comprehensive and it’ll give you all the information you need to get your machine up and running, adjust the settings and figure out where you’re going wrong if you’re an espresso-making novice. Manuals aren’t always this helpful and it can make a difference.)
The Bambino’s control panel is straightforward and attractively designed. There are two buttons for coffee dispensing: one for a single cup and one for two cups (or a stronger coffee). Plus, there are two buttons to control the steam wand: one to dispense hot water (90°C) for longer coffees, and one for steaming milk.
However, you can easily modify the pre-programmed shot volumes and add a pre-infusion stage.
Apart from those options, however, getting your espresso the way you like it is all down to the fineness of the grind, the volume of coffee you use, and how firmly you tamp it down.
The Bambino heats up extremely quickly, thanks to its Thermojet heating system. The coffee is ready to dispense seconds after switching it on – and you can swap between using the steam wand and coffee dispensing pretty much instantly.
Once your coffee is made, it’s on to the steam wand. Generally, I tend to be wary of these in the way that only a person who has repeatedly scalded herself before breakfast is likely to be. However, I found the integral steam wand on the Bambino easy to use and was able to produce impressively textured milk after only a couple of tries. Again, the helpful instructions may have played a part in this.
Price and availability
The Bambino is available from a number of retailers. It’s generally priced around £329.99. This makes it more than twice the price of the budget-friendly Breville Bijou, which is (as the name suggests) another compact home espresso maker.
Both are excellent machines for their price points but the Bambino has superior build quality, heats pretty much instantly and allows you to move between coffee making and milk steaming without waiting for the appliance to cool.
The only thing the Bambino doesn’t have is an inbuilt grinder. For a reasonably priced espresso maker with an inbuilt conical burr grinder and steam wand, check out the Breville Barista Max (currently £349, from Currys).
The Bambino is compact, beautifully designed and comes with all the accessories you’ll need to make coffee at home. It’s by no means a cheap appliance but it is high quality and delivers a very good espresso if you’re willing to experiment a bit, and a pretty good one even if you’re not.
For more home coffee making options, have a look at our round-up of the best coffee machines we’ve tested.
Sage Bambino: Specs
1.4L water tank
9 bar pressure
Integrated steam wand
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