Sage Bambino Plus Espresso Machine SE500BSS

9.6 out of 10
9.6 out of 10

There is a lot to like about Sage coffee machines and one of the things that we love is the depth of thought that goes into how each machine looks.

Of course, the most important thing is the quality of coffee that gets produced but all too often manufacturers either treat aesthetics as a secondary thought or they give it absolutely no thought at all ending up with an appliance that looks like something from the 1970’s that got transported into the present day.

Sage on the other hand are refreshingly aware of the importance of creating something that you want to buy before you even know if it is going to do the job you are buying it to do.

It’s a bit like a Porsche, you may have never driven one but you know that you want one just by looking at it.

Any Sage coffee machine is specifically targeted at the consumer that understands that creating a great coffee requires an element of human interaction to tweak and caress the coffee to in order that you can experience something that you can savour and enjoy, not just something you guzzle down like a glass of water.

If it was as easy as pressing a button to perfect the coffee process then you would not have a series of people in your local Starbucks grinding away at the beans and manually inserting the coffee into the machine and manually steaming the milk.

Can you make a good coffee this way? Sure you can but it’s not quite the same as performing the process yourself. If it’s convenience that you are looking for but you understand the importance of grinding the beans just before brewing then you can take a look at our bean to cup recommendations where the whole thing is taken care of for you with just the touch of a button.

Sage espresso machines on the other hand are for people that understand the taste of a good espresso and realise that producing a REALLY good cup of coffee requires a balance between full automation and manual skill.

You can easily spend well over a thousand pounds on a Sage coffee machine dependant on the level of features that you want to enjoy and how close you want to be able to get to a true coffee shop experience.

In fact, due to the general lack of experience of the staff that you find in most of the high street coffee chains who just tend to give you a pint of milk with some coffee when you ask for a large latte, with Sage’s more expensive machines like the Dual Boiler Pro or The Oracle you will be creating a coffee that far exceeds what you will be served up on the high street and at a fraction of the price as well.

The Sage Bambino Plus is one of Sage’s entry level coffee machines that allows the discerning coffee drinker an opportunity to learn how to craft a great espresso without breaking the bank.

You can learn about dose control and grinding and tamping and other nuances that enhance the overall coffee experience beyond just being served up some of the brown stuff in a glass.

Overall Score 9.6/10

Design 10/10

Like all of Sage’s coffee machines a huge emphasis has been placed on creating a device that looks like a luxury indulgence as well as performs like one and the Bambino Plus is no different.

Sage have combined 3 colours and 3 different textures to create an alluring appliance that has a simple beauty about it.

A brushed stainless-steel body combines with shiny chrome that covers 95% of the coffee machine and the black is cleverly blended in on the handle of the portafilter, part of the steam nozzle and the base. It’s a very classy but understated look

This machine measures up at 26cm wide, 30cm deep and 33cm tall. This is a really compact machine with a tiny footprint for an espresso machine of this quality.

If you are looking for something that you can use to create a coffee rather than just produce one but you don’t have a lot of space or don’t want it to dominate the work surface then the Bambino Plus will certainly fit in most spots within any kitchen.

Functionality 9/10

The first thing to note is that in order to keep the price down this machine does not come with a built in grinder so you will need to use pre ground coffee or grind fresh beans yourself.

If you are going to create a great espresso yourself, we would recommend grinding the beans yourself and just before brewing to ensure maximum freshness and flavour

For the best coffee get yourself a burr grinder to ensure that the beans are crushed for consistency of grind and not chopped. You don’t have to buy one of Sage’s grinders to get a good grind. Sage’s one is expensive but it is really good. You can see the Smart Grinder Pro here.

The water tank in the Bambino Plus is surprisingly large for a machine so small. It holds up to 1.8 litres of water so it will be longer before you have to add more water compared to other larger machines.

You will get a warning light when the water is really low so you can’t burn out any of the internal elements by mistake.

A lot of coffee machines of this type take between 30-60 seconds to warm up before use but incredibly Sage have found a way to make this ready for use in 3 seconds so no standing around waiting for the machine to be ready for use.

It’s always good to have everything brought up to temperature to get the right temperature overall for your coffee so we would recommend putting the portafilter in without any coffee and an empty glass below. Press the one cup button to push hot water through the portafilter into the glass and it will heat everything up to a good temperature. Not a necessity of course but we are a bit nerdy.

For a machine that allows you to create a coffee rather than just produce one, it only has a few basic buttons but they allow you to do everything that you need to do in order to tailor your drink just how you like it.

The one cup or two cup button are self-explanatory. Just use the large filter for two cups and the smaller one for one cup. Personally I always use the large one and press the two cup button because I like a nice strong double shot every coffee I have.

You get to control the temperature of the coffee as well with 3 different settings that you control with one button – low, medium and high.

The same applies to milk temperature. One button for low, medium and high. very simple but very effective.

A really great feature with this coffee machine is the fully automatic milk heating function that works by simply placing the jug on the base of the machine. There is a sensor below the stem wand, in the base, that knows when the milk has reached the temperature that you have selected and it will shut off automatically when that temperature is reached. Brilliant.

No thermometer required and no scorched hands from holding a hot jug trying to work out if it is hot enough.

It comes with a coffee tamper to push the ground coffee down so that it is compressed correctly so that you get a good coffee extraction. This is something that is regularly overlooked but it is definitely important.

You will also get a jug that is just the right size for this machine and it has a minimum and maximum fill line so you don’t go over or under. Always be aware that the milk will double in volume from cold to fully heated.

So that you can understand the kind of thing that you get when you buy a Sage coffee machine that you don’t get with other machines, the Bambino plus has a pre infusion feature.

On most machines when you press the start button it forces water through the coffee and into the cup all in one go but with this machine it’s a two-step process. Firstly, the water soaks the coffee slowly, then there is a delay before the water is finally pushed through the coffee and into the cup. What this does is ensure a more even a full coffee extraction. A small thing, but small things matter if you want a great cup of coffee This all happens within a few seconds so you won’t even notice.

Pre infusion is the kind of thing you pay a little bit more for that other manufacturers don’t bother with because they don’t think you will notice but Sage actually really care about producing a great cup of coffee.

A 2 year warranty also gives you peace of mind although we would certainly expect it to last a lot longer than that.

Ease of use 10/10

Once you have the milk and water temperature set as you like it then you just need to press one button to deliver your coffee. You get to create your own coffee but in very easy way.

Once you add in that the milk will heat on its own and stop when ready at the correct temperature the Bambino plus receives full marks for ease of use.

Quality of coffee 10/10

With Sage coffee machines you are creating coffee not making it so make sure that you get great coffee to use with.

A great coffee machine is only as good as the coffee you use so get some fresh beans that have been roasted in the last 4 weeks and they will be the perfect complement for this machine

Value For Money 9/10

If you are looking to create your own coffee experience then this entry level Sage machine is well worth considering.

If you are on a budget but you want a PROPER coffee machine and understand that you have to pay a bit for the great features mentioned above that will help you to create a coffee that is better than you will get in a coffee shop then the Bambino Plus from Sage is right up there.