Do you dream of being a barista and showing off your coffee-making skills to all and sundry? Sage is our favourite maker of bean-to-cup coffee machines and its Oracle Touch and Barista Touch machines are works of art. They are just that teensy bit on the pricey side, however – the Oracle, at the best price we can find right now, will set you back the best part of £2000. The SES500BSS Bambino Plus coffee machine, by contrast, can be yours for well under £350.
The good news is that much of the tech involved is very similar to what's in the more expensive Sage machines, and could help propel you to the lofty heights of champion barista – it's okay, the technology means you don't need to be hugely skilful – it'll just look like your are.
The Sage Bambino Plus has been our office coffee machine for the last few months, and it is as easy to use as it is compact and stylish. But what’s the actual coffee like, you’re probably wondering? Well, when fed ground beans of suitable quality, it's up there with the best espresso machines on the market. It might even push your favourite coffee bar into touch because the seductive Sage piles on a sizeable 19-22 gram dose of coffee, with different filter baskets specifically for freshly ground or pre-ground beans. That’s decent.
We love the fact that there’s a fast heat-up period of no more than 5 seconds, and while it's only a single boiler, so you can't pull a shot of coffee while frothing milk at the same time, it's hardly a great hardship to wait 25-30 seconds for your espresso before moving on to the heated and microbubble-packed milk for your latte, cappuccino or flat white.
If you’re short on time, patience and caffeine too then the Sage Bambino Plus may be the ideal solution.
The digital temperature control means you get consistent brewing results over time, but it's the fine and dandy milk steaming wand that's the real tech star of the show. With just a few button presses you get café-quality espresso with plenty of crema, and steamed milk of your desired frothiness (that's the technical word). It looks like you're a genius, but really the machine is doing the clever stuff. It's okay, we won't tel anyone.
Brewing up your favourite cup of Joe requires only a few button presses and little else in the way of manual labour, although you will need to give it a rinse and a wipe afterwards.
Inside the box there are those all-important accessories for getting the job done, with a 'special' Milk Texturing Jug (it's a steel jug, basically), a 'razor' and tamper for ensuring exactly the right amount of ground coffee is compacted into the filter basket, and various cleaning tools.
Perhaps best of all though is the fact that this is an unusually affordable Sage gadget, and they don’t normally come cheap. Despite that, while the Bambino is certainly much lighter than its flagship machines, it still feels well made and tough. Nice one, Sage.