Ninja is a houseware brand under the Euro-Pro umbrella perhaps better know for Shark vacuums.
Alongside a range of blenders and other kitchen appliances, Ninja also offers a line of the excellent coffee machine giving you top-notch performance at a very reasonable price point.
If you’re only just starting to make fresh coffee at home, Ninja machines are a solid entry-point. You’ll get complete ease of use as standard whichever model you choose. Despite such simplicity, you won’t be tied into buying expensive pods like you need to with a Keurig.
With a deep bench of models to choose from and many of them looking superficially the same, buying a Ninja coffee maker can be confusing. It doesn’t need to be that way, though.
Today, we’ll keep things simple and highlight our 5 favorite Ninjas so you can compare them at a glance.
Before that, though, what makes this particular brand of coffee machines worth your further investigation?
Special Features of Ninja Coffee Bar Systems
- Unrivaled Versatility with Multiple Brew Types
- Unbeatable Price/Performance Ratio
- Auto-iQ: What’s It All About?
- Pod-Free Single-Serve Coffee
- Powerful Cold Coffee 2 Ways
- Unrivaled Versatility with Multiple Brew Types
- Unbeatable Price/Performance Ratio
- Auto-iQ: What’s It All About?
- Pod-Free Single-Serve Coffee
- Powerful Cold Coffee 2 Ways
- Ninja Coffee Maker Reviews
- What is the drip auto stop on a Ninja coffee maker?
- What cleaning solution do I need for my Ninja coffee maker?
- What is the Over Ice brew on my Ninja coffee maker?
- What’s the deal with the Specialty brew on my Ninja coffee maker?
- What’s the best grind size and roast profile for my new Ninja?
- What size filters do I need for my Ninja coffee maker?
- What’s happening with the Ninja coffee bar systems?
- What does it mean when my Ninja machine says FLUSH after cleaning?
- What does thermal flavor extraction mean?
- What makes Ninja coffee makers so good?
Unrivaled Versatility with Multiple Brew Types
One of the key selling points of Ninja coffee bar systems is the fact you won’t be tied into one particular drink.
Most single-serve machines give you only one option but right off the bat you can choose from 5 different ways to make your morning joe with Ninja:
- Classic: A balanced, smooth coffee ideal for all-day drinking
- Cold Brew: Rather than waiting 24 hours for cold brew, let your Ninja do the work in 10 minutes flat
- Over Ice: Brew your hot coffee and pour it over ice for a cool drink that’s not watered down
- Rich: With more body than classic, you’ll get a stronger and more intense coffee in your cup
- Specialty: This coffee is a highly intense concentrate you can use to build out other espresso-based drinks like latte and macchiato without too much fanfare
This array of choice comes in particularly useful if you have a large household and everyone has different tastes in coffee. Rather than forcing someone to compromise, why not treat yourself to a Ninja coffee bar system and allow everyone to get what they want?
The only snag is that Ninja is starting to phase out the more versatile machines making just about every type of coffee under the sun. This is a mixed blessing. In one way, it’s a sore loser but then you can still find other Ninja machines like the ones we review today offering a range of beverages. The other way of looking at it is that Ninja is culling the least effective machines. After all, the more features that are loaded onto any given appliance, the fewer R&D dollars will go into each element.
Even allowing for some of the models being discontinued, if you’re looking for a flexible way to make gourmet coffee at home, it’s hard to beat Ninja.
But that’s not the only one in which you’ll be impressed…
Unbeatable Price/Performance Ratio
If you’re on a limited budget, you might find looking for a coffee machine is hard work. Let’s face it, there are plenty of cheap coffee machines out there but very few will make great coffee and even fewer are built to last.
This type of cheap and brittle coffee maker might suffice if you only make the occasional cup of joe but if you’re a committed coffee hound, you’ll end up with an expensive hunk of metal in the trash can.
Luckily, you can snag yourself a bargain with Ninja coffee makers without taking too much of a hit on build quality.
When you first set eyes on a Ninja coffee bar system, you might recoil as the units don’t look too easy on the eye. We think this is a good thing but why do we say that?
Well, when you’re producing any budget equipment, compromises are required. Would you sooner those sacrifices were made on build quality and performance or appearance? We thought so!
Auto-iQ: What’s It All About?
Auto-iQ is another key selling point with Ninja coffee makers but what does it mean and why should you care?
Also known as one-touch intelligence, your Ninja is capable of measuring the precise quantity of water you need for the drink and brew type.
So all Auto-iQ means is that you’ll be getting all the benefits of single-serve coffee without one of the primary drawbacks…
You won’t be forced into using pods. More on that now…
Pod-Free Single-Serve Coffee
Single-serve coffee is remarkably convenient and cuts back on wasted coffee, too.
Unfortunately, the price often paid for this convenience is being locked into buying proprietary pods. While this gives you coffee in an instant, the cost to the environment is significant. Much of the plastic used in these pods cannot be recycled so pods leave a significant eco-footprint.
Beyond that, the price of pods can get out of hand. If you drink only the occasional cuppa, you probably won’t find the expense a big deal. If you love drinking as much coffee as you can get your hands on, though, be prepared to dig deep for the privilege.
So, all you’ll need to get the best from your Ninja coffee maker is some of your freshly-ground coffee and you’re good to go.
How about if you prefer that coffee cold? Again, Ninja has you covered…
Powerful Cold Coffee 2 Ways
As we mentioned above when breaking down the array of coffee you can make in a Ninja machine, if you’re a fan of cold coffee, you’re in luck.
If you dislike the acrid, bitter, and sometimes weak taste of iced coffee, pouring hot brewed coffee over ice with a Ninja gives you a drink that’s neither diluted nor insipid.
Maybe you prefer the more delicate taste of cold brew? If so and you don’t fancy waiting overnight while your homemade cold brew steeps, why not use your Ninja? You’ll get a serviceable cold brew in 10 minutes flat giving you just one more reason why you should consider investing in one of the Ninja machines we highlight today.
Right then, now you have a decent overview of some of the leading benefits of these affordable and flexible coffee makers, it’s time to highlight the cream of the Ninja range…
Ninja Coffee Maker Reviews
Our #1 Pick: Ninja Coffee Maker with Foldaway Frother
The Ninja CM401 comes with a frother onboard that folds down for ease of storage but what else makes this model stand out? You can brew up an intense coffee concentrate to use as the base for other specialty drinks. From latte and macchiato through to creamy cappuccino, choose whatever takes your fancy.
Are you a fan of cold coffee? If so, this Ninja brewing system lets you brew up fresh coffee over ice without the water-down mess that so often results from homemade iced coffee.
The frother breaks down so you can get silky froth when you want it and no frother in the way when you’re not using it.
You can be equally flexible with brew sizes. From a single cup to a travel mug, a half-carafe to a full carafe, match brewing size to the occasion to minimize refilling while simultaneously slashing wastage.
However you take your coffee, you’ll find brewing as easy as punching a few buttons with the classic Ninja CM401 so why not give this powerful machine a shot?
Pros: Brew up a wide range of coffees from hot cappuccinos to iced lattes. Brew over ice with no dilution. Frother allows you to build out longer, creamier coffees. Rich brew for a more intense caffeine fix.
Cons: Some users experience an error message right out of the box.
Bottom Line: If you want a compact coffee machine capable of delivering a broad menu of specialty drinks, the CM401 from Ninja is a solid choice.
Ninja Auto-IQ Tea and Coffee Maker
The Ninja Auto-IQ is one of the better-looking models on the Ninja bench. If you want some single-serve convenience, you can brew up coffee for one without resorting to pods. This is great for your pocket and for the environment.
As with the CM401, you’ll also be free to brew over ice when the temperature starts rising and you want some refreshment. Here are the 5 brew styles at your disposal:
- Cold Brew
- Over Ice
The 6 brew sizes let you make anything from a single cup to a full steaming carafe.
Tired of coffee or ready for a change? Brew up some of your favorite loose leaf tea when you want a break from the norm.
You get a thermal carafe bundled but this is not dishwasher-safe so you’ll need to buff it up by hand.
With a bewildering level of choice and push-button operation, this is a superb addition to any kitchen and one of the finest Ninja coffee makers up for grabs.
Pros: Choose from 6 brew sizes so something for all the family. 5 brew style for maximum flexibility. Make coffee or tea and enjoy your drinks hot or over ice. Push-button simplicity. Onboard frother for a wide repertoire of coffees at your disposal.
Cons: Single serving is large so you’re advised to use a mug.
Bottom Line: If you’re looking for push-button convenience and you want tea or coffee on tap without spending a fortune, this is one of the most versatile Ninja coffee makers in the line.
Ninja Single-Serve Auto-IQ Coffee Maker with Iced Coffee
This iteration of the Auto-IQ lets itself down on the design front. The overall look is quite cheap and plasticky but if you can see beyond that, how’s the performance? Pretty impressive!
The baseline offering is:
- Over Ice
You can also rack up specialty coffees or Café Forte if you prefer your drinks stronger and more intense. Specialty coffee is a rich concentrate you can use to make some lip-smacking concoctions at the push of a button. Mix up your menu and bring the coffee shop home to you.
Customize brew sizes whether you’re serving yourself or the whole family.
An onboard frother gives you the scope to create long and creamy coffees without breaking a sweat.
Running on Auto-iQ, you’ll get a highly intelligent approach to coffee making at home ideal even if you’re a complete beginner.
Pros: Supreme ease of use. Make robust iced coffee without the dilution that typically spoils cold coffee at the press of a button. Multiple brew sizes for the whole family.
Cons: Several complaints about build quality and problems developing over time.
Bottom Line: This iteration of the Auto-IQ series gives you hot or cold coffee with single-serve convenience but with the freedom of being pod-free.
Ninja 12-Cup Programmable Coffee Maker
If you’re looking for a beast of a coffee machine for the whole family and you’ve got a very limited budget, the Ninja CE201 is a programmable gem that enables you to rustle up a whole steaming carafe of freshly brewed coffee.
When you want to make smaller batches, you can do so without a weak mess. You can also hit pause and snatch a quick cuppa while the carafe is brewing. This is ideal if you’re dashing around in the morning late for work.
The only serious drawback is a disappointing build. We would say in defense that you always need to keep your expectations reasonable when you’re dipping your toes in the budget territory.
You get a gold-tone filter chucked in which saves you money twice over. Firstly, you’ll be free to buy your freshly ground coffee of choice rather than being locked into single-serve pods. Beyond this, you’ll save over time since you won’t need to keep buying expensive replacement filters.
Pros: Make a full 12-cup carafe so great for larger families. Switch to brewing small batches without the coffee being too weak. Keep coffee warm for hours. Program this Ninja coffee maker through 24 hours.
Cons: Design polarizes opinion. Build quality could be improved.
Bottom Line: If you’re looking for the best Ninja coffee maker on a budget, this model is a solid bet. You can brew a large carafe and keep your coffee warm for hours with this superb and pocket-friendly coffee maker.
Ninja Coffee Bar Auto-iQ Programmable Coffee Maker
Last but not least in our roundup of the best Ninja coffee makers is another Auto-iQ machine in the form of the CF097. As with most Ninja coffee bar system machines, you can choose from 6 brew sizes so you’re completely free to rustle up no more or less coffee than you need.
You also get the same choice of 5 brew types including a Café Forte if you like your coffee with more of a kick.
Design-wise, this machine looks striking with a contrast of black and silver livening up your kitchen counter.
The stainless steel carafe thrown in is double-walled for optimum insulation. If you work from home, brew up a large carafe and it will stay warm for hours.
Pros: 6 brew sizes offering ample choice. 10-cup stainless steel carafe has double walls for fantastic insulation. Pre-infusion mode for lip-smacking coffee after even saturation.
Cons: Design not to everyone’s liking.
Bottom Line: A programmable and versatile coffee maker from Ninja that gives you enough freshly brewed coffee for all the family without needing to leave home.
Before we wrap up for the day, we’ve collected the most frequently asked questions about Ninja coffee makers so you’ve got everything you need at a glance.
What is the drip auto stop on a Ninja coffee maker?
This is a feature that allows you to stop the coffee flowing from the brew basket so you can snatch a quick cup mid-brew. Ensure the switch is toggled to the closed position when your brewing is complete. This will stop any annoying dripping.
What cleaning solution do I need for my Ninja coffee maker?
Cleaning your coffee machine regularly will keep it firing on all cylinders. If you live somewhere with harder water, the mineral deposits will scale up your machine so you need to fight back.
You can buy a simple descaling solution which you dilute with water and use in your Ninja. The alternative is to mix up a solution of water and white vinegar. Start the clean cycle and kiss goodbye to all that accumulated sediment that will wreck your machine and ruin your coffee.
What is the Over Ice brew on my Ninja coffee maker?
This is simply the opportunity to pour your hot and freshly brewed coffee over ice with your new Ninja. The settings ensure that you won’t get a watered-down mess when you’re looking for a refreshing cold drink.
What’s the deal with the Specialty brew on my Ninja coffee maker?
With this option, you can generate a rich and intense espresso-like concentrate. Use this to make cold brew coffee or build out a menu of espresso-based drinks like latte, macchiato, and cappuccino. While you won’t get the pressure you need to make genuine espresso, this concentrate is certainly the next best thing.
What’s the best grind size and roast profile for my new Ninja?
You should start with a medium grind and experiment. Feel free to tweak the grind size slightly to taste. All elements of making coffee should involve experimentation one variable at a time.
Personalize things until you have it dialed in just the way you like it. Darker roasts and espresso roasts work particularly well in these machines if you’re making milk-based drinks.
Don’t confuse this with an espresso grind as this will be too fine. A medium-dark roast is great for cold coffee while lighter roasts can work if you don’t want an especially intense drink.
What size filters do I need for my Ninja coffee maker?
The filter basket will accept #4 paper filters while you can also use the carafe to brew freshly-ground coffee giving you plenty of flexibility.
What’s happening with the Ninja coffee bar systems?
Most of these are being slowly phased out by the manufacturer. You can still find plenty of Ninja machines offering robust functionality and plenty of choices, though.
What does it mean when my Ninja machine says FLUSH after cleaning?
Once you have descaled your machine using either a dedicated descaling solution or a mixture of water and vinegar, the display will read Flush. First, you rinse out your carafe and replace it. Top up the water all the way to maximum.
Hit the Clean button and this will initiate an 8-minute flushing cycle. Once the Clean light goes off, flushing is complete. Don’t skip this stage. You’ll have a strong smell and taste in your machine which needs flushing or it will taint the coffee in your cup.
What does thermal flavor extraction mean?
Like many buzzwords used to describe coffee machines, you might be wondering what thermal flavor extraction really means. In essence, you’ll get the highest quality brewed coffee without needing to tinker around with settings or to experiment at all.
Just load up your coffee be sure to follow our handy hints above regarding grind size and roast then your Ninja will extract the coffee optimally without you needing to lift a finger.
What makes Ninja coffee makers so good?
For many consumers, it’s the price that first attracts them to the world of Ninja coffee makers but this is far from the only advantage. Not only will you benefit from a bargain, but you’ll also enjoy decent build quality so you won’t need to replace your machine in a matter of months.
Arguably the primary selling point is flexibility. Like your coffee hot or cold? You can have both. If some family members prefer their coffee weaker and others stronger, nobody needs to compromise if you’ve got a Ninja coffee maker in the house.
Beyond all these advantages, you’ll also get the convenience offered up by a single-serve machine without being forced into buying expensive pods on an ongoing basis.
Well, we hope by now that we’ve simplified your buying decision and you have a good overview of all the Ninja coffee machines so you can choose the most appropriate one for your needs.
When you’re buying any coffee maker, it always pays to take some time in advance to focus fully on what you and your family want from your coffee. If you do this, you’ll have far more chance of getting a machine that delivers.
There’s no right or wrong choice so all that counts is finding the best match with your needs.
Don’t forget to bookmark La Mano and pop back any time you want the lowdown on any aspect of brewing coffee. We’ll continue to bring you nothing but the finest equipment along with as much useful buying guidance as we can send your way! See you soon.