Marketed as the Swiss Army knife of coffee makers, Ninja makes some pretty big claims about its multi-functional brewer.
Unsurprisingly, Ninja Coffee Bar reviews around the web are quick to praise its do-it-all functionality.
And it’s true that this coffee bar does a lot.
Supposedly it’ll allow you to replace your coffee maker, espresso machine and any iced beverage contraption you may have with one reasonably compact system.
But is it possible the Ninja Coffee Bar system does so many different things that it’s incapable of doing any of them well?
That’s what I wanted to find out.
Table of Contents
- 1 But First…Yes, This Is the Sofia Vergara Coffee Maker
- 2 The Coffee Maven Rating: 9.2 of 10
- 3 The Coffee Maven Conclusion
- 4 Why get a Ninja Coffee Bar?
- 5 Let’s talk about the size settings
- 6 Ninja Coffee Bar vs Ninja Hot and Cold System
- 7 How Does the Ninja Coffee Bar Work?
- 8 Ninja Coffee Bar Serving Sizes
- 9 Ninja Coffee Bar Comparison Chart & Models
- 10 Ninja’s Precise Temp Warming Plate
- 11 Is the Ninja an Iced Coffee Maker?
- 12 Does the Ninja Coffee Bar Make Espresso?
- 13 How Good Is the Ninja Coffee Bar Frother?
- 14 Ninja Coffee Bar Recipe Book
- 15 Ninja Coffee Bar Cappuccino Recipe
- 16 Ninja Coffee Bar vs Nespresso
- 17 Ninja Coffee Bar Manual
- 18 Ninja Coffee Bar Troubleshooting
But First…Yes, This Is the Sofia Vergara Coffee Maker
First, let’s get this one out of the way: Yes, this is the Sofia Vergara coffee maker you’ve seen in the commercials, and in the commercial above Sofia plays with the heart of a barista she has seemingly broken up with for her new love: the Ninja Coffee Bar.
The Coffee Maven Rating: 9.2 of 10
- Design & Performance: 9.5
- Appearance: 9.1
- Durability: 9.0
- Quality of Coffee: 9.2
- Ease of Cleaning: 9.1
What we like about the Ninja Coffee Bar System
Capable of brewing either single cups or full pots of hot coffee, plus settings for iced and specialty beverages, there’s no shortage of ways to get your caffeine fix all from one machine.
What we don’t like about the Ninja Coffee Bar System
This do-it-all system is bulky and requires a lot of space on your countertop. And while it will brew concentrated coffee for iced coffee and specialty beverages, there’s no doubt you’re better-served getting dedicated machines for those. Unfortunately, that can be really expensive.
The Coffee Maven Conclusion
The Ninja Coffee Bar System is a versatile do-it-all system that (mostly) does it all. In the intro I expressed concern that Ninja’s attempt to create a single machine that could make hot coffee, iced coffee and specialty beverages would compromise its ability to do any of them well enough, but that’s just not the case. The Ninja will please most discerning coffee drinkers with each of its Auto IQ powered brews.
All of this versatility comes in a pretty affordable package, but that means you’re getting a lot of plastic components. Overall, though, Ninja is a proven leader in the kitchen appliance space and I have little reason to expect this Coffee Bar System to fail any faster than a similarly priced coffee maker from another manufacturer.
Why get a Ninja Coffee Bar?
The Ninja Coffee Bar System is designed for people who want variety in the coffee routine. From single cups to full pots, from hot coffee to iced specialty beverages — the Ninja lets you do just about everything.
This makes it more versatile than any other coffee machine available. If you only care about single-serve espresso, go with a Nespresso machine. If you only care about single-serve cups of coffee, get a Keurig. If full pots are more your speed, check out a BUNN.
But if you want to be able to do it all, get a Ninja.
Let’s talk about the size settings
Depending on which model you get, the Ninja Coffee Bar System offers the following brew sizes and styles:
- Classic: Your standard cup of coffee
- Rich: A richer cup of coffee
- Iced: Even richer and intended to be brewed over ice, which melts and dilutes it
- Specialty: Stronger still and intended to be used for cappuccinos, etc.
- Cafe Forte: On older models, similar to the Rich option above
- Cold Brew: A less bitter cup of iced coffee but not as good as a dedicated cold brew coffee maker
Ninja Coffee Bar vs Ninja Hot and Cold System
There are a bunch of different Ninja coffee maker models, but they boil down to two main types:
- Ninja Coffee Bar
- Ninja Hot and Cold System
Ninja Coffee Bar
The Ninja Coffee Bar is the predecessor to the Hot and Cold System. There are several different models of Coffee Bar, and they all brew single cups and full pots of coffee, plus concentrated settings for over ice and specialty drinks.
Ninja Hot and Cold System
The Ninja Hot and Cold System is the updated version that adds a cold brew setting and is a little more compact.
How Does the Ninja Coffee Bar Work?
Both the Ninja Coffee Bar and Ninja Hot and Cold are your standard drip coffee makers with a conical filter.
Most models come with a permanent mesh filter, but it’s also compatible with number 4 conical paper filters, too. It’s connected to your typical water reservoir and has a push-button interface that allows you to choose your settings.
That push-button interface is the secret to the Ninja’s versatility: It’s the portal to the Ninja Auto IQ technology.
Ninja Auto IQ Technology
Choose a size. Choose a brew. Enjoy your cup.
With the Ninja Coffee Bar Auto IQ system, the brewer will measure out the proper amount of water for the size and strength you select.
For example, let’s say you want a specialty brew of concentrated coffee. If you select the single-cup size the Auto IQ system will portion out enough water for 3.1 oz of concentrate. If you switch to the travel mug size, Auto IQ will measure out for 4 oz of concentrate.
This feature is at the core of the Ninja Coffee Bar’s multi-functional performance.
Ninja Coffee Bar Serving Sizes
For your reference (because they aren’t stated anywhere I could find — I had to read the manual) these are the default brew sizes on “Classic” brew.
- Single Cup: 9.5 oz
- XL Single Cup: 11.5 oz
- Travel Mug: 14 oz
- XL Multi-Serve: 18 oz
- Half Carafe: 19 oz
- Full Carafe: 38 oz
All other brew types will be more concentrated brews and thus be small volumes.
Ninja Coffee Bar Comparison Chart & Models
The Ninja Coffee Bar comes in a couple of different models. They all function using the same technology, but some have additional features.
Let’s break down the various models:
All of the above models share the following features:
- Classic brew
- Rich brew
- Over-ice brew
- Specialty brew
- Single-cup serving size
- Travel mug serving size
- Half carafe serving size
- Full carafe serving size
In addition to the features above, the Ninja comes with a few extras:
- Small coffee scoop
- Permanent conical filter so you don’t need paper filters
- Recipe book
Ninja Coffee Bar Glass vs Thermal Carafe
The Thermal Carafe System comes with a 43 oz double-walled, vacuum-sealed, stainless steel thermal carafe which will keep the coffee hot for up to 2 hours.
The Glass Carafe System comes with a 43 oz glass carafe. Unlike the Thermal Carafe System, the Glass Carafe System also comes with a warming plate.
Ninja’s Precise Temp Warming Plate
Ninja has engineered the warming plate with a pretty cool feature — their Precise Temp Technology.
The name is just a fancy way of saying they adjust the temperature of the warming plate depending on the volume you brewed — single cup and full carafe will have different temperatures. For anyone who’s burned their coffee on an overly hot warming plate, this is a simple but much-appreciated feature.
Both carafes come with a brew-through lid, which looks like a funnel and ensures that you get a consistent pour from the first to the last — no single cup should be stronger or weaker than any other.
Is the Ninja an Iced Coffee Maker?
Sort of. It’s not going to brew a cold beverage, but the Auto IQ’s “Over-Ice” setting will make a coffee concentrate to be brewed over ice. The coffee will melt the ice, diluting the coffee to the optimal iced coffee concentration, and then you can top off with ice to get it nice and cold.
From experience I can say this actually does work — the iced coffee is not overly diluted.
If I’m picking nits, one complaint I have making iced coffee from home is that even when you can make coffee that isn’t too dilute, the required melting of ice cubes with a hot coffee concentrate leaves tiny ice cube shards that haven’t yet fully melted. That’s still going to happen with this system.
Like I said, I’m picking nits, but it’s worth mentioning that you’re still making iced coffee by combining hot (concentrated) coffee with ice.
Is the Ninja an iced coffee maker: Yes, you can make iced coffee by mixing a hot coffee concentrate with ice.
Does the Ninja Coffee Bar Make Espresso?
Like the iced coffee method above, Ninja’s Auto IQ technology enables it to brew an even more concentrated, espresso-like coffee drink for use in cappuccinos and lattes by selecting the “Specialty” brew setting.
Ninja is smart in avoiding the word “Espresso” and instead calling it “Specialty” because the result isn’t a true espresso. But still, Ninja does say they can make a coffee concentrate that’s espresso-like.
Can a drip brewer actually do that?
It’s all about the pressure
Espresso makers are able to make coffee concentrates because they mix coffee grounds and water under pressure. Industry consensus is that espresso should be brewed at 9 bars of pressure, though some home espresso makers will advertise 15-19 bars of inconsistent pressure.
Drip brewers, like the Ninja Coffee Bar System, aren’t able to generate anywhere near the required pressure. How espresso-like will their “Specialty” brew be?
Instead of just running the requisite volume of water through the grounds, the specialty brew setting pre-infuses the coffee grounds with water for optimal extraction. The process takes around 60 seconds but the result is rather impressive.
The result is a strong coffee concentrate. It’s not an espresso with rich crema, but Ninja’s pre-infusion and water volume control through Auto IQ are able to get as much extraction as could be expected from a drip brewer.
Does the Ninja Coffee Bar Make Espresso? No, but it makes something pretty darn close that will do just fine in your cappuccino or latte.
How Good Is the Ninja Coffee Bar Frother?
I had never used a hand-powered frother, which looks like a french press coffee maker, until purchasing the Ninja Coffee Bar. Here’s how it works:
- Add your volume of milk and microwave for about 60 seconds
- Push the plunger rapidly to aerate the milk to the desired volume
The french press-looking frother is microwave safe, so you can do everything in that one vessel. And for about 5-10 seconds of aeration, I was surprised with how much air was incorporated into the milk. When poured into my cappuccino mug I was able to get about 1.5″ of light foam on top of 2″ of hot milk.
How good is the Ninja Coffee Bar frother? It’s definitely not as good as a steam frother, but the Ninja Coffee Bar frother performed admirably and gets you very close to coffee shop quality. Given the system’s price and simplicity, I’m impressed.
Ninja Coffee Bar Recipe Book
“The best coffee house in town is now on your countertop.” That’s what Ninja advertises with their Coffee Bar, and it’s a big claim because my local coffee shop has an entire chalkboard of different coffee recipes.
Seemingly up to the challenge, Ninja produces a recipe book of 100 different coffee drinks you can create using their product.
A simplified version of this recipe book comes with the system, providing you with 20 or 40 different recipes depending on the model you purchase. The full recipe book can be purchased on Amazon for under $20.
Ninja Coffee Bar Cappuccino Recipe
Let’s take a look at one of the more popular recipes in the book: The Ninja Coffee Bar Cappuccino Recipe.
- 3-4 single-serve scoops using the Ninja coffee ground portion tool
- Filtered water (don’t worry about the volume)
- 1/2 cup of milk
- Add the coffee grounds to the basket
- Add filtered water to the reservoir
- Pour milk into the Ninja Easy Frother and put in the microwave for 60 seconds
- Pump the Ninja Easy Frother plunger for 5-10 seconds to get desired foam
- Pour the frothed milk into a medium-large mug
- Select the “travel” size setting
- Press the “specialty” brew setting
- Wait and enjoy
Ninja Coffee Bar vs Nespresso
Similar to the Ninja Coffee Bar vs Keurig debate above, Ninja vs Nespresso first comes down to pod preferences.
Nespresso has their convenient capsules, and the Ninja is a grounds-only brewer.
Nespresso’s many machines, like the Nespresso Pixie, are also true capsule espresso machines. That means they actually come with the technology to brew with the proper bar pressure to make what can rightfully be called an espresso and not an espresso-like concentrate.
Who would prefer Ninja Coffee Bar?
The Ninja Coffee Bar is better for people who want a lower cost of maintenance. Nespresso capsules run about $0.85 per capsule, which really adds up. Ground coffee with your Ninja will save you a lot of money over the long haul.
Who would prefer a Nespresso?
True espresso lovers might want to go with a Nespresso machine that will brew a proper espresso with a rich crema. You can still add hot water to make an Americano or brew over ice to get an iced coffee.
Not all Nespresso machines come with a frother, manual or otherwise, so choose your model carefully.
Ninja Coffee Bar Manual
Click here to download the user manual for the Ninja Coffee Bar CF080Z.
Ninja Coffee Bar Troubleshooting
No home appliance comes completely hassle free. Below is our quick troubleshooting guide.
Why is my Ninja not dispensing the proper amount of coffee? The first thing to check is that you selected the proper settings. For example, the small cup setting could have 4 different brew sizes depending on the brew type you select.
My coffee isn’t hot enough. This is a super annoying feature of the Ninja, which probably exists in almost all brewers but is more obvious in this one. It takes one full brew to heat up all of the Ninja’s components, which means the second and third brews are hotter than the first. To help your first brew be hotter, remember that you may be losing heat to your coffee mug. Try pre-heating your mug with hot water as this will help your coffee retain its heat.
My coffee is taking forever to brew. The Ninja is a pretty slow brewer. The single-cup size takes around 4 minutes, which is an eternity in the single-serve game, and the full carafe takes about 8 minutes. If it takes longer than this, try running a descale cleaning cycle.
Why is my Ninja beeping? If you hear beeping after pressing the brew button, check to make sure the drip stop valve at the base of the brew basket is open. If it is, check to make sure the basket is pushed all the way in.
What’s wrong with the delay brew function? Similar to above, make sure the drip stop is open and the brew basket is pushed all the way in. Also note the delay brew function will cancel if you brew another cup before the delay brew begins.
Why is the clean button lit up? It’s time to descale. You can find a cleaning video for your Ninja here.
My coffee is too strong/weak. Because the Ninja isn’t a pod-based brewer, you’re allowed to change the coffee grind volume and grind size. If your coffee is too strong, try less coffee grounds or a coarser grind. If your coffee is too weak, try the opposite.
The permanent mesh filter is leaving sediment in my cup. This is pretty common with the permanent filter as it has a different filter makeup than the paper filters — stuff sometimes gets through. You can try using a coarser grind, but even then there are fine particles that sometimes get through. If the problem persists, try switching to number 4 cone paper filters, which are available just about everywhere.
My Ninja is leaking. If it’s coming from the brew basket, make sure all of the components are fit together properly. If the leak is coming from inside or the base of the machine, call customer service (1-877-646-5288).