Ninja has 4 series of coffee makers, ranked below from simplest to most feature-rich
This review is for the Ninja Coffee Bar with the following model numbers depending on whether they have a thermal carafe, glass carafe, or no carafe:
Important Note: The Ninja Coffee Bar has been discontinued and been replaced by the nearly identical (in terms of features) Ninja Hot & Cold.
But let's not write off the Ninja Coffee Bar just because it's been discontinued. It's actually a well-designed coffee maker that brews something for everyone with 6 different brew modes from concentrated 4.08 oz brews intended to be enjoyed over ice to full 43 oz pots for the whole family.
These are the 5 different brew modes:
As far as the thermal vs glass carafe models mentioned:
Let's jump to our Buyer's Guide below to help you decide whether the Ninja Coffee Bar is for you. After that, we'll get into our in-depth Ninja Coffee Bar review to answer all of your questions.
Both the Ninja Coffee Bar and Ninja Hot & Cold are your standard drip coffee makers with a conical filter.
Most models come with a permanent mesh filter, but they're also compatible with number 4 conical paper filters, too.
The filter basket connects to your typical water reservoir, and the coffee maker 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.
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.
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.
All other brew types will be more concentrated brews and thus be small volumes.
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 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.
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, we can tell you this actually does work. Your iced coffee isn't overly diluted.
If we're picking nits, one complaint we have when 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.
Again, we're picking nits, but, at the end of the day, you’re still making iced coffee by combining hot (concentrated) coffee with ice.
No, but it makes something pretty darn close that will do just fine in your cappuccino or latte.
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?
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.
Depending on the Ninja Coffee Bar model you choose, you'll get either an integrated mechanical frother or a hand-pump frother.
The problem with these frothers? They don't heat the milk as they froth.
How do they work?
The manual frother, which looks like a French press coffee maker, is microwave safe, so you can do everything in that one vessel. And for about 5-10 seconds of aeration, you'll be surprised with how much air is incorporated into the milk. When poured into your cappuccino mug, you'll be 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 pretty close given the system’s price and simplicity.
But a traditional steam frother with a heating element would have been nice.
“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. You can also buy the full recipe book online.
After all, what good is having a coffee system without a whole bunch of recipes to try?!
Let’s take a look at one of the more popular recipes in the book: The Ninja Coffee Bar Cappuccino Recipe.
Deciding on the Ninja Coffee Bar 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.
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.
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.
Click here to download the user manual for the Ninja Coffee Bar CF080Z.
No home appliance comes completely hassle free. Below is our quick troubleshooting guide.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It’s time to descale. You can find a cleaning video for your Ninja here.
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.
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.
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).