Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker Review
The successor to the Ninja Coffee Bar adds versatility and fun to your morning coffee routine
The Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker is the Ninja Coffee Bar in all but name. The company changed the name, but the two brewers are almost identical, offering multiple brewing sizes, a handful of brewing modes, and even a built-in milk frother. All of these features combine to allow you to brew anything from a caramel macchiato to a simple carafe of black coffee.
Thanks to its increased versatility over plain old drip coffee makers, the Ninja Coffee Bar has arguably left its mark on the industry, with other combination coffee makers from Keurig and Nespresso coming to market in the years since the Coffee Bar’s launch. At $170, the Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker isn’t cheap, but considering simpler drip-coffee makers can cost just as much, it provides plenty of value.
- Six brewing sizes: The brewer can yield a cup (9.5 ounces), XL cup (11.5 ounces), travel mug (14 ounces), XL multi-serve (18 ounces), half-carafe (30 ounces), and full carafe (44 ounces). For the latter two sizes, the machine comes with a glass carafe and features a warming plate.
- Four brewing modes: Like the original Ninja Coffee Bar, the Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker offers a classic brew mode, a rich brew mode (for stronger coffee), an over-ice brew mode (for iced coffee), and a specialty brew mode, which yields a concentrated 4-ounce cup for use in lattes, macchiatos, and other coffee drinks.
- Built-in milk frother: It pulls out from the left side of the machine and can be turned on simply by holding down its power button. The frother whisk also easily detaches from the machine, making it a breeze to rinse the whisk clean when you’re finished.
- Drip stop: The Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker features a drip-stop lever that, when engaged, will stop the flow of coffee into the carafe, allowing you to quickly pour a cup before the full pot is ready if you just can’t wait for that morning pick-me-up.
- Cleaning mode: The brewer features a dedicated cleaning mode with a “clean” button to activate it. The button will glow when the machine recommends you run a cleaning cycle. This specialized cycle, when used with either a descaling solution or white vinegar, will remove calcium scale buildup from the internal lines of the machine.
How Well Does the Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker Work?
Our engineers tested the glass-carafe version of the Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker (model #CM401) and reported that it offers superb brew performance, whipping up a full carafe of coffee in 7 minutes. Its carafe is also very easy to hold and pour coffee, and the brewer does well in our convenience tests, which evaluate how seamlessly you can fill the water reservoir, place the filter, clean the machine, and more.
At home, we set up and used the Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker’s thermal-carafe version (model #CM407) in place of our usual coffee maker. The machine was very easy to get up and running, but we found ourselves having to refer back to the included user guide multiple times to get used to all of the machine’s modes and features. That said, the guide was very easy to follow and the machine worked flawlessly, allowing us to brew iced coffees, lattes, and just plain hot joe with ease. We also loved having so many size options and being able to brew richer cups of coffee if we needed an extra jolt of caffeine in the morning.
However, to be honest, the espresso drinks, while tasty, didn’t rival those from our favorite coffee bar.
Who Is the Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker For?
The Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker is for consumers who are tired of having the same old pot of black coffee every morning and want the versatility of being able to brew a full carafe one day and a travel mug’s worth the next, or a latte in the morning and an iced coffee in the afternoon. It’s also great for consumers who want a single-serve brewer that doesn’t use wasteful coffee pods.
How Consumer Reports Tests Drip Coffee Makers
Each drip coffee maker that enters Consumer Reports’ labs undergoes rigorous tests to make sure it brews a good-quality cup of coffee and will last for many mornings to come. First, we conduct a brew-performance test to measure the brew temperature and contact time (how long water stays within the sweet spot of 195° F to 205° F for brewing). We also measure the concentration of the brewed coffee to make sure it’s not too weak or too strong. We then conduct convenience tests on each machine to evaluate how easy it is to set timers, fill the reservoir, and generally use the appliance.
Finally, we incorporate brand-level data on predicted reliability and owner satisfaction from our annual survey of CR members into each model’s Overall Score. You’ll find all this and more in our detailed coffee maker ratings.