Ninja Coffee Bar System Review: Is it worth the money?

If you’ve considered upgrading your coffee maker to an ultimate specialty coffee maker, then you’ve undoubtedly come across the various Ninja coffee bar systems on the market. Today I’m reviewing the behemoth of coffee bars – the Ninja Specialty Coffee Bar; the old version, priced on Amazon at $320, and it’s updated version, priced much more reasonably at $149.99 – to help you decide if this really worth what it’s priced at.

Product Overview

  • Product: Ninja Coffee Bar w/ Glass Carafe (CF080Z) / Ninja Specialty Coffee Bar (CM401)
  • Price: ~$150+ for new model, $320 for older model
  • Cheapest Place to Buy: Amazon
  • Container Size: 4-6 sizes – cup, travel mug, half carafe, full (43oz) carafe
  • Warranty: 1 year warranty
  • My Rating: 6.5 out of 10 for older model, 8 out of 10 for newer model

The official name for the older model (CF080Z) on Ninja’s website is the Ninja Coffee Bar with Glass Carafe, and on Amazon it’s listed as Ninja Coffee Maker for Hot/Iced/Frozen Coffee with 4 Brew Sizes, Programmable Auto-iQ, Milk Frother, 43oz Glass Carafe, and Tumbler (CF080Z). It’s priced at $320 on Amazon, and it’s actually quite difficult to find this exact model in retail – there are comparable models on Walmart.com for around $350, and then there are different, updated models that have pretty much all the same features around the $150 price point.

This Ninja coffee bar does come with all of the features listed, and it makes making specialty drinks akin to those you’d buy at a coffee shop easy and fast. The older model brews drinks in four sizes – cup size, travel cup size, half carafe, and full, 43oz carafe, and the newer one has two additional sizes – an extra large mug, and an extra large travel mug size. The full carafe on the updated version is also 50oz instead of 43.

The old version also comes with a recipe book to guide non-baristas in their drink-making endeavors. Since I can’t find anything stating that the new version comes with a recipe book, I’m forced to assume that it doesn’t. However, many of the recipes are available on Ninja’s website.

The new version does also have the option to upgrade from the glass carafe to a stainless steel carafe, which ups the price to $202 on Amazon.


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My Experience

I don’t personally own this machine, but my brother and his girlfriend do own an even older version of the same thing, that just doesn’t have the glass carafe. I’ve used and experimented with their machine a few times at their place.

I was very impressed with the specialty drinks I was able to make with it. As a former barista, I’ve had more than my fair share of coffee-shop coffee, and this machine made making almost-indistinguishable drinks quick and remarkably easy, even though they were made with concentrated, strong coffee instead of with actual espresso.

I was especially impressed by the milk frother addition – getting frothy milk is essential to making specialty drinks, and it’s really hard to find a good, non-industrial milk frother, especially one that heats the milk as it froths. This one obviously isn’t as good as the industrial-grade milk steamers at coffee shops, but it did allow me to play with the foamy-ness level of the milk too, and switch it up for different types of drinks.

I also thought that the recipe book was a nice touch, and gave me a few new ideas, as well as quantities of ingredients needed for each drink, which of course I otherwise wouldn’t have known, given my lack of pre-measured, Starbucks-specific drink portioning tools.

One thing worth noting, though, is that partly why it was so easy to make all of the flavored drinks in the recipe book we wanted was because my brother’s girlfriend – who also has barista experience – had mini flavor bottles of all of the basic drink flavors on hand. She did have to buy those separately.

Ratings

The older version of this product has only 2.0 stars on Ninja’s website, out of 25 reviews. Amazon, however, rates it at 3.9 stars out of 1,324 reviews. This discrepancy might be explainable, because I believe that a person is more likely to go to the actual maker’s website and leave a negative review when they have a negative experience with it. However, those 20 negative reviews on Ninja’s website shouldn’t be completely disregarded either.

The newer version fares much better in the ratings department, getting 3.4/5 stars on Ninja’s website, and 4.7/5 stars on Amazon, out of 3,564 reviews.

Problems with the Machine

The negative reviews I’ve seen all point to several common issues with the older version of the machine. By far, the most common one I’ve seen is that the ‘clean’ button seems to get jammed and won’t turn off, and the machine doesn’t work properly once this happens.

It is definitely worth noting that my brother’s machine is not currently working either. They bought it about four years ago, and he says that all it needs is a deep clean before it’ll start working again. He’s optimistic that it will, but doesn’t know for sure whether they’re experiencing this same issue or not, but they did just buy the machine circa 2016. My brother did admit, though, that they also didn’t deep clean their machine nearly as often as they were supposed to.

Other issues upset customers have brought up with the older model are problems with the machine leaking, brew cycles ending early, and – apparently commonly after about a year and a half  of ownership – needing to go through multiple cleaning cycles, sometimes for hours, in order to get the machine to work again.

This coffee bar does come with a one-year warranty, but a lot of the issues people experienced seemed to happen shortly after that year had passed.

There were far fewer issues that unhappy customers brought up with the newer model. The main problem I found in negative reviews was that over time, some of the machines stopped filling the cups all the way up, a problem which few of these customers were able to resolve. However, this does seem to be a relatively rare issue, as

The only other issue I could find in the negative reviews of the newer model is that some people had an error message come up as soon as they received it, and they were never able to get it to work at all. This machine does come with a 1 year warranty which should cover that issue.

My Take: It’s expensive, but is it worth it?

If you are a regular at a coffee shop and/or you’re spending $5 per day on coffee, then you’re spending about $1,300-$1,800 a year on coffee. If this is true in your case, then spending $150-350 on a coffee bar that would presumably last you years would definitely be financially worth it, if you’re committed to making your coffee at home, of course, which has become substantially easier with so many of us working from home these days.

In my opinion, the older model should not still be on the market. It’s overpriced and has too many issues that make it too much of a gamble to be worth it.

The newer model is still a bit too pricey for my to justify purchasing this machine myself, because I don’t make or drink specialty coffee enough for this to be worth it for me. Instead – at least for now – I’ll keep working on building my own coffee bar with the tools and accessories I use regularly.

I also don’t think it’s worth upgrading to the stainless steel carafe in the newer model, because – as one unhappy reviewer brought to my attention – that version does not have a warming feature for the carafe, like the glass-carafe model has. The designers undoubtedly assumed that the warming feature would be unnecessary, since the stainless steel carafe would keep the coffee inside hot long enough, but I would prefer the glass carafe, where I could keep the machine on the ‘keep warm’ setting until I was done drinking coffee for the day.

So my final verdict regarding the Ninja Specialty Coffee Bar is that the older version is definitely not worth the $320 it’s still selling for on Amazon, and the newer model – stainless steel upgrade excluded – could definitely be worth it; it just depends on every individual’s personal situation. It’s a great coffee maker, so for those who drink specialty coffee often enough, it’s definitely worth it. It all comes down to knowing whether you realistically would get enough use out of it.

I hope you found this review helpful, and if you have any questions, comments, or your own review to share, please leave a comment below!

13 Replies to “Ninja Coffee Bar System Review: Is it worth the money?”

  1. This review was super helpful, thank you! You made a very good point in that there are probably a lot of those Starbuck’s goers (not a technical term) working from home now. I could see how they would be interested in something like this.
    I don’t care for the glitches you point out re: negative reviews. We have gone through so many run of the mill coffee pots over time. I don’t know what it is but for some reason we seem to need a new one every couple years for one reason or another. That being said, I don’t think I would be interested in this device because it offers too many opportunities for a breakdown.
    I do however appreciate being able to set the concentration of the coffee. I like a darker cup of coffee than my husband does so it would be nice to be able to switch it up. Right now I use a keurig and he uses a regular 12 cup coffee pot. Now that I say that, I am wondering if we can switch that on the Keurig.

    Overall, really great review!!

    1. Hi Teresa,

      Thanks for commenting!

      I agree that this machine is not a great option for anyone who drinks primarily plain black coffee already, as it would take a really long time for it to be financially ‘worth it’ (in terms of cups of coffee made instead of purchased). There are definitely better options out there that should solve you and your husband’s coffee-differences-caused issue. I was initially pretty anti-Keurig in the beginning, but I did recently try their machine that allows you to make either an individual cup (with the pod) or a pot of regular coffee (or both) with the same device. Perhaps something similar, that is of a higher quality, would solve your coffee differences, allow you to consolidate to one machine, and hopefully last you longer than your regular pots. Can I ask what type/brand of regular 12 cup pot you have, that you keep needing to replace so often?

      1. Hi Jade,
        Right now we have a Mr. Coffee. We stopped buying higher end coffee makers. We figure this way if they break down for whatever reason it won’t be as hard on the pocketbook. We’ve had a couple digital coffee makers for the purpose of being able to program it to turn on at a certain time in the morning. But again, we went to the plain jane for cost savings.
        So if you know of a good durable option, I’m definitely open to suggestions.

        Thank you very much,
        Teresa

        1. Hi Teresa,

          I have actually had bad experiences with all Mr Coffee machines I have ever purchased. My mom still likes hers, but both the Mr Coffee machines I’ve tried (12 cup coffee maker and an espresso machine) haven’t worked properly or broke down really quickly. I’d say that the dual-purpose Keurig might be good for you guys, but I use a Black & Decker coffee maker myself. It only costs $20, but it makes up to 12 cups and does have that programmable feature (so I can set it to auto-brew in the morning), which I absolutely love. Even though it’s cheap, it’s really solid and I’ve been using it nearly every day for years with no issues.

          This is the one I use:

          https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01GJOMWVA/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B01GJOMWVA&linkCode=as2&tag=coffeefanat04-20&linkId=76c50e1c3806b9a29036f15e80e2fe31

  2. Good review, Jade, and point taken. For me it wouldn’t be worth it either to buy a complete machine like the Ninja, although it does look impressive.
    I love coffee and always drink it black. No sugar and certainly no milk. My husband never drinks coffee, nor does my family. My coffee maker is a 7-year old Senseo I brought with me from Holland. The coffee they serve in the bars here in Spain is sometimes delicious and sometimes unbearable, so I rarely buy coffee when we’re out.
    I am a lover of gadgets, and I am always impressed by the possibilities some machines offer. So I loved reading your review. 🙂

    1. Hi Hannie,

      I know exactly what you mean; I also drink mainly black coffee, which is why I can’t justify purchasing this machine myself; I just wouldn’t get enough use out of it either.

      How great that you live in Spain! I actually studied abroad in Spain for a semester, and I remember well how difficult it was to track down drip coffee, and how often the straight-espresso served in cafes was – not great.

      Thanks for the comment!
      ~Jade

  3. I think that they should either remove or make some improvements on the older version, or just stick with the newer – and better priced – coffee bar system. I think that this would be a great gift for a coffee drinker like my aunt.
    If you think about the amount of money you spend on coffees in a year (that hadn’t even occurred to me), this is definitely worth the investment.

    1. Hi Christine,

      I agree! I think that the newer models were made in an effort to fix the older model, which is why I find it weird that the older model is still for sale on places like Amazon, AND that it’s still priced at $320, when the newer model fixed a lot of the issues and is less than half the price!

      Hopefully anyone considering buying the $320 model sees this and decides to themselves from a headache and a lot of money by just getting the newer model instead. I also agree that this would make a great gift for coffee lovers, especially for ones who love specialty coffee drinks (and don’t just drink black coffee all the time).

      Thanks for the comment!
      ~Jade

  4. My family and I are coffee addicts, lol. We all drink coffee every day, and occasionally we’ll go out and buy coffee at a cafe. Currently, we have a Nespresso which I absolutely love and it comes with a frother. From what you wrote, the newer version of the Ninja Coffee Bar seems like a great financial investment and is much cheaper than what I own. I have some friends that are on a budget with coffee machines and I’ll definitely let them know about this product! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi Amina,

      My family and I are all coffee addicts too, so I definitely know what you mean! I’ve never tried a Nespresso – do you recommend it? Do you think it’s better than the Ninja Coffee Bar, and do you think the improvements are worth the price increase?

      And thanks for letting people know – feel free to share this post with them 😀

      Thanks for the comment!
      Jade

  5. You have done a good comparison featuring the new and old versions of this product so this helps readers make an informed decision. You also provide so much detail about the product itself and I found this helpful. Thank you.

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