If you’re thinking about investing in an easy-to-use coffee maker, there are lots of options out there. So how do you narrow them down?
Here, two of the most popular lines go head to head. It’s the Ninja Coffee Bar vs Nespresso. Take a look and find out how they compare.
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Range of options
The first thing to note is that both brands offer a range of different machines. Prices and specifications vary widely.
To make things even more complicated, Nespresso collaborates with other manufacturers like Breville, KitchenAid, and DeLonghi. In this comparison, we’re going to focus on Nespresso’s own-brand machines. This YouTube video from Seattle Coffee Gear gives a helpful overview of what’s available.
All this variety makes comparing the two lines quite tricky. Happily, there are some common features to help you decide which is likely to suit you best.
One cup or two?
One of the features that unite all the Nespresso machines is that they’re designed to serve a single cup of coffee. A simple press of a button and your drink will be ready in moments.
The range of options varies according to the machine. The most basic models – the Nespresso Mini, for example – offer just two serving sizes. There are a 1.4-ounce espresso and a 4-ounce lungo.
At higher price points you’ll get more options. The Evoluo, for example, from Nespresso’s newer range of Vertuo machines, can brew five different sizes. A single or double espresso, gran lungo, coffee, and alto cover everything from 1.35 to 14 ounces.
The really clever thing about the Ninja Coffee Bar, though, is its versatility. All of the models offer the choice of single servings or a carafe. If you’re usually a solitary coffee drinker but sometimes want a carafe for the table, it’s a great option.
There are three different serving sizes for a single cup – cup, extra-large cup, and travel mug. Then for communal coffee drinking, there’s the extra-large “multi-serve”, as well as half and full carafe options.
The Ninja also has a warming plate to keep your coffee hot for up to two hours after it’s been brewed. Beware though: leave it for too long and it may be hot, but it will also be stale.
The speed of the Nespresso has some advantages here. You may not be able to pass around a carafe to share, but if you want another cup you have only to push a button. Your drink will be served hot and fresh in a matter of seconds.
The raw ingredients
Nespresso machines are very picky about what kind of coffee they need. They’re designed to be used with Nespresso capsules. And unlike other single-serve coffee makers that accept compatible capsules, other brands just won’t work.
There are plenty of coffee flavors available, but you’ll inevitably be more restricted with a Nespresso than other machines.
What’s more, you can’t buy the capsules in supermarkets. Makers Nestlé preserves their aura of exclusivity by making them available only online or in dedicated high street “boutiques”. And of course, that also keeps prices high.
So if you’re thinking of investing in a Nespresso, make sure you do your homework first. Sample a range of capsules to make sure you like what you’ll be buying. And make sure you know how much it’s going to cost you to keep your supply of pods topped up.
But what about the Ninja Coffee Maker?
Well, you won’t be able to use Nespresso pods with it. So if you’ve come across the perfect flavor in your research, you’ll be out of luck. Don’t worry, though, because the rest of the coffee world is your oyster.
Although the Ninja offers single servings, it’s a pod-free experience. That means you can use any coffee bean that takes your fancy.
For the best flavor, you’ll need to invest in a burr grinder and grind the beans yourself just before brewing. In our opinion, the coffee you’ll get knocks spots off the Nespresso. But – and it’s a big but – it’s going to take more time and effort.
There’s nothing to stop you using pre-ground coffee in your Ninja, but the results will be inferior. Many of the flavors and aromatics of coffee are lost within minutes of grinding.
Nespresso locks in some of those flavors in those little pods. It’s not the same as grinding your coffee fresh – but they are a lot more convenient. So if you’re looking for a balance between ease of use and taste, a Nespresso machine could be the better option.
Espresso or more?
What kind of coffee drinker are you? Do you love a quick shot of espresso to wake you up in the morning? Or do you enjoy lingering over a creamy cappuccino in the afternoon?
A Nespresso will give you a hit of espresso with a decent crema. The coffee is extracted under high pressure in a similar way to a traditional espresso machine.
The Ninja doesn’t use pressure in the same way. It has a range of clever settings that allow you to intensify the flavor, but it’s not an authentic espresso.
When it comes to milk-based drinks, on the other hand, the Ninja really delivers. Every model has a built-in frother that allows you to create flat whites, lattes, and cappuccinos in the comfort of your own home.
Nespresso has considered milk lovers too. Its Aeroccino is a separate gadget for automatic milk frothing. There are different versions, with more advanced options having up to four settings. So whether you want microfoam for your latte, or thick froth to top your cappuccino, it can deliver (1).
You’ll have to froth the milk as a separate step, though. So making your latte will take you a bit longer with simpler Nespressos than with the Ninja.
But at the top end of the Nespresso range, a number of machines have built-in frothers. The CitiZ&Milk has an Aeroccino built-in. And the Lattissima Pro has an integrated milk carafe with a one-touch operation for a cappuccino or latte macchiato. It even has an automatic cleaning function for the carafe.
Ice, ice baby
If you enjoy an iced coffee on a hot day, both the Nespresso and the Ninja can deliver.
Nespresso makes a specialist range of iced coffee pods. They’re designed to keep the flavor bold even when brewed over ice.
The Ninja has its own custom “over ice” brewing program. You can use your usual coffee, and the machine will brew extra strong. Take a look at how it’s done in this YouTube video.
There’s also a specialist “hot and cold”22-ounce drinks tumbler especially for your iced coffee. It’s designed to avoid condensation and is watertight so you can drink on the go.
There are plenty of other coffee recipes for the Ninja too. Select from its range of brewing profiles and experiment with different coffees for your very own signature drink. The ability to customize your beverage is something you just won’t get with a Nespresso.
The pod-free nature of the Ninja is a huge plus if you’re environmentally aware. There are none of those plastic pods to dispose of (2).
Nespresso, though, has less of a disastrous impact on Mother Nature than some other capsule-based coffee brands. That’s because the capsules are made of aluminum instead of plastic. In theory, that should make them easy to recycle. In practice, they’re too small to be handled by most recycling plants.
That means it’s going to take a bit more effort to avoid them ending up in the landfill. One option is to take your empty pods to a Nespresso boutique. Do it whenever you top up your supply and you won’t have to make any extra trips.
Alternatively, you can buy special postage-paid bags or boxes that will hold set numbers of capsules.
If you don’t think you’ll be prepared to make the effort to recycle, don’t get a Nespresso. Invest in a Ninja instead and the next generation will thank you for it.
Getting the look
The Ninja may offer plenty of versatility when it comes to coffee styles (3), but the machines themselves look very similar. Indeed, most of the differences between the models come down to the accessories provided with them.
If you’re buying a Ninja you can expect to get a substantial-looking machine with a stainless steel finish. There’ll be glossy black trim and a transparent, ribbed reservoir. We think it looks pretty good on any kitchen counter.
Nespresso, on the other hand, varies widely. Some models come in a range of different colors: black, white, silver, red, and green all feature. So if you’re looking for a machine to make a design statement, you’re almost certain to find an option you like.
Which one is right for you?
If you want a machine that’s really easy to use, the Nespresso probably wins this contest. Remember, though, that you’re going to have to make more effort to stock up on pods. And make sure you have a plan to recycle them when you’re done.
If you want to customize your coffee without having to worry about complex brew ratios, the Ninja is a great option. And you’ll never have to worry about buying pods.
Whichever machine you choose, we hope you enjoy years of quality coffee. Happy brewing!