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Heather Bien

Ninja Espresso & Coffee Barista System review — bringing together the ease of pods and the ability to brew drip coffee

Ninja Espresso & Coffee Barista System in modern traditional kitchen with green cabinetry.

The Ninja Espresso & Coffee Barista System is a multifunctional beast. If it could speak, it would say, "Hey, do you want a coffee maker? Here you go! An espresso machine? We’ll give you that, too!" 

I love to use a Nespresso when I’m traveling, but at home, I've historically gone for a more manual method of making espresso. But let me tell you: after a few weeks of popping in a pod every morning and it making my daily starts easier, I’m a convert. 

The Ninja does both incredibly well. If you take the plunge on this appliance, you’ll be slinging coffee in the morning, iced lattes in the afternoon, and espresso for the perfect post-dinner affogato. Ninja hit the nail on the head calling it a barista system as this coffee maker lets you do it all.

Ninja Espresso & Coffee Barista System review

What I thought of the Ninja Espresso & Coffee Barista System

(Image credit: Heather Bien)

Ninja does it again with multi-use machines that make life easier. This
part pod coffee maker, part drip filter coffee maker has made my mornings so much easier. 

I just walk over to this barista system and, quite literally, turn into a barista. I’m brewing a pot of coffee for my husband (knowing it’ll stay hot through all his morning calls), then making myself a latte before I log on. 

Depending on my mood, I might go for a rich brew for the coffee or a lungo (the big guy) for my espresso. Maybe in the afternoon, I’ll opt for an espresso over ice for an iced latte. The bottom line is: I have options. 

Same goes for cup size options. I can use a mug, my best travel coffee mug, or a carafe. I can adjust the tray on the espresso side when I want to use my tiny espresso cup and feel oh so fancy. This machine makes it so simple to customize the coffee to what I want at that moment without having to resort to another machine.

(Image credit: Heather Bien for Real Homes)

Also, this is a small detail, but I love the progress bar. Knowing roughly how much time is left is a game changer in the morning, especially when I’m trying to carefully coordinate heating the milk with my espresso or timing hot oatmeal with my coffee. 

The Ninja Espresso & Coffee Barista System does what it can to save space, especially with the milk frother that folds in and the coffee scoop that snaps right into the side. But it’s not a coffee maker with particularly small footprint. 

I found it’s nearly the same size as our separate coffee maker and espresso maker combined — which is great, but not necessarily a space-saver.

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Ninja Espresso and Coffee Barista System specifications

Unboxing and setting up the Ninja Espresso and Coffee Barista System

(Image credit: Heather Bien)

Ninja does a great job of boxing their machines snugly, but not overdoing it on the packaging. There’s always minimal assembly, which is even more appreciated when trying out a machine like this, which has multiple sections. There was a decent amount of plastic to unwrap and stickers to remove, but it felt easy to follow.

I hand-washed all the parts with a little unscented dish soap (I use 365 by Whole Foods from Amazon), then I ran a cycle for a full coffee carafe. I was ready to make my first espresso within just a few minutes (don’t give me one of the best espresso makers to open mid-afternoon and expect me to wait until the morning!).

Using the Ninja Espresso & Coffee Barista System

(Image credit: Heather Bien for Real Homes)

If you know how to use a coffee maker or enjoy one of the best Nespresso coffee machines already, this brilliant small kitchen appliance will be a breeze. It’s super easy to use, and the Quick Start Guide will answer any questions you have (though you probably won’t even need to pull it out — it’s that intuitive).

To make coffee, fill the reservoir to the amount you want. Then, scoop your ground coffee using the Ninja Smart Scoop, which tells you the exact amount to use depending on how much coffee you’re brewing. 

Choose the style of coffee you want: classic, rich, or over ice. Turn the dial to the size you’d like, whether that’s an 8, 10, or 12oz. cup, 15 or 18oz. travel mug, or a 28, 37, 46, or 55oz. carafe. Hit brew, then watch the progress bar indicate where you are in the process. The warming plate will keep your coffee warm for up to four hours, with two hours being the default.

To make an espresso with perfect crema, fill the reservoir to at least the 8 oz. cup size and pop in a Nespresso OriginalLine Capsule (such as these from Amazon)

With espresso, you have even more options. You can make a 25ml ristretto, 40ml espresso, 110ml lungo, or 30 mL to go over ice for a delicious iced latte. Start the brew, then wait for that creamy caffeine to be dispensed. 

Want to add milk to your beverage? Fill a cup half full with milk. Be sure to microwave it if you want warm milk (this is the one frustration I have with the machine — I wish it steamed the milk). Then swing the frothing arm out, and froth away. Around 30-45 seconds of frothing should do the trick. 

(Image credit: Heather Bien for Real Homes)

How to clean the Ninja Espresso & Coffee Barista System

(Image credit: Heather Bien for Real Homes)

Good news for those who prefer the ease of throwing everything in the dishwasher. Nearly everything — except the machine itself, of course — is dishwasher safe.  You can throw the brew basket, glass carafe, and brew-through lid, water reservoir and lid, frother whisk, smart scoop, capsule bin, adjustable cup tray, and cup tray base all in the dishwasher. A damp microfiber cleaning cloth (like these from Amazon) will do the trick on the machine.

You’ll descale both the coffee side and the espresso side occasionally (I use Dezcal sachets from Amazon), though make sure you have plenty of time on your side. The coffee side will take up to 75 minutes to complete, while the espresso side will take approximately two hours.

Is the Ninja Espresso & Coffee Barista System right for you?

For those who love a hot cup of coffee in the morning and a creamy espresso in the afternoon for a pick-me-up, the Ninja Espresso & Coffee Barista System is perfection. At $249.99, the price point is about what you'd pay for a high-end single-serve coffee maker — but you're getting a small coffee maker that brews in bulk, too. 

However, on the same note, if a small footprint is a priority for you, this machine may not be for you. It does take up a bit of counter space, though less than two separate machines would. Also, if you prefer steamed milk with your espresso drinks, then you may be frustrated by the milk frother and lack of heating. It's something I wish I had known before buying a small coffee maker.

If this coffee maker doesn't sound right for you, try these coffee makers for size:

How we test coffee makers

(Image credit: Heather Bien for Real Homes)

Here are a few things I like to look out for when testing coffee makers:

Water tank: When looking at the water tank, I assess whether it’s easy to fill and, most importantly, is easy to remove (can it be removed at all?) and whether it’s easy to clean.

Operation: How easy is it to use the machine? Are the prompts/buttons legible? If the machine makes a sound, is it clear to understand what is happening?

Type of coffee: What type of coffee does this machine take? Is it an appropriate volume for the resulting beverage? How much waste is left after the drink has been made?

Cleaning and descaling: How easy is it to provide maintenance for the machine? This may involve anything from removing coffee stains to getting rid of limescale.

Functionality of features: Here I may look at any standout features. In the case of the Ninja Espresso & Coffee Barista System, I observed how well the machine made two different types of beverages — brewed coffee and espresso — and whether it prepared both equally well. 

About the review — and the reviewer

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