Ninja Hot and Cold Brewed System review: Ninja's super versatile coffee maker tackles all your cafe needs

There's a separate filter made for tea.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Your cup of tea?

This brewer tackles tea too. The Ninja System's separate tea filter can accept both loose-leaf or tea bags. The machine detects the filter when you insert it into its slot. You then choose between herbal, black, oolong, white and green presets to match what you'd like to brew.  

You can brew tea or coffee directly into cups.

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Performance and taste

As drip brewers go, the Ninja Hot and Cold Brewed System is a solid machine. It brews fast, needing an average of 6 minutes and 19 seconds to brew half carafes (rich flavor preset). For this size, it uses about 33 ounces (0.98 liter) of water.

That's not as swift as the premium $299 Technivorm Moccamaster KBT. The Moccamaster filled its pots in 5 minutes, 45 seconds. Bonavita's $190 Connoisseur finished the task at a slower in 6 minutes, 25 seconds. Keep in mind, both machines used my standard test water volume that's slightly larger (40 ounces, 1.2 L).

I ran this water amount through the Ninja system, but that caused it to emit a low water warning before it completed. However, the brewer made full carafes (48.2 ounces, 1.4 L) in 8 minutes, 9 seconds. Neither the Moccamaster nor Connoisseur can make that much drip at once.

Use the motorized tool to froth milk into foam.

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The ideal water temperature (197 degrees Fahrenheit, 92 degrees Celsius to 205 degrees F, 96 degrees C) is essential for brewing coffee properly. Thermocouple readings I recorded inside the Ninja system's brewing chamber confirm this coffee maker gets hot, and fast. For these tests I brewed a half carafe.

ninja-hot-cold-temp-tests

Tests in the lab showed the Ninja coffee maker gets too hot while brewing.

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After one minute of the brew cycle, heat levels hit 137.3 degrees Fahrenheit (58.5 degrees Celsius). By the second minute, that climbed to 194 degrees F (90 degrees C). At this point the brewer lost control of its temperature. When the timer hit the third minute, I logged 204.5 degrees F (95.8 degrees C).

With each consecutive minute I saw temperatures rise higher, landing at a height of 206.9 degrees F (97.2 degrees C) by the fifth minute. Readings ultimately crashed to 194 degrees F (90 degrees C) when brewing ceased.

Despite these swings, the Ninja System achieved solid refractometer numbers. I recorded consistent TDS (total dissolved solids) percentage results across three runs (1.1, 1.1, 0.9 percent). That calculates to an average extraction percentage of 22.3 percent. This is slightly above the ideal range. That's commonly held to be between 18 and 22 percent.

I did pick up a hint of bitterness, evidence of over extraction, when I sampled cups from these test pitchers. That said, it was enjoyable enough to drink. While there was some roughness around the edges, the coffee still had lots of pleasant flavor too. 

Brew "specialty" coffee for latte-style drinks.

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I especially enjoyed the Ninja's specialty setting. Brewed from just 6 ounces of water and 9.2 ounces of coffee, it doesn't make much. What you get though is strong and concentrated. Adding warm, frothed milk (created with the attachment) definitely improved the drink with sweetness and complexity.

Cold brew is not the Ninja System's strength. It steeps grounds in water for just 15 minutes. What it made during that period tasted thin and weak. It lacked the syrupy sweet strength of true cold brew.

The thermal carafe that comes with the Ninja is on par with other appliances. I logged a full 3 hours and 37 minutes before its contents dropped below 150 degrees F (66 C). That's a little longer than the Connoisseur which kept its carafe hot for 3 hours and 31 hours. Of course the Moccamaster hung on for a marathon-like 6 hours.

Should you buy this coffee maker?

Priced at $229, the Ninja Hot and Cold Brewed System is far from inexpensive. And due to its high water temperatures, and slight tendency to over extract its beans, I can't recommend it over the cheaper $190 Bonavita Connoisseur. Even the pricey $299 Technivorm Moccamaster KBT 741 ($290 at Amazon) is a better option if you seek speed and superior brew.

Don't buy the Ninja for its cold brew feature either, because you'll be disappointed. That said, the Ninja System strikes a unique balance between serving solid drip, and tasty latte-style drinks. If that's what you're after then this countertop machine makes a lot of sense.