The Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker (AKA CM-401) Review

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Ninja is wholly owned by SharkNinja, a company that produces a broad range of appliances from vacuums to coffee machines.

Today, then, we’ll outline how this efficient and affordable machine stacks up so you can decide whether or not to add it to your arsenal.

The Specialty, also known as CM-401, is the ideal machine if everyone in your household likes their coffee differently.

Investing in a super-automatic espresso machine might give you great short shots, but you’ll be limited in terms of creating any drink not based on espresso.

Conversely, if you opt for the raw convenience of a single-serve machine, you’ll be limited to making one cup at a time and you’ll be pegged into buying proprietary capsules from an often limited selection. And that’s before you even consider the environmental impact of this unsustainable use of plastic.

Instead, the Ninja Specialty allows you to enjoy your coffee hot or cold, a huge advantage over most other machines. You’ll also be free to tweak the size and strength of your brew. As an added kicker, you can use freshly ground coffee and you can brew up a whole pot in the glass carafe provided.

Before we break the Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker down across the categories that count, let’s take a glimpse at the core specifications of this highly adaptable coffee machine.

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I. Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker Specs

SpecsNinja Specialty (CM-401)
ManufacturerNinja
Model NumberCM-401
Model NameSpecialty
Dimensions11.8 x 10 x 15 inches
Weight 11 pounds
Brew Styles4 (classic, rich, iced, specialty)
Brew Sizes5
Milk FrotherIntegrated
Pods?No, pod-free
CertificationSCA-certified
PriceNinja-Specialty-Coffee-Maker

II. Features

Ninja-Specialty-Coffee-Maker-Features

  • Types of Coffee
  • Drink Sizes
  • Milk Frother
  • Delivery System
  • Carafe and Capacity
  • Ease of Use and Versatility

Types of Coffee

One of the key selling points of this unit is the choice you get when you’re selecting the brew type.

Here are the options you get with the Specialty:

  • Classic coffee: The default setting is ideal if you like your coffee balanced and in line with a regular cup of drip coffee. Whether you like your coffee black or with a splash of milk, choose the classic setting first then ramp things up if you need a fuller flavor
  • Rich coffee: If you want more kick to your coffee, choose the rich setting. This ensures the coffee is more concentrated so the size of the drink delivered will be 1oz or so less than a classic brew
  • Specialty coffee: If you want more caffeine and more flavor in your coffee, push the specialty setting. This will be the closest you’ll get to an espresso without a dedicated espresso machine
  • Iced coffee: If you’re partial to iced coffee but you don’t like the way pouring over ice dilutes your coffee, you’ll love the iced setting on the Ninja. Enjoy rich and alluring coffee ice cold on a summer’s day at the push of a button

As you can see, you’re getting a lot more flexibility than many coffee machines offer, and you won’t need to pay a premium for the privilege.

It’s not just in terms of the brew type you get such variety, though…

Drink Sizes

You can make everything from a single cup of joe through to a whole steaming carafe, so you’re spoiled for choice with the Ninja Specialty.

Here are the options you’ll have:

  • Single cup
  • XL single cup
  • Travel mug
  • XL travel mug
  • Half carafe
  • Full carafe

This gives you all the flexibility of a single-serve machine married to the capacity of a drip coffee maker. So, whether you’re looking for a short shot of intense coffee or a longer, cold coffee served over ice with enough left over for seconds and thirds, you’re in safe hands here.

Milk Frother

The specialty setting on this machine allows you to brew up an intoxicatingly rich concentrate ideal for building out longer, creamier coffees.

A milk frother comes onboard giving you the latitude to create latte, macchiato, cappuccino, and much more.

You can use either hot or cold milk in the frother, and you’ll have silky foam in seconds flat ready to adorn with latte art when you’re ready to serve your longer concoctions.

Delivery System

While you get push-button ease with this machine, you use freshly-ground coffee rather than pods. This reduces your eco-footprint while also giving you a wider choice of coffee and superior overall results.

As with any brewing method, we would strongly recommend grinding fresh whole coffee beans right before brewing. If you use pre-ground coffee, it will already be past its best by the time you buy it. Do yourself a favor and grind before brewing.

Carafe and Capacity

This model (CM-401) comes with a glass carafe where the similar CM-407 comes with a thermal carafe.

The carafe has a 50oz capacity translating to a full 10 cups of joe. Even if you have a larger family, nobody will go without their java in the morning, and you won’t need to keep brewing up either.

Ease of Use and Versatility

The Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker couldn’t be much easier to use. All presets come clearly marked so, for the most part, you get push-button ease.

The thermal flavor extraction baked into this model means the water temperature and the amount of water are automatically optimized. You might find this restrictive if you prefer a more hands-on brewing method like pour-over, but the lack of control is offset by a user-friendly experience ideal even if you’re not a great tech-lover and you don’t know much about the art of making great coffee.

In terms of versatility, it’s pretty hard to fault this machine. You get the chance to tweak the strength and size of your brew to taste. You’ll also be free to drink your coffee piping hot or served cold over ice. Even better, you can achieve all this with no technical expertise and without constantly tinkering with settings.

The foldable nature of the frother is a neat space=saving touch and great news for any of you with limited space in the kitchen and a seemingly endless selection of coffee paraphernalia to accommodate.

So, you can see how this coffee machine from Ninja shapes up overall, but how does the coffee taste? After all, that’s the only thing that really counts.


III. How About The Performance and Taste?

This machine gives you the adaptability of a single-serve machine without forcing you to drink pod-based coffee.

Now, some people don’t mind the taste of coffee made from single-serve capsules, but many coffee lovers find the taste unnatural and slightly weak.

Instead, you use your preferred freshly ground coffee allowing you to benefit from a taste that outflanks that of most drip coffee makers with the added freedom of tweaking the strength to your exact liking.

If you’re a fan of iced coffee, you’ll enjoy the rich coffee concentrate poured over ice on a hot afternoon. This is a feature not available on most coffee machines, certainly not those in this price range.

The Ninja is certified by the SCA. Temperature is incredibly consistent, pre-infusion is dependable, and your grounds will always be evenly saturated. If you use the best filtered water and great freshly ground coffee, you literally can’t go wrong with this machine. You’ll soon be wondering why you bothered spending so much time in the coffee shop when you can make drinks this good at home.

How do you use and maintain this coffee maker, then?


IV. Tips for Use and Maintenance

Using the Ninja really couldn’t be simpler.

To start with, choose your brew strength by punching a button as outlined above.

You’ll do the same for drink size. Then, either slide your mug or travel mug under the machine if you’re opting for one of the multiple single-serve sizes at your disposal. If you’re brewing up more coffee for the whole family, choose a half carafe or a whole carafe so you can sit back and let the coffee drip through ready to fuel another busy day for you.

When it comes to descaling this machine, Ninja makes your life easy for you. The Clean button illuminates when it’s time to blitz your machine. Fill the water then add some descaling solution per the supplied instructions. Press the button and the machine will initiate a cleaning cycle so it stays running at its best.

All removable parts of the Ninja are dishwasher-safe so you won’t be faced with any tasky clean-up.

Stay on top of descaling, and wipe the outside of the machine down with a damp cloth, and that’s about the extent of any maintenance you’ll need to carry out with the Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker.

Now, we’ll round out today with our curated list of the most frequently asked questions about this highly effective coffee maker.


V. FAQs

1) What’s the difference between a glass carafe and a thermal carafe?

A glass carafe like the one on this variant of the Ninja Specialty sits on top of a hot plate so your coffee stays warmer for longer. With a thermal carafe, insulation is responsible for keeping the coffee warm. Glass carafes are the cheaper option. Unfortunately, they can allow the coffee to spoil and become rancid if you leave it for too long. The hot plate ends up imparting a scorched taste. The other obvious drawback of any glass product is its brittle and breakable nature. A thermal carafe ensures your cup of joe stays fresher for even longer without the burnt taste you get from a hot plate. Thermal carafes will also delay the oxidation of your coffee. In return, you’ll need to dig a little deeper for a thermal carafe.

2) What is the point of the milk frother?

The intense coffee concentrate you can brew up with this machine comes close to the depth and richness of espresso. You can use this as the base to build out long, creamy coffees. Whether you want a flat white or a latte, a macchiato or a cappuccino, the milk frother built into this machine allows you to whip up coffees your barista would be proud of without needing to master any special skills. The frother even folds up after use to save you space in the kitchen.

3) How do I get my iced coffee from this machine?

Just fill your mug or glass with ice then punch the over ice setting. The coffee that comes out will be rich enough that you won’t end up with an insipid drink that’s watered down. Instead, you’ll get a crisp cool coffee ideal for hot weather.


VI. Conclusion

Well, as you should clearly see by now, the Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker with its glass carafe makes a versatile and very affordable choice if you want to enjoy gourmet coffee at home.

If you’re looking to take full control of all aspects of the brewing method, you’ll be disappointed with the Ninja. If, on the other hand, you don’t mind sacrificing a little control to gain a great deal of convenience, this machine makes a smooth fit.

As you’d expect from any coffee machine at this price point – especially one offering such wide functionality – build quality could be improved. The reality is, though, you can’t expect to get commercial-grade performance at an almost budget price and we feel overall build is robust enough for most reasonable purposes. As long as you handle the carafe with care and you look after your Ninja, you should get years of use from it as long as you’re not using it all day long.

Before you go, don’t forget to bookmark LaMano. We hope you’ve enjoyed today’s Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker review and we’d be interested to hear if any of you decide to invest in this affordable and flexible powerhouse. We’ll see you soon!

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