Single cup coffee makers are here to stay. They make coffee quickly and are accessible to anyone in need of a caffeine fix. But which coffee maker should you choose?
- There’s Keurig - the pioneers and the big name in single cup coffee.
- Then there’s Ninja - a strong competitor with similar technology and dependability in the kitchen appliance realm.
Both of these coffee makers can brew different sizes, including carafes. But what about those notorious pods? And brew strength?
Keurig and Ninja both brew coffee, but they do it differently.
In this guide, we will take an in-depth look at these two coffee makers and compare them to help you pick the brand best for you.
Brand Comparison At A Glance
Ninja Coffee Bar System
Keurig Coffee Makers
Keurig Green Mountain produced their first commercial coffee machine in 1998. The Keurig as we sort-of know it was born in 2003. That’s a long track record of making single cups of coffee.
Keurig’s big advantage here is their experience and the fact that they are a company dedicated solely to coffee and other beverages.
Keurig (a play on the Dutch word for “excellence”) has two goals: consistency and convenience. They want you to have a great cup of coffee, quickly and easily, each and every time.
When things don't go quite right, you can use a bit of Keurig Troubleshooting to get you back on track pretty quickly.
They also want to “brew a better world” through more responsible management and future sustainability.
SEE ALSO: Best Keurig Models
Ninja Coffee Bar
SharkNinja Operating Inc owns Ninja and has been up and running since 1995. Ninja, known for their awesome blenders, didn’t release the Ninja Coffee Bar until 2015. But that’s not a bad thing.
This means that this innovative and cutting-edge tech company had time to watch Keurig and other single cup coffee maker manufacturers and learn from their mistakes.
Ninja’s goal is to revolutionize the way you make coffee. And that applies to both Keurig fanatics and regular drip coffee drinkers alike. They make more than a coffee maker- they make a coffee system.
It’s designed to be the ultimate (and easy) coffeehouse experience at home.
SEE ALSO: Ninja Coffee Bar Review
Keurig Pods vs. Pod-Free Ninja
Pods are a huge issue for die-hard coffee fans. You either love them, or you hate them. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of pods.
- Make brewing a single cup quick and convenient
- Can buy in many flavors and brands
- No mess and no buying filters
- Coffee can taste stale
- Can’t change the amount of coffee inside to make stronger/weaker
- Many pods are either non-recyclable or extremely difficult to recycle
Pods are much easier and faster to use, but they leave very little room for customization. The coffee is not fresh ground, and can’t be changed.
Pod waste is a big problem. In 2014, Keurig produced 9.8 billion K Cup Pods. Most of these are ending up in landfills and posing a huge environmental problem.
Considering that millions of people (roughly 1 in 3 homes) use a pod-based machine, that problem will only grow.
If you want to compare pound to pound, pod coffee costs nearly 5 times what ground coffee costs. It might be cheaper up front than coffeehouse drinks, but it’s certainly not doing your wallet any favors over time.
The Keurig can brew coffee like a champ. But that’s as far as it goes. You can make coffee in regular or strong cups. You have to buy the K-Cup pods of coffee, available in many different brands and flavors, to brew.
If you want to brew in your Keurig using your own ground coffee, you can buy a reusable pod and fill it yourself.
This adds a pseudo level of customization. However, one problem is that the reusable pod is only so big, which means you can’t make the coffee more flavorful or strong. You’re really bound by that pod-based technology.
You can buy pods of cocoa, teas, and other flavored beverages if you want a specialty drink. But most of the fun specialty drinks, like cappuccinos and lattes, are made with a flavored powder that mixes with hot water.
See Also: Best Keurig Coffee Flavors
Not coffeehouse-like at all. Keurigs can even dispense good old hot water for teas and drinks, so you can make your own specialty drink. But that’s it.
There’s no setting on the actual Keurig machine to make a specialty drink.
Ninja has the advantage here since their coffee maker has a bunch of drink settings:
- Classic - a regular cup
- Rich - a stronger cup
- Cafe Forte - special setting to bring out the flavor of the coffee
- Over Ice - brews cold coffee without sacrificing flavor
Specialty- brews a rich coffee concentrate, designed to go into fun coffeehouse-style drinks like lattes
To complement those settings, some of the Ninja Coffee Bars have an attached milk frother that can make a great foam for a DIY latte. While coffee drinks are endless, you can’t make many more specialty drinks.
See Also: Best Milk Frothers
The Ninja can dispense just hot water, but you can’t make, say apple cider or hot cocoa, using a specialty pod. You’d have to buy something you can mix with hot water on your own.
Hot and Cold Brews
Keurig used to make a machine dedicated to cold drinks (the Kold). It’s been discontinued, but you can make lots of iced/cold drinks with any Keurig. You can brew any type of pod over a cup (not glass!) of ice and have instant iced coffee.
This method makes really watery coffee.
Only Keurig Elite machines have an “iced” setting. The other option is to buy pods specifically designed to be made over ice. These two options result in better, but still watery iced coffee.
Keurig also makes iced tea K Cup pods from big names like Snapple and Lipton. You brew it over a huge cup of ice and have instant iced tea.
The Ninja has an “over ice” function already programmed into the coffee maker.
It brews just the right strength of coffee to make great iced drinks. Add the milk frother into the equation, and you can make some really tasty iced lattes for a fraction of the price.
But that’s as special as it gets. You could technically use the Ninja to make hot water, to then make tea, to which you would add ice. But then it’s not quick and convenient.
We think that if you like iced coffee, the Ninja coffee bar system has the advantage.
Keurigs have removable water filters in most of their models. Their Mini model works like a regular drip coffee maker, where you add water each time you make coffee.
The rest of their models have removable reservoirs in sizes ranging from 40 to 80 ounces, depending on the model.
Keurigs also have water filters that have to be added to the reservoirs. The charcoal based filters help keep impurities out of the machine, resulting in less cleaning and less limescale buildup.
Ninja coffee makers all have removable water reservoirs, regardless of the model. The size is either 43 ounces or 50 ounces. The reservoir is the same size as the carafe for the Ninja. Since it’s not huge, you will have to refill the Ninja with fresh water more often.
Ninjas don’t have a filter to worry about. The upside of this is cost savings. The downside of this is that you will probably have to clean the machine more.
This issue also contributes to the biggest Ninja Coffee Bar problems: cleaning malfunctions leading to eventual machine failure.
Glass or Thermal Carafes
There are two types of carafes:
Thermal carafes - keep coffee warm via insulation; look more modern, maintain heat for longer and more durable; more expensive
Glass carafes - heating element underneath warms coffee; look fancier, cool quicker, break more easily, and give the coffee a burnt taste; cheaper
Keurig only offers one carafe, and it's a double-walled, thermally insulated one. It's 32 ounces, so it holds about 4 cups of coffee. It keeps the coffee hot for hours, so you don't have to reheat it if you go for a second cup.
The Ninja Coffee Bar can come with either a thermal or a glass carafe. The glass one is cheaper and works well if you only use it to entertain occasionally.
The thermal one is the way to go if you use it often. The carafes are either 43 or 50 ounces, depending on the model.
Just know that the thermal carafe cannot be used with the heating plate for the glass model, so whichever one you buy up front is the one that you are stuck with.
Keurig & Ninja Accessories
Keurig offers carafes, travel mugs, reusable K cups, pod storage, water filters, and other maintenance supplies. Since it’s Keurig Green Mountain, they offer coffee pods as well.
The accessories from Keurig are low key and useful. You should consider getting the carafe. Pod storage and the reusable K cup are really helpful. The filters are a must.
You can buy other brands of any accessory that Keurig offers. But since the machine can be finicky with other brands’ stuff, I would err on the side of caution and buy from Keurig for anything that goes with the actual machine, like the carafe and the reusable K cup.
Ninja offers any accessory that you can possibly think of. Coffee scoops, coffee caddies, carafes, travel mugs, extra parts, coffee grinders, frothers, recipe books, cleaning supplies, and coffee filters. They offer pretty much anything that you would want to make a gourmet cup of coffee.
I think that Ninja Coffee Bar offers so many accessories because there aren’t many off-brand options for their stuff.
Same advice for the Ninja - buy their brand for actual parts, like reservoirs, extra carafes, and that super helpful coffee scooper that fits on the machine. Find cheaper options for mugs, grinders, frothers, and coffee storage.
Customization and Design
The Keurig has a more modern design. It definitely looks more like a machine and less like a coffee maker. It’s sleeker and smaller than the Ninja, but it needs more top space to open for pod placement. The LCD touch screen is more updated and has better technology.
You can fully program the Keurig 575 to brew coffee at any time using the settings. It offers:
- auto on/off
- energy saver mode
- a place to store your favorite brew settings
- auto brew
- maintenance alerts
- language settings
This is geared more toward the tech-savvy coffee drinker.
The Ninja coffee bar certainly looks like a coffee maker. It doesn't feature any screens, but it does have an LED control panel. While modern, it isn’t sleek.
The Ninja does take up a bit more counter space, especially since you have to make room for that frother arm on the side. Also, check out our guide and instructions on how to steam milk at home.
This coffee machine is also fully customizable, with programmable brew settings for any time of day. It remembers the previous time set for delay brew, so you don’t have to change it if you make coffee at the same time every day.
Additionally, it has a pre-warm mode (lasting 72 hours), a sleep mode, a coffee ready alarm, and a self-sensing clean setting.
Final Thoughts - Which is Better?
It would be easy to say that one of these machines is better than the other. But that's not true. These machines are both great and are best suited for different coffee drinkers.
If you like a quick cup of ordinary coffee, or just drink hot beverages here and there, then check out the Keurig 575. For just one cup, it's fast, it's convenient, and it will do everything you need it to.
If you are a big coffee connoisseur and like more flavorful cups of coffee, check out the Ninja Coffee Bar. You'll be able to make the lattes and strong coffees that you enjoy with minimal effort.