Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker CM401 Review 2022

After working as a professional barista for many years, Arne Preuss founded Coffeeness.

As I mentioned in my coffee maker guide, some manufacturers are making great strides in convincing coffee lovers that the humble coffee maker can be transformed into an exciting way to prepare drip coffee. The Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker CM401 is no exception.

As I mentioned in my coffee maker guide, some manufacturers are making great strides in convincing coffee lovers that the humble coffee maker can be transformed into an exciting way to prepare drip coffee. The Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker CM401 is no exception.

Although many hipsters will likely chuckle to themselves and return to their Chemex and pour-over dripper, I’m starting to be convinced of the value in these innovations.

I know many of you are curious about this Ninja specialty coffee maker as well, so I ordered one off of Amazon to test out. Did it measure up to all of the hype? Keep reading my Ninja specialty coffee maker review to find out!

Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker CM401 Box from Amazon.

At $160.48 on Amazon, the Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker CM401 isn’t cheap. My goal was to find out whether it’s worth the investment and if it really can brew fresh, delicious coffeehouse style drinks and specialty brews like people claim.

Good for Both Regular Coffee and Specialty Drinks

An Excellent Coffee Maker for Advanced Users

A Drip Coffee Maker With Versatile Brew Styles

4 Brew Styles

Six Cup Sizes

No Pods Required!

Fold Away Frother

Frother Not Hot Enough

Overview: The Ninja CM401 Specialty Coffee Maker at a Glance

I’ll admit, I really like the way the Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker looks. It’s nothing like a traditional drip coffee maker, and the manufacturer was obviously going for a sophisticated “coffee bar” vibe. That or the Ninja is supposed to create the feel of making coffee in a science lab. Either way, I’m a fan of coffee machines that have style … especially if they bring out the mad scientist in me!

Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker Design Closeup of Brew Group and Columns.

Although there’s plenty of plastic involved, much of the Ninja’s exterior is made from stainless steel. The design centers around a cool looking brew group, which is suspended between a supporting column and the water tank.

Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker Fold Away Frother Coming Out.

On the left side, there’s a fold away frother whisk for hot or cold milk and hanging storage for the Ninja Smart Scoop. On the right side, you’ll find the intuitive control panel with the water tank above. Although the water reservoir is plastic, I like its attractive, ribbed design.

My overall assessment is that Ninja coffee machines are well built.

Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker Features

Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker Cups Travel Mug and Ninja Coffee Carafe.

The Ninja specialty coffee maker allows you to brew in 6 different sizes, even specialty sizes like travel mug, single serve, a half carafe and a full carafe. There’s a nifty pull-down platform for single serve coffee brewing, which is a thoughtful addition.

You can choose between 4 brew styles, including “Over Ice” and “Specialty Brew.” We’ll take a closer look at those some more later. I like the addition of a Delay Brew button, which allows you to program the machine to automatically brew at a specific time.

Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker Drip Stop Switch Closeup.

Some people might appreciate the sliding Drip Stop switch which makes it easy to remove the carafe before the machine has finished brewing. I’ll pass on that though — I’m never in enough of a hurry to drink under-extracted coffee. If I were running out the door though … maybe.

Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker Glass Carafe Closeup.

The elegant 12-cup glass carafe features an ergonomic plastic handle and brew-through lid. Although I don’t advocate for leaving brewed coffee on a warmer, the Ninja’s warming plate at least adjusts the temperature according to how much coffee is in the glass carafe. You can also manually adjust and program the warmer plate if you don’t trust the Ninja’s brain. Then again, who can really understand the mind of an elusive ninja?

Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker: What's In the Box?

Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker CM401 Review Unboxing.

Here’s what’s included with the Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker:

  • Removable water reservoir (50 fluid ounces)
  • Glass carafe (50 fluid ounces/10 cups)
  • Fold away milk frother
  • Gold tone permanent filter
  • Ninja Smart Scoop
  • Recipe Inspiration Guide
  • Instructions

Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker Control Panel

Ninja CM401 Control Panel Closeup.

The Ninja’s large control panel is well-laid-out and extremely user-friendly. Being the coffee ninja that I am — I just had to — I always like to start my coffee machine tests by seeing if I can make coffee without looking at the instructions. I didn’t run into any problems with the CM401. 

There’s a satisfyingly chunky Multi-Serve Dial for selecting your brew size — from single cup to full carafe — and prominent buttons for each brew style. Setting the time is a piece of cake, too. 

Still, if you want to use the delay brew function or adjust the warmer plate settings, I would recommend referring to the instructions. Neither task is difficult to achieve, but you’ll need to know which buttons to press and in which order.

Do note that I do not recommend using a warmer plate. They have a tendency to scorch coffee.

What Are the Ninja CM401 Brew Styles?

Ninja CM401 Closeup of Brew Style Buttons.

If you’re spending over $100 on a coffee machine, chances are you’ll be expecting it to be several steps above the gurgling little machine you remember from childhood. That’s why Ninja likes to talk up its Thermal Flavor Extraction

This automated brewing technology controls bloom time, the level of saturation and water temperature. Sounds impressive, right? Actually, this is pretty advanced for a coffee maker. 

During a brew cycle, the ground coffee is first slightly dampened, which allows carbon dioxide to escape. As more water is added to the brew basket, the grounds are evenly saturated, and the Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker maintains a constant water temperature to ensure a well-balanced extraction.

For those of you who thrive on nostalgia, I’m happy to report that the Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker does gurgle, although the machine is fairly quiet, overall. Once your coffee is ready, you’ll hear a muted beep and see a message flash across the control panel.

Classic vs Rich Brew

Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker Classic vs Rich Brew Style.

The Ninja CM401 offers two coffee brew styles for regular drip coffee. Classic is meant to provide a balanced and clean extraction, while Rich allegedly results in a more intense cup of coffee.

Previously, I’d assumed that the differences were achieved through manipulation of water volume, temperature and extraction time. However, in practice, I didn’t really notice much of a difference at all. 

To test the Classic and Rich brew styles I used a single origin coffee from Mexico with a fairly light roast flavor profile and set the brew size to single cup.

The Mexican coffee is simply wonderful when I prepare it as pour-over — with notes of milk chocolate, fruit and spice. The Classic cup was like a toned-down version, with some of the more complex notes missing. The Rich cup was more full-bodied and displayed prominent chocolatey notes.

Although there were discernible differences in flavor and mouthfeel, both brew styles took the same amount of time to arrive and neither was noticeably hotter than the other. I was left with the impression that the Ninja CM401 does a great job of producing delicious coffee, no matter which brew style you use.

Over Ice

Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker Over Ice Brew Style With Mason Jar.

Unlike some other coffee machines, the Ninja CM401 doesn’t claim to be able to produce cold brew coffee. That’s a relief because now I don’t have to rant about how drip coffee makers can’t make real cold brew.

In case you’re wondering, cold brew coffee uses a cold extraction method, whereas iced coffee uses a hot extraction method. To make cold brew, all you need is coarsely ground coffee, room temperature water and a mason jar. Well, that and around 12 hours of waiting time, of course.

The Ninja’s Over Ice function allows you to enjoy flavorful iced coffee at the push of a button. There’s nothing revolutionary to report here, though. To make iced coffee, the coffee machine simply brews double-strength coffee over a cup of ice.

For my iced coffee test, I used a single origin Ethiopian coffee with a medium-dark roast profile. I dutifully added three scoops of ground coffee to the filter, as per the recommendation on the Ninja Smart Scoop, and brewed into a large mason jar full of ice.

The results were actually great! My iced coffee wasn’t watery at all, which was a concern I had going into the hands-on test.

Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker Over Ice Brew Style Drink With Milk.

The coffee taste was mellow and refreshing. Once I’d added a splash of milk I just couldn’t stop drinking it.

Specialty Brew

Here’s where things get really interesting. The Ninja coffee maker hints at being able to brew fresh coffeehouse style drinks with its Specialty Brew function.

Only available in a 4-ounce serving size, Specialty Brew allows you to produce super rich coffee concentrates, which can then be added to foamed milk — from the fold away frother — to create delicious lattes or cappuccinos

Some might say Ninja is claiming to be able to make espresso. This isn’t possible, of course — the machine simply can’t produce enough pressure. Still, I was looking forward to testing out the Specialty Brew function, just to see how the results measure up.

Once again, I turned to the single origin Ethiopian coffee. At this point, I should mention that I used a medium-fine grind for all the Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker testing — the same grind I’d use in any drip coffee maker.

The resulting 4 ounces of so-called coffee concentrates actually reminded me of coffee from a moka pot. It’s nothing at all like true espresso, but it’s full-bodied and rich all the same. I’ll talk about how the Specialty coffee fared with the addition of frothy milk in a few minutes.

Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker Brew Sizes

Ninja CM401 Brew Sizes for coffee.

As I mentioned earlier, the Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker offers six different brew sizes:

  • Standard cup
  • XL single cup
  • Travel mug
  • XL travel mug
  • Half carafe (5 cups)
  • Full carafe (10 cups)

The approximate brew size is different for each of the 4 brew styles. For example, using the Classic brew style for a single serve in a standard cup, you can expect a volume of around 9.5 ounces.

Using the same amount of water and ground coffee for a standard cup results in 8.7 ounces of coffee when you select the Rich brew function.

As with any coffee brewer, you can expect to spend a little time and experimentation to dial in your favorite settings on the Ninja Coffee Maker. That’s half the fun, right?!

Ninja CM401: No Pods Required!

Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker CM401 Reusable Filter Closeup.

If you’re a regular Coffeeness reader, you’ll already know how I feel about single-use coffee pods. I only hope to have converted some of you and helped turn you away from the Dark Side.

Welcome to the wonderful world of real coffee and may the Force be with you as you reduce single-use plastic from your life.

It’s good to see that the manufacturer doesn’t promote the Ninja CM401 as a K-cup-friendly machine. Quite the opposite — this is marketed as a specialty coffee maker wherein no pods are required. That certainly scores points with me.

Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker CM401 Reusable Filter In Use.

The Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker comes with a reusable filter, which is always a good thing.

Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker CM401 Smart Scoop In Use Closeup.

A “Ninja Smart Scoop” is also included, which some people will find useful. The scoop has a measuring spoon on either side and includes recommendations for each brew size.

Personally, I get much more consistent results using a coffee scale. Speaking of consistency, do yourself a favor and invest in a good coffee grinder. After all, using freshly ground coffee is the best way to improve the quality of what’s in your coffee cup!

Ninja CM401 Fold Away Frother

Ninja CM401 Fold Away Frother for specialty coffee drinks.

I don’t want to burst your bubble, but if you’re expecting to be able to steam milk with the Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker CM401, you’re out of luck.

The Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker can’t heat milk like an automatic espresso machine, but the fold away frother is a pretty cool feature, all the same. Anyway, if you want cold frothed milk for an iced coffee speciality you won’t care!

I was worried that the built-in frother would be flimsy, but I was pleasantly surprised by how sturdy it is. To access the frother, you simply swing the arm toward the front of the machine, lower the whisk into the milk then press the frothing button. 

Once you’re done, you can easily remove the whisk by twisting it clockwise. A quick rinse under running water and it’s ready to go again!

Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker Milk Foam

Ninja CM401 Milk Frother Making Foam.

I was more than ready to test my barista skills with the Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker milk frother. From the Ninja coffee maker reviews I’d read, this thing was apparently really good. I have to say the results were surprisingly convincing

I used a Turkish coffee pot or ibrik to heat milk on the stove, then began to froth the milk.

It took a little practice to get the hang of the whisk, and my initial experiments resulted in mountains of pillowy foam. Still, I persevered and eventually created some rather lovely microfoam.

Don’t worry about all of the milk I used for the tests. We have two cats!

If you want to be able to make an approximation of a cappuccino or latte with your coffee maker, the Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker really delivers.

Ninja CM401 Milk Foam

The whisk does a great job of creating silky smooth froth, and the 4-ounce Specialty Brew cuts through the milk nicely.

Forget about latte art, though. There’s no crema in evidence because you can’t make espresso with the Ninja CM401 — so you won’t be delighting your friends with rosettas and swans. Sorry!

Ninja CM401 Water Reservoir

Ninja CM401 Removable Water Reservoir.

As I already mentioned, I really like how the water reservoir looks on the CM401 Ninja Coffee Maker. It fits well with the overall design, which is elegant and well-executed.

Ninja CM401 Flip-Top Indicators Closeup.

The 40-ounce water tank has a convenient flip-top lid and indicators for minimum fill levels for each brew size.

The way this specialty coffee maker is designed makes it easy to remove the reservoir for convenient filling.

Incidentally, at one point I tried to make coffee having forgotten to fill the reservoir. The Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker politely reminded me by beeping quietly and flashing a reminder.

I appreciate a coffee maker that doesn’t sound an alarm that suggests the world is ending.

As with any specialty coffee maker, you should always use filtered water. You’ll get better-tasting coffee, and you won’t need to descale your machine as often. While we’re on the subject, the Ninja CM401 features a button that lights up when it’s time to descale.

What I really appreciate is that the manufacturer doesn’t push their own brand of descaler as the only way to clean the thing. That’s unusual and very refreshing.

Ninja CM401 Specifications

 Ninja CM401 Coffee Maker
ManufacturerNinja
NameCM401 Speciality Coffee Maker
Product categoryDrip coffee maker
Housing materialStainless steel/plastic
Carafe materialGlass/plastic
Brew capacity50.0 oz
Serving size options6
Permanent coffee filterYes
Removable coffee filterYes
Water filterNo
Removable water reservoirYes
Adjustable brewing temperatureNo
Brew styles4
Milk frotherYes
ProgrammableYes
Warmer plateYes
Weight9.2 lb / 4.2 kg
Dimensions (H x W x D)15.0 x 12.0 x 8.8 in / 38.1 x 30.5 x 22.4 cm
ExtrasDripstop switch, Ninja Smart Scoop, Clean indicator, Recipe Inspiration Guide
Current price on Amazon$160.48

Ninja CM401 vs CM407

Ninja CM401 vs CM407.

The Ninja CM407 Specialty Coffee Maker is essentially the same machine as the $160.48 CM401 Ninja 10-cup Specialty Coffee Maker. So, why is it more expensive? Well, the answer lies in the carafe itself.

Rather than a glass carafe with a stay warm function, the $369.00 Ninja CM407 features a stainless steel thermal carafe. In my opinion, a thermal carafe is worth the extra investment to keep your coffee warm.

The reality is, no matter how sophisticated a stay warm function is, your coffee is going to suffer if it sits in a glass carafe on a hot plate. A thermal carafe will keep a full pot of coffee nice and hot and you won’t run the risk of scorching your precious brew!

Ninja CM401 vs CP301

Ninja CP301 vs CM401.

Costing $175.60 on Amazon, the Ninja CP301 Hot and Cold Brew System is a pretty substantial investment. Like the Ninja CM401, it can brew in 5 sizes, comes with the same glass carafe and has an attached milk frother. Still, does it offer enough features to justify the price?

If you enjoy tea as much as coffee, then maybe. This particular Ninja comes with separate brew baskets for tea and coffee. The machine will also adjust steep times and water temperature according to the type of tea you’re using.

Like the CM401, the Hot and Cold Brew System has multiple brew styles including an Over Ice function. However, it also takes things further by adding a 10-minute Ninja cold brew function. 

You already know how I feel about that idea. Suffice to say, even if the coffee is “brewed over ice at an accelerated lower temperature” as the manufacturer claims, real cold brew coffee in 10 minutes just isn’t possible. This is because a cold extraction method requires submersion of the coffee grinds for an extended period of time … like 12 hours or more.

Ninja CM401 vs CFP301

Ninja CFP301 vs CM401.

The Ninja CFP301 DualBrew Pro Specialty Coffee System has a very important-sounding name. Available for $179.99 on Amazon, this coffee maker is a bit more expensive than the CM401 Specialty Coffee Maker.

The DualBrew Pro can brew all sizes — from a single cup to a full carafe — and offers the same hot coffee and iced coffee brew styles as the CM401.

What I really like is the multi-position reservoir, which can sit alongside the machine or behind. There’s also an independent hot water dispenser for making instant soup or oatmeal, which is pretty redundant in my opinion.

What you’re really paying extra for is the ability to use either freshly ground coffee beans (as you should) or coffee pods (as you most certainly shouldn’t).

Although it comes with a glass carafe, the DualBrew Pro is even designed to look more like a single-serve coffee pod machine, so I’ll stick with the Ninja coffee bar vibe of the CM401.

A Comparison of the Ninja CM401, CP301 and CFP301

 Ninja CM401 Coffee MakerNinja CP301 Coffee MakerNinja CFP301 Coffee Maker
ManufacturerNinjaNinjaNinja
NameCM401 Speciality Coffee MakerCP301 Hot & Cold Brew SystemCFP301 DualBrew Pro Specialty Coffee System
Product categoryDrip coffee makerDrip coffee makerDrip coffee maker
Carafe materialGlass/plasticGlass/plasticGlass/plastic
Housing materialStainless steel/plasticPlasticPlastic
Brew capacity50.0 oz / 1.5 l50.0 oz / 1.5 l60 oz / 1.8 l
Serving size options6613
Permanent coffee filterYesYesNo
Removable coffee filterYesYesNo
Water filterNoNoNo
Removable water reservoirYesYesYes
Adjustable brewing temperatureNoNoNo
Brew styles454
Milk frotherYesYesYes
Programmable delayYesYesYes
Warmer plateYesYesYes
Weight9.2 lb / 4.2 kg11.1 lb / 5.0 kg9.7 lb / 4.4 kg
Dimensions (H x W x D)15.0 x 12.0 x 8.8 in / 38.1 x 30.5 x 22.4 cm15.0 x 11.8 x 10.0 in / x 38.1 x 30.0 cm x 25.4 cm15.5 x 11.4 x 9.1 in / 39.4 x 29.0 x 23.1 cm
ExtrasDripstop switch, Ninja Smart Scoop, Clean indicator, Recipe Inspiration GuideSeparate coffee and tea brew baskets, tea filter, Ninja Smart Scoop, Recipe Inspiration Guide Separate coffee and tea brew baskets, tea filter, Ninja Smart Scoop, Recipe Inspiration Guide Separate hot water function, multiple positions for water reservoir, Ninja Smart Scoop, Ninja pod adapter
Current price on Amazon$160.48$175.60$179.99

Verdict: Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker CM401

With its multiple brew styles and elegant design, the Ninja Coffee Maker CM401 has a lot to offer in terms of innovation and function. After having spent some time with the Ninja, my impression is that it’s a solid machine with features that a lot of readers are looking for a drip coffee maker.

Good for Both Regular Coffee and Specialty Drinks

An Excellent Coffee Maker for Advanced Users

A Drip Coffee Maker With Versatile Brew Styles

4 Brew Styles

Six Cup Sizes

No Pods Required!

Fold Away Frother

Frother Not Hot Enough

For those of you who aren’t ready to dive into the world of super automatics or espresso machines, the Ninja CM401 might just be the best coffee maker for you … especially for preparing specialty drinks as well as pretty impressive drip coffee.

Not only that, it’ll look pretty great in your kitchen, too!

Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker CM401 FAQ

Although you can use the Specialty brew function to create coffeehouse style drinks, the Ninja coffee maker CM401 uses super-rich coffee concentrate rather than espresso. To produce true espresso, an espresso machine has to produce at least 9 bars of pressure during extraction.

You can use the Ninja speciality coffee maker to make a version of cappuccino and other cafe-style drinks by using the specialty brew function and making silky froth with the fold away frother. You’ll need to heat the milk first, though.

Although the Ninja coffee maker can’t produce real espresso, you can make an approximation of a latte and other coffeehouse-style drinks by brewing with the specialty brew function and foaming hot milk with the built-in frother.

Both an espresso macchiato and a latte macchiato consist of espresso and steamed milk. Although the Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker can’t produce true espresso, there’s no reason why you can’t experiment with the specialty brew function and the fold away frother to create a Ninja macchiato.

You can use the Ninja Coffee Maker CM401 to make iced coffee by brewing with the Over Ice function. This essentially makes double-strength hot coffee over ice that won’t taste watered down. Unlike some other drip coffee makers, the Ninja doesn’t claim to make cold brew.

While other Ninja coffee makers are designed to brew tea, the Ninja CM401 isn’t set up to do so. If you’re looking for a Ninja that makes tea, check out the Ninja CP301 Hot and Cold Brew System, which has been designed to brew both tea and coffee.

The Ninja CM401 has an intelligent warming plate that adjusts the temperature according to how much coffee is in the carafe. The warming plate can also be programmed or manually adjusted. Be careful, though: leaving the Ninja coffee carafe on the warming plate for too long will make your coffee taste burned.

The Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker CM401 isn’t set up to brew with coffee pods, which is a good thing! Free yourself from K cups and step into the light! There’s a wonderful world of freshly ground coffee from freshly roasted coffee beans waiting for you. And, you can enjoy the fact that you aren’t adding to the proliferation of the coffee pod trash that’s covering the earth.

The Ninja CM401 comes with a filter that’s reusable. Even if you’re using unbleached filters and disposing of them in a compost pile, a permanent filter is always more environmentally friendly. That said, you can use #4 paper filters in the Ninja’s brew basket.

You can buy a replacement glass carafe for a Ninja coffee pot from the Ninja website, but it’ll cost you almost $50. I recommend you take care of your glass carafe! You might also consider the Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker with thermal carafe (CM407), then you won’t have to worry so much!

Although the Ninja CM401 coffee pot features a lot of stainless steel and a glass carafe, there’s plenty of plastic involved, too. Fortunately, the plastic is BPA-free, although some might say that plastic products of any kind shouldn’t be encouraged.

The Ninja 10-cup coffee maker features a cool looking water reservoir that’s fully removable. The water reservoir also features a convenient flip top lid, so it’s easy to fill.

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed my Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker review. Do you own a Ninja CM401 coffee maker? Do you have any coffee ninja tips or tricks you’d like to share? Leave a comment below!

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