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Ninja CM401 Coffee Maker: don’t call it an espresso machine

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Erin L

Erin L

ninja specialty coffee maker on counter

Coffee. If you’re reading this, chances are you love coffee as much as I do. A good automatic coffee maker can help you start the day right and have that first cup waiting for you so you’re not fumbling around in the dark. For some, coffee is about more than just drip; iced coffee, or specialty beverages are more popular than ever and the Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker helps put more options at your finger tips. I recently ordered the Ninja CM401 Specialty coffee maker from Amazon to review and see what it’s like to use, how it works, what kind of drinks it can make and if overall it’s a good coffee maker for you. And before you get too excited about this Ninja CM 401 review , there are a few things you’ll need to know about this machine, since “specialty coffee maker” kind of has a different meaning here.

Ninja CM401 Specialty Coffee Maker
3.5

Summary

Overall, this is a soild coffee maker that can brew different volumes and concentrations of coffee with consistent results. Just don’t forget that it’s not an espresso machine.

Pros

  • Brews good coffee in a reasonable amount of time
  • Convenient removable water tank and the swivel-out filter basket
  • Extremely easy to make smaller amounts of coffee
  • Nice design

Cons

  • Milk frothing feature is lackluster, no heating abilities
  • Specialty coffee results not the same as an espresso machine

Review: Ninja CM401 Specialty 10-Cup Coffee Maker

There’s not so much to unpack in the Ninja CM401 box since everything it part of the main unit. The design is quite unique since you can see right through the area where the warming plate is.

The  CM401 Ninja model I chose has a glass carafe, but a thermal version is also apparetly available .

The water reservoir is removable, holding up to 50 ounces or about 10 cups. Also included in the box is a double ended coffee scoop to help you measure your specialty drinks…

The brew basket is hidden in a neat swivel-out drawer, which means you don’t need to lift the lid or pull it out from under your countertop to fill it. The brew basket uses #4 cone coffee filters or  the included reusable mesh filter.

You’ll also get the integrated frother wand. More on that coming up.

Using the Ninja CM401 Specialty Coffee Maker

ninja specialty coffee maker parts

All the controls for the machine are on the front and pretty self-explanatory.

This machine has six different brew sizes: Several sizes of cup and travel mug, plus a half carafe, and full carafe.  For preparing iced coffee, you can use the “Over Ice” setting. Finally, there’s the “Specialty” style for prepping highly concentrated coffee similar to an espresso shot.

By the way, The CM401 Ninja is also smart enough to not activate the heat plate when preparing smaller cups of coffee to save electricity.

My hands-on video review


Making regular coffee is convenient since you can just flip the lid on the removable water tank to fill it up and then drop it back into place. You can use the programmable timer to pre-make coffee before you wake up, or just press the power button and choose your style of brew to make coffee manually.

Making a full pot of coffee is quick, taking just under 8 minutes And when it comes to the temperature, the coffee comes out of the machine at about 185 degrees/85C.

I will note the coffee machine has a way to let you remove the carafe to fill up a quick mug of coffee before the full brewing cycle is complete, but it’s not like other machines.

Brew Stop, aka Pause & Serve

There is a way to get a cup before the pot is brewed… use what’s called the drip stop lever on the front of the filter basket which essentially shuts the water flow to the carafe off. You need to remember to open it back up again once you forward your cup, or else the machine will stop the brewing cycle

One thing to point out is the lid on the carafe twists and locks into place, and I’m not sure if I love that design or not, since it was a bit fiddly to remove and reattach. It also uses Ninja’s ‘flavour straw’ funnel to dribble brewed coffee into the middle of a full pot, essentially so you don’t end up with the strongest coffee on the bottom and the weakest floating on top.

Making specialty coffees with Ninja CM401 Specialty Coffee Maker

making coffee with ninja speicalty coffee maker

Let’s get to the specialty coffees… By pressing a button, you can select an option that will give you a highly concentrated 4 oz. cup of coffee, similar to a double espresso.

Now with that said, this is definitely not an espresso machine. While you could certainly use espresso beans, this machine is not using high pressure to extract the coffee. It’s simply concentrating what’s there. I actually didn’t mind this highly concentrated coffee, but when you try to make a latte or cappuccino with it, it’s not quite the same.  Don’t confuse this strong coffee for espresso an espresso

Integrated milk wand isn’t what you think

The built-in frother of Ninja coffee maker CM 401 is easy to use since you just have to attach the frothing wand with a twist. A small button on top of the wand will agitate it and produce milk foam.

Now there are two things that struck me about this integrated wand. One is that it has no heating properties, so you need to warm the milk up before you use it.

The other is that while it does whip up a decent foam fairly quickly, the foam collapses fairly fast afterwards.

On the whole, I found the milk frothing options kind of disappointing, and I’d say if youre looking at a machine to give you fast, hot frothy milk, that stands up in drinks, to keep looking.

Iced coffee option

For warm days when having hot coffee is just not an option, the Ninja Coffee Maker can make iced coffee too.

The “Over Ice” feature still used heated water (about 119F/48C)but combines it with a slower brewing rate to make your iced coffee without diluting it too much.

Intelligent Warming Plate

If you’ve set your Ninja Coffee Maker to either Half Carafe or Full Carafe, you can keep your drink warm through the built-in warming plate. You can adjust the time that it will stay on after making a pot of coffee from 2 to 4 hours.

You can also adjust the warming plate temperature to hold your coffee hotter or less hot as you prefer.

Cleanup

The water tank, filter holder, milk frother head, scoop, and carafe are all dishwasher safe.

Overall review: Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker

making coffee to go with ninja specialty coffee maker

Overall this is a pretty neat machine, just don’t confuse it for an espresso machine . The design of Ninja CM 401 specialty 10-cupcoffee maker is certainly unique, and it does offer a few more options than an average automatic coffee maker. I like the programmable timer, and adjustable warming plate.

When it comes to basic drip coffee, the machine does a good job and brews good coffee in a reasonable amount of time. I like the fact that it has a removable water tank and the swivel out filter basket is equally convenient.

The Ninja coffee maker CM 401 also makes it extremely easy to make smaller amounts of coffee, from half a pot down to a single mug, not to mention that super concentrated 4 ounce coffee that you can use as a dupe for espresso.

Those are the pros, what are the cons? I found the milk frothing feature to be extremely lackluster. It didn’t make strong, lasting foam, and with no heating abilities, you either need to dirty another pot on the stove or use your microwave.

Probably less of a downside as opposed to something to be aware of, is that while Ninja bills this as a “specialty coffee maker” using this machine will give you different results then using an espresso machine and proper milk wand.

Even so, I think this machine is ideal for folks who like to make a cup of coffee at at time as well as larger amounts, and it gives coffee drinkers plenty of options in a cleverly designed package so I can recommend the Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker to you.

It sells for about $169US/$239CAD and you can get it as I did from Amazon.

**A note about Affiliate Links: TechGadgetsCanada & TechGadgetsInternational is supported by our readers. Occasionally I will include affiliate links in my reviews. I do this partly for convenience of the reader (since I’ll almost always include a link to the company website or similar anyway) in case you want to read more or purchase, but I also may get a small commission from the click, which helps me keep the blog running. If you choose to use this link I thank you greatly for supporting the blog. There’s no obligation or cost to you for using these links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Erin L

Erin L

I'm a journalist, tech blogger, writer, TV producer, silversmith& jewelry designer, foodie and world traveler. I blog, write for publications, and supply freelance writing services to Calgary, and the world.

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