The Ninja CM-401 is a compact and affordable single-serve machine with a lot of features and taste. It has a unique design that fits with any modern theme and 6 serving sizes.
The main idea behind the product is to perfect a coffee maker that caters to the average human’s needs. Although it works just like any other single-serve coffee machine, it stands out in many aspects.
Perhaps the most outstanding of these features is the Specialty Function. Through this, a small amount of concentrate is let through, which you can use to make other forms of coffee. Some good uses of this include when making espressos and macchiato.
Things to Consider Before Buying A Single-Serve Coffee Maker:
Single-serve coffee makers are the go-to options for people on a budget. They’re fast, cheap, and require little to no setup. Oftentimes, those fancy espresso machines can end up costing you upwards of $3,000! For a layman, that’s just too much.
If you want a quick and easy fix to your everyday coffee cravings, single-serve machines are the best. They don’t have a lot of programs and you can’t control the strength or temperature. But they allow some level of customization.
So is a single-serve coffee maker suited for you? And how do you which is the right one? Here are a few things to consider:
- Brand reputation.
- Special features and brews.
- Cold brews (optional).
- Cup size and capacity.
- Type of carafe (glass or thermal).
- Programmability (scheduling, temperature control, etc.).
- Interface and overall design.
Ninja CM401 – Features and Benefits:
The Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker is a conspicuous machine that offers 4 different brewing options. These include Classic, Rich, Over Ice, and Specialty.
Classic and Rich Functions:
The Classic and Rich options are just what they sound like. While Classic provides a balanced and more neutral flavor, Rich will impart a stronger, more robust taste. Both are great for when you want to have some form of control over the strength of your coffee.
For making cold coffee and other forms of iced coffee, the Over Ice option is a handy tool. Not many people will be using it. But if you’re the type who prefers a cold beverage during the summer instead of a hot one, go for it.
Finally, we have the most unique feature: the Specialty Brew. This is an all-in-one brew that dispenses a highly saturated amount of coffee, which itself isn’t much. However, you can use this concentrate to brew up other drinks. These include cappuccinos, lattes, macchiato, espressos, and many other barista-style drinks.
In this way, the versatility of your coffee machine expands. However, the taste will not be the same as the real thing.
Intuitive Interface and Design:
One of the most unique and perhaps the most outstanding feature of the Ninja CM401 is its intuitive interface and design. The design includes a gracefully suspended brew group hoisted between a support bar and the water tank. The tank is transparent and has markings at key points to indicate how much you should fill it.
Take a look at the interface yourself:
As for the control panel, nothing could be more dynamic. At the very top, you have a clock that lets you choose a specific time of day to brew the coffee. Below that, you have two options: Stay Warm, and Delay Brew. Stay Warm will transfer some ambient heat to the hot plate to keep the coffee warm. And Delay Brew lets you automatically brew at a specified time.
Underneath that, a rotary dial lets you select how much you want to brew. There are 6 brew sizes to choose from, along with a complimentary glass carafe. Right below that, you have four rectangular buttons to choose the 4 brew styles from. The Specialty Brew Button has a strong metallic color to make it pop out more.
At the end, you have two more buttons: Power, and Clean. We’ll be looking at how easy it is to clean in later sections.
As for the materials, the entire frame is made from stainless steel. Consumer-grade steel is a good choice for many reasons, but mainly due to its cheapness and rigidity. It also has great thermal conductivity, allowing maximum heat to flow out and into the hot plate. This also prevents overheating of the unit.
Steel is not known to be water-resistant. It does survive a few splashes. But with time and abuse, the water will deteriorate the surface. Some parts are made from ABS plastic, which can survive the extreme heat of the boiler. But the rest of the unit may suffer from rusting if kept in a humid environment.
Highest Quality Standard:
The Ninja CM401 has a lot to offer in terms of quality and taste. And this claim is backed up by the fact that it has received an SCA Golden Cup for Standard Brewing. There are a few factors that account for this, but the chief feature is their Thermal Flavor Extraction.
This is a specialized flavor enhancer technology that maintains the integrity of your coffee. It maintains the right temperature to allow for maximum saturation of the grounds. As a result, the grounds release the maximum amount of aroma and flavor. And this in turn allows both to fully develop before the coffee is finally dripped.
Because of this, each cup of coffee has even saturation. So you won’t find some cups tasting stronger than others. Nor will there be flavor “hot spots”, which would result in loss of precious flavor.
A consistent temperature is maintained all throughout the brewing and boiling process. This is to ensure your coffee doesn’t get cold. But another reason why the temperature is so important is that the flavor depends on it. It prevents your unit from overheating, which in turn reduces the risk of your grounds burning.
One more unique aspect of this coffee maker is the coffee blooming. This refers to the act of slightly dampening the coffee bed in order to release some trapped carbon dioxide. This gas is generated during roasting, and can poorly affect the taste. Coffee blooming let’s all the gas escape, allowing for maximum saturation of the grounds and thus a more even extraction.
6 Brew Sizes:
Everyone likes their coffee different. And it’s not just about flavor or brew style. Some people drink more coffee than others, and some need an entire jug for their whole family. In order to make things easier and to reduce wastage, the Ninja CM401 allows you to choose from 6 different brew sizes.
Choose from a single cup, XL single cup, half carafe, full carafe, travel mug, and XL travel mug. There are markings on the water reservoir for each of these 6 brew sizes. So you only need to add in the amount of water you need, which will save you from wasting water.
There’s a large dial on the control panel that lets you choose the brew size. This means that you only brew as much coffee as is needed, which isn’t something you can do on a regular coffee machine. Another unique aspect is that it’s able to accommodate larger travel mugs and entire jugs, which is uncommon for most machines.
A glass carafe is provided with the unit, but since it’s not thermal it will quickly go cold. So you’ll need to either drink it right away or transfer it to a different mug.
What would a coffee machine be without its frother? While frothers aren’t anything new, the Ninja CM401 takes on a new twist to it. Its frothing wand is foldable, meaning it sits snug by the coffee maker’s side and can be pulled out when you need it.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much to talk about here. The boiler for both the steam and the coffee are the same, which isn’t uncommon on a manual coffee machine. But you don’t get to choose the style or texture of the steam, which is a bit of a bummer.
But it’s not the only product in its category to not do so. And with the given price range, a low-feature frother isn’t too bad. The steam is still rich and saturated and will whip you up a decent froth.
The designers of the Ninja CM401 have decided to make it easy to clean and descale. Scale formation is a natural phenomenon where boiling water can release calcium deposits.
Descaling refers to removing this scale using a special solution that dissolves it. While many machines come with their own descaling solution or require you to buy some, the Ninja needs none of that. Instead, you can simply use homemade solutions from water and white vinegar, as well as any store-bought tablets and solutions.
As for cleaning and general maintenance, the exterior is extremely easy to wipe down. Since it’s made of stainless steel, sludge and residual coffee hardly tend to stay. You can wipe it using a damp cloth and you’re good to go.
The glass carafe only requires a mild wash with warm water and a non-corrosive soap. If there is too much residue stuck at the bottom, simply use a soft foam brush. Wire brushes are discouraged as they will damage the beauty of the glass.
And if all that is too complicated for you, just remember that you can pop the carafe and the lid into the dishwasher. But they’re only safe on the top rack though. So take note of that.
Delay Brew Function:
One interesting feature available on the Ninja CM401 that not many coffee machines have is the Delay Brew function. Through this, you’re able to set a time for when you want the unit to automatically brew your coffee for you. So it has some level of programmability.
You can set the time using the clock on the control panel. One use of this feature is to have the coffee brewing when you wake up in the morning. You won’t have to manually set the instructions again, and you’ll have your coffee ready for you in no time. However, you can’t schedule it for every day. So each day, you’ll have to program it again.
Luckily, in most cases, you’ll just need to press the Delay Brew button, since you would have already set the instructions from the previous time.
Value for The Money:
The Ninja CM401 seems like a decent product for your everyday needs. But is it really the best? Are there other brands that give you more in a much cheaper price?
Well, for starters, this is a manual coffee machine, which shouldn’t cost too much, to begin with. Its price is slightly above $100, which is quite normal for coffee machines. It is slightly higher than the average, which is around $70 to $80.
I think the main reason why its value is so high is its premium design. Most coffee machines adopt the same old boring look. The Ninja CM401 has a much more visually appealing design that uses much more refined materials than other machines.
Another reason for the high price is its SCA certification and Thermal Flavor Extraction. In all honesty, the flavor is a bit more saturated, which only makes the experience better. And the best part is that even the iced coffee products you can make from this machine are not watered down. So there’s great attention to taste and flavor enhancement.
But you have to consider the fact that this machine cannot be used for anything other than regular coffee. Yes, there’s the Specialty Brew function. But that’s only to get you started with the coffee. You’ll still need to put in some additional work in order to brew that type of coffee.
It does have the Delay Brew function, which makes it a more advanced product than other brands. But due to its limitations, it’s safe to say that the pros pretty much balance out the cons. So the price is worth it if you want that extra level of programmability.
FAQs for The Ninja CM401:
Yes and no. You see, the Ninja CM401 is only for regular, non-pressurized coffee. Since coffee in the CM401 is not made under pressure, it doesn’t count as espresso. However, you can use the Specialty mode to get a concentrate that can be used as a base for an espresso. The coffee that you get won’t really taste like espresso, but it will be close to it.
Personally, the taste seems a bit off and feels like a poorly-executed imitation of the real thing. But if you really want espresso, either you must purchase an espresso machine, or just buy it online. Both can cost a lot, so the Specialty method is a good money-saver.
You can, to some extent. While it’s not a fully programmable machine, it does give you a lot of laxity in terms of what you can make and how much of it. You can choose from 4 styles of brew, including the Specialty brew with imitates different types of coffee. And you can choose from up to 6 different brew sizes.
As for pre-scheduling, the Ninja CM401 has a Delay Brew function that lets you do just that. You can schedule brewing for a later time. So it has some level of programmability. But it’s not as programmable as those fully-automated coffee machines.
Taking care of your Ninja CM401 is quick and easy. Here’s what you can do to maintain it:
Avoid spilling any coffee over the control panel and digital screen.
Wipe down the exterior with a damp cloth.
Wash out the carafe with a mild warm soap solution.
Run a descaling cycle every week or two with white vinegar and water.
Brush off dust and residue from the parts every month.
The Ninja CM-401 has certainly proven itself to be an astounding product. Its feature set is a steal considering the cost you get it at. And it has some level of programmability, which is quite rare for single-serve coffee machines.
And to add to that, there’s also a Specialty Brew and an Over Ice function, which is also not available in most machines. The only thing I do not like is that the frother is very basic. Yes, the steam is of great quality. But there aren’t many steam texture options.
All in all, Ninja CM-401 is a worthwhile choice for those who want a humble and affordable product.