Why settle for a basic coffee maker, when you can have an entire caffeine system at your fingertips?
That's the idea of Ninja's latest coffee release. The sleekly designed Ninja DualBrew Pro Coffee System incorporates a 12-cup drip coffee maker with a single-serve k-cup pod adapter, a hot water dispenser, and a milk frother.
It's an extension of the Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker, which my family was using every day up until I unboxed the Ninja DualBrew Pro. On the first reaction, the DualBrew Pro looks like a high-end upgrade in a slightly smaller, sleeker bundle, finished off with a touch-screen display. Both offer several customizations from cup size to brew style with special conveniences like a built-in milk frother and intelligently adjusting warming plate.
I've spent the last few weeks tinkering around with the Ninja DualBrew Pro and its many settings and I'm ready to share how it fares among the best coffee makers you can buy. If you're a person who is motivated by convenience and versatility, well, you will definitely want to keep reading.
Who will the Ninja DualBrew Pro Specialty Coffee System suit?
The Ninja DualBrew is for the coffee fan who loves options and bells and whistles. It's perfect for anyone looking to add a little variety to their coffee routine. Sure, it can make your classic cup of coffee, but you can take it up a notch with an extra-rich brew, iced coffee, and a coffee concentrate that mimics espresso. Plus, the included recipe book is a launching pad for trying coffeehouse-style specialty beverages at home.
It's well-suited for smaller sized kitchens that don't have space for two, three, or even four coffee makers as well as those that value a machine that counts drip coffee, single-serve coffee, iced coffee, and specialty lattes among its features.
I'd prioritize it for someone who's most likely to brew single-K-cup pods more often than 12-cup carafes. This is because the K-cup adapter must be removed (and stored). In the case of my family, who is utilizing the 12-cup carafe, more often than the individual k-cup pods, removing the adapter is both an extra step and required having a place to store the extra adapter.
However, if you're looking for a machine that does not require the extra step of removing and storing the K-cup adapter, we'll discuss some alternatives later.
Ninja DualBrew Pro Specialty Coffee System: Specs
- Water tank capacity: 55 oz./ 12cups
- Dimensions: 11.39" L X 9.13" W X 15.54" H
- Cord length: 2.5 ft.
- Water filter: No
- Warming plate: Yes
- Programmable: Yes
- Cup options: Keurig K-Cup, Cup, XL cup, travel mug, XL multi-serve, half carafe & full carafe, plus four pod options
- Warranty: 1 year
What's in the box
- NinjaDual Brew Coffee Maker with 60 oz. Glass Carafe
- Ninja Pod Adapter
- Brew Basket
- Built-in measuring scoop
- Fold-Away Milk Frother
- Instructions and Recipe Booklet
- Paper filter kit
The Ninja can brew up to 12 cups of coffee, or 55-ounces. That is quite a large volume, so you can really brew as much or as little in various increments that are enough for a single-serving, a few cups, or the whole carafe. It's easy to simply turn the dial to your desired ounce size, with 13 options to choose from in all. During brewing, a progress indicator flashes along the dial to show how much is left to brew. The included scoop has the recommended coffee portions based on your selected cup size, so there is no guesswork on how much coffee to use. Note if you do use the Rich brew function, it does yield slightly less coffee.
Ninja Pod Adapter
When you're looking to brew a single cup of coffee with a K-cup, you'll want to make sure the Ninja Pod Adapter is properly inserted into your machine! A key difference in how it brews from a typical Kuerig machine is that it has three punctures up top, instead of the typical single. The needle also isn't as sharp, leaving a wider punch, and allowing for even better saturation. Of note, the Ninja Pod Adapter is not compatible with Keurig reusable pods.
Fill up your favorite cup (or the glass carafe) with ice cubes and select the Over Ice button to brew. The cycle brews slower than hot and will start and stop for a short period before beeping to end. Ninja said this is to ensure all the coffee grounds are evenly saturated. I commonly used this feature with a travel-sized mug, and then would top it with cold-frothed milk. Divine!
The specialty brew is an ultra-concentrated 4 oz. serving of coffee designed to mimic espresso, and uses two large scoops or 4 Tbsp. While not quite espresso, it is smooth, bold, and intense. We probably wouldn't opt to drink it on its own, but it pairs nicely with the milk frother to create your own latte. The serving is not adjustable, and you can not brew multiple servings at the same time. This was the biggest pain point for me with the specialty brew because if I wanted to brew multiple servings of the specialty coffee for more than one person, I'd have to take the time for the brew basket to cool and clean the wet grounds from the permanent filter. You can also use a K-cup and choose the Specialty brew option too.
The Ninja Dual Brew has a separate hot water dispenser that is activated by turning a knob on the side to an icon that looks like a water droplet. The machine immediately switches to give you water-only options when the knob is selected. Choose from hot or boiling water in increments from 2 to 55 oz, and you'll immediately have hot water for tea, soup, oatmeal, and pour over coffee.
Fold-out milk frother
The fold-out milk frother is a convenient feature with a designated spot on the left side of the machine that folds out for use. It's a very basic whisk style design and does not heat milk, so you will also have to microwave your milk as an extra step. It made very good froth from both hot and cold milk. You'll want to immediately snap it off to rinse once you finish frothing milk, otherwise, it will drip onto the counter. It's very easy to remove.
Removable Water Tank
The 60 oz. water tank easily lifts up to transport to your tap and has grooved handles to make it easier to grasp. It has fill lines that indicate the minimum fill, a half-carafe, and a full carafe. No filter, however. The water tank goes the height of the machine and is slim and easy to handle taking from a water source and attaching to the machine. It can be adjusted to be placed on the right side of the machine or directly behind. I chose to leave the water tank on the side, as I found it easier to reach, and the
Set up and use
Getting started involved familiarizing myself with the machine, and this is one machine you'll definitely want to refer to the manual for the first few times. In theory, the Ninja DualBrew should be simple to set up. When you take it out of the box, the only parts that really need installation are the milk-frothing wand and snapping in the measuring spoon. Of course,
The K-cup adapter arrives nested into the filter basket machine, but to start the machine, you should run a full carafe cycle, so I needed to access the normal coffee grounds. However, removing it was not the most intuitive. However, a quick visit to YouTube to see an unboxing in action solved any uncertainties.
The top of the machine instantly identifies itself as the Ninja Pod adapter. A nob at the front instructs you to lift to open, revealing the opening where you will place a K-Cup. To the left edge, there is a sticker that says remove and lock, and it will be in the lock position. To remove, you will need to push the front knob forward, away from you, where it can then be lifted up. Once you figure out the movement, it is not difficult, but if multiple people will be interacting with this coffee maker, it could be worth it to leave those stickers in place.
Once the adapter is removed, the knob that says "Slide for Grounds" pulls toward you to cover the filter basket and the space where the adapter was. When not in use, it sits comfortably at the back of the machine. However, the Ninja Pod Adapter needs to be stored externally when not using that part. The Grounds lid also slides out from the back of the machine for easy access to clean, if necessary.
The filter uses #4 cone-shaped coffee filters or a permanent filter that was sold separately. For the first brew, I made the mistake of using a basket-shaped coffee filter from an open package instead of the sample ones supplied by Ninja. Don't do this, as the paper filter was much too shallow for the cone-shaped filter basket, made a mess, and created very gritty coffee. I quickly learned from this mistake.
Once I plugged in the machine, I was able to set the time, which clearly displays on the dial when turned off.
To brew, you turn the dial to select your cup size, then select Classic, Rich or Over Ice to begin brewing. For the Specialty option, it doesn't matter what size is selected, it automatically brews four ounces. The Ninja uses a brewing process called Thermal Flavor Extraction, which works to evenly saturate the grounds, automatically adjusts timing to give coffee the right time to bloom, and has a consistent temperature.
First, I brewed a full-carafe of the Classic brew with fives big scoops of coffee. The measuring scoop shows the recommended number of scoops for your cup size to take out any of the guesswork, between 4 and 7 for a full carafe. Since I've used Ninja coffee makers before, and that was my typical dose, that amount pleased my family.
The rich setting definitely amped up the brew strength. It does make slightly less coffee, however, the dial will reflect just how much will brew. As a fan of iced coffee, it was a nice touch to have an Over Ice feature when I didn't have a batch of cold brew coffee prepared.
For the 4 oz. specialty setting, the concentrate itself is quite strong, and while it resembles espresso, it is not espresso and tastes best when mixed with milk, or following along with one of the recipes in the included recipe booklet. You'll need a fresh paper filter for each drink, but a convenient alternative is to choose the specialty brew with a K-Cup, which creates much less mess.
The milk frother is a nice feature as well, and easy to use and remove to clean. It does not have a heated element like a steam wand you might find on an espresso machine, but at this price point, and the fact that it stores on-board and takes up minimal space, it is convenient.
When you brew a half-carafe or larger, the hot plate automatically kicks on for two hours and knows to intelligently adjust the temperature to keep your coffee from burning. It has a very easy-to-see indicator light to show that the warming plate is on.
When the coffee is finished brewing, the machine beeps. I found that coffee still liked to dribble into the carafe, so when I would remove the carafe, I slid the drip stopper to keep any liquid from dripping onto the hot plate. It's also useful to pause the brew cycle using the drip stop feature to sneak a cup. If you try to run a brew and the drip stopper is on, the machine beeps at you to open the stopper.
How does the Ninja DualBrew Pro Specialty Coffee System rate online?
As the DualBrew Pro is pretty new, there aren't too many reviews just yet. On Ninja's website the DualBrew Pro has a 4.6 rating out of about 70 reviews, many of which noted that they received the product for free. Most commented on its versatility and complimented its style and performance. A few stressed that they wished the Ninja Pod Adapter would be compatible with Keurig reusable k-cups and others thought their coffee wasn't brewing hot enough.
On Amazon, the pool of reviewers is similarly small and has a 4.7 out of 5 star, and it also appears that several received free product. Some liked the K-cup brewing and its options more than their existing Keurig machines, but the overarching theme here is that few other machines offer this versatilty.
How does the Ninja DualBrew Pro Specialty Coffee System compare to other Ninja brewers?
The Ninja DualBrew is essentially an extension of its Specialty line, with the new k-cup additions and hot water spout. I've previously reviewed the Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker, which is a 10-cup coffee maker that also offers the Classic, Rich, Over Ice, and Specialty settings for mugs to the full carafe, with a built-in measuring spoon and milk frother. Featurewise, the DualBrew Pro is a clear upgrade with the interface refresh, Ninja Pro Adapter, and hot water dispenser, all of which are reflected in the price. The Specialty Coffee Maker does come with its own reusable filter, which is one thing I really wish the DualBrew Pro came with.
Note, that for $30 less, the downgraded DualBrew forgoes the milk frother, specialty coffee setting, and hot water dispenser.
Additionally, the Ninja Hot and Cold Brewed System has the ability to brew cold brew and tea. It costs more than the Specialty, but less than the DualBrew Pro, and shows that you have no shortage of specialty coffee options when it comes to choosing Ninja machines.
How does the Ninja DualBrew Pro Specialty Coffee System compare to other single-serve coffee makers?
Beyond the Ninja DualBrew Pro, there are a few other options on the market when it comes to coffee makers with K-cup integrations. The DualBrew Pro appears to have the most options and versatility when it comes to brewing.
The Keurig K-Duo is perhaps the first that comes to mind, straight from Keurig itself. The boxy side-by-side model has its standard K-cup brewer on one side, and a 12-cup carafe and heat plate for drip coffee. They both share the same 60 oz. water reservoir and switching between brew settings are as simple as selecting a cup or carafe.
Nutribullet decided to design its first coffee maker with K-cup integration too, seen in the Nutribullet Brew Choice Pod + Carafe, which is also significantly cheaper than the Keurig and the Ninja, and it comes with a reusable pod. Pop in a K-cup with the Pod holder to choose from 6, 8, or 12 oz. cups, or brew a 6, 9, or 12 cup carafe. It can automatically detect and adjust whether you've inserted a coffee pod or a filter filled with coffee grounds.
Cuisinart also has its own K-cup compatible coffee maker, the Cuisinart Coffee Center Coffee Maker & Single-Serve Brewer, which also has a convenient side-by-side build. While its design just doesn't feel as sleek, it has two separate water reservoirs as if two coffee machines were combined together.
Ninja DualBrew Pro Specialty Coffee System: our verdict
Stylish and sophisticated, we have found in the Ninja DualBrew Pro a machine that seems to do it all. Whether you're tight on space or like the idea of a drip coffee maker that can do more than just normal coffee (and be good at those things too) the Ninja DualBrew Pro will be your countertop companion, with a narrow footprint.
At first, I grappled with the fact that you had to take the adapter out to brew a carafe, or put it in when you wanted to use a pod... the point of view changes depending on which brew method you use more. But, I found, you're likely to choose one option more often than the other as you settle into a routine, and while there are "side-by-side" options from Keurig and other companies, none of them offer the features and versatilities, or even the swanky looks of the Ninja Dual Brew Pro.
It's not Ninja's most affordable machine, but it's definitely it's most versatile, giving it ample value. We've already spotted it on sale a few times, which is beneficial for those looking to leverage a deal on a coffee maker, making this one single-serve coffee maker to watch.
Ninja DualBrew Pro Specialty Coffee System: where to buy
About this review and the reviewer
Jaclyn is the US eCommerce editor across the home titles at Future, including Real Homes, where she specializes in a variety of topics ranging from vacuums to mattresses. She spends her days tracking the latest buzzworthy releases and testing a variety of products to determine whether they are worth bringing into your home. The real fun is in coffee makers, where those around her get to partake in taste testing. And if you're wondering her preferred coffee order, she's currently loving cold brew with oat milk and caramel, and will never say no to a mocha.
All our reviews, as in the case of the Ninja DualBrew Pro Coffee System, are based on the real-life experience of using these products at home. The products are given to us free of charge and we test them for as long as possible before sending them back to the brand unless we are able to keep them as we are with this coffee maker. This means that we can continue to use the product which gives us the opportunity to return to our reviews for updating, so you can keep up-to-date with how it's fared over a period of time.