Like many Americans over the last year, I became an at-home barista during the pandemic (also known as a "quarista," apparently). I've done well for myself with a Keurig and a French press, but set out to put the sophisticated Ninja Hot and Cold Brewed System through its paces to see if that slightly higher price point is really worth the upgrade.
Cup capacity: 10 cups (50 oz)
Size: 11.8 x 10 x 15 inches
Brew sizes: standard, XL, travel mug, XL multi-serve travel mug, half carafe (five cups), and full carafe (10 cups)
Brew styles: classic, rich, over ice, cold brew, specialty
As the name suggests, this appliance is capable of making both hot and cold drinks. You can brew a single cup of coffee in your favorite mug, a carafe of cold brew for you and some friends, and specialty drinks on par with what you'd find at a chic cafe thanks to the built in milk frother.
After careful testing (and lots of caffeine), we're here to share our thoughts on whether the Ninja Hot and Cold Brewed System is the best coffee maker you can have on your countertop.
Ninja Hot and Cold Brewed System: Price
The Ninja Hot and Cold Brewed System with Thermal Carafe was released in 2018 with an MSRP of $229. Today, it's on sale at Amazon for $180 (opens in new tab), but you can save about $20 by opting for the same Ninja machine with a glass carafe. Ultimately, your carafe comes down to preference — a thermal carafe may do a better job of keeping drinks warm, but a glass carafe looks more stylish.
A permanent filter is included, so there's no need for expensive recurring costs, though you can use #4 paper filters as well. Just make sure to wash the reusable filter well after each use to avoid unpleasant sediment in your drinks. (It's dishwasher-safe.)
Ninja Hot and Cold Brewed System: Features
The Ninja Hot and Cold Brewed System features six brew sizes: standard cup, XL cup, travel mug, XL multi-serve travel mug, half carafe (five cups), and full carafe (10 cups).
Coffee and tea can be brewed in a number of ways, with a couple of strength options between 'classic' and 'rich' options, as well as ice and cold brews as well. Not only that, but you'll be able to produce smaller, stronger brews for speciality drinks like lattes.
- Classic: Produces a balanced cup of coffee or tea.
- Rich: Provides a more robust and intense flavor.
- Over Ice: Brews the right amount of liquid so it won't be watered down.
- Cold Brew: Uses a lower temperature and less water for a smoother brew.
- Specialty: A highly-concentrated brew for lattes and other complex drinks.
That's a strong range of brewing options, making this a particularly versatile coffee maker. While it's worth noting that there are no brew strength options for cold coffee drinks, we rarely see such features on a machine of this price tag, let alone one that serves such a wide range of tea and coffee needs as well.
For tea, you can select the type you're brewing so the Ninja Hot and Cold Brewed System can adjust the steeping temperature accordingly. Settings are in place for herbal, black, oolong, white, and green teas.
Convenience features include Delay Brew (if you'd like to wake up to a fresh pot of coffee) and a Drip Stop button (if you can't wait for that first cup of coffee before brewing a whole pot).
There's no pod coffee functionality here, which is increasingly becoming common on these pricier machines. However, you can swap specialist and cold brew features for K-Cup compatibility with the Cuisinart Coffee Center (opens in new tab) at $20 more.
Ninja Hot and Cold Brewed System: Design
The Ninja Hot and Cold Brewed System measures 11.8 x 10 x 15 inches. It'll suit most medium-to-large countertops but it's too bulky for smaller kitchens with limited space. You'll also have to consider creating storage for any brew baskets not in use.
On the right of the machine is a 50-oz. plastic water reservoir with a flip-top and markings indicating minimum fill lines for various brew sizes. Unless you're viewing the coffee maker from the side, the reservoir is rather invisible since it's hidden by the control panel. Plus, the reservoir is removable if you need to take it to a tethered water source.
Meanwhile, the left side houses a fold-away milk frother plus storage for the included Ninja Scoop, which conveniently features the number of recommended scoops for every brew size printed on it.
For a single-size brew, there's a pull-down platform where you can place your mug. The base of the machine accommodates travel mugs and tumblers in addition to the included 50-oz. stainless steel carafe.
Two brew baskets are included: green for tea and orange for coffee. This not only prevents coffee grounds from intermingling with tea leaves, but it also prompts the machine to automatically apply the proper settings. (Inserting the coffee basket will dim the tea settings and vice versa.)
Ninja Hot and Cold Brewed System: Ease of use
At first glance, the control panel of the Ninja Hot and Cold Brewed System might seem intimidating, but it's really as simple as maneuvering two knobs.
The top knob selects brew size while the bottom knob chooses the brew style and starts the brewing process. (That's not to be confused with the dedicated power button on the bottom right-hand side.) Pressing the Tea button will highlight the tea types, which can also be selected via the bottom knob.
Brew times vary among sizes and brew styles. A full carafe of coffee on the Classic setting takes approximately 10 minutes. Meanwhile, an XL cup of cold brew coffee is ready in roughly the same amount of time, which is a nice change from having to wait at least 12 hours for the grounds to steep.
Except for the stainless steel carafe, all removable parts of the Ninja Hot and Cold Brewed System are top-rack dishwasher-safe. There is also a sensor that will illuminate the Clean button when the machine requires a thorough descaling of calcium buildup.
Ninja Hot and Cold Brewed System: Performance
Overall, the quality of my coffee was quite good, if at times imperfect. It can make a regular cup or carafe of coffee quite well, but specialized brews tend to be hit-or-miss — largely due to the lack of customization for the latter.
I was particularly happy with how my medium-roast coffee turned out on the Classic setting — it was smooth and balanced, as promised. The Rich setting produced a much bolder cup of coffee for my dark roast, which prompted mixed reviews among my family, though I personally liked it.
Although it doesn't make the smoothest cold brew coffee I've ever tasted, I was still happy with how my XL cup of cold brew turned out — especially in 10 minutes. I'm here for the convenience.
As someone who relies on a basic Keurig for heating water for tea, I appreciated the ability to choose the right temperature for my oolong and green tea bags. The cold brew teas I made were refreshing and delicious, especially during a heatwave.
For early morning wake-ups, the Delay Brew was a godsend. I enjoyed the scent of freshly-made coffee (and minimal effort on my part) upon waking up. Plus, the Ninja Hot and Cold Brewed System is fairly quiet. It does emit a few whirring start-up noises right before it begins brewing, but nothing too jarring.
Again, it's important to emphasize thorough cleaning of the reusable filters to avoid unpleasant-tasting coffee. Also, opt for coarse to medium-ground coffee, as anything too fine will clog the permanent filter and result in an untasty brew. (Personally, my best coffee came from coarser coffee I ground myself.)
What we didn't like
I'll admit I'm not too keen on coffee over-ice since discovering the joy that is cold brew. I was hoping the Ninja Hot and Cold Brewed System would change my mind. While my iced coffee drinks weren't watered down, they weren't very smooth and, unfortunately, there's no way to adjust brew strength for over-ice coffee. If you are looking for multiple brew strength settings for your ice coffee, check out the slightly pricier Braun MultiServe (opens in new tab).
The specialty coffee and tea drinks I made were decent, but once again, I wish there was a way to adjust brew and size settings. All Specialty beverages are one size: 4-oz. for coffee and 6-oz. for tea. This is to accommodate milk and other liquids while maintaining the essence of the brew. I'd like more room to customize here, but this is a fairly standard limitation of at-home specialty coffee brewers.
The smart filters are a great feature, but they're also a bit fiddly. My tea filter, in particular, would not sit flush with the brew basket and even got stuck a couple of times.
Should you buy the Ninja Hot and Cold Brewed System?
The Ninja Hot and Cold Brewed System is perfect for households that require both single-serve and multi-cup brewers. It offers plenty of flexibility in preparing the type and amount of coffee you want. The option to make tea is a nice bonus if you like to alternate between caffeine sources, especially since it steeps various teas at their optimum temperatures.
The Ninja may have a high asking price up-front, but you'll get your money's worth when you start to eschew regular Starbucks trips for at-home pumpkin spice lattes. You can also save money on paper filters and coffee pods since the Hot and Cold Brewed System doesn't rely on those.
At-home baristas like myself will revel in the multitude of functions the Ninja Hot and Cold Brewed System offers, but the premium price tag won't be worth it for casual coffee drinkers who don't need bells and whistles. The Ninja Specialty (opens in new tab) coffee maker is a cheaper alternative to the Hot and Cold Brewed System that omits the cold brew and tea functionality, but that may even be excessive for someone who just wants a good cup of coffee in the morning.
If you're not particularly fussy about your coffee, we'd recommend the Braun Brew Sense Drip (opens in new tab) coffee maker. It's not only less expensive, but still allows for single-cup brews.
Check out the best espresso machines for something a little stronger, or find the perfect pod coffee maker for you with the best Nespresso machines and the best Keurigs available now as well. We're also rounding up all the best Cuisinart coffee makers if you're keeping an eye on the competition.