So you want to up your coffee game around the house and hopefully save some money in the long run by cutting out your trips to coffee shops in favor of a machine that can do it all right there in your kitchen.
But should you go with a Ninja Coffee Bar or a Nespresso system?
Each brand offers a variety of options and both the Ninja Coffee Bar and Nespresso systems have their pros and cons. Which one is best for coffee drinkers in your house will depend on what’s most important to you and how you enjoy your coffee.
Nespresso vs Ninja: Differences at a Glance
While both the Ninja Coffee Bar and Nespresso systems are designed to bring the coffee shop experience into your home and allow you to create lattes, cappuccinos, flat whites, and more, there are some big differences between the two to address right off the bat. Some of the differences to notice before jumping into the details are:
- The Ninja Coffee Bar doesn’t make espresso. For espresso-style drinks, it brews strong coffee.
- Not all Nespresso systems brew regular coffee in traditional drip style. Some only make espresso.
- Some Nespresso options steam the milk. The Ninja Coffee Bar requires you to heat milk before frothing.
- Ninja Coffee Bar Systems tend to be wider than Nespresso systems and require more counter space.
- There are more Nespresso options than Ninja options.
- Nespresso machines do not have the option to brew a full carafe.
Nespresso System Options
There’s a range of options within the Nespresso line. The one for you will depend on your coffee habits and the types of espresso beverages you enjoy.
There are two lines under the Nespresso umbrella:
- VertuoLine (Vertuo, Evoluo, and VertuoPlus), which brews espresso, lungo, and coffee
- OriginalLine (Essenza Mini, Pixie, Citiz, Expert, Lattissima, KitchenAid, Creatista, and Innissia), which only brews espresso and lungo
Here is an overview of each model. Check our guide on the best Nespresso machines for more detailed specifications, such as exact size, warranty information, etc:
- Vertuo: Basic model that brews coffee as well as espresso (VertuoPlus has a bigger, movable water tank and makes hotter coffee)
- Evoluo: The improved Vertuo, basically. You can make coffee or espresso—even hotter than with the Vertuo—and you can use taller cups with this one thanks to the redesign of the drip tray.
- Essenza Mini: Great for apartments and kitchens that don’t have a lot of counter space because of the compact design; offers espresso or lungo cup sizes
- Pixie: Another tiny option that offers two cup sizes (espresso and lungo); has a folding drip tray
- Citiz: Offers espresso and lungo cup sizes, has a folding drip tray to accommodate different cup sizes, and is designed with the small urban kitchen in mind, so it’s not very wide
- Expert: Has a flat-to-the-wall design and offers four cup sizes (ristretto, espresso, lungo, and Americano)
- Latissima+: One touch makes your perfect cappuccino or latte, as this design comes with a built-in milk frother; you can customize and save your drinks so it’ll make them the way you prefer them every time
- Lattissima Touch: Lets you easily choose between ristretto, espresso, lungo, hot milk, cappuccino, macchiato, or hot milk and has a removable milk container you can store in the refrigerator until you’re ready to make your drink
- Lattissima Pro: Large 44 oz water tank, programmable water hardness setting, semi-automatic daily cleaning, and you can use a touchscreen to make a cappuccino or latte with the push of a button
- Creatista: This one gives you more control over the texture of the milk and allows you to create latte art, comes with a barista milk jug to make art easier, automatically cleans the steam wand, and offers a detailed high-resolution display, glossy finish
- Creatista Plus: Similar to the original Creatista but comes in a brushed stainless steel finish, also comes with the barista jug
- Inissia: Not currently sold on the Nespresso website but still available at some department stores, offers espresso and lungo size options, foldable drip tray, small and lightweight
Ninja Coffee Bar Options
There aren’t too many differences between the Ninja Coffee Bar Systems. You can go with single-serve, a glass carafe, or a thermal carafe.
- Coffee Bar Single-Serve System: This one provides just the basics. You won’t be able to make a whole pot of coffee but if you rarely need more than a cup at a time, this could be the one for you. You still get the other things the full systems offer, like a built-in frother, reusable filter, scoop, removable water reservoir, and even a recipe guide.
- Glass Carafe System: The glass carafe system allows you to make coffee to fit a regular cup, XL cup, travel mug, multi-serve, half carafe, or whole carafe. You can choose from classic and rich brews for your regular coffee, then when it’s time to make a specialty drink, use the specialty or café forte (some models) option. You can also make iced drinks with this system. The machine keeps the carafe warm for two hours after the brewing process and then shuts off automatically.
- Thermal Carafe System: This is largely the same as the glass carafe system. Instead of a glass carafe, of course, this one has a stainless steel thermal carafe and no warming plate. In this model, it’s up to the carafe itself to keep the coffee hot.
If it’s pure espresso you’re looking for, not a decadent, milky drink (with or without flavored syrups), the Ninja Coffee Bar will likely let you down. The Nespresso system, however, can give you true espresso with crema.
Steaming and Frothing Milk
One of the places Nespresso really wins is with the milk. While you can froth milk on the Ninja Coffee Bar Systems without too much work (hold a mug up and push a button) or messy cleanup, you have to heat the milk on the stove or in the microwave first.
The Nespresso machine that has the milk frothing options also steam the milk. Store the milk in the refrigerator and then take it straight to the machine to whip up a delicious, hot beverage. It removes one step. You won’t have to hold the mug or the button on the Nespresso machine, either. Instead, you push a button once all components are in position, let go, and it does all the work.
The Ninja options usually range in price from about $160.00 to about $200.00 (For the latest prices and discounts, check here), depending on which setup you prefer. When you’re ready to make your purchase, shop around. You can sometimes find these systems for as low as $80.00 (single-serve) to $100.00 (glass carafe).
The Nespresso machines range from around $100.00 (the Innissia) to almost $400.00 (For the latest prices and discounts, check here) (the Creatista Plus and Lattissima Pro). The milk steaming feature adds quite a bit to the price of the machines at the more expensive end of the spectrum. Less expensive options only make espresso.
Additional costs are more of a concern with the Nespresso systems since they use coffee pods rather than a permanent filter (though reusable filters are possible with some Nespresso models). In addition, you will need to purchase the descaling solution rather than an inexpensive bottle of vinegar.
Each machine will need to be cleaned to some degree after each cup or pot of coffee. Descaling will need to happen every couple of months.
You can toss the removable filter holder, permanent filter, water reservoir, and reservoir lid from the Ninja Coffee Bar Systems in the dishwasher (top-rack only). Clean the carafes by hand. To descale your machine, you can use the descaling cleaning solution made specifically for Ninja Coffee Bar Systems or a mix of water and white vinegar.
Nespresso warns against using vinegar on their products and recommends only using the descaling product designed for Nespresso machines. For everyday cleaning, not descaling, several components of the Nespresso machines are top-rack dishwasher safe. If you don’t have a dishwasher, they can, of course, be washed by hand. Nespresso recommends cleaning these parts every two days (descaling is done less frequently).
The Ninja Coffee Bar System automatically shuts off after two hours, so it won’t matter if you forget to turn it off before you leave the house. The glass carafe model has a warming plate but the model with the thermal carafe does not.
Nespresso machines turn themselves off after nine minutes because there is no pot of coffee to keep warm. You are able to change the setting so the machine stays on for 30 minutes, however.
What Comes in the Box
Sometimes add-ons and what’s included with the machine itself make a big difference in overall value and which choice is best for you when counter space isn’t an issue.
With the Ninja, you get:
- A 50-ounce glass or stainless steel thermal carafe (except on the single-serve model)
- Permanent filter
- A 50-ounce over ice carafe (some models)
- To-go tumbler (some models)
- Double-ended scoop for measuring coffee (some models)
With the Nespresso machines, you get:
- The machine itself, of course
- Water tank
- Milk tank or separate frother (varies by model)
- Welcome pack, including a few pods to get you started
Wondering if you have enough counter space for any of these machines? They don’t take up much more room than a traditional coffee maker, and some may even be smaller than your current machine.
The Ninja Coffee Bar Systems with glass and thermal carafes come in at about 9.21 (depth) x 11.96 (width) x 15 (height) inches.
The Single Serve System is 10.55 (depth) x 10.25 (width) x 14.80 (height).
Nespresso machines, of course, vary a bit more in size since there are so many to choose from. For example, the Pixie, one of the smallest options, is 4.4 (width) x 12.8 (depth) x 9.3 (height), in inches. The Essenza Mini is slightly smaller at 4.3 x 8.0 x 12.8 inches. The Lattissima + is one of the larger models, complete with a milk frother, and its dimensions are 6.5 (wide) x 12.6 (deep) x 10 (high).
If you’re short on counter space and don’t absolutely need a machine that will make a half or full carafe of coffee, the better choice is the Nespresso (but not by a lot).
Pros and Cons of the Ninja Coffee Bar Options
- There is so much variety in the types of drinks you can make and the sizes available.
- You have the option to make a regular pot (or half pot) of coffee.
- The milk frother is attached to the machine and easy to remove and clean.
- It takes up more space on the counter.
- You can descale it with vinegar.
- You can use a delay brew option, which makes mornings easier (and you get to wake up to the smell of coffee).
- You don’t get actual espresso.
- Cleanup is messier than Nespresso’s.
- You’ll need to follow a recipe to create your drink. Some Nespresso machines let you select the type of drink you want and it does the work.
- Slightly more hands-on time required.
Pros and Cons of the Nespresso Options
- You get real espresso with crema.
- Some machines allow you to choose your specialty drink and it does the whole thing for you, from steaming the milk and putting it into the cup to adding the perfect amount of espresso.
- The machines don’t take up a lot of space like some other espresso machines.
- Cleanup is simple.
- LED Touchscreen (some models)
- Auto-cleaning milk carafe (some models)
- Pre-programmed drink options take the guesswork out of making your own beverage, and takes different amounts of espresso needed into account.
- More color options, so you can choose your favorite color or match your kitchen.
- You can’t make a pot of coffee.
- Some machines won’t make a regular cup of coffee, though some have the lungo espresso option. (The VertuoLine does make “regular” coffee.)
- Pods are expensive.
- You have to buy special descaling solution.
- There is no delay brew option.
- There’s a smaller water reservoir than the Ninja.
- Because of all the waste from the pods, this may not be the most environmentally-friendly option.
Comparing and contrasting coffee makers can be a lot to try to digest at one time. Here’s a side-by-side comparison that might help break it down and let you see any pros and cons for your lifestyle and kitchen space.
|Ninja Coffee Bar Systems||Nespresso|
|What Does It Brew?||Only coffee, though there are options for stronger, richer brews for specialty drinks and more concentrated coffee for iced coffee drinks||All brew espresso, but the VertuoLine adds coffee to the mix. Some models don’t make coffee but have a lungo option, which is similar|
|Cost at Time of Purchase||$80.00 to $200.00 (For the latest prices and discounts, check here)||$100.00 to $400.00 (For the latest prices and discounts, check here)|
|Cost over Time||Less, due to reusable filter and no special products required for cleaning||More, because pods are used and special solution must be used for descaling|
|Size Options||For full systems, you can choose from|
|Milk Frother||Attached wand, froth milk in a mug, and milk must be heated first for hot drinks||Some attached, some separate; does not require you to froth/steam in mug or heat first|
|Ease of Use||Intuitive, but a few steps are required to make a drink||Intuitive and sometimes is as simple as pushing a button, even when making cappuccinos and lattes|
|Ease of Cleaning||Can be messy due to ground coffee residuals, parts are dishwasher-safe||Just dispose of a pod when you’re done, parts are dishwasher-safe, parts are auto-cleaned after each use|
|Descaling||Can use descaling solution specifically for Ninja Coffee Bar Systems, but vinegar is also an option (see user manual for instructions)||Nespresso descaling solution required and instructions say specifically not to use vinegar|
|Space Requirements||Most are very similar in size, on average larger than Nespresso models||Vary in size and shape, but generally take up less counter space|
|Hands-on Time||Once everything is set up, turn a knob, push a button, and wait for the coffee. For milky drinks, you’ll have to heat the milk separately and then hold the mug and the button on the frothing wand until the milk is as frothy as you’d like.||Next to none, once everything is in place.|
|Moveable Platform||Yes, it flips up or down to allow for different cup sizes (travel mugs and XL mugs vs. regular mugs, for example)||Some models|
|Safety||Automatically shuts off after two hours||Automatically shuts off after nine to thirty minutes (default is nine)|
Which Is Best?
For convenience, easy cleanup, and counter space, Nespresso wins. Where cost and the ability to make full carafes of coffee are concerned, Ninja Coffee Bar wins. Both options make delicious drinks and can froth milk. Nespresso’s process is more streamlined but will cost more long-term. The machine itself, depending on the model you choose, will also cost more upfront.
What About the Keurig? The Nespresso systems are definitely for more “refined” coffee fans, but how exactly do they compare to the popular Keurig’s? See my Nespresso vs Keurig comparison for the head-to-head.