If you have been looking for a new coffee maker for your home, you’ve probably noticed that there’s now a bewildering number of brands and models to choose from – so much so that it can all be a bit confusing. To help, here we look at Keurig vs. Ninja Coffee Bar vs. Nespresso: what’s the difference?
1. Introducing Keurig
Keurig coffee makers are now the most popular home brewer in North America. They are the original pod-based one-cup brewer, and they developed from an effort to end the age-old problem of stewed and bitter coffee sitting on a hotplate that used to be common in offices everywhere.
With a Keurig machine, you simply select the pod of your choice, pop it into the coffee maker and hit “brew” – and the Keurig does the rest. You don’t need any skill or patience to brew perfect coffee every time because the machine takes care of everything for you.
There is now a huge range of official Keurig-approved beverages, including coffees, teas, hot chocolates, and hot ciders, as well as many other compatible non-official pods. Some Keurig machines can also brew in mug or carafe sizes, giving you even more flexibility than before.
When Keurig launched the second-generation Keurig 2.0 machines, the company included a DRM device that prevented the use of non-official pods. This did not go down well with Keurig customers, so Keurig released a reusable pod called My K-Cup that allows you to brew with regular grounds.
What’s good about Keurig?
The best thing about Keurig machines is that they offer the ultimate in speed, convenience, and simplicity. You only need to put the pod into the machine and start the brew cycle and you will have a hot cup of fresh coffee within a matter of only about a minute.
This means you don’t have to worry about grinding, dosing or controlling the water temperature. The Keurig takes the element of human error out of the brewing process, ensuring a perfect cup every time.
There is also no clearing up after the coffee is ready – you simply discard the used pod once you’re done and the machine is ready to go again.
They are exceptionally easy to use too. The first-generation machines had a push-button operation while the second-generation Keurig 2.0 machines had touch-screen controls. The newest models have gone back to a push-button system – but every single machine is simple and intuitive to use.
Most Keurig machines allow you to choose between several drink sizes, many give you different strength options and some even allow you to select the temperature. Some machines also include a programmable timer, so your coffee is brewed and waiting when your alarm sounds in the morning.
Is there anything that’s not so good?
There are a couple of downsides associated with Keurig machines too. First, although the machines themselves are quite reasonably priced, the pods are not cheap. In fact, they work out considerably more expensive per cup than brewing with regular beans or grounds in the traditional way.
There have also been some issues with the compatibility of pods. It is now generally accepted that the DRM device was a mistake by the company; the result was that the machines in the 2.0 range only accept official 2.0 pods. However, this problem doesn’t exist in more recent models.
Finally, there is the environmental impact of the pods. Keurig is the most popular maker of single-pods in North America, but the pods are largely unrecyclable. This means that literally billions of these pods end up in landfill sites every year. This is nothing short of an ecological disaster.
Who should buy a Keurig coffee maker?
A Keurig coffee machine is ideal for someone who enjoys drinking great tasting coffee but doesn’t have the time or the inclination to spend making it. Someone who appreciates the speed and simplicity of a Keurig system will enjoy being able to brew coffee with a minimum of fuss.
Keurig coffee machines are also a good choice for people who don’t tend to consume so many hot drinks, especially coffee. This is because coffee stored in K-Cup pods keeps fresh far longer than regular coffee exposed to the air, meaning you don’t need to use your pods up so quickly.
On the other hand, anybody who likes a more hands-on approach to brewing coffee with more control over the brewing process won’t enjoy using a Keurig. They’re not ideal for anyone who wants to save money, and they are certainly not a good choice for the more ecologically-minded.
2. Introducing Nespresso
While Keurig has well and truly cornered the North American pod-based home brewer market, in Europe, Nespresso is king. The original Nespresso machines were not designed to brew American-style long coffees or coffee shop-style drinks – they were designed to make only one thing: espresso.
The original Nespresso machines produce coffee using a pod, like Keurig brewers, but the difference is that they brew under pressure, just like an espresso machine in a coffee shop. This results in rich, intense espresso with an authentic crema, the same as an espresso pulled by a pro.
However, although extremely popular in Europe, the original Nespresso range never managed to challenge Keurig’s domination. A pod-based machine that could only brew espresso proved to be too much of niche product to really grab a large enough slice of the American market.
As a result, Nespresso launched a new range of machines – called VertuoLine – specially designed for North America.
These machines could still brew espresso – made by spinning the pods at high speeds instead of under pressure – but they could also produce drinks like lattes that are so beloved of Americans.
What’s good about Nespresso?
Talking first about Nespresso’s original pod-based espresso machines, the big advantage is that they make producing near coffee shop-quality espresso at home a whole lot easier.
Brewing espresso using a real espresso machine is a fine art that takes training and practice to master. On top of that, real espresso machines can be extremely expensive.
With a Nespresso machine, the whole process has been reduced to simply popping in a pod and waiting a matter of seconds while the machine pours the shot. The result is an authentic tasting, high-quality espresso that takes no effort to prepare.
There is a good selection of espresso pods to choose from, and Nespresso also has its own online shop for customers to order from – pods are normally delivered in only a day or two, making it extremely convenient too.
Then there are the VertuoLine machines. These machines are designed to be in direct competition with Keurig’s range of brewers. They offer all the same advantages, but many people would argue that the coffee they produce is superior to that made by Keurig’s machines.
Is there anything that’s not so good?
The obvious drawback with the original Nespresso machines is that they can only brew espresso. Of course, if that’s your drink of choice and you only want a machine that can make espresso, there’s no problem – but if you want something that can make other drinks, Nespresso is not ideal.
If you prefer a wider drinks selection, you could opt for a VertuoLine machine. However, since there are fewer options available for these machines than for Keurig brewers, you might feel that the Nespresso version limits your choices somewhat.
Then there are the problems that these machines share with any pod-based system. The pods are more expensive than buying regular beans or grounds, and the pods themselves are also a source of plastic pollution, so are not the best ecological choice.
Who should buy a Nespresso?
The original Nespresso machines are ideal for espresso lovers who only want to drink espresso but who don’t want the hassle of pulling shots from a real espresso machine every time.
VertuoLine is a good choice for someone who prefers the ability to make a wider selection of drinks and who is perhaps a slightly more discerning coffee drinker than someone who uses a Keurig.
3. Introducing Ninja Coffee Bar
The Ninja Coffee Bar is quite different from either Keurig machines or Nespresso brewers. Most obviously, Ninja Coffee Bar brewing systems are not pod-based coffee machines – they are brewers that use the traditional method of brewing with coffee beans or grounds.
In many ways, Ninja Coffee Bar systems can be thought of as an update and upgrade of the familiar electric drip coffee machines that were the most popular way of brewing for decades before the arrival of modern pod-based brewers.
With a Ninja Coffee Bar, you use ground coffee in a basket and brew into a carafe. There are several different models, but they all offer the same simplicity of use, opportunity to control and customize the way your coffee is brewed and several extra features to allow you to brew top-quality coffee.
What’s good about Ninja Coffee Bar?
One of the major selling points of Ninja Coffee Bars is that they are extremely simple to use. They allow you to brew a full range of coffee shop drinks like cappuccinos and lattes, but they simplify the process, making it easy enough for anyone to manage.
All models allow you to choose the style of the coffee you brew with the one-touch selection. Options include “classic”, “rich”, “specialty”, “over ice” and “café forte”, although the number of options depends on the model.
Many Ninja Coffee Bar machines include built-in frothers to help produce authentic coffee shop-style beverages.
Most also include “Auto iQ One-Touch Intelligence” – this is a fancy way of saying it measures the correct amount of water for the size and strength you choose, but it does take the guessing out of getting it right.
Finally, something we shouldn’t forget to mention is that Ninja Coffee Bar brewers do the very basic job they are designed to do very well – that is, they brew an excellent cup of coffee. If having great-tasting coffee is important to you, a Ninja could be worth your consideration.
Is there anything that’s not so good?
There’s little not to like about these brewers. They do exactly what they are designed to do – making coffee quickly and easily with little fuss while offering you a large amount of versatility over the beverages you produce.
It could be argued that they are not as quick and easy as using a pod-based machine, but this is the price you pay for having more control over the brewing process.
Another issue is that coffee kept warm on a hot plate will still stew – even though Ninja machines include “intelligent” hotplates to minimize this. Some models come with a thermal carafe rather than a glass carafe and hotplate combination, avoiding the problem altogether.
Another criticism we could fairly level at the Ninja range is simply that the company has released a lot of quite similar brewers with minimal differences beyond one or two accessories, making deciding which one to buy a bit more complicated than it really needs to be.
Who should buy a Ninja Coffee Bar?
A Ninja is an excellent choice for someone who wants to have much more control over the brewing process than a Keurig or Nespresso machine allows, while at the same time, simplifying the process as much as possible.
A Ninja Coffee Bar is perfect if you want to be able to make authentic coffee shop-style drinks like cappuccinos and lattes with real foamed milk, and it also gives you much more versatility and flexibility than a pod-based machine can.
On the other hand, a Ninja Coffee Bar brewing system might not be the best pick for someone who doesn’t enjoy the act of brewing coffee. If all you want is the result and you don’t want to waste time grinding, dosing and experimenting, a pod-based machine might be more suitable for you.
Three highly recommended brands – all with distinct differences
As we have seen, Keurig machines, Nespresso brewers and Ninja Coffee Bars are all quite distinct. They all have their advantages and disadvantages, and all come highly recommended. The most important thing is to understand their relative strengths and then to choose the one that fits best.
My name is Kathy Gallo, Editor of Ag Ferrari, a Coffee buff. The guide you find here is designed exactly for you, and it is our hope that you find it not only interesting but also actionable.