If you’re interested in single-serve coffee, but you’re unsure whether you should go pod-based or not when it comes to your machine, we understand your predicament.
Deciding between the responsibility of ultimate brewing freedom and the ease of pod-based brewing can be difficult. But we’ve done the hard thinking for you. With our comparisons, you can find out whether the pod-less Ninja brand or the pod-based Keurig brand better suits your lifestyle and coffee needs.
So, let’s dive into the different coffee maker brands, what they offer, and how to decide what you need in your coffee routine.
Nothing But Ninja
SharkNinja Operating LLC, a household appliance producer originally called Euro-Pro Operating LLC, first arrived in the United States in 1996. They manufacture a variety of products including coffee machines.
The main pull of Ninja’s coffee machine line is its versatility. They specialize in creating devices that reduce the number of appliances you need to achieve a top-notch, at-home brewing setup.
What to Expect
The baseline for Ninja machines includes 4 brewing options: classic, rich, iced, and specialty. On top of that, some machines get the bonus of the Cafe Forte feature. Here’s what each of those entails:
- Classic: Perfect if you’re looking for the standard cup of Joe, the classic is a straightforward and simple brew, similar to what you’d get from a high-quality drip machine.
- Rich: This is the half-step between the classic and specialty brewing options; this option works well if you enjoy milk or creamer but still want to taste the coffee.
- Iced: If you aren’t already sold on the versatility of these machines, the iced option might just convince you; it allows you to brew the perfect strength hot beverage to be served over ice.
- Specialty: Note that it doesn’t technically call this option an espresso. That is because the specialty coffee is actually a coffee concentrate. So it might be a little disappointing if consumed as a shot, but it’s perfect for, well, specialty drinks like cappuccinos or lattes.
- Cafe forte: For the true coffee snobs out there, this brewing feature makes a pretty successful attempt at highlighting the specific flavor notes of your favorite grounds. This is a beverage you can drink black.
A branch of Keurig Dr.Pepper, Keurig specializes in single-serve pod coffee machines. With over 50 different models, Keurig is a coffee powerhouse, especially in the States.
The main pull of Keurig machines is their efficiency and simplicity. They can brew a decent-tasting cup or carafe in a surprisingly short amount of time. Plus they’re super user-friendly.
What To Expect
Across the board, Keurigs are pretty straightforward to operate, which is a part of their allure. Brewing starts in a water reservoir, where a selected amount of water is then heated and pushed through your selected coffee pod and directly into your cup.
Aside from the user-friendly operational system, here’s what comes standard on all the models:
- Super fast brewing: All Keurigs brew in a minute or less, though the heat-up time varies from machine to machine.
- Pods: These machines are exclusively compatible with Keurig brand coffee pods. Though there are some third-party dupes, they’re hard to find and usually not worth the risk.
- Removable components: As we mentioned earlier, this brand prides itself on being low-maintenance. For that reason, they include removable drip trays and water reservoirs.
- Auto-off: This is a power-saving and safety feature. It powers off the heating element of the machine after a programmed set of time (from 1 minute to 2 hours) has elapsed.
Top Picks Showdown
Here are our top picks for both Ninja and Keurig single-serve coffee makers that all come with a variety of functions available.
Ninja CFN601 Espresso & Coffee Barista System
The Espresso & Coffee Barista System from Ninja is not only a single-serve option that lets you brew espresso capsules and coffee grounds, but it also comes with a carafe for more brew sizes. The coffee maker also gives you the option of iced coffee drinks, or you can even foam up some milk with the built-in and fold-away milk frother provided.
Some notable features include:
- A 19-bar pressure system that provides optimal temperature and pressure.
- A built-in, fold-away frother to create cappuccinos or lattes.
- Nine different brew sizes are available, from cup, to travel mug, to a full 12-cup carafe.
- A used-capsule storage bin that holds up to 20 capsules.
- Handy functions that include: Delay Brew, Keep Warm, and Clean.
- Also comes with a removable water reservoir, Ninja Smart Scoop™, warming plate, paper filter kit, and a 12-Cup Glass Carafe.
Dimensions: 12.205″ L x 9.84″ W x 14.96″ H
Ninja CFP301 DualBrew Pro Specialty Coffee System
With our other choice from Ninja, the DualBrew Pro Specialty Coffee System, you can also create single-serve or use the provided 12-cup carafe with coffee grounds or coffee pods. This machine comes with a fold-away milk frother, as well, which can be used for lattes and cappuccinos or to get hot water from an independent hot water system that’s also available in the coffee maker.
Some notable features include:
- Some of the faster brewing available among single-serve coffee makers.
- Ability to brew both coffee grounds and pods in 9 different brew sizes, ranging from a small cup to a full 12-cup carafe.
- Four different brewing options: classic, rich, over-ice, or specialty.
- An independent hot water system with two temperature options that is separate from the coffee dispenser to eliminate cross-contamination.
- A built-in and fold-away milk frother that’s also removable.
- A removable 60-oz water reservoir that can fit into two different spaces on the machine.
- Also has handy functions that include: Keep Warm and Delay Brew.
- Comes with a paper filter kit, a 12-Cup Glass Carafe, a Ninja Pod Adapter, and a Ninja Smart Scoop™.
Dimensions: 11.39″ L X 9.13″ W X 15.54″ H
Keurig K-Elite Single-Serve Coffee Maker
When looking at Keurig’s machine options, the K-Elite Single-Serve Coffee Maker is a simple one that shouldn’t be skipped over. With this machine, you can choose to have a bolder cup of coffee simply by using the included Strong Brew feature or even make your morning brew iced with the iced button feature.
This coffee maker does exclusively use K-Cup pods, but you can also brew your favorite ground coffee by using a Universal My K-Cup Reusable Coffee Filter. It can also be compared to the DualBrew Pro from Ninja since it also allows you to dispense hot water.
Some notable features include:
- Has five different brew sizes, including 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12 ounces.
- Special settings such as Strong Brew for a bolder taste and Iced for brewing hot coffee over ice.
- Brews your favorite K-Cup pods in under a minute.
- Has a removable 75oz water reservoir that lets you brew eight cups before refilling.
- Has a removable drip tray and a hot water dispensing option.
- Notifies you when you need to descale your coffee maker.
- Comes with a 6-pack of varied K-Cup pods, one water filter handle, and one water filter.
Dimensions: 13.1” High x 9.9” Wide x 12.7” Deep
Weight: 8.0 lbs
Keurig K-Cafe Single-Serve Coffee Latte & Cappuccino Maker
The last machine we have to show you is the Keurig K-Cafe Single-Serve Coffee Latte & Cappuccino Maker, which lets you use any K-Cup pod to not only brew regular coffee but also to make lattes and cappuccinos. By pressing the “Shot” button on the machine, you can brew a concentrated shot of coffee from a coffee pod, allowing you to make hot or iced espresso-based drinks.
Some notable features include:
- Has four different cup sizes of 6, 8, 10, and 12 ounces.
- Comes with a built-in frother that’s dishwasher safe and also lets you create cold-frothed milk.
- Has a Strong Brew option for a bolder coffee.
- A removable 60oz water reservoir that lets you brew up to 6 cups of coffee before needing to be refilled.
- Tells you when it’s time to descale the coffee maker.
Dimensions: 12.5” High X 15.3” Wide X 11.7” Deep
Keurig vs Ninja: Other Things to Consider
Both Ninja and Keurig have a wide range for brewing; however, Ninja definitely takes the cake on this one.
Keurig’s range comes in with their pod partners, which we discuss a little more in the “to pod or not to pod” section below. While the range of coffee you can get with these options is respectable, the exclusivity is inherently limiting. Also, you’ll have to purchase accessories separately if you plan on making any specialty drinks.
On the other hand, Ninja basically gives you most of the same capabilities of having a drip brewer, espresso machine, and other coffee appliances in one machine. Some machines even come with a steaming wand, which opens up the entire range of specialty espresso drinks without the need for expensive extras.
To Pod or Not to Pod
While both of these brands offer single-serve capabilities, one of the biggest key differences between them is whether pod or no-pod is better.
Ninja coffee makers are not solely pod-based. What that means is that you can choose exactly what grounds you use and are not limited by the brand or brand partners. This allows you to experiment with the flavor of your brew much more than you are able to with pod brewing.
Keurig does try to hold its own in this category though. Despite the limitations of pod brewing, Keurig provides a respectable flavor range by partnering with 60+ different brands to produce their k-pods. As a result, there are around 160 flavors to choose from. However, they also offer a Universal My K-Cup Reusable Coffee Filter that is compatible with some of their machines and allows you to put your favorite coffee grounds into a K-Cup.
Overall, pod-free is the way to go in our opinion due to the unbridled brewing capability it affords. However, if you are looking for something simple and easy, and you aren’t really looking to experiment with the flavor outside of after-the-fact additions, consider Keurig.
Surprisingly enough, Keurig wins in this category. Their reservoir range caps at a whopping 90 ounces; whereas, Ninja machines max at 50 ounces.
Both brands offer a wide range of brew sizes from single cups to full carafes. So in that sense, they are about tied.
In a nutshell, if you’re interested in specialty drinks, high-quality flavor, and nearly unlimited customization, we recommend getting a Ninja coffee maker. The ability to brew from a single-serve to a full carafe using just one machine, as well as making specialized drinks makes this a smart choice.
However, on the other hand, if you have a need for speed and simplicity or just have limited counter space, trying out a Keurig can be just as great. With the range of cup sizes, stronger brew options, and specialty drink options, you can get just as great a cup of coffee!
Whatever you choose, it’s nice to know that both Ninja and Keurig offer a range of machines with a range of features in each. Perfect for fitting into the needs of different coffee drinkers.