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The Ninja Coffee Bar and other Ninja Coffee Makers advertise themselves as specialty coffee systems, with recipes for lattes, cappuccino, and more. But those drinks are made from espresso, so can you make espresso in a Ninja coffee maker?
Ninja coffee makers can’t make real espresso since they don’t use high pressures. Their specialty coffee is really a coffee concentrate made by slowing the brewing process. You can still use it to make your favorite lattes, but it won’t taste like espresso from a real espresso machine.
In this article, I’ll explain how Ninja’s specialty coffee is made, show you how to make espresso in a Ninja Coffee Bar, and give you some alternative ways to make imitation espresso.
Do Ninja Coffee Makers Make Espresso?
None of Ninja’s coffee makers can brew real espresso. As drip coffee makers, they don’t pressurize water like espresso machines do. Real espresso requires at least 9 bars of pressure, and the top espresso machines use at least 15 bars of pressure.
Ninjas do have more brew options than your typical drip coffee maker. The best Ninja coffee makers can brew up to four styles of coffee:
- Over Ice
Specialty coffee is their espresso-style brew, which can be used for lattes, cappuccinos, macchiatos, and other coffee drinks that typically use espresso as a base.
Like espresso, Ninja’s specialty coffee is stronger than regular drip coffee. Instead of high pressures, they rely on a slower, lower-temperature brewing process to concentrate their specialty coffee. You’ll notice the flavor difference if you drink it as a shot of espresso, but it’s definitely a good enough base for lattes.
How Do You Make Espresso in a Ninja Coffee Maker?
To make mock espresso with your Ninja coffee bar, you’re going to need a Ninja that has the specialty brew option. You can read about my recommended pick in my Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker review. If you want to go all-out, though, the Ninja Hot and Cold Brewed System has the most advanced features of any Ninja coffee machine.
Your Ninja comes with instructions for how to make specialty coffee (their version of espresso). The most important things to remember are these three steps:
- Use two scoops from the big side of your Ninja smart scoop (4 tablespoons total). This amount may vary for some specialty drink recipes like one of my favorites: caramel macchiato.
- Ignore the size settings. The specialty brew button always makes a 4-ounce cup of coffee.
- Press the specialty button to start the brewing process.
That gives you a specialty coffee base that you can use for all of your favorite Ninja coffee recipes. There are a few recipes included in the Ninja manual, and you can find dozens of others on the web. Or you can try to adapt your favorite espresso recipes to use Ninja specialty coffee.
More Ways to Make Espresso Without an Espresso Machine
In case you aren’t sold on a Ninja coffee maker yet, here are a few other ways that you can make imitation espresso without a real espresso machine.
The AeroPress and AeroPress Go are cheap, travel-friendly coffee makers that can brew some of the best coffee you’ll ever drink. The downside, though, is that they are manual coffee makers, so they aren’t as easy to use as the Ninja.
AeroPress brewers share a lot in common with espresso machines. They apply pressure to the water and use a rapid brewing process (1–2 minutes). These similarities make the AeroPress an obvious choice for mock espresso.
If you already have an AeroPress, you can use a simple AeroPress espresso recipe to brew a concentrated coffee that is just as good—if not better—than Ninja’s espresso. This process relies on finely ground coffee and the inverted AeroPress method.
It’s still not true espresso, though, since the AeroPress can’t get anywhere near 9 bars of pressure.
You can do slightly better with one of my favorite AeroPress accessories: the Fellow Prismo filter. The Prismo replaces your AeroPress’s paper filter and makes the espresso brewing process a lot easier.
Moka pot stovetop espressso
Moka pots are a classic way to make stovetop espresso. Think of them as a stovetop percolator mixed with an espresso machine but with steam pressure instead of manual pressure.
Between AeroPress vs Moka pot, you really can’t go wrong with either option. Both make a rich, concentrated brew using much lower pressures than a standard espresso maker. Ninja still wins out for ease of use, but traditionalists will love the Moka pot’s imitation espresso.
French press espresso
I saved the worst for last. No, I mean it: French press espresso cannot compare to the options I’ve talked about above.
When you compare the AeroPress vs French press, you’ll immediately see why AeroPress espresso is better. The French press doesn’t produce the same level of pressure, and it relies on coarser coffee grounds. Really, I only recommend this option if you already have a French press and just want to try a new recipe.
Espresso Like a Ninja
Ninja specialty coffee is an absolutely delicious alternative to espresso. If you already have a Ninja, there’s no reason not to give these drinks a shot.
But what if you want real espresso? Well, the Ninja can’t do help you. But you can buy a cheap espresso machine for under $200. Some of those machines even have milk frothers for lattes and cappuccinos.
If you want a more convenient option, I recommend Nespresso machines, especially the Nespresso VertuoPlus Deluxe. These pod coffee makers use the same high pressures as regular espresso machines, but they are much easier to operate. You can learn more in my head-to-head comparison of Ninja vs Nespresso.