“For the Love of ‘Fee” is one coffee-lover’s attempt to machete through the tangle of coffee beans and brews to find an awesome cup of coffee. Juan Valdez follows ME!
If you’ve been reading my blog for a long time, you’d know that I love my ‘fee percolated. So I’m sure some of you are scratching your heads wondering why I am reviewing a drip coffee maker.
With this pandemic, our household has been fortunate to continue to keep working. However, the hubs works shift outside the home, and often rolls out of bed before the crack of dawn to hit the road…it’s a schedule that doesn’t really bode well with stove-top percolation: a brewing method that can take over 20 minutes from start to finish.
So, in early December when the hubs informed me his hours would be changing again to an even earlier start time, way before the Sarca wakes, I knew converting to instant coffee wasn’t going to cut it. Time to pull out our old programmable drip coffee maker from storage!
Well, our memory’s taste buds are definitely short, ’cause the coffee coming from that maker the first week wasn’t great; it vacillated between weak and bitter. To add to injury, the heating element was going, making the coffee stone cold before I got a cup in. On day three of the new schedule, we were talking about finding a replacement coffee maker.
It has been years since I bought a drip coffee maker (the model we replaced was a raffle prize won and gifted to us by Kevin’s parents). Buying one can also be a depressing experience in Canada, with our choices being cheaply made and cheaply made with a computer. I wanted to up my ‘maker game a bit, maybe get one that will do it all – a portable Starbucks barista if you will. It had been almost a year since I stepped foot into a coffee shop… and I’ve been dying for a flat white… But, in the end I wanted something that had one job and did it well.
Criteria I consider necessary in a coffee maker:
- Must make 12 cups (less will not do!)
- Must have a programmable timer.
- Makes a HOT cup of coffee (um, if it doesn’t, then what’s the point?)
- Doesn’t have a large counter footprint. (I mean, I’m not running a coffee shop after all…)
- I don’t need a Master’s degree to use it. (I has dumb sometimes.)
- Comes in black to hide stains.
- Easy to keep its guts clean.
- No big fancy computer inside that wants to think for you.
- Automatic shut off can be shut off or extended past 2 hours (hard to find one that DOESN’T turn off after two hours…)
- Choice of brew – bold and regular – hey, a coffee girl can dream.
After some research, I settled on the Ninja Coffee 12 Cup Programmable Brewer (called the Ninja 12-Cup going forward for brevity), ordered off of Amazon. It pretty much ticked all my required boxes, and satisfied most of my wish list. My experience with the Ninja brand comes in the way of a 1000 watt Ninja Professional blender I use every morning to make smoothies. It hasn’t busted in 3 years so there might be something to say for brand power.
The Ninja 12-Cup itself is black with some stainless steel, so it integrates well with the look of my kitchen. It also doesn’t take too much space on the counter, although I had to reconsider my original spot when I discovered its steam vents were located right at the top of the coffee maker, so steam would be released right on the underside of my new cabinets; a move to a different location fixed that.
This coffee maker has one exciting element that piqued my interest immediately: it has a removable water reservoir which you fill and the machine draws from. This is unlike typical makers that have you fill your coffee carafe and pour the water into the maker. I went with the removable reservoir with the hopes of keeping the insides clean, and since I’m not contaminating the water by pouring it into a vessel that has been holding coffee countless times, I’ll avoid that “stale coffee” taste out of the gate.
I wanted this maker to make a HOT cup of coffee, and the Ninja 12-Cup actually boasts a consistent brewing temp of ~201.5 F (~92 C). The maker utilizes a “blooming” method of brew that uses an extra-large “showerhead” that lightly soaks the coffee grounds before dispensing the coffee. This impressed me as other makers I’ve had appeared to have small spray nozzles that just dump the water on the grounds and drain into the carafe.
The carafe itself has an interesting removable lid that locks in place instead of snapping on, and has what Ninja calls “a flavour straw”. Not sure of the point of it, other than maybe it prevents over-flowing. The maker itself uses #4 cone filters, which I’ve never used before (I’ve only ever used the typical basket size). Our model did not come with a reusable coffee filter basket, but models that include one apparently exist (I’m guessing the American model has them).
There are some main programmable features to the Ninja 12-Cup, and a couple that were unexpected. There is the standard digital clock where you set the time, and program the start brew time. Other programmable options include small batch brew (for those times you just want to make 4 cups or less of coffee), as well as your choice of rich or classic brew. Honestly, I didn’t notice much difference using one or other type of brew setting. Rich brew is supposed to hold up its taste when adding cream and sugar, while classic brew is just your average cuppa. There is also a clean setting, where you can add a coffee cleaner solution (or your own vinegar and water mix) to the water reservoir and it will go through a cleaning cycle. I’ve already tried this and not much to say other than it takes about a half hour to run through its cycle…
The Coffee Maker computers want to take over…or Sarca’s a control freak
As much as I like complete control over my own appliances, there is just no escaping the tiny computers manufacturers are compelled to install in them. The Ninja 12-Cup attempts to maintain some control over their human overlords…The maker itself is easy to use and runs quietly – until the brew cycle ends when it announces the coffee is ready by way of 5 short beeps in succession. Unfortunately, you can’t shut that feature off, but at least the beeps aren’t sirens. Now, why would there be an alarm on a coffee maker?? People should just be able to wake up and smell the ‘jo. Ninja Dude, we don’t need your help. Ninja isn’t the only one to adopt beeps at the end of the brewing cycle…my Mother-in-law’s Breville maker does the same thing. What I’d like to know from coffee maker manufacturers is why so many beeps?? Wouldn’t one do? Why beep at all??
Typical among coffee makers, you can only program one start time with the Ninja 12-Cup, except with this one, If you program the maker and then decide to change anything with the time or type of brew, the maker will blink and beep a dozen times warning warning warning you that a program has already been set! Do not mess with the program! This was one “feature” I did not expect.
One complaint I generally have about coffee makers is that a lot of them insist on turning off automatically after two hours; I’ve heard the reason is to reduce risk of fire. I have always hated that: “Why can’t I tell you when to turn off?!” Sadly, the Ninja 12-Cup won’t let me turn off that feature either, but, it provides a compromise where I am able to change the shut-off window from 2 to 4 hours. Yay, finally some control!
I am not an expert here, only that the Ninja 12-Cup will now be our 6th drip coffee maker to be carried over our threshold in 22 years (not to mention the PARADE of electric percolators we’ve owned too!). That said, I’m not going to say the Ninja 12-Cup makes the best coffee ever tasted, because it doesn’t. But, between the hubs and I, we both agree it makes a pretty decent cup for what you can get out of a drip maker. The coffee was hot and its warming element maintains heat, but again, it’s still not nearly as hot as we are used to with percolated coffee made on the stove (likely because we are not dealing with boiling water with a drip coffee maker). Something has to be said for the taste though, and the Ninja 12-Cup gives probably the best tasting at-home drip coffee I’ve had in a long while.
So, all things considered, if you are seeking a new drip coffee maker, the Ninja 12-Cup Programmable Brewer gets a nod from me.