How many times have you been looking for a product, any product whatsoever, only to find that it has been approved or certified by an organization listed only by initials? As a layperson, those initials may mean nothing to you. However, if you are truly serious you should know what they stand for. Now that you are in the market for a coffee maker, let’s talk about what SCAA coffee makers are and how to find where the model you are looking at ranks within their findings.
What Does SCAA Stand For?
Unless you are a professional barista looking for a home brewing system, that is probably the first question you will ask. What exactly does SCAA stand for and why do you see it sometimes listed as SCA? Actually, the two are one and the same and you will often see them listed interchangeably. SCAA is the “Specialty Coffee Association of America,” and SCA simply means the “Specialty Coffee Association.” The real difference is that the SCA has a broader scope and seeks quality on a global level.
Therefore, if you see SCAA then you know their focus is on certifying products for use in America. Or to put it another way, the SCAA is part of the global group specifically geared toward specialty coffees and coffee makers in the United States. As with any product certified by a nationally renowned group, consumers seek SCAA certification to ensure they are buying a quality product. As a footnote, the two groups actually did merge in 2017 and although they are now the Specialty Coffee Association of America, other nations around the world still look for SCA approval or certification.
Qualifications for Certification by the SCAA
Now that you know what the Specialty Coffee Association of America is, you may be wondering how a coffee maker is certified. There are actually several categories under which a coffee maker must qualify but it all starts with submission to the association. First, the SCAA doesn’t just inspect and judge a single model being submitted to them. The requirements are a submission of between one and ten coffee makers so that they can give a realistic summation of the product. What they are looking for includes meeting the following nine criteria:
- Volume of Coffee
- Time to Brew
- Brewing Temperature
- Preparation of Beverage
- Performance Uniformity
- Extraction Uniformity
- Clarity of Beverage
- Temperature and Holding Receptacle
- Instruction Materials and Operation Manuals
When you see the term ‘uniformity’ you are not only looking at a rating of one machine but consistency throughout all the coffee brewers of that model tested. It should also be noted that manufacturers and sellers pay a service fee to the Association for the time and resources needed to inspect the product. With this in mind, let’s look at how to find the highest-ranking SCAA Certified coffee makers.
How to Find SCAA Certified Coffee Makers
If it’s a high-quality cup of coffee you are seeking, then always look for a certified coffee maker. The point is, don’t be misled by a name. Some of those considered to be high-end products are just that, a brand. They may be stylish and advertised with all the features anyone could want but when you unpack it and begin brewing, those features may not work.
In fact, the coffee maker itself may not work as you would expect. Before you actually begin shopping, it is best to look at the past few years of SCA certified coffee makers. The highest rated ones will be listed on their website and in many reviews. Always check out the model you are considering seeing if they’ve been certified.
What Is the Difference Between SCAA Certified and SCAA Approved Coffee Makers?
Sometimes you will see a coffee maker listed as approved rather than certified. If it is on the SCA list of approved coffee makers, you can be assured it has been thoroughly tested and meets the criteria of certified SCA coffee makers. Most often you will see the term ‘approved’ as a marketing term in the same writeup as they use the term ‘certified.’ In any case, if you are curious as to why a coffee maker is simply said to be approved, you can check the list on the SCA website to see if it indeed was certified.
With that being said, each year different models are sent to the organization for testing so if the model was submitted in a previous year, you may need to research back a bit to find the model you are interested in. One thing to remember about finding authentic SCA coffee makers is that they are tested for durability as well as function so if they certify a product, it will almost always be available year after year.
Coffee Makers Vary by Trends
Another point you may want to be aware of is that coffee makers tend to vary year by year based on trends. As a bit of history, the first drip coffee makers were introduced in the early 1970s. Until then coffee was most often made in a percolator. The waterer would be heated almost to the boiling point and the water would rise through the channel to the basket and filter through. This often led to bitter coffee and although you can use less coffee in a percolator, the taste is often bitter, verging on burnt.
Since that time, coffee makers have often varied by trend. Although drip coffee, if made correctly, has the true taste of the bean, you will see differences in pots as well as features. Some have auto shutoff where others have programmable times for both starting and shutting off. Even with all that, Bunn seems to be the brand that most connoisseurs prefer because of the temperature the water is brought to before dripping over the grounds. Sometimes those small one cup coffee makers are all the rage and sometimes the small 4 cup coffee makers are trending. One thing you can be sure of again is that no matter which size Bunn coffee maker you choose, it will have all the technical requirements to give you the perfect cup of coffee every time no matter the size of the pot.
A Quick Look at A Couple Other Leading Brands
It goes without saying that other brands are also being certified. While Bunn holds the ‘title’ as the distinguished originator of the drip or pour over coffee maker, other brands are in the competition year after year. Two of those brands are Cuisinart and Bonavita. You will often find reviews comparing the Cuisinart CPO 850 vs. Bonavita SCA approved coffee makers. These are both in the top rankings from the SCAA and both are also good coffee makers.
Since they are both quite close in the rankings, only one place apart, you might wonder which to choose. The main difference which many customers prefer is the Cuisinart CPO 850 pour over coffee brewer thermal carafe. There are a number of reasons why this particular model is among those favored by consumers. To answer that question, you’d need to look at why that thermal carafe is so popular.
Many times, someone brews a pot of coffee and forgets to turn it off when leaving the house. Other times they forget to program it to stay hot the length of time they want to enjoy a good cup of coffee. The problem here is that once a coffee pot stays on heat for that length of time it can become bitter or worst-case scenario, evaporate to the point where the bottom of the pot is burnt to a crisp.
Whether you are afraid of letting your carafe burn or are simply looking to have a ‘fresh’ cup of coffee two hours later, the thermal carafe keeps it nice and hot. Sometimes coffee can stay hot for more than seven hours! Added to that the fact that most consumers are now focusing on energy conservation, the thermal carafe offers a nice bonus over letting the hot plate heat for hours on end.
A Brief Takeaway
All things considered, sometimes it is all in a name. While Bunn was formed with coffee in mind, Cuisinart began producing coffee makers much later than their 1973 founding date where food blenders and processors were the focus of that brand. Even so, there is no getting away from the fact that the Cuisinart CPO 850 pour over coffee brewer thermal carafe adds the perfect touch for today’s energy-aware consumer so you might want to compare that with a thermal carafe from Bunn!
In the end, if a coffee maker is approved or certified by the SCA/SCAA, you know it meets strict standards and has been thoroughly tested. A certified coffee maker may be a bit pricier than some of those being bought because they are just trendy. However, you will reap the benefits of many years of use as opposed to a single year or two with an inferior product. If you love your java, go for certification and approval every time. You just can’t lose.