Finding a reliable drip coffee maker can be quite overwhelming, especially with the expansive number of options available to you. Heck, half the reason we exist is to help you sort through those options. But we aren’t the only ones trying to make your life easier! SCAA coffee makers have a helpful certification you should know about.
The Specialty Coffee Association of America certifies and re-certifies certain machines every year. We’ve collected a list of our favorite machines to give you a list of the best SCAA coffee makers. That way, your search for the perfect cup of coffee can be even easier.
SCAA Certification: Simplified
The Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA), also just Specialty Coffee Association (SCA)*, is a membership trade organization whose primary goal is to define and improve coffee standards. They do this on a number of fronts from training workshops to continued research.
Another way they do this is through coffee maker certification. To help consumers filter through hundreds of options they define specific criteria that produce a great cup of coffee. Brands pay SCAA to have their coffee makers tested against these criteria (and re-tested periodically). If the brewer is up to snuff, then they get the SCAA seal of approval.
Essentially, that seal of approval is intended to help consumers sort through the seemingly immeasurable number of drip coffee maker options out there. So if the coffee maker you have your eyes on has that seal of approval, chances are you’re in for a top-notch cup of coffee.
For a complete list of the SCAA standards, go here.
Note: If you see a coffee maker labeled as “SCA certified” instead of “SCAA certified,” don’t sweat it. They mean the same thing.
Why does it matter?
For most people, when you think of a coffee maker, drip brewers are what you’ll imagine. They’re classic, but that doesn’t mean every drip coffee maker is worth the buy. So, the short and sweet of the matter is that almost all of the best drip coffee makers are SCAA certified.
While some certifications might just seem like marketing fluff, this one isn’t. Here are some of the standards that affect how your coffee maker is made:
One of the most important benchmarks set by SCAA is the golden cup standard. This dictates the required amount of dissolved solids required post-extraction, or in layman’s terms, the brew strength.
This standard corresponds to your coffee to water ratio. The SCAA recommends a ratio of 55 g/L ± 10%. This ratio helps ensure that the SCAA certified coffee makers are producing cups of coffee with maximum flavor. However, it is also a ratio that you can employ with any coffee maker.
Another part that plays into the brew strength requirement is the extraction method. SCAA certified machines must be designed to produce turbulence. In other words, the machine agitates your coffee grounds as they brew so that you can enjoy a full, evenly extracted brew.
The other element of the golden cup standard is the brew or water temperature. In order to be SCAA certified, a coffee maker must be able to brew coffee within an optimal water temperature range and keep it within that range for a reasonable amount of time.
A SCAA certified machine must be able to heat coffee to about 200 degrees Fahrenheit (plus or minus five degrees). With the perfect water temperature, you are getting perfectly hot but not burnt coffee.
The last element of achieving the golden cup is the brewing time. The time standards are scaled for different grind sizes, so whether you’re doing pour-over coffee or espresso or your usual drip.
For a fine grind, the coffee-to-water contact time should be 1-4 minutes. For a coarse grind, the range should fall between 6-8 minutes. However, your drip coffee maker should fall right in the middle of those two ranges: 4-6 minutes.
Top 5 Best SCAA Certified Coffee Makers
Bonavita One-Touch 8-Cup Coffee Maker
First up, our all-around favorite is the Bonavita One-Touch. We think this is the brewer that best captures value and performance in one package. All in all, we think it is a great example of the quality that the SCAA certification represents.
This Bonavita machine uses a one-touch brew operation with auto shut-off as well as a programmable auto-start timer and digital display. To step the brewing up a notch it has an optional pre-infusion function, a large showerhead, and a flat-bottomed filter basket, which all contribute to excellent saturation and extraction.
All of the materials are top-notch, and all plastic components are BPA free, including the water reservoir. That kind of build is certainly a testament to the long-lasting nature of Bonavita machines.
It’s not surprising to see how this brewer managed to meet Golden Cup Standards, even though an independent tester (Coffee Enterprises 12/7/2018, Analysis ID 13205.) Plus, this coffee maker is available both as an efficient thermal carafe and a sleek glass carafe. So not only can it meet your brewing needs but also your aesthetic preferences as well.
Technivorm Moccamaster (59616 KBG)
Another top recommended coffee maker in a number of categories, the Technivorm Moccamaster is perfect if you have a little extra room in your budget to splurge on something extra special.
This coffee machine comes with all the basic conveniences, with a few extra luxuries. Of course, you’ll enjoy the simple, one-button operation, the auto-shutoff, and automatic brew pause. However, the copper heating element, 9 hole outlet arm (for saturation), 4-6 minute brew time, and variable hot plate temperatures really take things to the next level.
The Technivorm Moccamaster measures 6.5 x 12.75 x 14 inches and weighs 6.26 pounds. While that’s a bit on the large side in terms of your average brewers, it actually a pretty compact footprint in comparison to the rest of this lineup.
OXO Brew 9-Cup Coffee Maker
Want something that strays from the traditional drip coffee maker a bit? Try the OXO Brew. This coffee machine uses a microprocessor-controlled brew cycle that replicates the pour-over method, lending the coffee a touch of finesse.
The OXO Brew’s Rainmaker showerhead allows for even, precise saturation and extraction, and the 24-hour start timer plus the thermal carafe allows you to enjoy the fruits of that technology right when you wake up. The LED interface and backlit screen display the coffee maker status, making the machine quite simple to use and understand.
You are even able to program the number of cups you want! However, the most interesting features of this machine are its freshness and descaling indicators. The former lets you know how long it has been since your coffee was brewed. The latter notes when it is time to descale your machine.
Cuisinart PurePrecision Coffee Brewer (CPO-850/800)
Next up, we have the Cuisinart PurePrecision Coffee Brewer. With pre-infusion and some serious programmability perks, this brewer is yet another great SCA-approved countertop contender.
This machine features a nice, large LCD screen where you can access all of the programmable functions. Speaking of, some interesting extras for this machine include flavor strength control (mild, medium, and bold) and temperature control (hot, extra hot).
The Cuisinart is also a 24-hour programmable with auto-on, adjustable auto-off, and self-clean functions. It measures 12.00″ x 7.50″ x 13.50″ and is available in two different 8-cup carafe types (stainless steel thermal carafe or standard glass carafe). Both models have a brew pause, so you can grab a cup whenever you want.
Breville Precision Brewer (BDC450)
Last but certainly not least, we have the Breville Precision Brewer. Made with sleek stainless steel, this brewer takes drip brew coffee up a notch.
This machine features Breville’s patent-pending steep & release valve that holds the water in contact with the coffee when small cup volumes are being brewed without the carafe in place, all automatically. Also, the brewer allows you to keep things easy with the gold cup preset mode or mix things up with 5 other brewing modes (Fast, Strong, Iced, Cold Brew, and My Brew).
The My Brew setting allows you to fine-tune your brew exactly to your liking, from the bloom time to the flow rate and brewing temperature. You can use either a flat bottom or a cone filter basket, both of which are included. If you are looking for programmability and customizability, this is the brewer for you.
Things to Consider
No one wants to invest in a high-end, SCAA certified coffee maker only to discover it doesn’t actually work with their lifestyle or doesn’t fit on their countertop.
But fear not! We’re going to cover all the ins and outs of what factors need to be considered before you buy your next coffee maker.
One of the first things you need to do before actually buying a coffee maker is to MEASURE YOUR SPACE.
Seriously, whip out that measuring tape, scoot on over to your counter, and see 1) how much space you are comfortable sacrificing to a brewer and 2) what the clearance under your cabinets is (if you have upper cabinets).
Here are the measurements of our top 5 brewers:
- 12.4 x 6.8 x 12.2 inches Bonavita (~1028 in3)–8 cup
- 6.50 x 12.75 x 14.00 inches Technivorm (~1160 in3)–10 cup
- 8.3 x 15 x 17.2 inches OXO (~2141 in3)– 9 cup
- 12.00 x 7.50 x 13.50 inches Cuisinart (~1215 in3)–8 cup
- 12.40 x 6.70 x 15.70 inches Breville (~1304 in3)–12 cup
Overall, the OXO 9-cup coffee maker easily has the biggest profile in the line-up, followed by the Breville Precision Coffee Maker and Cuisinart CPO-850/800. On the smaller side, you have the Technivorm Moccamaster coffee maker, and rounding up the lineup as the smallest brewer is the Bonavita One-Touch Coffee Maker.
All of these brewers meet a gold cup standard, thanks to their SCAA certification. However, that doesn’t mean they all accomplish the exact same results in the same way. Some things you’ll need to consider include the brew volume and brewing options.
First, you should also consider the volume payoff for the size of brewer you are investing in. All of these brewers are larger, with brew volumes ranging from 8-12 cups (basically 4-6 servings). However, some of the brewers allow you to brew single servings if you want, which is important to note if you frequently brew just for yourself.
Additionally, you need to consider your brewing options, which we’ll get into a little bit more in the next section. For the most part, brewing options are limited, as these brewers have to stick to SCAA guidelines. Trust us, it’s for the best! The lack of range for these brewers is a result of come seriously specialized brewing.
If you are looking for top-notch customization, most of these coffee makers probably won’t cut it for you. These are not for the experimenters who want to program everything, A to Z, from water temperature to the brew time. That’s because SCAA has already tested and tweaked these coffee makers for you!
However, there are some coffee makers do allow for some adjustment, which may make a big difference for some users.
Most of the SCAA certified coffee makers only have one or two programmable options. For example, the Bonavita brewer and the OXO coffee makers allow you to customize your start time. The latter also allows you to program the volume. Similarly, the Technivorm simply allows you to adjust the hot plate temperature (between warm and hot).
These machines are best for people who just want to click a button and move on. If you aren’t one to fiddle with your brewer and convenience is your buzzword, these are likely great choices for you. All you have to do is put your trust in the SCAA certification.
If you are looking for more options with your brew, you may want to turn to the Cuisinart or Breville coffee maker. The Cuisinart is 24-hour programmable but it also features strength and temperature control.
The Breville takes things a step further with 5 brew modes and the My Brew option, which allows you to fine-tune bloom time, flow rate, and brewing temperature. Plus, you can use either a flat bottom or a cone filter basket.
As you likely noticed, there are both thermal carafe and glass carafe coffee makers on this list, and that little differentiation can actually make a pretty big difference for your coffee brewing experience.
Both a thermal carafe and a glass carafe with a hotplate are intended to keep your coffee hot. A thermal carafe does this by maintaining the original temperature of the brew. The hotplate does it by re-adding heat to the brew as it cools. Each option has its own advantages and disadvantages.
A thermal carafe is typically better at preserving the taste of your brew, and they require less energy. However, you do have to deal with the fact that you won’t be able to see your brew. So it’s hard to tell how much the carafe has been filled up or emptied, which can be particularly irksome for larger brewers.
On the other hand, glass carafes make it easy to see how much coffee you have, and they tend to look a bit nicer in our opinion. Unfortunately, some hotplates don’t do the flavor of your coffee any favors, and they are less energy efficient. Thankfully, the brewers on our list actually do a pretty good job of keeping things warm without making them taste burnt.
It is important to note that any brewer that meets the SCA standards for certification is going to be pricier than many other brewers you can pick up at a store. There are a number of factors that contribute to this, including the technology required to meet those standards and the actual cost of maintaining the certification.
That said, there is obviously some variation in the price points of these machines, ranging between $150 to just under $300. The baseline for drip coffee makers on the market is about $30, so either way, you’re looking at the upper ranges in terms of price.
For the most part with these machines, the extra bucks buy extra programmability and extra brewing capacity. However, the design does clearly play a part. Sleeker, more attractive machines tend to be the pricier ones, so it really comes down to what you value in your coffee brewer.
Making the Most of SCAA
SCAA certified coffee makers are required to meet certain standards in order to attain the coveted label. However, did you know there are also SCAA guidelines that YOU should follow to actually get the best results from these brewers?
The SCAA publishes best practice guidelines for a number of coffee methods from pour over coffee to french press coffee and, of course, drip brews.
Here’s what you can do…
While you won’t be able to tamper much with the temperature and contact time, you can do quite a bit when it comes to what is actually going into the machine.
As we mentioned before, you are the one responsible for meeting SCAA guidelines when it comes to your coffee to water ratio. Too much water will make your coffee taste weak, no matter how good the brewer is.
Other things you can do are use fresh coffee grounds and double check that you are using the correct grind size for a drip brewer. People often make the mistake of getting a too-fine grind for their drip brewer, which makes it harder for the water to filter through the coffee grounds.
Additionally, you should pay attention to the type and quality of the water you are using to brew your cup of coffee. The SCAA has some pretty rigorous water quality standards that are worth taking note of.
Most people don’t have the time to check their tap against these guidelines on a day by day basis. However, you can check a few of them to see how close the water you’re using is to the acceptable ranges. If it’s pretty far off, you may want to consider investing in an extra filter to up your brewing game.
Plus, using cleaner water helps limit the amount of descaling and upkeep you have to perform to keep your coffee brewer in tip-top shape.
In all, getting a coffee maker certified by the Specialty Coffee Association of America essentially guarantees that you will have a drip coffee brewer that will not only produce consistently high-quality coffee but will also likely last you a good while.
Here’s a quick overview of who we think will enjoy each of these machines:
- Want a set and forget type of coffee maker? The Bonavita One-Touch makes really makes your cup of coffee that much simpler.
- For those of you with a bigger budget and a penchant for convenience and style, the Technivorm coffee maker is a great choice for you.
- For some serious user-friendliness, check out the OXO 9-Cup coffee maker equipped with helpful indicator lights and an ultra-sleek design.
- If extra easy upkeep and a few extra programmability perks sound tempting for you, try the Cuisinart PurePrecision coffee maker.
- If you are looking for considerable programmability and have a wide range of brewing needs, the modern, stainless steel Breville Precision coffee maker is the brewer for you.