If you’ve never heard of the SCAA, then you probably have a few questions on your mind including: What is the SCAA, and how are SCAA certified coffee makers different from “normal” coffee makers? Both are great questions, so let’s tackle those first. If you and the SCAA go way back, or if you just don’t care and want to look at coffee makers, you can skip down to the good part.
What is the SCAA?
The Specialty Coffee Association of America is a trade group that serves the specialty coffee industry (think gourmet, not your 5 lb. can of Folger’s). They set industry standards for everything from the way beans are roasted to what kind of water is used to how big a “cup” of coffee is. Fun fact: the SCAA has determined that a “cup” of coffee is 5.07 fluid ounces. Ohhh so that’s why your 12 cup coffee maker only fills your huge coffee mug 3 or 4 times! See, if you were drinking out of a smaller, daintier cup, you’d get 12 cups.
Anyway, the SCAA does other things, too. They apparently get scientists to study coffee, and they hold competitions for baristas and roasters, and they teach people how to be baristas and professional coffee tasters (yes, apparently that’s a real job). To summarize, they do all kinds of things that the average coffee drinker would find unbelievably boring unless that coffee drinker is also a professional in the coffee industry.
How are SCAA certified coffee makers different from other coffee makers?
Let’s start this off by making one thing clear: a coffee maker doesn’t have to be SCAA certified in order to be great. However, the odds that a coffee maker will be great are much higher if you’re looking at SCAA certified coffee makers. In order to earn that fancy gold badge over there on the left, a coffee maker has to meet a set of requirements that, to be honest, most coffee makers won’t live up to.
SCAA certified coffee makers have to be able to perform consistently in several different areas including water temperature, water contact time with coffee grounds, and coffee temperature after brewing. If a coffee maker (or “brewer” as they call it) fails to produce the same results in four consecutive tests, it doesn’t get certified. I really don’t know exactly how testing is conducted, but apparently they will perform tests with several different units of the same model coffee maker just to make sure nobody’s trying to rig the game. Below are some explanatory pictures I stole from the SCAA’s “Certified Home Brewers” guide (download the PDF here):
SCAA certified coffee makers are kind of expensive. Are they worth the cost?
This question is certainly open to debate, but I think it really depends on what kind of coffee drinker you are. It’s probably equally important to consider what your past experiences with coffee makers have been like. You might say to yourself, “I’m a casual coffee drinker, I don’t need no SCAA certified coffee makers in my house!” Ok, so you’re a casual coffee drinker…you wouldn’t know a specialty coffee if it bit you in the ass. But are you a casual coffee drinker who has had a lot of complaints about past coffee makers?
If you’ve complained about past coffee makers producing bitter coffee, weak coffee, coffee that tastes like plastic (read about that here), or coffee that’s not hot enough, then you might want to start looking at SCAA certified coffee makers. Bitter and weak coffee are usually a result of incorrect water temperature and/or water contact times that are too long or too short (I wrote about it here). There’s a good chance that SCAA certified coffee makers can fix those problems because they’re engineered to stricter standards than the $40 Mr. Coffee that sells so well on Amazon. In other words, they’re higher quality. Naturally, the coffee-not-hot-enough issue is also one that a certified coffee maker should be able to fix.
Plastic taste in coffee is usually the result of using a coffee maker that heats water in a plastic reservoir. The SCAA Certified Home Brewer program doesn’t address that issue directly (there’s no requirement for reservoir materials), but since we’re talking about high-end coffee makers there’s a good chance they’re made with better parts, e.g. stainless steel or glass reservoirs (here are some plastic free coffee makers to consider).
Whether or not SCAA certified coffee makers are “worth it” really depends on (a) how important your home-brewed coffee is to you, and (b) how frustrated you are with cheaper coffee makers that constantly disappoint you. With that said, let’s move on to the main event.
And the “Top 10” SCAA certified coffee makers are…
- KitchenAid Coffee Maker KCM0802
- KitchenAid Pour Over Coffee Brewer (model KCM0801OB)
- Behmor Connected Brewer or Behmor Connected Coffee Brew System
- Behmor Brazen Connected 8 Cup Coffee Maker
- Bonavita Coffee Maker (model BV1900TS)
- Bonavita BV1900TD 8-Cup Digital Coffee Brewer
- Cuisinart PurePrecision™ Pour Over Coffee Brewer
- OXO On 9-Cup Coffee Maker
- OXO On 12-Cup Coffee Maker
- Technivorm Moccamaster
I put “Top 10” in quotations because there are actually only 12 total SCAA certified coffee makers as of this writing. I just figured people like Top 10 lists. Also, two of the 12 certified coffee makers, the Wilfa Precision Coffee Maker and the BUNN 10-Cup Programmable Coffeemaker, aren’t “officially” available on Amazon so let’s pretend for a moment that they don’t exist! Hey man, I gotta pay the rent. Stop making that face. I’ll give them a quick rundown at the end of this article just to be nice. I have also included one coffee maker that is not SCAA certified but deserves to be featured in every “best coffee makers” list.
Prices on Amazon tend to fluctuate from time to time, but we’ll go through these SCAA certified coffee makers more-or-less in order of price, with the least expensive ones first. There might be a little variation just because I like to group brand names together, so try not to hold that against me.
It’s no secret that making coffee through manual methods, like the pour over method, is generally going to produce better coffee than the average drip coffee maker. This is because you’re in control of the entire process; you control the water temperature, you can “bloom” the coffee grounds before pouring the rest of the water in, you can ensure that water makes contact with all of the grounds evenly, etc. This is great, but not everyone has enough time in the morning to sit down and craft their coffee with such precision. This is where the KitchenAid Pour Over Coffee Brewer comes in. In KitchenAid’s words, it “mimics the manual pour over process delivering consistent infused flavor without the manual effort.” Keep this in mind, because it’s a recurring theme in just about all of the coffee makers discussed here.
Most of the people who use this KitchenAid coffee maker love it. They say it makes great coffee, and some even say that it’s the best coffee maker they’ve ever had. There are others, however, who aren’t so in love with it. Some have said that the coffee maker doesn’t always do what it’s told. Oh, you want to brew 5 cups? Ok, I’ll make 3. That’s gotta be annoying. Many others say their KitchenAid coffee maker looks nice and metallic in the pictures, but the build quality is kind of cheap. KitchenAid kind of stakes their reputation on making beautifully designed home appliances, and this coffee maker is certainly beautiful, but apparently they cheaped out on the materials, i.e.: too much plastic, not enough metal. It’s worth repeating, however, that nearly everyone agrees that it makes great coffee. A lot of the people who don’t like this coffee maker say so, too.
The KitchenAid KCM0802 is the exact same coffee maker as the KCM0801, but it has a digital display that tells you what the coffee maker is doing. It’s also available in red, light silver, and dark silver, whereas the non-digital KCM0801 is only available in Onyx Black. If you’re comparing the prices of digital vs. non-digital, the default black version of the digital coffee maker is, as of now, about $60 more. If you choose one of the other colors the digital version is available in, the price goes up about $10. Is that really necessary, KitchenAid? Come on, now.
Anyway, if you’re looking at SCAA certified coffee makers but don’t want to invest a lot of cash, the non-digital KitchenAid KCM0801 is worth a look. There are a lot of coffee makers out there that cost more and deliver less. Just make sure you keep the box in case it needs to be sent back.
In case you’re wondering whether this coffee maker has a stainless steel water reservoir, I asked KitchenAid and…no response. Yet. I’ll update this post if they reply. The good news is that nobody is complaining about plastic taste, so I suspect the reservoir may be steel even if the outer body is made of plastic parts.
Update: KitchenAid tells me that the reservoir is made of BPA-free plastic. Still, that doesn’t seem to affect the taste of the coffee.
I reviewed the Behmor Brazen Plus a while ago, and it’s a very fancy coffee maker. It has a pre-soak feature that makes the coffee “bloom” like the pour over method, it can be adjusted for high altitudes to ensure proper water heating, and it can also be used with manual coffee makers (French press, Chemex, etc.) with its manual release mode. It also has a stainless steel water reservoir, which means no plastic taste in your coffee! I wrote a whole thing about similar “plastic free coffee makers” here, so check it out if plastic taste has ruined your coffee in the past. The main difference between the Brazen Plus and the Behmor Connected Brewer is that the Connected version can be used with a smartphone app. The app lets you set the pre-soak time, start the brewing process, and monitor the brewing from your phone. This way, if you’re off doing something else while the coffee brews, you can use the app to know when your coffee is ready.
As far as the coffee maker itself, most people love it and some say it’s the greatest coffee maker ever made. One guy even claims to have “found nirvana” with his Behmor Brazen. Of course, there are others who have complaints centering around the carafe, the carafe lid, condensation buildup on the shower head, you name it. I’m sure some of these issues can be attributed to imperfect design, to put it politely, but others are probably user error.
Regarding the smartphone app that controls the Connected Brewer, it doesn’t appear to give the user the ability to set a future brew time. This is a basic function of any programmable coffee maker, so why wouldn’t it be built into the app? I looked at the app myself and it doesn’t mention programmability, and some customers have rightly complained about this. Sure, you can wake up, grab your phone, and do the requisite tapping necessary to start the brewing, but you’d think that setting the brew ahead of time would be available. Sorry Behmor, but that’s just kind of dumb.
Other than that, it’s fair to say that Behmor has made quite a coffee maker. I’ve discussed many times how cool it looks, but the main thing is that it produces great coffee despite some minor annoyances here and there.
I don’t know why the SCAA lists this coffee maker separately from the one above. It’s the same thing! Move along. Nothing to see here.
Bonavita is a well-known brand in the premium coffee maker world, and it earned its place among SCAA certified coffee makers a while ago. Compared to the Brazen Connected Brewer (above), the Bonavita BV1900TS is a very low-tech machine. It offers a pre-soak feature and does all the things the SCAA requires in terms of water temperature and all that, but that’s about it. There is literally one button on this coffee maker and nothing else, so if you’re looking for SIMPLE…you found it!
One thing about this coffee maker that’s a little weird is that the filter basket sits directly on top of the carafe. It doesn’t slide into, or otherwise attach to, the coffee maker itself. If you’re clumsy or have a really cluttered kitchen, this could make your morning ritual a little more difficult than you’d like. Another unexpected quirk is that this coffee maker has a plastic water reservoir and, yes, some people do complain about plastic taste in their coffee. For a machine of this caliber to be designed with a cheap plastic reservoir seems like a strange decision.
Once again, the Bonavita BV1900TS is a very simple machine. It’s not programmable, and you just push one button to get it to go. If you’re not bothered by the plastic reservoir and like the simplicity, this might be the coffee maker for you. Want to read more? I reviewed the BV1800SS coffee maker some time ago. It’s very similar to the 1900TS.
The Bonavita BV1900TD is exactly the same as the BV1900TS except…drumroll please…it’s programmable! Oh, and it’s also more expensive. But it’s programmable!
Something I didn’t mention above in discussing the BV1900TS is that a lot of people love their Bonavita because it can also be used for doing a modified pour over method of coffeeing. Truth be told, this can sort of be said about most coffee makers, but the pre-soak feature and the Bonavita’s shower head make it especially well-suited for pour over. Check out the photo below. Some users choose to use their Bonavita with a Chemex, and some like to use other receptacles that tend to be pretty similar. The Chemex is actually a very common way to use this coffee maker, so that’s something to think about when you make your final decision among all these SCAA certified coffee makers.
Cuisinart has a pretty solid reputation in the home appliance world, but a lot of their products are just good and not necessarily “premium” level. The Cuisinart CPO-850 Pour Over Coffee Brewer, however, is built to compete in the premium coffee maker arena. Also, is it just me or is there a pour over trend here? It seems like SCAA certified coffee makers like to incorporate “pour over” functionality into their machines. That’s a good thing, I suppose, since pre-soaking coffee grounds is a good way to start brewing. In addition to pre-soak, the Cuisinart CPO-850 also comes with all the bells & whistles you’d expect in a Cuisinart machine. Brew pause, flavor strength selector (mild, medium, bold), temperature control (hot, extra hot), and a built-in water filter are all included in this unit.
I find it a bit odd that, as of this writing, there are only TWO customer reviews of this coffee maker on Amazon. Two! That’s it. Well, at least both of those ratings are 5 stars, and both of the reviewers love love LOVE this coffee maker. One of them even calls it “the holy grail of coffee makers” which is a pretty bold statement.
For what this coffee maker costs, I would expect the water reservoir to be plastic free, and I’m waiting on a response from Cuisinart to answer this question.
Update: As of today (November 11, 2017), the Cuisinart CPO-850 has now been reviewed 60 times. 49 of those reviews give it a 4 or 5 star rating, so it seems to safe to say that the first two reviewers I referred to above weren’t just wide-eyed fanboys. However, if you read the comments below this article, you’ll see a pretty critical assessment of the CPO-850 by someone named Shawn. I guess the moral of the story is that no coffee maker is going to please everyone! If most of the reviews for any particular product are glowing, take that as a good sign that you’ll probably be pleased with it, but it certainly isn’t a guarantee.
Normally when I think of OXO products, I’m thinking of small kitchen utensils like carrot peelers and pizza wheels. Apparently they also make a great, albeit strangely named, coffee maker. The OXO On Barista Brain 9-Cup Coffee Maker has nice, modern look to it. You might even be thinking, “oh cool it’s got a glass water reservoir!” Wrong. Sorry. What you’re seeing in the picture is actually a plastic reservoir, although it’s reportedly pretty thick plastic. We all wish it were glass, because that would be cool, but alas it is not.
This is yet another automated pour over coffee maker, which I guess is where the Barista part of the name comes from. It has a “Rainmaker” showerhead and a pre-soak function to bloom the coffee before brewing, and the Brain part of this coffee maker’s name is for the “intelligent microprocessor” that monitors the water temperature and brew cycle. It’s programmable, of course, and can also do single servings.
Despite the plastic water reservoir, nobody is complaining about plastic taste with the OXO On Barista Brain. Almost everyone, including people who only gave it 1 or 2 stars, says the coffee is great. There are complaints about dripping and poor construction, but those customers seem to be in the very small minority. The overall consensus is that OXO has made a really great coffee maker that, despite some flaws here and there, produces a great cup of coffee.
This one is bigger than the 9 cup version described above. 12 cups, not 9 cups! Other than that, the main feature that sets this larger coffee maker apart from its 9 cup cousin is the water reservoir. Not only is it made of glass, it’s also removable and becomes a kettle that you can pour from. That’s a pretty great feature, especially if you’re entertaining and someone is drinking tea instead of coffee. You can also use it to simply boil water without making a pot, if that’s what you need. You could theoretically cook spaghetti in this thing.
The 12 cup OXO On Barista Brain also has an adjustable boiling point which is important if you live at a high altitude. The 9 cup model doesn’t appear to have this feature.
If you’ve never heard of the Technivorm Moccamaster, then I’m guessing you haven’t done much past research into the best coffee makers around. It’s a mainstay among SCAA certified coffee makers and is widely considered to be the benchmark for how a high quality coffee maker should perform. If you walk into someone’s house and see a Moccamaster on the kitchen counter, that’s an automatic signal that someone in that house insists on good coffee and is willing to pay a lot for it. Either that or they have very generous friends and/or relatives.
The Technivorm Moccamaster has a plastic water reservoir, but it drains into a stainless steel heating tank. That means you won’t be cursed with plastic taste in your coffee, and for roughly $300 you certainly shouldn’t be. Also, like the Bonavita BV1900TS, this coffee maker is more or less devoid of any extra features. In addition, and in keeping with the pour over coffee theme that all these SCAA certified coffee makers seem to have in common, the Moccamaster will “bloom” your coffee with its pulse action showerhead.
The thing a lot of buyers complain about is that the exterior seems to be adorned with plastic parts, too many for a coffee maker that costs so much. They have a point, but let’s keep in mind the ultimate goal here: great tasting coffee. It’s reasonable to have certain expectations when you spend a small fortune on something, but where coffee makers are concerned you’ll be much happier if you focus on performance. The Moccamaster performs, and it performs admirably. Just make sure you know what you’re buying before you place that order.
Wilfa Precision Coffee Maker / BUNN 10-Cup Programmable Coffeemaker
The two SCAA certified coffee makers not featured here are the Wilfa Precision Coffee Maker and the BUNN 10-Cup Programmable Coffeemaker. I have no idea how much the Wilfa costs because I can’t figure out who sells it, but it looks really expensive. I think Williams Sonoma used to sell it, but I searched their site and they don’t seem to be carrying it anymore. Williams Sonoma does, however, carry the $180 Bunn. Bunn tells me that they’re the exclusive retailer for that particular model. Based on the reviews, customer satisfaction with this unit seems like it’s very similar to the rest of the coffee makers shown on this page. There are many who love it and say it’s great, and a vocal minority thinks it’s overpriced and not worth buying.
If you look for the Bunn 10-Cup Programmable Coffeemaker on Amazon, you will find it, but it’s sold by a 3rd party retailer for $100 more than Bunn’s retail price. Don’t fall for that scam! While I would very much prefer that you buy a coffee maker from Amazon through this blog (I get a commission!), I don’t want you to get ripped off. If you absolutely must have this Bunn coffee maker, go here. But be sure to come back here and buy your ground coffee, beans, and filters from me. 🙂
So, which SCAA certified coffee maker should you buy?
Everyone’s different, but my personal pick would be the OXO On Barista Brain 12 cup. I love the glass reservoir that doubles as a kettle for boiling and pouring water (no other coffee maker does that), and I would use that feature a lot. I also like the fact that it can be adjusted for different altitudes. I don’t plan on moving to Colorado or the Himalayas any time soon, but never say never. I also like the digital element, but that kind of feature might scare the technophobes away. Not me! I like gadgets and pushing buttons. Everything else about that coffee maker seems pretty equal to the others, so I’d mainly be buying it for the dual-purpose detachable reservoir/kettle feature.
UPDATE (August 20, 2018): When I originally wrote this article way back when, the OXO On Barista Brain 12 cup coffee maker was newfangled and very popular. Its combo reservoir/water pitcher was a cool feature that drew people in, and the machine had a level of gloss that was hard to resist. It’s not unusual for customer ratings to dip after the initial buzz wears off, but the Amazon ratings on this OXO coffee maker really fell off a cliff. The thing about newly-released coffee makers (or any new product, really) is that reliably can’t be gauged until the ravages of time have taken their toll. Suffice it to say that the OXO On Barista Brain 12 cup hasn’t held up very well. Numerous complaints have cropped up about this coffee maker sputtering out much earlier than its price tag would warrant. As a result, a number of glowing 4 and 5 star reviews have been revised down to 1 or 2 stars by understandably disgruntled customers. Perhaps this is why OXO appears to have discontinued this product altogether, at least for the time being. It is no longer available for sale on their own website, but the 9-cup On Barista Brain remains.
In light of the OXO 12-cup’s now-evident problems with reliability, I’m going to revise my SCAA pick to the Behmor Brazen Plus. Not the Behmor Connected Brewer, just the plain old non-Connected model. Aside from the sleek design, it sports a stainless steel water reservoir and a nice collection of options. Manual release is an amazing feature that is rare, and the ability to set brew temperature is huge. The reason I’m siding with the Brazen Plus and not the Connected model is that I’m not a huge fan of connecting my phone to household appliances. It’s a cool concept, but generally speaking I find it unnecessary. Plus, more frills usually equates to more things that can go wrong. So that’s my (new) pick, the Behmor Brazen Plus. It’s well-established, and Behmor’s customer service is reportedly outstanding. To be fair, OXO’s customer service also enjoys a mostly-good reputation, but they seem to have really dropped the ball on their 12 cup On Barista Brain.
In conclusion, you may have different ideas of what’s important, and that’s what you should be thinking about before pulling the trigger on any of these coffee makers. Price? Brand name? Simplicity? Stainless steel (or glass) reservoir? Think about what you liked and didn’t like about past coffee makers, and then go for the one that you think matches your needs best.
Non-SCAA Certified Honorable Mention
One coffee maker that is not on the list of SCAA certified coffee makers is the Bunn VP-17. If you like things to be simple and don’t mind having an industrial-size coffee maker in your kitchen, it’s definitely worth a look. I reviewed it and, even without the SCAA stamp of approval, I think it’s probably one of the best investments a coffee drinker can make. It’s not nearly as sexy as the other coffee makers on this page…in fact, it’s not sexy at all…but it does have a certain retro-kitschy charm to it. It’s interesting to note that this coffee maker, as of this writing, has been reviewed on Amazon by 169 people. 83% of them gave it a perfect 5 star rating which, in the world of coffee makers, is practically unheard of. At its current price of $260 it’s not exactly cheap, but it’s worth checking out.
Oh, and if you’ve wrestled with plastic taste in the past, the Bunn VP-17 is your new best friend! Not only does it have a stainless steel reservoir (as do several other plastic free coffee makers), but there is an optional stainless steel filter basket that you can get for it. Bunn calls it a stainless steel funnel assembly, and people who have bought it say it’s awesome. I have personally speculated with great confidence that plastic taste in coffee makers comes from plastic water reservoirs, but a certain number of people insist that consumer-standard plastic filter baskets are the culprit. The Bunn VP-17, if equipped with the optional funnel assembly, addresses both of those issues. Plastic taste in your coffee is all but guaranteed to go bye-bye. Plus, Bunn builds the VP-17 and funnel assembly with industrial-strength parts. You pay for it, but these things are built to last.