SCAA Educational Pathways: Opportunities at Expo and Beyond


By Todd Arnette, Academy of Coffee Excellence

I have been in the specialty coffee industry for 20 years. About 15 years ago I asked a colleague, “How do I become a better coffee professional?” Ironically, the answer then is the same now. However, the accessibility to, and the depth and breadth of, the answer is vastly improved.

There are many reasons to attend the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s Annual Expo: to see old friends, to learn about new products and services, to watch professional Baristas and Coffee Tasters compete at the World Coffee Event level, and to broaden your professional network. Spoiler Alert: to become a better coffee professional you need to continually broaden and develop your skills while deepening your understanding of the Specialty Coffee Industry.

The professional development classes of the Specialty Coffee Association of America, now known as Educational Pathways, have been developed over dozens of years by hundreds of industry professionals and subject-matter experts from every portion of the Specialty Coffee supply chain. The SCAA Educational Pathways are recognized throughout the industry internationally as the authority on coffee education. There are Educational Pathways for the Roaster, Barista, Coffee Taster, and Coffee Buyer. Each of these Pathways has a Chairperson and a committee who are recognized subject-matter experts in their own right and they volunteer their time and skills to further develop the coursework, vet the science, and revisit the exercises to ensure that the skills developed meet the contemporary needs of the jobs in our industry.

This year’s Expo classes are integral to your pursuit of great coffee. Learn to cup coffee with Q Graders and Q Instructors and to distinguish subtleties among coffees from around the world. Refine your espresso skills with the Barista Guild Executive Council members and world-class competitors. Learn sensory analysis and quality control from a Ph.D. in Food Science. Experience, hands-on, the bedrock principles of coffee roasting on a wide range of manufacturers’ equipment taught by experts from the Roaster’s Guild. Sharpen coffee-buying skills with the Chair of the Coffee Buyer Pathway and major coffee importers. Learn brewing essentials from the Chair of the Brewing Committee and its committee members who represent a broad equipment background.

The SCAA has furthered the accessibility to education by developing a robust eLearning offering of more than a dozen classes delivered via The SCAA has also developed a regional and international presence via certified Lab Campuses where you can take an individual class, 1-Day or 2-Day training experiences, or a full Pathway Program or Q Course.

Coffee is a global product and industry. Coffee education is similarly global. What is very exciting is that earlier this year, the Chairs of the Roaster, Barista, Coffee Buyer, and Coffee Taster Pathways, in conjunction with their counterparts from the Specialty Coffee Association of Europe, developed an elegant credit equivalency methodology. People who have, or are, earning credit in one Association’s curriculum can easily receive equivalent credit in the other’s. Generally, what is required is an online exam. In only a few instances are a small amount of additional classes necessary.

Full Disclosure: I am biased when expressing my beliefs regarding the delivered results of the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s ongoing professional development via Educational Pathways. Not because I am the Chair of all Educational Pathways or because I am a Certified Lab Campus owner. Rather, I am biased because over the past 15 years I have learned from, collaborated with, and contributed to the body of knowledge in the SCAA offering. That, combined with having the close friendships and associations developed in the Roaster’s Guild, Barista Guild, Coffee Quality Institute, and the Specialty Coffee Associations of Europe and America have enabled me to become a better coffee professional.

Todd Arnette is the owner of the Academy of Coffee Excellence, an SCAA Campus in Williamsburg, Virginia. He is also SCAA Chair of Educational Pathways, Specialized Lead Instructor, Q Grader, and Assistant Q Instructor. Mr. Arnette maintains personal relationships with producers and client training relationships around the world. You can find him at Expo Booth 546.