If you’re reading this, it probably means you have more than a passing interest in coffee. At some point in your life, your eyes have been opened to how this drink can be more than just caffeine, more than just something hot. It can taste…awesome. How do you maximize this? Simple.
Start with the beans. There’s really no substitute for fresh roasted beans, it’s as simple as that. I’ve found that vacuum sealed bags of beans can be good, though as soon as you open them, the clock starts ticking, just like it does with the bins of beans you may see at your local coffee store. At around a week after roasting (and/or after opening a sealed bag), the coffee has reached that ‘mediocre’ phase, and if you’re not at the bottom of the bag by then, prepare for some boring coffee days ahead. Use it or lose it.
Grinding the coffee is the next step, and if you don’t already own a coffee grinder, go buy one now. The inexpensive blade-style grinders can be OK, though for better grind consistency and more flexibility, get a burr grinder (plan on spending around $100 minimum for a decent one). Never, ever grind more coffee than you plan to use in the next couple of hours…oxygen destroys the oils that give coffee its flavor and ground coffee has much greater surface area exposed to the air than a whole bean does.
Now, brewing your coffee, well there are a ton of options here. Paper filters will filter out some of the oils which can be better for health reasons, but do affect flavor. However, you’ll find this to be a personal preference one way or the other so experiment on your own to see what you prefer. As for the method of brewing, go for either a french press or a pour-over method for the best flavor. If in a hurry, a traditional drip-style coffee maker can still work great, though I tend to avoid the ones with a built in grinder.
Some general tips for using a french press or other manual methods – the water should not be boiling, it should be around 200 degrees F. I use a heading spoon of coffee for each 6oz of water, but you may prefer other ratios there. When using a french press or AeroPress, I add some water first, let that sit for 30-60 seconds, then add the rest, capping it off with the lid and letting it sit for a couple minutes.