The coffee bean has over a thousand different volatile compounds which when done right has the potential of becoming something quite sublime. The key to making a great cup of coffee is much simpler than you might imagine and just takes a few extra steps that are well worth the effort.
The first and foremost is the absolute necessity of using whole beans rather than pre-ground which loses its flavor quickly. Get your beans from a reputable coffee producer, obviously the more freshly roasted the better. What bean you choose is definitely a matter of peronal choice and opinion – experiment is the only way to find what you like. If it doesn’t knock your socks off than keep looking, it’s out there.
The next step is to freshly grind your beans. There are two common types of coffee grinders available, the uncommon and expensive Burr grinder which grinds coffee between disks and produces an even grind and the common blade grinder which chops the beans, unfortunately unevenly. To avoid this, use short pulses rather than long which will produce a much more even grind.
Water temperature allows the rich compounds in ground coffee to be released. The best brewing temperature is between 195 to 205 degrees. The rate of extraction determines what compounds will be released. Over brewing releases the more bitter and harsher compounds.
The best brewing methods are the manual drip and the French press using a coffee to water ratio of 2 tablespoons of coffee to 6 ounces of water. For the manual drip you want to let the water come to a boil and just cooled slightly. Pour some water into the coffee grinds (coarse ground for paper filters/med fine for metal) to be sure its evenly moistened so that the water runs through the grounds evenly before pouring the rest of the water and let drip. The optimum brewing time is 6-8 minutes; which will be determined by the size of the coffee grounds.
For the French press which maintains the coffee bean oils producing a richer cup of coffee, you want a medium grind like coarse cornmeal. Place in the pot and pour the hot water in a steady stream. Stir the grounds to be sure its evenly distributed, put the lid on and steep for 4-5 minutes depending on how strong you like your coffee – then press down evenly on the plunger.
Good auto-drip coffee makers are not easy to find and generally quite expensive which in my opinion is unnecessary. Part of the enjoyment is taking the time to do those few extra steps than kicking back and enjoying a satisfying cup of java.