The Right Beans
The perfect cup of coffee starts with the beans. They should be fresh-roasted, ground perfectly, and stored for maximum freshness and flavor. There is no right or wrong in terms of the roast or the strength of the coffee you make. But having the best beans--in our opinion, those from Kona, Hawai'i--ensures the best coffee.
You do not have to spend a fortune to have equipment that complements the outstanding coffee beans you've chosen. Whether you choose to use a French press, a drip coffee maker, or a fancy Italian machine, the most important thing is that the equipment is cleaned after each use. Coffee oil can build on equipment, making your coffee taste bitter or rancid.
Some coffee experts swear by the right grinder--one that uses burr technology rather than a blade--prepares the coffee beans properly. You can still obtain a burr grinder at a reasonable cost.
The Right Water
If you don’t like the flavor of your tap water, use filtered or bottled water.
Grind beans within a half hour of brewing. A burr grinder is ideal but pricey ($50 or more). It creates uniform grounds and prevents the coffee from ending up too weak or too bitter. For a manual dripper, medium size (similar to raw sugar granules) is best. But you should rely on your own personal taste as a guide.
The Right Ratios
To brew 16 ounces of coffee (two big cups), use 5 tablespoons (or 28 grams) of coffee and 16 ounces of water.
Your brewer should maintain a water temperature between 195 to 205 degrees F. for optimal extraction. Colder water will result in flat, under-extracted coffee, while water that is too hot will also cause a loss of quality in the taste of the coffee. (Cold-brew coffee is a totally different case.)
The National Coffee Association recommends the "Golden Ratio"--one to two tablespoons of ground coffee for every six ounces of water. You should adjust to suit your individual taste.