Programmer: (noun) An organism that converts caffeine & pizza into software.
Some of my coworkers and I love our coffee. We are always on the lookout for new brands/flavors to try, and we all seem to make it a different way at home. As much as I hate to admit it, the above quote is much more true than it should be; I thoroughly enjoy my coffee in the morning.
Everything from the smell of fresh ground coffee, to the warm foam on the top of my mug; it all makes it that much better for me. But not everyone loves their coffee, some people are just looking for a "good brew."
The actual brewing of your coffee is the second most important factor (beans are first). However, it is the easiest & cheapest part to get right.
In my experience, all the fancy coffee makers I have ever owned over-complicate things, are expensive, and take away flavor. Your best bet is to go down to your local Target/Walmart and pick up a french press for $15 - $20.
French presses are dead simple, they don't take away any flavor, and they don't have any paper filters to buy.
How To: French Press
Start boiling water, if you own a tea kettle, you can continue getting ready for work while you wait for it to whistle.
Once the water is boiling take it off the heat, and let it sit while you do the next step. The goal here is to have it at just under boiling temperatures when you pour it.
Add coarse-ground coffee to the press. You can follow the directions of the press or just do what I do and add just enough until you can't see the bottom through the coffee. (NOTE: make sure you take the plunger out of the press before adding your coffee)
Add the just-under-boiling water and then stir it for 10 - 30 seconds.
Slowly press the plunger down through the liquid, don't force it down.
Pour and make your coffee as normal.
What beans you use are the biggest determining factor of how your coffee will taste.
Grind Later, Not Sooner
Most coffee shops that also sell beans, sell them as whole beans that they can grind for you. The more recently the beans have been ground the better the taste.
If you use a french press, then you will want your coffee ground to be coarse like sea salt. If you use a typical coffee maker, you will want it semi-coarse like table salt. Most coffee machines use semi-coarse, however some are better off with "fine" or "coarse" coffee.
Most people don't own a coffee grinder; and if your not willing to take the time to do it every morning, then it's really not worth buying one. The good news is that coffee holds on to the bulk of it's flavor for a few weeks, so if your getting fresh coffee ground every 2 weeks or so, you are probably in the clear.
After about 3 - 4 weeks, ground coffee can seem dull in flavor. It hasn't gone bad or anything, but the flavor has naturally dissipated from it.
Quality is Quantity
You may think that paying $15 - $20 dollars a bag is expensive for coffee, but if the coffee is good quality, then it will spread further. Quality coffee typically has more flavor, so it takes less to get the intensity you are looking for.
Coffee that's been pre-ground and sealed in a jar (looking at you Folgers) is usually the most dull coffee you can buy. The air trapped with the coffee just allows the coffee to go dull quicker. Alternatively, the vacuum packed pre-ground coffee isn't as bad, but is noticeably different from coffee that you have ground at the store or at home.
Making it Yours
We all have a preference, some make it sweet & creamy, others prefer it as is. If you use cream and/or sugar in your coffee, you may want to add a little bit less when using a press. Since the press will let more flavor come through, the coffee will have more character, and need less additives to taste better.
Getting flavored coffee also helps; some have different spices, such as cinnamon, nutmeg, or coco. Other factors such as region or intensity can have an effect as well. Finding a flavor you like is pretty easy if you can smell the coffee through the bag, just find the one you think smells the best and go with that.
I personally prefer Guatemalan or Asian coffee, that is bold in flavor; particularly those flavors that have a subtle spice taste.
You don't have to be a expert on coffee to enjoy a cup of joe. Just know what you are looking for and how to prepare it correctly.