Ah, coffee. Admittedly there are times when a quick fix is in order: a K-cup, eating it directly from the bag or, as Steven Wright reported, “I put instant coffee in the microwave and almost went back in time.”
Instead, let’s discuss the other side; not the quick fix, but how to extract the most delicious, aromatic cup at home:
Good coffee requires...well, good coffee. Purchase your coffee as soon as possible after it’s been roasted (and only enough to last for a week or two). Protect it from oxidation and light; airtight kitchen canisters are ideal; it’s their raison d’être. It’s okay to put an unopened bag in the freezer, but placing it back in the freezer after using it will cause condensation. Condensation is bad, so really—simply store it in a cool, dark place.
Water makes up 98% of your cup; your water’s pH, hardness, chlorine levels, and about 10 other factors are hugely important. Reverse osmosis and distilled water do not contain enough minerals for a proper cup, so go with simple, charcoal-filtered water; likely exactly what comes out of your fridge door or that inexpensive inline filter under your sink. The best water temperature for brewing is 195-205F, so check the specs before you buy a brewer; it’s worth any incremental cost.
Grind the coffee immediately before brewing. Choose a burr grinder over a blade grinder for a far more consistent grind (therefore, even extraction). Play with the size of the grind: if it’s too fine, it may cause a bitter taste; too coarse, and your coffee will be flat and unimpressive; your friends will leave you for someone who makes a better cup of joe. Because coffees have different densities, a kitchen scale will help with consistency. Once you discover your preferred amount (start with 7 grams per 6 ounces of water as a benchmark), tweak to taste and continue to measure by weight, not by volume.