This Instructable is about making coffee the right way. You can keep on making it the less than right way if you so choose, but making a great cuppa is something that comes in handy for guests and mornings after.
Step 1: The Tools
If you really want to make good coffee, you'll need more than that standard drip machine. I use either a french press or an individual dripper. The french press is obviously the greener choice and often results in a better cuppa. You will also want a kettle for boiling the water.
In either case you want to get some fresh, whole beans and grind them yourself. A decent grinder is only about twenty bucks. They tend to give you an uneven grind, but the only way to insure a perfect grind is investing in a high-class "burr" style grinder. I love coffee, but not enough to drop a hundred on a grinder.
Most stores sell beans. The absolute best place, however, is going to be a coffee shop that roasts their own. Once the bean is roasted, it can start going stale. The whole bean will keep for a while, but once ground you best be brewing quickly or you won't really tell the difference.
I stick with a mild Kona blend of coffee, making sure it actually contains beans grown in Hawaii. Your tastes may differ. On a budget, I will get Dunkin Donuts beans which are surprisingly good.
Step 2: Grindin'
Grind when you are ready to brew. The perfect cup of coffee contains an ounce of beans. That's about two tablespoons. Or an 1/8th of a cup. Fancy folk might get a coffee scoop just for this. I certainly wouldn't say no to one as a gift, but I'm not buying one.
Grind for about ten seconds. You want a bit of a coarser grind if using a french press and a finer grind for drip coffee.
If you use less than this, your coffee has a greater chance of turning out quite bitter. The science behind this is somewhere on the Internet. Trust me.
Step 3: Aqua
If you're going to bake great coffee, the water is a serious ingredient. Filtered water is a great thing to get. You can buy gallons for fairly cheap at the store. I do this primarily for bread baking, since my tap water isn't too chlorine-tasting. But it never hurts.
Put the water in the kettle, and get it a-boiling.
Step 4: Drippin'
Now, set up your drip rig, if that's your chosen path. The single cup dripper can be purchased at some specialty coffee shops. It takes little paper filters which I compost along with the grounds.
You can also find these in the backpacking area of some sporting goods stores. They work great for trips in the outdoors. Alternatively, you can DIY one out of the top of an old drip machine. My four cup dripper top actually works great - too bad I figured it out after buying my own.
When the water is boiling, wait for it to stop. Seriously. It can scald the beans. When it has cooled slightly then pour it on the grounds. Remember, two tablespoons of grounds. Otherwise, it will be bitter.
Let Gravity do the work for you, and you'll have a hot cuppa in no time.
Step 5: Pressin'
When the water is boiling, let it cool. Then, swish just a bit around in the glass french press to get it warmed up. Add your (coarse) grounds and then your water. Give it a good stir with a long spoon, or a chopstick. Let it sit for five minutes or so. You can tell by the color somewhat, but time is a better indicator.
When time is up, slooooooowly push the plunger down, trapping the grounds at the bottom. Pour yourself a fresh cuppa.
Step 6: Put Down the Condiments!
What? You spent that time making the perfect cuppa and you're going to ruin it with cream and sugar? For shame.
If it's a bit stronger than you like, add some hot water. Thank goodness we have that kettle of hot water on the stove! It's almost like we were thinking ahead...
Drip machines are a lot easier when company's over, of course. Just put an extra kettle on the stove (some people prefer tea, after all) and remember to measure out an ounce of coffee per cup.
The Alternative recipe for great coffee involves a bicycle and your wallet. Bring cash for the tip. The coffee shop folk work hard. If you're in a rush, there's a few decent places on the road to get coffee, but if you prep a thermos there won't be any worry about that.