The ritual of the brew.
Like many others, I take my coffee seriously. And by coffee, I mean straight-up, unmolested black coffee. Sure, I like a latte now and again, but most often, I'm drinking it pure.
Now I'm sure some folks are thinking, "Black coffee, but that's so bitter!" To those folks I say, if it's more than just a touch bitter, it was't done right.
Now, I primarily use a french press for my coffee, but most of the following applies to other methods, especially the more manual methods like pour-over drip, chemex, etc.
If you have more than a few days worth of coffee on hand, you need to store it properly. My favorite is to weigh out my beans into 1/4 pound packages, vacuum-seal them, then freeze them. If you freeze, be sure the container is well sealed. I pull a new one out every few days, let it thaw while still sealed, then pour into an air-tight container for use.
Grinding your own is best. Whole beans keep fresh longer, and don't pick up odd flavors. That said, get a good one. Burr grinders produce the best and most consistent grinds. Whirly blade grinders should be reserved for grinding spices. If all you have is a blade grinder, I'd actually recommend you buy your coffee pre-ground.
That big hopper on the top of the grinder sure looks nice, doesn't it? It's a trap! Don't just dump all your coffee in there! Get a scale, a nice digital one that is accurate to a gram. Weigh out how much you need for the pot you are making, then put that in the grinder and grind it all. This solves two issues. One, the hopper is not sealed, even if the lid seals, so you're just leaving your coffee out in the open. Two, without pre-weighing, there's no good way to grind just enough, which means you'll be leaving ground coffee in the bin, which is worse that leaving whole beans out. For me, 5 grams of beans per 100ml of coffee is perfect (Arbuckle's Ariosa). This may vary to your tastes and brand of coffee.
If you have a burr grinder, you probably know about static. This seems to be primarily caused by low humidity in the beans, usually for those folks living in dry environments. Dark roasts are supposed to be worse. If you are having this problem, two to three drops of water on top of the beans just before grinding will solve it. Seriously, it's like magic.
This is really, really important, and also applies to brewing tea. If you are following all the instructions, and your brew is bitter, your water is too hot.
If you have an automatic drip coffee maker, and it doesn't allow for temperature adjustment, well, no offense but you're not taking this very seriously anyway.
You should never use boiling water. For French Press, the common recommended temp is around 200-205 degrees F. I find that my best results are closer to 195. The easy way to handle this is to get an electric kettle with multiple temperature presets. But, word of warning, VERIFY those temps. Get an instant-read probe thermometer, and test it at the various settings. Then, re-test it every 6 months. In spite of using filtered water in my pot, and there being no scale/residue at all in it, after a year the temperatures have changed. The 190F setting is actually coming in at 197F. I noticed it when it would no longer beep or shut off when set to boil.
If you do not have a kettle like this, you can boil the water, then wait for it to cool to the right temperature, but you'll need your thermometer every time.
Some brewing methods recommend that you scald or pre-heat the pot by pouring hot water into it, then pouring that away just before brewing. If so, do it, it keeps the pot from bringing the temperature down too quickly.
Note, only heat as much water as you need for the pot you are brewing, and ditch the rest. Re-heated water just doesn't work as well.
Blooming is pouring 1/3-1/2 of the water over the grounds, waiting for 30 sec, then pouring the rest. This allows the gasses to escape from the grounds.
Honestly, I have no idea how much difference blooming makes on the flavor. However, it has a significant advantage in a French press, in that it makes it neater. By blooming it, then stirring as you add the rest of the water, the grounds are no longer floating, and thus don't end up stuck to the sides of the carafe at the top.
So for me, with a 300ml (2 cup) French Press:
1. Start 600-700ml of water heating to 195
2. Measure 15 grams of beans, and pour into grinder
3. Add 2 drops water onto the beans, then grind at coarsest setting
4. When water reaches temp, pour an inch of water into the carafe, put the plunger all the way in, swirl a bit, remove plunger and pour water out.
5. Add ground coffee to carafe
6. Set timer for 4 minutes
7. Add approx 100-150ml of water to the grounds, wetting them. I sometimes stir, because I am impatient. Doesn't seem to make a difference.
8. Wait 30 sec
9. Stir while adding the rest of the water
10. Set plunger down so that it is just below the surface, keeping any grounds from floating to air.
11. When timer elapses, slowly push plunger to the bottom
12. Wait a bit (15-30 sec) to let any sediment settle
13. Pour slowly into cup (reduces sediment in cup)
14. Wash the press while coffee is too hot to drink :)