We can't blame you if you're too bleary to do much else besides hit a button on a coffee machine to get your caffeine hit in the morning. But if you're ready to take your morning cup seriously, there are plenty of points to improve on.
Take the time to put them into practice, and you'll turn your at-home cup of coffee from so-so to something that easily competes with the best cafés.
Find the Right Temperature
You want to get the water hot, but not quite at boiling point. The sweet spot is between 190° and 205°. Spend a few bucks on a cheap kitchen thermometer, then experiment to see which temperature gives you a cup you like the best. There's no right answer — different temperatures will draw out subtly different flavors, and you'll have to find out for yourself what's just right for you.
Grind it Up Fresh
Take a couple extra minutes to grind up your beans fresh each time you brew, and your coffee's flavor will skyrocket, Don't subject the beans to a harsh, overly-aggressive blade grinder, though — instead, reach for a burr grinder. The adjustable coarseness settings and slow, controlled operation is miles better than whirring blades, which pulverize the grounds and needlessly heat them in the process, detracting from the final flavor.
Get Your Grounds Right
Once you decide to grind your coffee up fresh, though, keep in mind that one size doesn't fit all. Depending on which way you brew it, you'll want a different level of coarseness to extract the most flavor.
For cold brewing, leave it extra coarse, If you're using a French press, use a coarse ground. Go with a medium coarse one for a Presse, or a pour-over like the Chemex, and a slightly finer medium grind for a standard drip pot. And if you're making espresso, go for an extra fine grind.
The Right Ratio
You don't want watery coffee, do you? To make sure it's the perfect strength, check this insanely detailed chart that'll let you know precisely how much water to pair with how much coffee depending on how many cups you're aiming to make. Keep in mind, though, that the chart is made by and for serious coffee experts who like their brews extra intense. And it doesn't take into account things like grind size or brewing method, which can alter the process.
If you just want to keep things simple, aim for the tried-and-true standard of one tablespoon coffee grounds to six ounces of water. The only adjustment you need to worry about is if you're making a batch of cold brew, which uses a higher concentration of about one part coffee to four parts water.
Measure by Weight
And when you're measuring the right ratio, forget about eyeballing or using scoops. It's way too easy to accidentally over- or underestimate, since you might do a heaping spoonful one morning and a meager one the next.
Invest in a cheap kitchen scale — they only cost a few dollars — and measure your grounds by weight, and you'll be right on the money every time. That means each cup you pour will be consistently great, rather than the hit-or-miss you can get when you just estimate your ingredients.
Don't Let it Oversteep
If you're using a French press, the number one enemy to good-tasting coffee is time. You can ground the beans just right, heat your water to just the right temperature, carefully measure a precise ratio of water to grounds, and press at the perfect time, but your second cup is going to taste a whole lot worse than your first if you leave the coffee in the press while you're sipping.
The wire mesh of French press filters is great at sweeping away the grounds to give you a clean pour, but it doesn't create enough of a barrier between the grounds and your coffee to halt the brewing process. So once you press, pour any leftover coffee into another vessel so that it doesn't continue to brew, which will make it taste harsh and bitter.