THE BEANS :: Coffee goes stale quickly and the process goes even faster when the beans are already ground, so stick with whole beans. If you're stuck with a grocery store brand be sure to look for a roasting date on the package so you can get something fresh-ish.
THE GRIND :: Coffee gets its flavor and aroma during a process called extraction when the hot water passes through the ground up beans. If this happens too quickly, the coffee will be weak; if it happens too slowly, it will be bitter. The speed of this is decided by how fine the grind of the coffee is.
THE FILTER :: For most auto drip coffee makers you want a fine or medium grind depending on the type of filter your coffee maker uses. Here's an estimation of how fine to grind it:
- Flat Bottom Filters: Medium (close to the texture of sand).
- Cone Shaped Filters: Medium/Fine (A little finer than granulated sugar).
- Gold/Plastic Permanent Filters: Medium.
THE RATIO :: You need to play around and get your water to coffee ratio right. In general, you want about 1 or 2 tablespoons of ground coffee per six ounces of water. Your preferences may vary, so feel free to try different amounts. Once you get a good ratio, stick with it.
THE POT :: If you're in the market for a new coffee maker it's worth it to splurge on one that pours directly into a thermal carafe because they don't use the heating element that burns coffee.
THE CLEANING :: If you're making coffee every day it's important to clean and spray out the carafe daily because otherwise you're just getting a second taste of yesterday's brew. You should also clean out the whole system at least once a month, but if you're a daily drinker then once a week is recommended.