Any tips on how to make the perfect cup of coffee? What beans are the best?
For us, we like our coffee black and strong, so a French press is ideal. A French press brings the water into extended contact with the ground coffee, and even after the grounds are pressed down a fine sediment of coffee remains. This gives a slightly thicker taste and feel to coffee brewed this way which some love but others find distasteful compared to the thinner liquid of drip coffee.
Of course, we could talk about beans all day long. The best beans are fresh and preferably organic, shade-grown and fair trade. Ideally they should be roasted fairly recently and ground directly before you use them. Yes, you can get a decent cup of coffee from ground coffee or beans off the grocery shelf and we will take pretty much any coffee in a pinch. But the best thing to do is find a roaster in your neighborhood and buy directly from them. Talk to them about how they roast the coffee and the blends and tastes they prefer - try several varieties, from dark roasted to light, and different coffees, from single source to mixed blends. If you're really enterprising you can try roasting beans yourself - see the great info at Sweet Maria's.
We buy fresh-roasted beans about once a month and store them in a cool dark cabinet.
It's difficult to give precise directions for good French press coffee; amount and brewing time depends on the blend of beans and your tastes. We use about a tablespoon of beans per cup of water. Grind beans for French press coffee a little rougher; the grind shouldn't be as fine or the coffee will be bitter. Pour boiling water over the ground coffee and let sit for about 5-7 minutes, then press and drink immediately. If this is too strong or bitter, adjust.