Preparing a good cup of coffee should be easy - you're simply combining ground beans with water until the brew is drinkable. The variations in technique are, however, infinite and the quality depends on sure-handed knowledge. There are, however, a number of rules that you can apply to almost any method of making coffee. If you follow these rules you will ensure that a consistently good cup of coffee is made:

   1.
      Make sure that any equipment you are using is thoroughly cleaned. Leftover residue, oils and grounds will leave strange flavours in your brew. Ideally, you should clean your coffee maker thoroughly at least once a week with a mixture of water and vinegar to remove the oils.
   2. Buy and start with fresh, quality coffee beans. No matter how good the coffee is, if it is stale it will be very flat.
   3. 98% of a cup of coffee is water. Bad water means bad coffee. Use fresh, clear water to prepare your coffee.
   4. Always grind your coffee, if possible, immediately before brewing. This will give a fresh taste and avoid bitter or stale flavours in the coffee.
   5. Make sure that the grind of the coffee that you are using matches your method and taste.
   6. Use the right amount of coffee. The most common mistake often made is that not using enough coffee, resulting in a thin cup that lacks depth of flavour, and does not have the distinctive qualities that help make each coffee unique. A good rule of thumb to make an excellent cup is 2 level tablespoons for each 6oz cup of coffee. For non-coffee drinkers this is strong, but everyone should start from this point, then make adjustments to your taste.
   7. Coffee should be brewed "just off the boil", between 195 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit (90-93°C). If the coffee is brewed with boiling water, delicate flavours will be lost. If the water is not hot enough you will not extract all of the flavour from the coffee, ending up with a thinner cup.
   8. Warm your cup before pouring the coffee in; this keeps the coffee hot longer.
   9. Before serving, stir the coffee. Heavier oils and inconsistent extraction will cause differences in the consistency of the coffee.
  10. If you are making more than you intend to drink, store the coffee in a quality thermos. Leaving the brew in the coffee warmer will slowly destroy its flavour.
  11. Drink your coffee freshly brewed. Never reheat coffee, or let it sit on a warmer for more than 20 minutes. At best, it will taste dull and stale; at worst, it will develop a bitter, acrid flavour.

Coffee beans are naturally sweet in flavour and that distinctive bitterness comes from extraction when hot water is added. As a general rule, the longer the coffee is brewed the more bitter the taste - as caffeine is extracted last of all. Prior to this there is an acidic flavour, which is why coffee made too quickly tastes thin and sour.