Brew a Good Cup of Joe

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You don't need a French press. Or a fancy grinder. And you certainly don't need to spend hundreds of dollars on a milk steamer.

Making great coffee at home requires only a few basic steps. First, buy great beans. Most connoisseurs recommend Arabica beans, which tend to be milder and sweeter than other commercial varieties. Next, use the correct ratio of water to coffee. For drip coffee makers, this means a rounded tablespoon of coffee for every two cups of water. Last, serve while hot and fresh.

It's so simple that Ina Garten, author of the Barefoot Contessa cookbooks, says, "You can make better coffee at home than you can get at a coffee shop." The most common mistakes, she says, are buying poor-quality beans that have been overroasted, which gives them a burnt flavor, and keeping coffee hot too long. She recommends pouring freshly made coffee into a warm thermos. That will keep it good for hours.

Espresso requires a bit more machinery. Some espresso makers, such as Braun's single-server, now go for under $200. Andrea Illy, chairman of coffee maker illycaffè, says if the espresso is brewed properly and made with medium-roasted beans, it requires no sugar or milk. "If espresso is really perfect, it is sweet by itself," he says.