I promised this post to a friend a fews weeks back after I wrote my steaks are for lovers post.
Quick caveat - I'm no coffee expert. I did buy a big fancy espresso machine five years ago and plumbed a line into the wall for convenience. I even posted photos to this site at the time, and all of my coworkers had a good laugh because the photos were akin to espresso porn. In truth, I'm really just a dude who loves a good cup of coffee, and a great shot of espresso.
So here's the skinny on coffee - it's all about freshness. You can brew a cup of coffee a lot of different ways, but if you don't start out with the right beans the end product won't matter. Figure out how many pounds of coffee you brew up in a week, and buy that fresh every week. Erin and I buy about a pound per week.
You ask: Where can I procure high quality coffee? Well, if you live in any decent size city, you're sure to have a local roaster. Track them down, figure out what they're all about and try lots of their coffee. If you don't like their stuff, then have a chat with them to see how they can help. You probably won't have any problems though. Here in Chicago, we're lucky to have two fantastic coffee companies: Intelligentsia and Metropolis. These guys both offer a hearty selection of beans, all of which are roasted daily. Intelligentsia's roasting facility is over at 1800 W Fulton, and Metropolis roasts in their store up in Edgewater (although I hear they just hooked up a big Andersonville space). I remember riding by Intelligentsia's roasterie a few years ago and thought it would be cool to stop in and check it out. I dropped in and they were happy to give me a tour, they even pulled me a world class shot (I mean this literally, they've won lots of awards) in their tasting room. So you get lucky sometimes - this was pure happenstance but problem not uncommon.
If you don't have a local roaster, then look for an organic grocery store. I often buy from Whole Foods (who sources from Intelligentsia and Metropolis locally).
If you can't buy local, then buy online. Try Zoka out of Seattle, WA - in fact I just ordered two pounds from their website two nights ago and got the UPS delivery receipt email a few minutes ago. I'm super stoked.
Get a nice grinder. Don't use a grinder at the grocery store. Don't buy beans from a grocery store unless you know their fresh. You can pick up a nice starter grinder for $20 from wholelattelove.com or Amazon. I've been using the same grinder that my three sisters gave me for Christmas during my freshman year of college 10 years ago. If you want to step it up for finer control of your grounds, get a burr grinder.
On to the brew...there are many great ways to brew coffee at home:
Automatic drip This is a fine way to go as you'll get super consistent coffee every time. Don't spend any money on a fancy machine, just get a $20 jobber at target. $10 more buys you a machine w/a timer so you can can wake up to a fresh cup.
Manual drip I've been digging this lately. Buy a pour over cone like a V60, paper filters for the cone, a metal latte foaming picture and an electric water kettle. Wet the paper cone with hot water and set on top of the V60. Fill the kettle half full with cold water and turn it on. Pour out any water that has left the paper cone and dripped into the metal pitcher. Use your grinder to prepare enough coffee grounds for the amount of coffee you'd like to make. You'll want to grind the beans more finely here. Once the water is ready, pour the hot water over the grinds until the water is about two thirds the way up the paper cone. I keep repeating the pour until I have the right amount of coffee desired given the amount of grounds I've prepared. It's easy to over think this one...the trick is experimentation until you've figured everything out.
French press The ultimate in easy. You can buy a french press at any coffee house. Coarsely grind your beans and dump them in the french press. Boil water. Let the water cool for a 30 seconds after it's begun rapidly boiling, and then pour into the french press. Stir with a spoon, knife or some other utensil for a minute, then let site for 3-4 minutes and press. Voila!
Good luck! Let me know if you have any questions.