This morning, I was faced with a dilemma: How can I make my homemade coffee less, well, awful?  Yes, this question seems a bit trivial at this moment in history, but I also know that creature comforts—from time with loved ones (thank you FaceTime!) to a steaming cup of joe—are always welcome.

So, empty cup in hand, I sought out ways to make my daily jolt of caffeine taste a little more like what I order at Denver’s best coffeeshops. Jeffrey Knott, who owns Blue Sparrow Coffee, walked me through the essentials.

Two things: You probably know this by now, but if you start with great ingredients, your end product will be better. “The two biggest variables when it comes to making coffee will be the quality of the coffee you buy and how well it is ground,” Knott says. “If you get those two things right, you’re 90 percent there.” Knott likes a lighter roast and says that, if possible, you should have the beans professionally ground. Yes, freshly ground beans are excellent, but if you’re at home and using a whirly-blade grinder, your beans are probably being ripped into shreds of varying sizes. What you’re looking for in a good grind is uniformity.

Use what you have: Sure, you can buy a fancy coffeemaker, French press, or pour-over tools, but you’ve probably got what you need at home. “Honestly, I use a Mr. Coffee at my house,” Knott says. “You don’t need any fancy piece of equipment.”

The good stuff: If you’re really serious about coffeemaking you can, like Knott, use reverse-osmosis water (he adds in some mineral waters). If you’re like me and had to Google that, Denver Water’s freshest works perfectly well. Whew.

Rinse cycle: If you’re using paper filters, do like the baristas at Blue Sparrow Coffee do and rinse the filter in hot water first to remove any particles or residue.

Experiment: There is no perfect recipe—“strength is completely subjective,” Knott says—until you create one. You know how you like your coffee, so experiment. If it is too strong, add in a few dashes of water. Too weak? Try, try again. You’ll figure out the perfect ratio.

Temperature control: The average boiling point is lower in Denver (around 202 degrees Fahrenheit, thanks to the altitude), which is just about perfect for coffee making. “Bring [the water] to a full boil and use it right away,” Knott says.

After talking with Knott, I used several of his tips with my next coffee attempt and the results were…actually, it was pretty nice cup. It can’t compare to my local coffeeshop’s perfect press, of course, but it’s a start.

(MORE: These Are Denver’s 10 Best Coffee Shops)

This story is part of The Stay Inside Guide to Denver. For more ideas on enjoying the Mile High City from home, click here.

Natasha Gardner
Natasha Gardner
Natasha Gardner is a Denver-based writer and the former Articles Editor for 5280.