A few months ago, we took a road trip up to Burlington, Vermont to meet with the guys who run Coffee Analysts, one of the premier coffee testing resources in the United States. These guys drink coffee all day, testing quality control for everyone from Starbucks to Stumptown, while also helping companies launch new coffee brands and programs. The McDonalds McCafe? That was put together by Coffee Analysts.

We met with the company's president, Dan Cox, and his Coffee Analysts crew to help us out with a coffee-related article in our October/November issue, on stands now. Watch our video interview with Dan Cox below, and then read on for the five rules of coffee that will help you lock down the perfect cup...

1. Buy fresh-roasted coffee.
Freshly roasted coffee has the best taste, so try to find coffee that has been roasted within the past two weeks. Even if the expiration date is for a year away, understand that flavors diminish and staleness sets in as time goes on, no matter what. The best way to eliminate stale coffee and off-flavors is to buy whole beans in a sealed bag, and if you're copping from a bin, only do so if the beans have been roasted within the past few days. Anything in a can is ground commercial grade coffee, and is going to have some serious staleness issues.
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2. Grind beans right before you start your coffee.
When you grind coffee, you increase the surface area of exposed coffee and speed up the oxidation process that leads to stale coffee. Grind only what you need and make the coffee immediately - you'll have more consistently fresh coffee.
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3. Understand that water has a lot to do with taste.
New York coffee is considered good because they have great public water. Know that a cup of coffee is 98.5% water, so if you're in an area with particularly hard or soft water try using filtered or bottled water for your cup. Ideally you're making coffee with a neutral pH and limited chloramines or minerals.
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4. Take it off of the burner.
Hot coffee that stays on a burner for more than 15-20 minutes is going to start tasting burnt, over a half hour, and you're pouring crap into your cup.
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5. Store beans in an airtight container in the freezer.
Some coffee nerds argue that storing in the freezer messes up the beans' structure and freezes flavor particles. Dan Cox, owner of Coffee Enterprises disagrees, and we believe him. The first rule is to store whole bean coffee in an airtight container, and then if you can get it in a dry, low-temp environment, that's even better. Coffee beans pick up moisture, so the freezer (cold and dry) is preferable to storing coffee in the fridge (cold and damp) - you don't want your beans tasting like last night's Chinese takeout.