What would you say are the inessentials of making coffee - the steps that don't actually make that much difference in the end for your average brewer?
It depends an awful lot on what we're talking about. I think you mean, when you say the "average brewer", an individual brewing coffee at home, with an electric drip. With that - or any other method, really - we really only need concern ourselves with the dose, the grind, and the temperature. The pot should take care of immersion and extraction time on its own, so you only need to grind the right amount of beans fresh (at a fine-ish setting), and then hit the needed buttons. If you have a brewer with adequate wattage, the temperature should hit about 200 degrees. Cheaper models often can't do this, however. The inessentials, then, are everything else. Truthfully, these are the things the average brewer won't waste their time with - which is better, honestly. But people who do this for a living, like me, wonder if clockwise or counterclockwise makes a better pour-over, or if I need to tamp-tap-tamp, or just tamp.