Rise Up Organic House Roast V60

  • Beans: “Organic House Roast” (Medium roast)
    • Roaster: Rise Up Coffee Roasters (Easton, MD)
    • Origin: Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Sumatra
    • Roast date: 1/4/24
    • Purchase date: 1/24/24
    • AeroPress notes
  • 20g coffee / 300g water (1:15)
  • JX: 18 (54 clicks)
  • Water at 95°C
  • Recipe: Single Cup V60 Pourover with size 2 plastic dripper

I started at grind setting 20, then tried 19 (still a little acidic) and then went to 18, which was an excellent cup. I’ll keep it there for my next cup.

2/1: The last couple of cups at 18 have been really good. Quick technique notes: I am brewing into a ceramic mug, which I am not preheating. To preheat the plastic V60, I put the filter in it and then run some water from the insta-hot tap over it, then swish it around to wet the entire filter evenly. During the initial pour for the bloom, I also run a little bit of water down the sides of the filter to wash off any coffee grounds stuck there. For subsequent pours, I pour in slow spirals, into the bed only, avoiding the sides.

2/6: Not sure what’s up, but I have been having a run of weak, acidic pourovers over the past few days, with both these and some other beans. While grind setting 18 initially gave me several pretty good cups, the past couple have tasted under-extracted. Today, I went to setting 16, and it was better, but still not quite up to snuff with the cups I initially got at 18. Nothing has changed with my brewing equipment or technique, and I don’t think there’s been much variance in the brewing temperature. Could it be related to bean age and/or storage method (bag vs vacuum canister)?

2/9: Used these up today. I had 26 grams left, so I brewed a larger cup with 400g water using the two cup method I have used in the past, pouring to 250g after 50g bloom, and then topping up with the remaining 150g. I went back to grind setting 18. While this cup was not quite as good as my first few cups, it was better than my more recent smaller cups, and on par with the cup I brewed in the AeroPress yesterday. The common thread here is more immersion time — the V60 takes longer to draw down with more water and more coffee. Maybe the beans just need more time to extract as they get further past roast date.

Top 10 Geocache Finds (2023 Edition)

I keep a list of candidates for my top 10 favorite geocache finds for each year. Usually, I have to pare each list down, and I end up with a few “honorable mentions” that didn’t quite make the cut. In 2023, however, I ended up with exactly 10 caches on the list, which means I either didn’t find as many great caches in 2023, or perhaps I’m just getting more selective about what I consider to be a really good cache. In any case, here’s the list, along with a short blurb about each cache.

  • Alphabet Z (ZZZs) – Redux (GCAGVB9)
    This was the final cache in a great series that was released over three years. There’s a “grand finale” cache coming in early March 2024, but I thought this cache warranted a Top 10 nod in honor of the entire series.
  • Alvin’s Phone Line (GC9FF)
    One of a couple of “oldest” caches on this year’s list. This is Minnesota’s oldest cache, and it’s a fun hide that is 2 to 3 hours north of Minneapolis. It’s on the list mainly because it was a great excuse to take a road trip “off the beaten path” while in MN on business.
  • CAM 2008 – Eden Mill (GC19X41)
    I have a soft spot for “Cache Across Maryland” (CAM) caches from prior years. This one is in a really nice area, but it’s really on my list because of how well-preserved it is (as of when I found it). It still had the original container, original log book, and original CAM code.
  • GoT: Drogon, Rhaegal & Viserion (GC8RCBM)
    A representative cache from a very ambitious “Game of Thrones” themed series in southern Maryland. This was a 3-stage cache in Maxwell Hall Park that had several interesting physical challenges. I still need to get back down there to finish the series.
    Another pillar climb in the Lebanon Valley area of Pennsylvania. These never get old!
  • Kerckhoffs (part 3) (GC9PC6T)
    This was one of the most difficult (and ultimately rewarding) geocaching puzzles I’ve solved. The hide itself was rather run-of-the-mill, but the puzzle alone earns it a spot here.
  • Millsboro Pond 10 (Let Your Light Shine) (GC4JCW8)
    This is one of a group of paddle caches on Millsboro Pond in Millsboro, DE. It’s a beautiful place to paddle, with tons of wildlife, and this happened to be my favorite location of the lot.
  • Quordle (GC9TPQ0)
    This was the best of both worlds — a fun Wordle-themed puzzle, followed by a great hike in PVSP to find the cache. We even scored some half-priced burgers at the Woodstock Inn.
  • Tour of Stone Mountain (GC1E)
    This is the world’s oldest active multi-cache, although I don’t believe it was originally listed as a multi, so I’m not sure it counts. Regardless, it was a really fun multi that took me all over Stone Mountain Park (outside Atlanta, GA) with a nice hide at the end. It doesn’t really get much better than that.
  • Trussville Civitan – Alabama’s First Cache (GC126)
    This is in Trussville Civitan Park, which is not too far from Birmingham. It was the first of 3 state’s oldest caches I found in 2023, and the first I found post-COVID. It felt great to be traveling and finding these historic caches again, and this was a truly great park to explore. I hiked several miles there and found a whole bunch of caches.

Snow Ride

Nowadays, I don’t bike as much in the winter as I used to (opting instead for hiking/treadmill) but I still try to get out a couple of times per week. However, the snow we’ve gotten recently has further reduced my riding. Last Wednesday, I commuted to work on my old Specialized Rockhopper. I had not ridden this bike in almost a year, but I did get it tuned up at the shop recently. The morning temperature was in the teens, and the afternoon temperature was in the 20s. I rode with studded front and back tires for the first time in at least two years. It brought me back to my early bike commuting heyday, when I was obsessed with riding year-round in every imaginable weather condition.

Today, I took a mid-morning mountain bike ride. It was my first time (that I can recall) riding in the snow. It was a little too cold at dawn, so I waited until 10:00, when it was a little warmer, but still well below freezing. With a thaw on the way (it’s 37 as I write this) and sloppy, rainy weather coming later in the week, it’s looking like the window for snow rides isn’t going to last beyond tomorrow morning. Today, the trails were great, with most of them having been nicely “groomed” by earlier riders. Other than a few icy sections (mostly in sunny areas), the trails were in great shape, and fun to ride. I learned that snow riding (even on groomed trails) requires more physical effort, and different skills, than “regular” riding. I rode my hard-tail bike, which has new tires, and they gave me pretty good traction. I found that it was rather easy to overshoot turns and end up in the deeper snow on the edges of the trails, which generally causes the bike to lose traction. I was able to recover from this a few times, and others, I had to put my foot down and scoot the bike back onto the trail. I felt kind of like a beginning rider again. I suspect that if I lived in a snowier area, I’d get pretty good at this, but I don’t see it happening in Maryland. I only rode 7.5 miles, but it took me 90 minutes. I’m really glad I got out, as rain kept me off the mountain bike for most of December and early January, and it looks like the rain will be coming back later this week. I’m not sure when I’ll get another opportunity to ride in the snow, but I had fun today.

Orinoco Sunshine Serenade V60

  • Beans: “Sunshine Serenade”
    • Medium roast
    • Roaster: Orinoco Coffee & Tea, Ltd. (Jessup, MD)
    • Roast date: Unknown (best by 9/5/24)
    • Purchase date: 1/16/24
  • 20g coffee / 300g water (1:15)
  • JX: 19 (57 clicks)
  • Water at 95°C
  • Recipe: Single Cup V60 Pourover

This is a local roaster that I hadn’t tried before, as the coffee isn’t sold at the grocery store down the street, although it looks like I might be able to find it at Giant or Safeway. I picked this bag up at Martha’s Cafe in Arbutus. Oddly, the bag doesn’t list a roast date, but only a “best by” date. I brewed my first cup on Wednesday 1/17 at grind setting 21 or 22, and have since adjusted to 19. This morning’s cup was still a tiny bit on the acidic side at 19, so I’ll try 18 next time.

1/23: Continuing an experiment I started this morning, I brewed a cup exactly the same as yesterday (300g water at 95C/20g coffee/grind setting 19), except I used my plastic size 2 V60 in place of my ceramic size 1 V60. This cup was much better than yesterday’s! It tasted well-extracted and nicely balanced. It seemed like the drawdown took a little bit longer than it did with the smaller dripper, but I’m not 100% sure. It seems more likely that the water lost less heat through the plastic V60 than it does through ceramic. This gives more credence to my theory that the method I’ve been using to preheat my ceramic V60 isn’t as effective as I would like. I also still suspect that the room air temperature plays a role, as I’ve noticed a drop-off in brew quality with the ceramic V60 as we’ve gotten into the colder days of winter. I might try compensating by bumping the starting water temperature a few degrees higher the next time I use the ceramic V60; or, I could just stick with the plastic V60 going forward. For starters, I’m going to try it with a light roast tomorrow.

1/25: Kept everything the same as 1/23 (with plastic V60) and got another really good cup. Just for the record, I left the timer on during the drawdown, and it finished around 2:55. I’m now even more convinced that my recent V60 issues have been caused by heat loss through the ceramic due to my preheat water not being hot enough (see note here from 1/24). For comparison, I may try brewing my next cup with the ceramic V60, preheating with water from the kettle instead of the insta-hot.

1/28: Tried today with the ceramic size 1 V60. I preheated the V60 with 95°C water from the kettle, which got it quite hot. Everything else was the same as 1/23 and 1/25. The first thing I noticed is that, as I had noticed earlier on, the drawdown was a lot faster — it was completely finished by 2:30 or 2:35, which is a full 20 seconds faster than with plastic. While the cup tasted OK, it lacked the sweetness and complexity of the cups I brewed with plastic. The obvious conclusion here is that the faster drawdown time is affecting the extraction, so maybe that’s a bigger factor than heat loss through the ceramic. I’m not sure what’s causing the difference, as geometrically, the size 1 and size 2 V60s are very similar. The ridges on the plastic V60 are more defined than on the ceramic, so maybe that has something do do with it. It could also be the filters, but I’m using brown tabbed filters with both, which (other than the size) are outwardly identical. I suppose I could try using a size 2 filter in the size 1 V60, and see if there’s any difference in drawdown speed. This also makes me want to buy a plastic size 1, just so I can eliminate the dripper size as a variable. In any case, I’ll likely be brewing the rest of these beans with the plastic dripper.

2/1: I’ve ended up going a good bit finer with these, brewing today’s cup at grind setting 17.3 (52 total clicks). This seemed to bring back some flavors that had been missing from the previous 2 or 3 cups. The only other difference was the method I used to preheat the plastic V60 — instead of preheating the mug first and then pouring the water from the mug into the V60 (with filter), I just ran some water directly from the insta-hot tap over the V60 and filter. I doubt this would make a big difference in taste, but just noting it for the sake of completeness.

2/2: Tried grinding at 17 this morning, and it seems like that was too fine, as the cup had a touch of bitterness.

2/4: Tried a little coarser (19) and increased water temperature to 97. Under-extracted and watery. I’ve gotten good cups at 19 previously, so I’m not sure what happened with this one.

Zeke’s Hippie Blend AeroPress

  • 16 to 17g coffee to 250g water (around 1:15)
  • Prismo with metal and paper filters
  • Grind setting 18
  • Boiling water (100C)
  • Add coffee, start timer, pour 45 to 50g water
  • Return kettle to base, Swirl AP gently, and bloom until 0:45
  • Top to 250g water and stir 4 or 5 times, finishing around 1:15
  • Cover and steep until 2:30
  • Stir 4 or 5 times again
  • Press gently, finishing around 3:30-3:40

This made a pretty good cup. It had no bitterness, and the body and flavor actually seemed better than the pourovers I have been making recently with these beans. I wonder if the cooler ambient air temperature this time of year is affecting the extraction of the pourovers.

I had been wanting to get back to occasionally brewing lighter roasts in the AeroPress, since I’ll likely be doing it a lot while traveling, where I won’t have precise control over the temperature of the water, or access to a scale. This seems like a good first stab. The recipe is very similar to what I’ve been using for dark roasts, but adds a bloom step. I used the scoop that came with my plastic V60 dripper to measure the beans, and also weighed them, and it seems that 16-17 grams translates to one slightly heaping scoop of beans. I’ll have to try this with a couple of different light roasts to see how much variance there is between them. Then, I’ll just need a way to eyeball the amount of water, and I expect that I can use the markings on the AeroPress cylinder for that. The Prismo definitely makes this easier, as it keeps the water from dripping out through the filter without the need to invert the AP.

1/21: I brewed the same recipe today with Zeke’s Holiday Roast (a medium roast) except I dropped the water temperature to 95C. It produced a perfectly OK cup that was neither better nor worse than my V60 cups. I have a feeling it would benefit from a little bit of tweaking, but as I’m almost out of the beans, I’ll likely just go back to V60 to use them up.

Snow Day

For once, a predicted snowstorm here didn’t turn out to be a total bust. The forecasters pretty much nailed it. They called for 2-4″, and we got around 4″ — actually at the high range of what was predicted. It was enough to get me to dust off the snowblower for the first time in about 8 years. We bought the snowblower in December 2002, so it’s as old as our first-born son. I used to be pretty good about getting the snowblower it at least once a year, draining the gas tank and refilling it with fresh gas, adding some stabilizer, and starting it up and running it for a few minutes. However, I’ve gotten kinda lazy about it in my old age, and as a result, I hadn’t touched it in just over 2 years. Gas stabilizer does work, although it doesn’t work miracles. I topped the tank up with fresh gas, closed the choke, pumped the primer bulb, and pulled the recoil starter several times (the electric starter died several years ago). No luck, so I pumped the primer again. Then, the engine fired, sputtered for several seconds, and died. I kept pumping the primer, pulling the starter, and watching it sputter and die several times, until eventually, it stayed running. Once it was going, it ran just fine. It felt like old times to be blowing snow around again!

Snowy Run

I had my first chance to run in some “real” winter weather this afternoon. The temperature was right around freezing, with light snow, but (fortunately) not much wind. I waited until a little after 2:00pm to head out, as I figured that’s when the road conditions would be the best. I wore my Xero Terraflex shoes with wool socks and Correct Toes. While they’re not the perfect shoes for wet conditions, they’re the best I’ve got right now, and they worked pretty well today. My socks ended up a little bit damp, but my feet never got cold. Had I worn my Vibram V-Runs, my feet would have been soaked through and freezing. The run itself went well. My energy and form were good, and I ran 7 miles, at a relaxed pace, owing to the non-ideal conditions. There were a few slick spots, but for the most part, I had good traction and did not slip. With conditions expected to worsen tonight, I’m glad I was able to get out today.

School Morning Ride

Looks like I’m going to have to skip mountain biking this week, due to persistent rainy weather and lack of overnight freezes. In lieu of that, I decided to shake things up this morning and take a ride out past downtown Columbia to Howard Community College and back. Normally, this is not something I would choose to do on a school day, but I figured I might as well give it a try. I left the house at 7:40, which worked out pretty well. The only significant school-related activity I encountered was in the Oakland Mills area near Talbot Springs Elementary, I guess because I happened to go through there near bell time. I got back home at 10:00, after all of the area schools had started. Obviously, I’d prefer to take a ride like this on a day when schools weren’t in session, but the weather forced my hand this week. All in all, though, it wasn’t too bad, and I wouldn’t be averse to trying it again some time. There was more traffic than on a weekend morning, which I had expected, but once I got off roads and onto CA paths, it was smooth sailing, with very few people out and about. HCC was quiet, owing to it being winter session, and I found a geocache there before turning around and following mostly the same route back home. We’re due for another 2-3″ drenching tomorrow, but beyond that, I’m hoping to take the bike to work on Wednesday or Thursday, which will give me two rides this week.

Sick House

Everybody in the house has either COVID or some COVID-like illness this week, except me. I think it’s the same, or similar, virus as what I had back in November, because of the killer cough. As for me, I had a slight scratchy throat for a day or two, and have occasionally felt under the weather, but have not (yet) gotten sick.

It is shaping up to be another mild, rainy winter, which is becoming more and more the norm in this area. I have been able to keep up with running and (indoor) climbing, but have not been out on the bike as much as I would like. I have not worn metatarsal pads for my last two runs, but have continued to work on keeping my ankles loose, and my heels have been happier. Today, I forgot to foam roll my right hamstring, and by the end of the run, it was obvious that it had been making a difference. Based on our pattern of 1 to 2 nor’easters per week, I’m thinking mountain bike rides are only going to be happening in the early mornings when the trails freeze overnight. I’m hoping to ride to work on Wednesday or possibly Thursday, and may see if I can get out another day this week as well. We will just have to see what the weather has in store.

First run of 2024

Today is the first “normal” work day of 2024, and I left the house at 8:45am and ran 7.75 miles along one of my typical weekday morning routes. The temperature was in the upper 30s with a stiff NW breeze. I had two pieces of egg bake and coffee at 6:30 and a protein/spinach smoothie at 8:20. I wore my usual Vibram V-Runs, Tuli heel cups, wool toe socks, calf compression sleeves, New Balance running pants, Under Armour long sleeve athletic shirt, Patagonia running jacket, headband, and light gloves. Atypically, I didn’t take any of this gear off during the run — usually, I end up removing at least the gloves. Must have been the chilly breeze. Several things of note:

  • I spent a few minutes foam rolling my problem right hamstring prior to the run, something I haven’t been very good about doing.
  • I ran with Strutz metatarsal pads.
  • I made a slight biomechanical adjustment (see below).

Recently, my heels have been telling me that something is off with my gait. I’ve been dealing with a bursitis-like issue on the left side, but there’s some soreness on the right side as well. I have a theory that I’m not flexing my ankles enough, which is causing me to heel strike. Today, I made a concerted effort to keep my ankles loose, letting the forefoot drop when I lift the foot, so that I land more on the forefoot and the arch absorbs most of the impact. I found that when I did this, it seemed easier to engage the hip and glute muscles to help support the running motion, both my right heel and right hamstring were happier, and I felt more stable, particularly when running downhill. I wore the Strutz pads mainly for my left foot, and had no discomfort on that side at all, nor were the pads all that obtrusive, although I’ll say that my goal eventually is to not need either the pads or the heel cups. We will see how things go. While this wasn’t my fastest time ever, it was a really good run, I had plenty of energy, and I was able to maintain a high average cadence of 183 steps/minute.