After a few days of dodging it, we finally got a significant, torrential rainstorm last night. It poured for a couple of hours and I suspect we got 2-3″ of rain (one of these days, I need to buy a rain gauge, so I’ll know for sure). It was the first real test for our new driveway trench drainage system, and it seemed to go fine, as we had no water in the basement except for wetness behind the bar, which is a known issue. In theory, the drain should keep a lot of water from reaching the sump pump on the east end of the house, so the pump should not run as often any more. In practice, the jury is still out. The pump still runs occasionally, but I need to hang around it for a while during a heavy rainstorm to get a better sense for how often it runs now. Last night, I rode the storm out in bed. This morning, I rode to work through Patapsco Valley State Park, and the only evidence of flooding I saw was on the road near the parking for Lost Lake and the Grist Mill trailhead, which is a common trouble spot. No issues on the trail itself — the new bridges seem to be working great. Overall, the trail (and the park in general) was in much better shape than it would have been a few years ago after a similar rainfall event.
Here was this morning’s AeroPress experiment:
- Beans: “Cold Brew Blend” medium roast (Guatemala/Colombia) from Local Coffee Roasting Co. in Roxana, DE
- JX: 2 turns minus 6 clicks (Grind setting 18)
- 95°C water
- 17 grams coffee / 220 grams water (1:13)
- One new paper filter (pre-moistened)
- Set AeroPress up in standard orientation and add coffee
- Add all water at once, spinning brewer to wet coffee while pouring, ending by around 0:10
- Stir several times
- Insert plunger, then pull up to create a vacuum
- At 1:15, remove the plunger and stir several times again
- Re-insert the plunger and press gently, finishing between 1:50 and 2:00
This recipe comes from stumptowncoffee.com, and is similar to the instructions that ship with the AeroPress. There are small, likely negligible differences in the amount of coffee and the water temperature, but the main difference is that this recipe adds a little bit of stirring right before pressing. I didn’t zero my scale until I had already poured a little bit of water, so the total volume may have been off a little bit, but I suspect not enough to really matter. I’m probably starting to sound like a broken record, but this brew was similar to the last several I’ve done in the AP: the flavor was fine, but the body was thin. The quest for fuller-bodied AeroPress coffee will continue, but I may take a break and go back to pourover for a little while.
- Beans: “Cold Brew Blend” medium roast (Guatemala/Colombia) from Local Coffee Roasting Co. in Roxana, DE
- JX: 2 turns plus 6 clicks (Grind setting 22)
- 90°C water
- 13 grams coffee / 180 grams water (about 1:14)
- One new paper filter (pre-moistened)
- Recipe: 13g that makes you happy (inverted: add 30g water, stir 5x, top up to 180g at 0:30, stir 5x, flip at 1:30 and press very slowly, finishing at 2:30)
First stab at brewing a (hot) cup with these beans in the AeroPress. This is a recipe I’ve used quite a few times before, but recently, I’ve been using more coffee than the recipe calls for, in an effort to get richer-tasting cups. Based on my experience with pourover, I think there should be a way to achieve this without using so much coffee. Today, I went back to a 1:14 ratio, which is what the recipe calls for. According to my notes, I have previously used a JX grind setting of 24 or 25 (around 2.5 turns) every time I’ve brewed this recipe. For today’s cup, I went with 22, which is a lot finer, and similar to what I’ve been using for a lot of my pourovers. This cup was not bad overall — it still was not quite as rich as a pourover at the same ratio, but it wasn’t weak, either, and had no bitter or sour notes. One thing I have noticed with these inverted AeroPress recipes is that after steeping for a while and then flipping, a bunch of coffee grounds frequently end up stuck to the plunger. I could prevent this by briefly stirring right before flipping, or by flipping immediately after the initial stir and letting it steep in the “standard” orientation. I might try one or both of these next time, just to see if it makes any difference.
I had a fairly routine bike commute to the office this morning. I woke up at 5:30 to another pre-dawn deluge, but it cleared out of the area in time for me to get out of the house on time. I have found that 7:20 is the absolute latest I can get rolling if I don’t want to deal with foot and bus traffic for the nearby middle school. If it had rained much longer, I likely would have ended up telecommuting. The Patapsco River was running higher and faster than I had seen it all summer, and a lot of the little feeder streams were really raging. The areas to the west of us have gotten hammered with rain over the past few days, and this morning’s downpour hit those areas as well.
Update (9/12): I brewed the same AeroPress recipe again, slightly finer (grind setting 21) and I flipped right after filling to 180g and stirring. It made no discernible difference. If anything, it tasted slightly weaker — again, not unpleasant, just lacking in body. I did notice that, while the plunger started out clean, grounds started getting stuck to it as I was plunging. So, it appears that the issue isn’t that they get stuck there during steeping, but more so that they just accumulate there while plunging. Seems like this would be unavoidable, and given that the finished product wasn’t an improvement, there’s no need to use a different technique from the recipe. I may try one more AeroPress experiment with these beans (not sure exactly what yet) and then I’ll just switch back to pourover to use them up.
After alluding to it yesterday, I brewed a cup of pourover coffee this morning using this recipe, with the same beans and a slightly finer grind. I went back and forth over whether to try it coarser or finer, eventually settling on finer just because of how my earlier pourover cups have tasted. I used a setting of 18 on the JX grind chart, which is two rotations minus 6 clicks (54 total clicks). I think this was the right call. The cup had a little bit more fruitiness than the cup I brewed with the AeroPress, with more body to balance out the fruity acidity than my previous pourover cups. Now I’m wondering how fine I can go before it starts to taste bitter.
The weather was quite pleasant this morning, and the past several days have been dry, so I hit the trails and commuted to work through PVSP on my mountain bike. It was my third bike ride in 4 days. On the HoCo side of the river, I rode Belmont Trail to Morning Choice to Lewis and Clark to Garrett’s Pass, which is a route I take frequently. It was a great ride, except something stung me on my arm at one point. I am wondering if maybe I ran over an underground hornet’s nest, and one of them got me. If that’s the case, I’m glad I was moving fast (and I’m not allergic)!! We’re still in heavy summer growth season, but with a few exceptions, the trails I rode were not overgrown. Upper Soapstone Trail, which is on my route home, may be another story, so I’ll see how that is doing later this afternoon.
I got out this morning and ran into Patapsco Valley State Park via River Rd., out to the swinging bridge, and back via the Grist Mill Trail. Although I bike through PVSP all the time, I had not run there in probably 15 years. It’s a route I had been wanting to try for a while, but it is 8.5 miles round trip, requires cutting through a school, and starts and ends along a road which is both hilly (downhill outbound and uphill inbound) and not pedestrian-friendly. On the plus side, 95% of the route is shaded, and over half of it is in the park. It’s not a bad route for summer, when school is out and there’s less traffic on the roads. Today, I cut it short at 8 miles, and walked the remaining 0.5 mile home. The uphill finish was not all that fun, but other than that, it was a pretty nice run. Once school starts, there’s always the option of taking the car, parking along Levering Ave., and just running the park portion, but that would only be 4 to 5 miles (unless I do it twice, which is an option).
I brewed the same coffee beans and recipe this morning as I did four days ago, and as I was hoping, the cup tasted about the same. I’m looking for a recipe that gives me consistent results with a wide variety of beans, and this bodes well. I am wondering if I can scale the recipe for a slightly larger cup (say, 200 to 210 grams) without having to resort to using a bypass. A 210-gram cup would call for roughly 15 grams of coffee for a 1:14 ratio, and 35 grams of water for the bloom. I guess I can try it and see if there’s enough room for all of that in the inverted AeroPress.
I brewed 13g that makes you happy this morning with my “Angel Albino Corzo-Chiapa” medium roast beans that I picked up on the way home from Bethany, after getting great results with the recipe with different beans yesterday and the day before. Everything was the same, except I slightly overshot and ended up with about 190g of water (the recipe calls for 180g). It wasn’t a bad cup flavor-wise, just ever so slightly on the weak side. I’ll try this again and try to avoid over-pouring (update — 180g tasted about the same — maybe try tweaking water temperature and/or grind size). I seem to get better-extracted coffee from this recipe than I have been getting recently with the James Hoffmann recipe. My last few cups with the latter recipe have tasted kind of sour and weak. Granted, this is only the third time I’ve brewed today’s recipe, but I have yet to get a sour-tasting cup. I’ve gotten great cups of coffee with the Hoffmann recipe, too, but not consistently, and I’m still not sure exactly why that is. My goal is to find an idiot-proof recipe that produces consistently good coffee with a wide variety of beans (with maybe a small tweak to grind size and/or temperature here and there), and I am hoping that today’s recipe will turn out to be it. Time will tell.
Yesterday morning, I ran just over 10K at 10:45/mile, which is my first time averaging under 11:00/mile in probably a few weeks. I suspect it was mainly due to the weather, as the dewpoint was in the low 60s… still on the muggy side, but less so than my past several runs, and everything is relative this time of year. It will be interesting to see what my pace is like once we get into the cool, crisp days of fall. Later this week, we are supposed to have our first real heat wave of the summer, so I may end up running in the pool a couple of times. I hope I can find my flotation belt…
I got out for a “short” bike ride of about 25 miles this morning, looping through Ellicott City and parts of Columbia. Along the way, I rode the Grist Mill Trail from the swinging bridge west to Ilchester Rd. Parts of that section of trail could use some work. There is one area where some of the asphalt has washed away, and several other areas with remnants of flood debris on the path. I guess that part of the trail wasn’t in the scope of last year’s bridge work. Perhaps they’ll work on it later this year. I don’t go into the park often on weekends, so just for future reference, it was still nice and quiet at 7:30am. I didn’t see any other people (other than a park employee) before I crossed the swinging bridge. I’m not sure exactly what time they open the gates, but it was clear they hadn’t yet when I was there.
I had been hoping to ride my MTB to work today, but I woke up to unexpected rain showers that hung around for 3 hours. No complaints, as it was a nice, gentle, beneficial rainfall (in contrast to our usual summer deluges) and, in spite of recent flooding elsewhere in the region, our area has been relatively dry over the past couple of weeks. The rain let up around 8:30am, and I headed out on the road bike just before 9. It was my first ride to work in two weeks. I got to check out the newly-reopened Grist Mill Trail in PVSP. The trail had been closed since last October to replace two bridges which had been washed away by floods in 2018. The trail was originally scheduled to be closed for a year, but reopened after 9 months. The new bridges look great. I was able to see some of the work in progress as I biked by on the other side of the river, during the winter when the leaves were off the trees. Based on the size of the drilling rig they used for the footings, I’d say the bridges should withstand any future flooding. Most of the trail has been repaved as well. I only rode as far west as the second bridge, but next time, I’ll ride all the way out to Ilchester Rd.
2023 marks the 15th anniversary of when I started using a bike as my primary method of commuting to work. Nowadays, I only go into the office once or twice a week, so I’m not bike commuting nearly as much, but I’m happy that I’m still doing it, and I almost never drive my car to work any more. In fact, I’ve been able to save some money by ditching my annual parking permit in favor of pay-as-you-go daily permits.
Today, I rode through Catonsville, which I haven’t done much lately due to the Grist Mill Trail closure in PVSP. With school out for the summer, there’s less traffic on the roads, so I rode through Ilchester and out River Road to Oella, where I picked up the #9 Trolley Trail. I then rode Edmondson Ave. out to Ingleside Ave., found a geocache off Harlem La., and headed to UMBC via Prospect Ave., Short Line Trail, Kenwood Ave., and Wilkens Ave. I’ve ridden on all of these roads before, but never this exact route. The weather was cloudy, windy, and drippy. I wouldn’t call it rainy, but it sprinkled almost the entire time I was out. I ended up putting my rain jacket on when I stopped for the cache, as I was actually getting chilly. It definitely was atypical weather for the first day of summer. My watch tells me I rode 17.33 miles, which is a couple miles longer than my usual commute through PVSP and Halethorpe/Arbutus. All in all, not a bad ride.
Today, I got out on the kayak for my second paddle of 2023. My first time out was a week ago Tuesday, when I launched from Homeport Farm Park and spent an hour or two paddling on Church Creek. I am always on the lookout for places to launch that are 20 or fewer minutes’ drive from home. Today, I tried one I hadn’t used before: Baltimore Rowing & Water Resource Center in Middle Branch Park. They have a floating dock where you can drop in on the Patapsco Middle Branch just west of the Hanover Street Bridge. There is a driveway leading right up to the dock, but it was gated shut when I arrived at 8:30am (and still gated when I took out at around 11am), so I parked in the lot a short distance away and wheeled the kayak to the dock. It wasn’t a long carry (maybe 200-300′ or so). The put-in was easy, with the surface of the dock floating at about the same height as my kayak.
I paddled just over 5 miles, starting out to the east, crossing under the Hanover Street Bridge, and hugging the shoreline past Harbor Hospital and then across towards Masonville Cove. Still sticking mostly to the shore, I continued past the dredging barge and crane, then around the MC “crab claw” and past the dock (still blanketed with goose poop, just like last year). I then headed over to visit Captain Trash Wheel, then along the western shore of MC, and back out across the water and back to the launch. It was a nice, pleasant paddle, with the temperatures in the 60s, calm winds, and smooth, glassy water. I saw one other kayaker out, as well as a couple of small fishing boats, and a whole bunch of folks fishing off the shoreline.
When I returned to the launch, there were several canoes out. I know that Baltimore Rec & Parks runs programs here, so I wondered if this was one of them. I took out uneventfully at the dock, and the canoes started heading back in as I was packing my stuff up to take back to the car.
This put-in worked pretty well, and seems like a nice alternative to putting in at Southwest Area Park (which has gotten a bit of a sketchy vibe to it over the past few years). I’ll probably launch here again. I noticed that there was another dock a few hundred feet to the east, that seemed to be popular with fishermen, and had what looked (from a distance) to be a dedicated kayak-specific put-in. I chose not to take out there, because there were more people there, and it looked like a longer carry to the car. However, I may investigate it further next time.
First things first. Today I got out of the house around 7:45am, and took Montgomery Rd. west to Bonnie Branch Rd. I did the same thing Monday, except I left 10 minutes later, at 7:55. That 10 minutes makes a big difference. At 7:55, there are tons of school buses on Montgomery Rd, leaving the middle school after drop-off. I had at least 10 of them pass me on Monday. It doesn’t make for a very pleasant ride, especially given how narrow Montgomery Rd. is between US 1 and Marshallee Dr. Today was much nicer – just 1 bus. Montgomery is never going to be my first choice of routes on school days, but I still like to take it once or twice a week to mix things up, and all the better to have it relatively free of school buses.
Today was the sloppiest day for riding that I’ve had in the 3 years I’ve been bike commuting year round. I’ve ridden in some messy conditions before, but today took the cake. Extra runoff from last night’s rain, combined with already muddy conditions in the park, combined with extremely warm and muggy weather, all added up to a sort of perfect storm of slop. There was a little bit of everything: wet, dirty leaves; damp, oil-slicked roads; mud puddles; wet mud; dry, gritty patches of dirt; you name it. In the park, I made the mistake of riding through the runoff water in the roadway in the Glen Artney area (near Lost Lake), thinking it would help clean off the bike. Instead, it ended up splattering mud on my shoes, socks, and bike. I spent an hour last weekend cleaning the bike off, and looks like I’ll be doing it again this weekend. Yeah, I’ll be happy when this September is over. Bring on some nice, cool, crisp Fall weather.
Wow, my hay fever is really kicking in. My allergies used to be worst during the first half of June. That seems to have changed over the past few years. They’re now OK in June and bad in September. I guess I’m getting less sensitive to grass and more sensitive to ragweed.
Today I rode into Patapsco State Park again, and checked out the section of the Grist Mill Trail between Ilchester Rd. and the Orange Grove Swinging Bridge. This section was open again after being closed last week due to mudslide danger. There were a couple of spots where previous mudslides hadn’t been cleared yet. A mountain bike would have no problem getting through. I elected to walk my road bike, and had no problem. Past the bridge, there was a crew working with a backhoe to clear another mudslide. Hopefully over the next day or so, they’ll work on getting the rest of the trail fully cleared. The entrance road was a bit less muddy than Friday. The river was a bit tamer than Friday, but still higher than usual. I think I’ll be switching to my mountain bike for my next few rides through the park, until all of the washout has been cleared off the trail. But in any case, at least it’s passable now.