Gear Junkies and Flat Earthers

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Mount Cannibal, Victoria, Australia.

V60 – 2016 Costa Rica Cup Of Excellence winner #3 – “El Cerro”

Aeropress – Veneziano’s Silvia Solkiln.  Natural processed Panamanian Geisha

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They say that men are attracted to hobbies that come with a multitude of accessories.  Cycling, camping, hiking, and fishing are good examples.  Tech gear is shocking for it.  We’re like bower birds when something new or slightly different from what we bought last week comes out.

When you’re not into someone else’s hobby, their enthusiasm and money spent on the items they collect seems absolutely absurd.  Years ago I would have said spending $120 on some feathers plucked off a glorified chicken was the most stupid thing in the world.  Now I’m into fly tying.  That’s actually a pretty good price.

Speaking of absurd enthusiasm; on a trip to Yarrawonga a few years back my wife stopped in at the house/museum of an eccentric man who collected salt & pepper shakers.  He had just returned from the “Salt and Pepper Shaker Conference” in the States.

Eccentric Man “Everybody should collect something.  What do you collect?”

Dawnyele “I don’t really collect anything”

Eccentric Man “Well then you’re pretty boring”

(awkward silence)

Eccentric Man “What about your husband?  What does he collect?”

Dawnyele “I like to say that he collects hobbies because he seems to have a new one every year”

Eccentric Man “Well it sounds like he has more of a life than you do!”

External link: Yarrawonga News Tourist Punches Local Collector in the Face

IMG_3927.JPGDavid King and I have done a good amount of hiking and mountain biking together.  He’s a great one to get out on the trails with for a coffee and was instrumental in the conception of this Bike Hike Brew project.  He’s also one of the few people who haven’t ended up in hospital after one of my “what could possibly go wrong” adventures so he’s on a roll.

As an avid trail runner and ultra-light camper; he, too, is a gear junkie.  He’s far more tech-savvy than I am which is awesome because it means he can spend all the money on GoPro’s and drones and I can just reap the benefits!

Kingy and I had been waiting for the weather to fine up so we could collaborate on a clear sky night-hike to experiment with some long-exposure coffee photography.  On one of the first perfect evenings of spring we headed out to one of his regular running trails at Mt Cannibal.

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At the base of the hill we went over what we’d cart up the track and what we’d leave in the car.  This is when both of us being gear junkies makes it challenging.  “Will we need both tripods?”  No.  “Do you think it’s excessive that we’re taking up the GoPro, two Canon EOS SLR’s, a compact camera and the iPhone?” No, bring it all.  “Is it worth taking all the V60 gear as well as the Aeropress?”  Yes.  “Do I carry the heavy coffee case up or just pack what I need into my back pack?…wait, my back pack is already full with 3 litres of water, an SLR, two speed lights and a flash diffuser so I have to take the case”  (which is really funny now that I think back on it that all the camera gear was just thrown into my back pack and the rock-solid padded case contained coffee and a kettle).

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The ascent was pretty steep and rocky  in parts which gave me an even greater respect for Kingy running 6 laps of this circuit.  It wasn’t hot but I was sweating profusely by the time we reached the top.  Partly due to carrying the gear, partly due to me being stupidly unfit at the moment.

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I took a breather at the first lookout which gave Dave a chance to play around with some shots of the coffee on the elevation marker.  In trying to keep a new coffee for each article, for this hike I’d bought a washed Costa Rican Caturra/Catuai that had won 3rd place in the Cup Of Excellence a couple months ago, roasted by Proud Mary.  Hopes were high on this brewing a great cup.  At AU$400/kg (I only bought 70g, Dawnyele, don’t stress), it deserved its place in the hard case and I had refused to even open the jar until minutes before the brew.  The plan was to brew this on the V60, along with some Panama Geisha’s from Veneziano on the Aeropress that were a long time off roast date and I had to use up.

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 It’s only a short stretch from the elevation marker to the main granite outcrop and having never been here before I was blown away by the views and perfect timing of our arrival.  Not a cloud in the sky and the sun was just hitting it’s magic half hour of golden light.

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The Hario kettle and glass V60 are so photogenic, especially in this light, so we spent a fair amount of time messing around with the cameras before even thinking about brewing.  The iPhone took some nice shots but it certainly couldn’t capture the warmth of the suns glow near as well as Kingy’s SLR.

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Before we lost light it was time to brew.  The wind had picked up significantly since we arrived and it took some strategic arrangement to shelter the Jetboil enough to stop the flame blowing out.  I ended up having to surround the burner with my hands to allow enough heat to generate so the water would boil.  Out of the wind this thing is a power-house, but it doesn’t seem to cope well with anything more than a strong breeze.

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I finally cracked open the jar of El Cerro and the aroma was amazing; very creamy with a mix of dry spice.  I’ve been favouring 1:15 ratio’s lately so ground 28g for a 420g brew.  I pretty much butchered the rest from here.  Well at least in my head.

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I’m not yet at the stage where I can chill out on the trail and happily brew by just winging it; no scales, no timer….just using instinct and intuition.  My mind still wants numbers, data, and methodical order.  This mindset doesn’t make it easy when the wind is affecting my scales and I’m getting a 0.7g variance that is messing with my head, or the water temp drops from 94 degrees down to 90 and I stress out that I’m going to ruin the brew.  Something for me to work on….

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I’m probably being a bit harsh on myself here because the result was fantastic regardless.  The 420g brew was going to be too much to brew directly into one cup, so I decanted the boiled water into the goose neck kettle and put the V60-01 straight onto the Jetboil.  It’s almost like they were made to go together as the plastic base of the V60 has small claws that sit perfectly around the rim of the Jetboil.

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Pouring directly into the Jetboil served two purposes.  (1) It’s a larger vessel which means I didn’t have to break it down into 2 separate brews.  With an 800ml capacity you could safely pour 3 good sized cups into it.  (2) It worked well in this environment as the Jetboil is insulated and therefore kept the brew hot in the wind.

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The only downside to this was that I couldn’t get the Jetboil onto the scale to measure the pour.  I estimated the volume until it felt like double what I’d normally pour for a single brew.  The resulting cup was very strong but delicious.  A very zesty acidity that left a ginger-like dryness in the aftertaste.  Not bad for winging the last half of the brew….

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One challenge of brewing outdoors is water management and clean up.  On a short walk you’re not going to carry enough water to do a full wash up of everything, so after a basic rinse you’re essentially putting everything away still pretty dirty.  No problem if you’re heading straight home, but a hassle if you’re going to do multiple brews.

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Much of the rest of the time on Mt Cannibal was spent on photographing the sunset and playing around with time-lapse functions on both the iPhone and the GoPro.  We have been throwing ideas around for a while about how best to create short videos of these adventures.  The ultimate for locations like this would obviously be a drone, and up here you sure could have some fun with it.  (anyone with a spare DJI Mavic laying around….feel free to get in touch).

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Dave is good value for projects like this because his enthusiasm runs in line with mine. It’s the difference between someone listening to a plan for a crazy adventure and saying “you’re insane”, and him going “let’s do it” and working on how we can make it even better.

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Conversation as the sun set covered everything from drone reviews, to quantum superposition, and even flat earth theory after Dave had recently had someone try and convince him that the planet isn’t as spherical as “they” would like you to believe.  Apparently I, as a Christian, am classified as a “they” and am responsible for the conspiracy that the earth is round.  I would love for someone to explain to me how exactly Christians benefit more than others from a sphere over a disk.  The theories are all very interesting and made for some great discussion on just how the world would actually work if it were true.  The image I captured (below) on a 10 minute exposure showing the stars rotating across the sky is enough to convince me that I am standing on a ball, although I’m sure it could be debunked somehow.

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Before we packed up for the night I brewed up an Aeropress to use up the rest of the Geisha’s.  I’ve really enjoyed this coffee from Veneziano.  I originally tried a Geisha at the start of this year after hearing all the hype over them.  They’re very different and I liked them, but I found it hard to brew a consistent cup.  This lot was the second time I’d tried a Geisha and it seemed much more forgiving.

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Even this long off roast (a couple months), the flavour when brewed in the Aeropress is still very vibrant and sharp; strong floral and tea notes.  The recipe I used is a great one when brewing for two people as it allows you to get more out of the Aeropress.  It’s called The Stubby and I’ve been using it regularly since hearing about it from it’s creator, Brian Beyke, of the I Brew My Own Coffee podcast.

It’s a 1:6 ratio initial brew that you dilute post-press to a 1:10 total cup.  This Geisha has been an absolute winner brewed this way and I love this recipe for it’s strong concentration of flavours.  With a 1:6 ratio you can get enough out of the Aeropress that, once diluted, it easily serves 2 people.

The best laugh of the night came from the creation of the video below.  We’d had plenty of discussions about how we’d best plan and shoot footage for a video that Kingy (being the one with all the camera gear and editing software) would edit and put together for the website.

While I was waiting for the 10 minute exposure to complete, I started playing around on the iPhone with pics and video I’d randomly snapped on the way up.  Apart from the title logo, the whole thing took mere minutes to piece together and resulted in a 2 minute clip that Kingy said would have taken him hours to compile and edit from his GoPro on his PC.  It irritated him that with all his gear, I had pumped something out on a free app of reasonable quality while waiting for a photo to expose.  After hating my iPhone for a long time, I think there’s something to be said for the convenience of this tech gear.

It will certainly make for a lighter travel on the next trip.

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