Welcome back friends!
This post attempts to cover the longer thann normal period of time from Monday September 26 to Sunday October 30, 2022.
This is the year of me struggling to make the time and the energy to write these posts. Between work (it’s never been this truly busy before), family (teenagers man) and other important activities, this previously straight-forward endeavour has become really challenging.
I currently have no cunning plans to remedy this issue, except to keep on trying.
Anyways, my main goal with this post below morphed from “try to write a good post” to “any post is better than no post”, and so it is entirely possible that you’ll notice some unevenness.
So after a number of paragraphs complaining about how little free time I have at my disposal, I shall now briefly talk about our October family break-away to the East coast!
As we often do, we decided to break the road-trip in two, staying for the night in Wilderness, literally one of my favourite places on the planet.
As we don’t often do, this time we stayed an extra night because the weather, and that balmy Wilderness energy (it sounds like a pretty hip caffeinated drink) were simply too amazing to pass up.
During our surprise extra day:
- I ran the Waterside dirt road next to the Serpentine river, in the direction of Hoekwil. I love running dirt roads, and this one is high up on the list.
- We (6 famjam + 1 friend) did the canoe trip at Kaaimanskloof, something that we’ve always dreamed about, to the waterfall, to the train bridge and later up the river all the way to the bend right below the Map of Africa lookout, far up above. I shared a canoe with my most favourite middle child in the world, aka GOU #2. (We also won the race back, even beating out the far more energetic canoe powered by GOU #1 and her friend, by applying a certain degree of crystallized-intelligence-guided strategy.)
- We squeezed in a beach day.
- We went up to Map of Africa to enjoy the brilliant sunset.
After all of that I was a bit worried that we had set the pace of the whole week, the sustaining of which I would probably not have survived.
Fortunately the continuation of our vacation in St Francis was, whilst quite active, an energetically more sustainable affair, consisting of balmy weather, family beach days, and zen-inducing sunsets.
Personally, I will remember this week as a great example of How To Holiday.
Goldilocks water for your Moka pot
At home, we rely on our trusty (new) Saeco bean-to-cup machine to keep us continously and quite fully coffee-nated.
However, because there is no space for Saeco on our travels, we require a mobile, preferably compact, coffee production modality.
This used to be the giant coffee syringe, also known as Aeropress, which I wrote about in WHV #78, back in 2014.
It makes really great tasting coffee, but it can feel a little clinical.
More recently, as we became older (a tenacious process that never seems to stop until the end, I am told) and our appreciation for the slower, more deliberate rituals of life grew, we decided to switch to a Bialetti Moka pot instead.
You would probably recognise it. It’s that distinctive little aluminium pot with the octagonal base and the friendly picture on the side.
Instead of the one minute stir, one minute push through of the Aeropress, this artifact sits there on its hob for about five minutes when it magically fills up with lovely espresso.
(Of course it’s not magic, it’s just Mr Alfonso Bialetti’s brilliant engineering from 1933!)
Here is our Moka pot, this time posing in Stilbaai, another one of my favourite vacation destinations:
More recently, I chatted with friend PH at work about the ideal starting temperature for the fresh water in one’s Moka.
I had naively always preferred to start with cold water, to emulate the camping situation, but work-friend explained that he had understood warm water to be better for the taste.
I had never considered this before. Doh!
(Later I learned from mutual friend SvdW that they had in fact previously studied Moka pot temperature in detail during a work trip, an experience perhaps partially forgotten by friend PH.)
Serendipitously, during a meeting later that afternoon with colleagues from the US, one of our collaborators, sporting a pretty relevant scientific background, explained that he had understood (in Fahrenheit, we had to translate) that 60 °C resulted in the best coffee extraction.
This obviously piqued my curiousity, quite intensely, and so I went searching that evening…
Imagine my delight when I ran into The physics of a stove-top espresso machine, a 2008 scientific article by Dr Warren D. King in the American Journal of Physics, vol. 76, no. 6, pp. 558–565, in which he documents his mathematical modeling and experiments showing that the optimal starting temperature for the water in a Moka pot is in fact 70 °C!
The short version of the story is that this will result in most of the water going through the coffee grounds, when extraction takes place, at about 95 °C, which results in the most flavour.
If you start with cold water, extraction will happen at 70 °C, which is too low, and if you start with hot water, it will go through the grounds at too high a temperature, resulting in bitter coffee.
Take a picture with your mind
Back in WHV #242 I talked about the remembering (narrating) self, and the experiencing self. (Please read that section if you have not yet. In fact, I think that the whole of WHV #242 could be worth your time.)
Kahnemann’s poignant quote bears repeating here:
Odd as it may seem, I am my remembering self, and the experiencing self, who does my living, is like a stranger to me.
Just the other day, in the middle of a perfect run on the beach, with a breeze that was just so, the sun all golden and ready to set, and with my bare feet connecting with the sand and the earth beneath it, it felt like a full sensory connect, experiencing self for once fully in control.
It was perfect, until I felt this superficially pretty reasonable urge to take a photo, just a little something to remember the perfect moment by…
At that instant, I saw it for what it was – sneaky, remembering self attempting to hijack the moment, and take it away from experiencing self, the one who at that moment was generating by far the most positive energy.
We wants it, we needs it. Must have the precious. They stole it from us. Sneaky little hobbitses. Wicked, tricksy, false! – JRR Tolkien
The desire to remember the perfect moment is understandable, but there is a cost: The moment itself.
Resist the urge.