Moka Express

In my quest to find a great replacement for my afternoon cup of coffee, having ditched the pod machines and spent a solid year tuning and enjoying my pour over game, Santa was kind enough to bring me a moka pot for Christmas this year.

And I’ve been having a great, well-caffeinated time learning to use it.

As I understand it, the moka pot is a bit old fashioned. Originating in Italy, it was a popular home brewing gadget after the Second World War but prior to the proliferation of the drip machine.

A three part contraption, the funnel-filter in the middle is filled with ground coffee and as the water boils in the bottom chamber it pressure-rises through and up, percolating and filling the upper chamber with espresso-like coffee.

The result is not a true espresso, though it’s close. An yet it’s much stronger than drip coffee.

I’ve been mixing hot-to-boiling water into mine at a ratio of roughly 1 part moka brew to 2 parts water, and the result is an almost-Americano-like drink that is full of flavour and body in a way that even my best drip coffee pour overs have trouble achieving.

About a scoop and a half of ground coffee fills the filter and less than ten minutes on my simmer burner has a steaming cup of better-than-average-joe in my mug and ready to fuel the afternoon office push of video meetings and budget plotting and government paperwork.

None of this is push button, but between my pour overs (which are cheap, fast, and simple) and my moka pot americanos (which are slower, use a bit more raw ingredients, but overall tastier) I think I’m narrowing in on some old fashioned solutions to a modern problem: single serve simple afternoon coffee for the work-from-home desk jockey.

At the end of the day, my whole scheme here is one of reducing the number of plastic, disposable pods I formerly used to create mediocre (and relatively expensive) afternoon cups. Pour overs and moka pots are about exploring something quick and easy in the coffee brewing effort.

And overall I’m rating this adventure quite high.

Also… the Coffee Singularity Has Arrived

I asked ChatGTP how to make coffee with a moka pot. Here’s it’s answer:

A Moka pot, also known as a stovetop espresso maker, is a simple and traditional way of making coffee. Here’s the basic process for using a Moka pot to make coffee:

  1. Fill the bottom chamber of the Moka pot with cold water, up to the level of the pressure valve.
  2. Add ground coffee to the metal filter basket in the middle chamber, tamping it down lightly.
  3. Assemble the Moka pot by placing the middle chamber with the coffee and filter basket on top of the bottom chamber with the water. Make sure the gasket and filter plate are properly in place.
  4. Place the Moka pot on the stovetop over medium heat. Do not use high heat or let the water boil.
  5. As the water in the bottom chamber heats up, it will begin to create pressure, forcing the water through the coffee and into the top chamber. Once the coffee has started to fill the top chamber, you can hear a gurgling noise, at this point you can remove it from the heat to prevent the coffee from getting burned.
  6. Once all the water has passed through the coffee, the pot will make a distinctive “hissing” sound, indicating that the coffee is ready. Carefully pour the coffee into cups, being careful not to burn yourself on the steam or hot metal.

Note that, Moka pot often extract a strong coffee with a bold, rich flavor and a thick crema on top. Also remember, to clean the pot after each use, to ensure that you’ll always get the best flavor out of your coffee.

Objectively Looped In

December 3 of 31 December-ish posts

What’s your favourite subject in school, I ask a kid.

Recess, he replies.

What’s the best part of your job, I ask myself.

Working from home a few days a week, I almost write.

Except that’s not really true.

What made your job
interesting in 2022?

I’ve spent a few posts this year writing about the possibility of job change.

And I’ve been serious. Last week I marked the twelve year anniversary at my current employer, and at times like that, birthdays, anniversaries, new years, one tends to get reflective and contemplative about life, the universe and everything. It’s a double-shame for me because all those things tend to fall within roughly one month and I have a heckuva December feeling all philosophical about my life.

I try to keep the line between work and my words here pretty fuzzy because, well the thing is, I’m a public servant. We have strong codes of conduct, by which I mean documents that tell us how we should conduct ourselves in our roles inside and outside of the office, and those codes of conduct do include things like internet participation and having a public opinion particularly under the flag of our professional role. That gets tricky to navigate especially when I want to write about all the things I do in our parks and the runs and walks I take on our trails and even the various fun I have in my own backyard. Why? Because those are spaces sometimes managed or governed by bylaws and services provided by my colleagues.

For example, I have a fire pit in my backyard that I use to build adventures and that leads to me sharing stories and content here on this site.

But there are rules for how fire pits are allowed to be used properly. Minimum clearances. Fire bans get declared routinely. Good neighbour policies exist and overlap with smoke dispersal, and noise bylaws and ash disposal. If I was to declare myself such and such an employee and suggest (which I’m definitely not doing) that my job gave me some kind of authority to set an example or declare exceptions or shrug off proper processes (all of which I also am definitely not doing) I could get into a bit of hot water for implying that professional connection.

So, I keep a fuzzy line.

This guy who you are reading here is just a guy, a guy who lives and plays in this place. My expertise is personal, and I (and this is actually pretty true because all I really do is work in one of our technology teams and not any of those more hands-on services) have no special knowledge or influence on anything related to these places or spaces about which I sometimes write. And I definitely have no power over decisions or budgets or political stuff. I’m just a dwarf in the silicon mines.

That said, things do get interesting because I’m a guy who seems like he should have special knowledge, but doesn’t really. That I’m in this weird position to see behind the curtain of the show, but I’m little more than a set designer, and usually go take my seat with the rest of the audience when the show starts.

In the context of what I do, why I do it, why I continue to do it amidst the possibility of so many other options, and deep down how that is rooted in why my job can be interesting is this: I could have a different job. I could be selling or buying or moving or building or driving or talking or any of a hundred different tasks. But at the heart of what I do is that I’m creating and informing.

That is why things are so fuzzy.

I try to create and inform for fun. I build websites, I draw pictures. I write stories. I grow and cook and explore and tell more tales about all that.

And then for a job I build websites. I commission pictures. I post information. I watch as everyone else at work grows and makes and cleans and serves, and we share more information about that.

I work daily with the teams doing the interesting work of keeping this place running.

I know people who are integral to the functioning of our community.

I help a million folks who live here stay informed about all of it.

Objectively, I’m looped in. That’s a pretty sweet (and interesting) place to be even if it’s often a lot of hard, thankless work.

Reminder: Blogs are not a replacement for professional advice. Please read my note on safety and safe participation.

Merry Christmas

What did you want this year
… and get?

Too much.

As I was wrapping up my work email for the holiday break yesterday, thumbing through my last few messages, a long thank you note rolled in from the president of a company with which my team does a significant amount of business.

It concluded with a bit of an explanation:

“We had thought about sending out our usual gift baskets this year,” he wrote, “ but with the logistics of everyone working from home we decided not to do that.”

”Instead,” he continued, “we have made a large donation to the food bank in the names of all our clients.”

I remember in past years when over the last week before the Christmas break a few big boxes of chocolates or candies would appear and everyone would pick away at them as the last few days wound down to vacation. As much as I know the work I do is appreciated by some, the mundane and behind-the-scenes nature of being a technology professional means a lot of it also goes unnoticed. It’s nice to be appreciated, and a bix box of treats definitely helps.

It’s a weird thing to miss, but then again there a lot of things missing these days, huh?

I hit the reply button and typed something back, thanking him and wishing him a Merry Christmas.

We miss the sweets, but most of us are doing the kind of work we do to make the world a more interesting place, not for the Christmas baskets.

I got too much of the things I thought I wanted this past year, but seeing a simple little gesture like that, as basic and seemling obvious as it is reminded me that what I really wanted this year was for the world to be a little gentler, more caring, and generous to each other.

So, I guess I got a little of that, at least.

Thirty one topics. Thirty one posts. Not exactly a list… but close. In December I like to look back on the year that was. My daily posts in December-ish are themed-ish and may contain spoilers set against the backdrop of some year-end-ish personal exposition.

Not Created Equal

Not all websites are created equally.

Take this site. As a real estate analogy, this is a cabin in the woods. This blog is the digital version of a weekend getaway, stuffed with comforts and curiosities, eclectic bits of cookware, and eccentric tchotchkes piled onto the shelves to add an atmosphere of warmth while still giving it all a human touch.

What made your job
interesting in 2021?

On the other hand, the website that I oversee for work is a large glass-paneled government skyscraper downtown, with elevators speeding between the floors and strict rules for how the queues to each service desk are designed, and careful attention to detail given to the colors of the wall paint and the placement of the signage pointing out everything from the washrooms to the lost and found to the exit.

I don’t write about my work, at least not often, because there is such a stark contrast between what I am paid to build over there and what I build for fun over here.

And I think buried in that explanation is a little of what makes my job interesting, too.

Not everyone understands websites, and less so do people understand the vast chasm of differences that are buried beneath the design, purpose and function of those websites. Maybe that is a broad assumption, but I see evidence of such a conjecture if not daily, then multiple times per week.

We need to think more like Starbucks. Someone will say.

I reply that Okay, yes… we can learn from Starbucks but Starbucks is a little shop on the corner that sells coffee and fills its humbly lit spaces with warm, inviting leather chairs and groovy popular jazz. We are required to use plastic seating and provide ample lighting. How can we translate that vibe into something useful?

The analogy breaks down quickly, obviously.

People see something that works and while they are not wrong in the simplification, they are also often unaware that there is a huge gap — technically, functionally, even philosophically — between what our corporate website does versus what Facebook does versus what that food delivery app does versus what a little blog in the winter wilderness (quietly run by one and the same person as the first) is meant to be… and do… and say.

And in that they are not wrong but merely interested in a design problem, the part of my job that becomes interesting in return is attempting to take the energy of such a vision and translating it into a plan for someone else to write code that can be uploaded and integrated and activated into a tool that, say, sells bus fares with the same fluidity that Starbucks dispenses lattes.

Meanwhile, I can write and say and post and design this little cabin in the wilderness exactly the way I want to. Right here. Warm, cozy, curious, and inviting.

Thirty one topics. Thirty one posts. Not exactly a list… but close. In December I like to look back on the year that was. My daily posts in December-ish are themed-ish and may contain spoilers set against the backdrop of some year-end-ish personal exposition.