Middle Aged Gardening

I never thought I'd become this guy. But something about making the back garden thrive with greenery and life just makes me smile. It has taken some time to get the garden to a state where I feel it's ok to show somebody, mainly due to it being a new build house. We basically got a square of grass and a few basic slabs leading to the back gate. Much time, a patio, shed and a few raised beds later I've finally been ready to plant something! Whilst I'd love to go off-grid like Tom and Barbara Good, to not end up with a garden that looks like an allotment, I think we have to temper the amount of edible produce. However, a starter-for-ten were the eighteen strawberry plants I stuck in in March. It has been a success! They are delicious. I'm fairly sure they're only about 20% better than can be bought from the supermarket. But they're all shapes and sizes, I took care of them, and they're just better. Like having chips out of the paper. It wasn't even a g

Coffee Thoughts

Due to having some time off work for Christmas this year means I've been drinking a lot of coffee. Now that I've progressed to the point where I can occasionally be financially irresponsible with my choice of coffee, I think I've now been through every last method of brewing the stuff. My level of coffee snobbery now leads me to be a little disappointed when I have to endure instant (which is incidentally comparable with drinking hot mud). It doesn't ruin my morning. It just twangs a little.

Like wine I don't think anybody can say coffee is truly delicious, such as a cold glass of ginger beer say. I think we gravitate toward these drinks because of the chemical dependency, so I put my supposed enjoyment of coffee down to a mild caffeine addiction and some mental reassurance that it won't make me fat (as I don't have milk). 

Unlike wine though, I genuinely believe I can tell the difference between 'good' and 'bad' coffee. Above and beyond the caffeine, I think an inoffensively brewed cuppa definitely contributes to that cozy at-ease-with-the-world feeling (Hygge for you Danes) that in turn leads to lower stress and a highly productive and collaborative attitude when I'm at work. Not to mention it making you regular as clockwork and as smooth as an otter off the riverbank.

Don't drink the dregs

Firstly, let's look at instant. It's not that it's bad (well maybe it is), it's just that it can be so much better. It's invariably bitter, sometimes foamy (not in a good way), burnt, and generally just (not) okay. These days, I only drink this at work (because it's free), and I'll always choose another way. It's not about effort, I'll happily spend the time and effort to get the required paraphernalia half way up Snowdon to faff about with the aeropress. Nowadays we also get these 'deluxe' instant coffees that claim by some miracle to be just as smooth and satisfying as the upper tier brewing methods. In reality this just means there is around 10% fine coffee grounds in the mix that ends up as grit in the bottom of the mug. Don't drink the dregs. The only saving grace of instant is that's just that, instant, and with minimal mess above and beyond the stirring spoon.

I was lucky enough to be bought a nespresso machine last year. Before this I didn't particularly like the whole concept of being beholden to a predetermined set of coffees available in pod form (coffee snob level notching up now). But then it occurred to me that really, that's what the supermarkets are doing anyway when they select bags of ground coffee or beans. There may be a slightly larger selection, but I've found a way around this and also the cost issue. These pods range from about £2.50-5.00 for 10 coffees, depending if you get the supermarket knock-off version or nespresso branded stuff. 30-50p per cup is simply… a ridiculous amount to pay for coffee when made at home. The average highstreet shop can be ten times this, but that's beside the point.

But good news everyone! I've found a way to maintain the convenience of the nespresso system (i.e. minimal mess), and the flexibility of being able to choose any coffee you want. I don't know if anyone else makes something similar (and this is certainly not a product placement), but there is a re-usable capsule that works really well. See my brief visual demo…

These things also produce far less waste than the disposable pods. The posh pods from nespresso are fully aluminium and can be recycled if you drop them back off, so it's better than nothing. The cheaper supermarket pods tend to be made of plastic, so I'd say avoid these.

Then there's the more traditional cafetiere (french press to you yanks). Despite my natural British aversion to anything French (though strangely it was developed by Italians) I've always liked this method of brewing. Tasty, usable with any coffee you like, and no fuss. The draw backs here are the lack of CREMA (snob level increasing), and a somewhat tedious clean-up process. Especially when camping.

For the modern neck-beard coffee aficionado though, someone made the easily cleanable aeropress. If you can put aside the worry of plastic leeching then this makes a more satisfying cuppa, in my opinion. On the leeching front there is conflicting research on the dangers, but the aeropress is made of polypropylene (since 2014) which seems to be one of the safest. Although plastics may leech after microwave or UV light exposure. There's also a risk if using aluminium too, due to a link as a risk factor for developing Parkinson's and other neurodegenerative diseases (link to paper). I'll let you make up your mind if it's worth the risk.

On that cheerful note, I'll leave it there. Enough of a wall of text already.