Friday, July 24, 2009

AeroPress coffee press review

use.jpgI love everything about coffee, the cafes, the smell, the buzz, the different equipment, and yes.. even the drink.

This week I purchased an Aerobie AeroPress coffee press from RedcliffeTech in Queensland. They posted it the next day and this morning I collected it from the post office.

The product promises to make the smoothest, richest, purest coffee in the fastest time.

Compared to a standard coffee press where a porous plunger pushes the coffee grounds down after they have transferred their flavour into the hot water, this system uses air pressure to force the water through the grounds, then through a fine paper filter and in to your cup.

The other important difference is that they urge you to use water that is just 80 degrees C rather than boiling and they go so far as to suggest sticking a thermometer into the kettle to know when to stop heating the water.

parts.jpgYou get lots of parts with this gadget, including a redundant stirrer (I have a spoon already), a funnel for delivering the coffee grounds into the tube (again redundant), a coffee scoop, and a good number of thin paper filters.

The plunger part has a soft rubber-like end on it that makes an air-tight seal as you push it down. My guess is that this is the part that will wear out in the end. All parts are very solid and for the money I think it's good value.

Taste

The coffee is very smooth and there's much less bitterness than the same coffee plunged in a traditional plunger. I'm not sure how much of this is due to the lower temperature - I'll certainly try this with my old plunger too.

The instructions are designed for an American taste where they make a very strong brew compared to what I like, interestingly they advise against just adding more water to the press to make it weaker, rather they suggest adding extra water to the cup and this does seem to do the trick.

It's a bit more fiddly than a simple plunger and it's a little difficult to get the filter paper out for cleaning.

All in all I'm very happy with the AU$62.15 it cost (including delivery).

Update: a comment from the importer

Hi Peter,

Great blog post, I started to write a comment but decided to write directly to you instead. I didn't want to come across as if I was "correcting" you, especially as my first impressions were similar to yours.

I've been using my original AeroPress for 3.5 years now, 3 times a day on average. Like you I initially thought both the stirring paddle and funnel were unnecessary. However if you grind your own beans and pour directly into the mixing chamber you'll find that the funnel is perfect and very useful. Also the paddle is exactly the right length (and shape) to mix the coffee and water without accidentally hitting and tearing the paper filter. The square shape of the paddle ensures you get all of the coffee mixed in.

So far I have only replaced two or three plunger seals in 3.5 years, mine still works great. The part I do occasionally replace for customers is the basket that holds the filter. For some reason it seems to get thrown out accidentally from time to time?

One of the interesting things about the Aeropress is that it's a great platform to experiment with. It lends itself nicely to changing variables and methods. That's probably why it appeals to Geeks (like us) so much. There's a really interesting discussion on the Coffee Geek forum that you might find interesting:

http://coffeegeek.com/forums/coffee/machines/195166

It's a huge thread but there's lots of good information there.

When you clean your AeroPress you can just basically rinse it under the tap. The first step is to twist off the filter cap, you can easily peel off the paper filter now. After you eject the used grinds into the bin just use hot water to rinse everything off.

By the way, you can reuse the paper filters. They're quite strong and you can just rinse them off. I use a filter about six times before replacing it.

Also the AeroPress is available from thirty-some retail outlets in Australia.

www.aeropress.com.au/index.php?main_page=where_to_buy

I'm sure you'll continue to enjoy your AeroPress and I hope you do a follow up post after living with it for a while. If you ever have any questions just let me know.

Regards,

Curtis Arnold

RedcliffeTech

www.AeroPress.com.au

www.CoffeePress.com.au

- Thanks Curtis for writing in and being so informative.

Victorian fires aftermath

Visited friends in Melbourne last week and saw first hand the aftermath of the fires near Healesville. These folks stayed and successfully defended their mud brick house but they were somewhat traumatised by the experience.

The fire came right up to the house as you can see.

fire.jpg

The flames were double the height of the trees as the front approached.

One, rather morbid, observation was that cars containing people who had died could be seen at a distance because they often had hand prints visible on the inside of the windscreen.

My friends were very prepared and we'd often talked about the fire plan. Next time I think they won't stay.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Improved antenna tower

Mark climbing ladder.jpgMy antenna support is pretty dodgy. It comprises a netball hoop stand on a balcony, a piece of TV tube U-bolted to that, and finally a long telescopic pool cleaner pole. The whole arrangement is rather loosely guyed.

Having said all that, it's stayed up for over a year and I get excellent reports for my signal on 80m.

It was time to get something more elegant and so I turned to the web to enquire about getting a mast installed at the peak of the roof.

Dave, VK3ASE, had recommended a Hills Teletower and a quick call to a friendly local installer Digitel and we are away.

Attaching guys.jpg


Tower up.jpgMark is friendly and efficient and quite understanding about my needs not including a TV antenna. Rather I have a pulley mounted just below the top guy ring on a 20 foot Hills Teletower with a loop of line through it so I can hoist my balun up without difficulty.

The whole project cost $605 which seems reasonable to me and reduces my anxiety on windy nights when I often listen for my current arrangement to fall down.

Mark admitted that he "had a bit of a chuckle" as he approached the house and saw my current system. I can recommend Digitel to hams in need of some extra height.

Over the weekend I'll de-commission the netball/pool pole and switch over to the new support. Now we just need some sun spots.

Update

I was going to wait for the weekend to switch my dipole over but couldn't sit still with the tower beckoning.

It's magnificent.

Tower up final.jpg

Had a bit of trouble getting everything on the right side of the guy wires but in the end it's up nice and high and is much more stable than the old arrangement.

80m seems quieter than before and much less RF gets into the shack which is always good. A wise investment I think.

Update 2

Had a contact this evening on the home brew net with VK2ZTM Tim and VK2EMU Peter. Both gave me excellent reports. I could barely hear Peter but I heard him say I was "booming in".

Tuning around, the band seems less noisy and I'm hearing lots of stations. Unfortunately my daughter reports that I'm getting in to the TV which I didn't before, might have to do some work on that.

DAB+ Digital radio so good it picks up the moon!



See the ABC web site for more. Also they have a page about digital radio.

Update

The broadcast has begun - a re-construction of the mission to the moon. Tune in to 206.325MHz and set your crystal set to 80kbps AAC.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

What's the problem with Bluray player firmware?

Stuck in a Bluray disk today and was greeted with this:

Bluray fail.jpg


I have had disks take a minute or more before loading the opening menu so I guess it's good that they give a warning.

Naturally, I went to the update site for new software but why does Sony only make update firmware as Windows .exe files? These images get burnt to a CD for the upgrade so surely an .ISO image would work for all platforms?

I've filled in their web site feedback form and will report back if I get a response.

A room without a view

First time I've experienced this, I stayed in a room in Melbourne with no external window.

P1040316.JPG


It was nice, with kitchen and all (although it looked like no-one had ever cooked there).

P1040315.JPG


There is a curtain and behind it a window but it looks out to a little space in a corridor.

The only drawback for me was that there was no AM radio reception in there.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Thursday, July 16, 2009

On the road with a 3G dongle modem

Picture 2.pngTravelling at the moment and this time I've bought a USB wireless internet dongle from Telstra.

The network has good coverage but here in Melbourne I've found that sometimes the signal is good but data just doesn't seem to get through, same on my phone.

What lets it down, on the Mac anyhow, is the software. "Telstra Turbo Connection Manager" is an amateur attempt to wrap the modem's low level functions in a graphical interface. Topping up obviously uses SIMToolkit and is barely workable. It took me four attempts just to top up - kept timing out.

To create the network on the Mac is touch and go, sometimes it works but often it just gets confused. I think it remembers the index of the device it's using and several times it's tried to connect using the Bluetooth interface.

Telstra warning.png


Right now, (very early morning), ping times are about 800ms, during the day it was over 2s.

Of course all this wouldn't be necessary if my iPhone still tethered..

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Digital Radio in Sydney gets a signal boost

DRP.pngLast night I noticed that the ABC digital radio stations (transmitted by Broadcast Australia near Chatswood) had jumped up in strength. Clearly there was antenna work going on because the signal was going on and off during the evening.

This morning the signal is good, full bars with the antenna up and reasonably listenable with the antenna down.

One thing, you don't want to set your watch by the pips on digital radio, the delay between the analog and digital versions of the feed is about four seconds. Presumably some of this is the receiver's buffering for error correction. Perhaps the days of the time signal are coming to an end - after all there's a clock in the radio anyhow.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Lovely long weekend in the Blue Mountains

My dear wife organised a weekend away at a "bed and breakfast" at Blackheath in the Blue Mountains. My Internet addiction was suppressed to some extent by the fantastic views just down the road at Govett's Leap.

Govett's Leap.jpg


We did a few walks, looked a lots of "old wares" as they call them, and ate too much yummy hand made food.

Quiche.jpg


Having my phone point out when new mail arrived was probably a bad idea but it did spare me of anxiety about the rest of the world.

Interestingly I turned iPhone tethering on and a few seconds later the option disappeared! Presumably new settings got pushed out by Telstra. Further investigation is required but this could have been very distressing if I was relying on it for a presentation or something.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Unable to read old, crummy, CDRs

This is scary. I remember, some years back, finding that old floppy disks I'd stored had become unreadable after a few years, but this is the first time I've seen it with optical disks.

can't read.png


This disk was burnt in October 1999. I've tried two CD readers and will try more, but so far this isn't looking good. The videos on this CD are irreplaceable, well the original might be somewhere on VHS cassette.

To be fair, these were budget Princo blanks, but the disk still looks good and it's been well stored.

princo.jpg


Got the disk to mount in a laptop, but copying is not going well.

Picture 1.png


I'm going to keep uploading my valuable files to the cloud, it's safer than around here.

Anyone else finding they can't read their old optical disks? What is the lifespan of CDRs?

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Hey Apple, what's with these huge minor updates?

Today there was a small update to iPhoto from Apple. Even though it was a small fix the download was over 100Mb!

Picture 1.png


Now, while I have a good internet connection, and the download didn't take too long, but it still costs me money:

Picture 2.png


But really, not so long ago, there were installers that could make a diff between a current version and the new version that just contains an efficient difference between the two.

How about getting back to those efficient days again?

Digital Radio launches in Sydney

Today is launch day and the number of stations my radio finds has jumped to 38.

Many of them are giving me errors here at the moment but at last the ABC is there.

My beloved ABC Radio National is there at 72kbps mono but it does sound better than most AM radios.

Here's the list of what my radio picks up on a full scan with a whip antenna in the kitchen.

tower.jpg702 ABC Sydney

ABC Classic FM

ABC Dig Music

ABC Jazz

ABC Country

ABC Grandstand

ABC News Radio

ABCRadioNational

ABC dig

DigitalRadioPlus

The Edge Digital

Koffee

Mix 106.5

Nova 969

NovaNation

Pink Radio

RADAR- Get On It

Radar Radio

SBS Digital One

SBS Digital Two

SBS Radio_1

SBS Radio_1+2h

SBS Radio_2

SBS Radio_2+2h

SBS Radio_3

SBS Radio_+2h

SBS Radio_4

SBS Radio_4+2h

SBS Radio_Extra

SKYSportsRadio1

SKYSportsRadio2

SM Super Digi

Triple M

triple j

VEGA 95.3

Vega 953

WSFM ClassicHits

2CH EASY 1170

2CH - Easy 1170

2DAY

2GB

2GB 873 AM

2SM

2UE

2UE News Talk

2UE News Talk.

3G Service 1

3G Service 2

3G Service 3

3G Service 4

3G Service 5

3G Service 6


So that's pretty impressive on launch day. I'm a fair way out of town and reception isn't good so there might be more that I'm missing.

Update

On the way in on the bus I spoke to David who wears a Broadcast Australia jacket. He mentioned that the ABC transmission is coming from a temporary antenna and that the proper one will be commissioned over the weekend.

Indeed as my bus passed the impressive Willoughby tower this morning, there against a stunning sky, I could make out workers way up the tower doing things. I'm hoping that the ABC will be a bit stronger once they switch to the proper antennas.

Radio with pictures

The ABC is playing with all sorts of ways of getting its content out on the net. One way is by making a video of people appearing on radio.


Thanks in particular to Roi Huberman for his production effort.

Subscribe to the abcradionational YouTube feed and they'll write you a lovely letter.