Areopress, coffee, etc…

So I thought it might be interesting to post about some things which are adding to my life here.

First post is coffee. I’m quite the coffee fan, over here. Compared so some people, not so much, but for Carlisle, quite high up the coffee freak ladder.

Unless there is a hidden coffee community I’m not finding somehow.

I don’t have a massive budget for going to flashy cafes or expensive bistros or whatever all the time, so what I’m more interested in is good tasting home coffee.


Here’s my current collection of coffee related clobber.

First a fun story, and then I’ll go into more detail about everything else, so if you’re not interested in coffee, then you can skip the end. 🙂

So when I moved into this house with Euan, there was a french press / cafetiere in the cupboard, so I thought “Oh good – I don’t need to buy anything for making coffee, I can use that”. So the first morning I boiled the kettle, let it cool for a while I put some ground coffee in the cafetiere, and then poured the water in.

I thought it was a pyrex pot, but alas, I was wrong. There was a tremendous ‘crack!’ sound, and coffee started to leak from the bottom. Oh no! What to do, lah?

So since it was only leaking very very slowly, I thought, well, I won’t waste the coffee, I’ll let it brew, plunge it very carefully, then pour the coffee out – if any glass did shatter, the plunger/filter will clean it out, and then I can see how bad the damage is.

So duely I followed the above plan, until the pouring bit. I lifted up the pot, only to find that in fact the crack had been ALL the way around the base! So when I lifted it up, the base stayed on the work surface, and the rest of the pot came up in my hand.

The coffee, alas, followed the laws of physics (I know, I can hardly blaim it…) and went everywhere.

No coffee for me that morning.

So I bought a new french press to replace the one I’d exploded, but by that time, I’d already found

A Krups espresso/filter machine.

in Charlie? (the used clothes / stuff team cupboard, when you leave, you can leave anything you don’t want to take with you for others to have).

So I was quite surprised to find this in Charlie – until I looked it up online.

It has terrible reviews.

Here’s my take – it’s kinda fun to play with, but I’m not convinced by the ‘crema’ that the espresso part produces. It feels kinda fake to me, almost like the machine is somehow ‘frothing’ it to make it seem more real or something. The coffee doesn’t taste too horrible, just … meh. Not really rich and interesting. Maybe un-set up temperature and pressure stuff? I dunno. I’m no expert on any of this! The milk steaming wand is very cheap and plasticy, as well as seeming near impossible to actually steam milk in proper microfoam also seems to taint the milk with a kind of rubbery aftertaste. Maybe it’s just me though…

The coffee grinder I bought in singapore a few years ago, and it’s been getting lots of use over the last 2 and a half years or so. A very worth while investment – grinding the coffee beans freshly makes the biggest difference to taste of anything that I’ve found.

The Moka pot is also lots of fun – it’s quite a lot more work than the areopress to make coffee and clean again afterwards, but also makes very good coffee, with quite a different flavour to –

the weird syringe thingy on the right of the picture.

It’s called an Areopress – it’s a relatively new way of making coffee, very ‘low tech’ in some ways. It makes coffee in a kind of hybrid way between french press / cafetiere and a filter machine (with hints of espresso method dashed in for extra flavour). You mix the ground coffee with hot water, and let it get totally imersed, like a french press, and then use the synringe bit to push the drinkable coffee through a paper filter. It’s incredibly easy to clean, makes very nice coffee very simply and quickly.

I’m totally a fan of the areopress now. It’s so portable and rugged too, I’ll easily be able to take it to conferences and other events.

So that’s my first coffee post this week. We’ll see if I can remember to post further…

between a clock and the next place…


Again, it’s that weird time – about a week before leaving. Time to start packing and preparing, yet also not quite late enough that you can pack everything without needing to unpack bits again over the next week.

I’ve just been reading this book, which is quite challenging. I recomend reading it. Basically, it’s the story of a young radical student type, who couldn’t sit back and watch all the injustice and insanity in the world, and couldn’t support ways to end it from his couch or by sending a tenner a month to TearFund, but actually had to get his hands dirty, go live with the homeless in his area, visit Mother Teresa, work with them, and so on. The longish review on Amazon.co.uk is good – it is quite an americo-centric take on things. But suck the juice, spit the pips, you know.

So – yeah. Becky and I will be heading over to Cyprus in about a week, for a few months. It feels quite weird. We should be back here by September, God willing. So many details to organise, and also so much to just trust God about, things we have no control over.

Oh, btw, Bridget, this photo is for you:

OMNIvision’s new mobile book shop opened for the first time yesterday! Since Becky has been running the thing so far, sorting the books and generally making things happen, she was running the cashdesk (the ones from Doulos, strangely enough, which got shipped over to us) and I was able to take her out for a tea and cheesecake break in the afternoon. Cheesecake is good stuff. The bookshop is doing well, we’re all pretty excited to be able to provide this service for the church in Carlisle.

And here’s the last photo for the day:

Playing with my camera, I found some open source firmware which lets me do very fast shutter speeds. A bit of a hack, but hey. Fun to play with.

From Carlisle…

Wind tore across the darkened misty moors of the Lake District, pounding along the side of the tent like a tidal wave breaking upon the highcliffed shoreline of a forgotten arctic land. Outside of the tent, tiny rabbits huddled together in their burrows shivering due to the icy drafts, while inside and close by rain-drenched men struggled through the mud to complete their epic task.

Less then 3 hours previously 6000 people had been standing while the melodious hymn of Amazing Grace washed around them, many, even 200 of them touched to the heart made their way forward to pray and be prayed for, to receive the greatest gift in the history of the world.

3 hours later, the knowledge of this gift was the warmth that glowed inside the men labouring to bring their flight cases, amplifiers and speakers into a truck and depart from the now empty canvas cathedral.

Finally the dismissal was given, and as the last few items were loaded in the the crew slowly dispersed. The 4 OMNIvision men removed their mud covered shoes, and climbed into their small car, and drove out through the dark unlit pathway to the main road, and off into the night.

Soaking wet, muddy and weary in mind and body, their spirits were none the less high as they left the town and none of them were expecting the sudden sliding skid towards the roundabout and the ominous crunch into the other car which told them the journey home would be longer than they had anticipated.

The driver — a Scot — immediately turned their car towards the side of the road and drove up onto the curve to inspect the damage. They climbed from the vehicle shocked but glad that none had been injured. The other car was significantly dented, but the driver was unhurt. After the routine exchange of sarcasm, licence and telephone numbers and insurance policy contact details, the other driver perked up and laughed. Quoth he “At least it wasn’t my car, it’s a company one, I’d have been really pissed off if it were mine!”, whereupon he grinned, hopped in to his, or rather his company’s car and drove away.

The four traveling companions were not so fortunate in their predicament. The bumper was only attached by one nut and dragging along the ground. Inside, the plastic wheel frame was twisted into the wheel, and the headlights were no longer attached and pointing in various directions. With still more than 100 miles of motorway to cover before reaching their destination, it was decided that to attempt to complete it in that mangled condition would be folly.

A phone call for help from the Automobile Association was made, and they settled back to wait for the assistance to arrive.

It was not long until it arrived, and their disfigured ride was lifted on to the tow. The driver, a friendly Newcastle man was quick and efficient, and as he climbed into the cab a few minutes later, he turned and said “No hado sinye fine sell bacun ahl droye temsix unwil mitwethe rileh tuhye hom. Shubetheh intwenni mints.”

Our Scottish companion seemingly spoke this language and so replied, sitting in the passenger seat next to the driver, they passed the time chatting about the evening.

The two Germans turned to the fourth member of their party, a native of the land, although one who had spent most of his life abroad, and asked for interpretation. His eyes were as confused and uncomprehending as theirs, and much merriment was made by the continentals for his lack of understanding.

After about half an hour, they reached a certain motorway service station and they stopped there and moved the car across to a longer distance relay truck, and after buying coffee, bade farewell to the first driver, and climbed into the new cab and made acquaintance of the second.

The next 2 and a half hours passed fairly quickly, and they arrived at Carlisle before dawn had touched the skies with her pink streaked palette. The derelict car was left inside the shed, and the four weary travelers collected their belongings and went their separate ways.

I myself am one of these bold companions, and survived this ordeal with the a moral which I will now pass on to you: If you must drive around at midnight on wet and slippy roads in cars which have seen better days after yourself having worked for about 15 hours hauling heavy cases all over the place and are tired as anything, then drive slowly. Especially when approaching roundabouts.


In case you hadn’t guessed, the above is from when I was in Carlisle, I wrote it as an email, but was informed that it needed to be posted as a blog article. So. Now it is.

Here’s some food.
And some coffee.
I like coffee.

So, it’s currently a voyage on the way to Sydney, we just finished our first port in Australia, Brisbane, hanging out in AV, blogging and emailing and listening to Flanders and Swann.

More up to date blog posts to follow, of course.

There and back again

Before I begin today’s tale, there are a few things I must first explain. The first is that the UK has these things called “Bank Holiday Mondays”, which basically means most people with office-type jobs don’t work on random mondays throughout the year. Nobody whom I’ve asked seems to know what these Bank Holiday Mondays are in aid of, nevertheless, they seem quite keen on them, generally as they happen to be some of the people who don’t work on these aforementioned Bank Holiday Mondays.

The second thing I’d like to mention is that I’m kind of used to the Doulos work week, which means that also, most people don’t work on Mondays, however, we do work every other day, including Saturday and Sunday.

So being here in Carlisle, where the team has 2 days off per week (Saturday and Sunday) is quite a rare and interesting experience. Then these Bank Holiday Mondays on top of that, wow! It’s surprising they get any work done at all! We had one of these Mondays about 2 weeks ago.

The third thing, is that you should now promptly remove all of the above from your current thoughts, but allow it to drift uninhibited and unwatched into the depths of your subconcious general knowledge. This will put you in a better frame of mind for listening to the rest of the tale, but also put you in roughly the same state as I was 4 days ago.

I got up as usual, showered, dressed, and made myself a rather tasty cappuccino with my breakfast. I headed early to the Shed to start getting some audio files ready for posting later on this week. So I got to the shed about 10 past 7, my housemate was still asleep when I left, and while I was walking to the Shed, I thought
“Once I’ve got these files going, I’ll try walking to the Office (which is on the opposite end of town) for 9am devotions” (that we have together with the Office staff 3 times a week).

So once my audio files were happily working, I set out from the Shed at about 8:15 and started walking at a reasonable pace towards the office. I kind of hoped to see the bus at the bus stop as I went past, and maybe see my housemate on it.

No sign of the bus.

“Hm,” I thought, checking my watch.

“8:23.. that bus must be a bit later than I thought.”

I picked up the pace a bit, thinking, “I wonder if I can get to the office before the bus and my housemate do!” and briskly hopped down the steps to the underpass, and headed through the park.

One cool thing about Carlisle is the rabbits. There are wild rabbits all over the place! I’m sure the local farmers hate them and so on, but I quite enjoy seeing them all over the place as I walk about early in the morning, and while along the footpath I saw a rabbit jumping out of my way.

I continued up the main road, noticing a large car boot sale in the yard of the Catholic church, St. Augustine’s.

(USAian translation: a “car boot sale” is a kind of a communal garage sale not in a garage, where people bring stuff in the trunk of their car (which they call a boot) to some church or other parking lot and hopefully make a bit of money for the church or whoever as well).

I’d still not seen the bus, so thought “It’s 8.45, I’m sure it can’t be behind me, and should have overtaken me by now, if it was, which means it must have been ahead of me when I passed the bus stop, so I must be quite a way behind schedule if I’m going to get there by 9..”

So I again increased my perambulatory velocity, and strode purposefully past the church, and up the hill towards the industrial estate.

The road was longer than I thought, and so soon it was 8.50 and I still wasn’t at the office, so I again sped up and was charging along the road at as fast a walk as I could happily manage, wishing I hadn’t worn my safety boots that day. I felt sure blisters were developing on my heels.

Eventually I got to the estate, and negotiated the roads between the shops and warehouses, noting the fact that it was now 9.05. Oh well, I’d be a bit late, but not too bad. I got to the office, and paused at the door.

There were no cars in the car park. That’s a bit odd.. And no-one arriving late.. that’s even odder. I was about to go in anyway, when I remembered that I don’t remember the alarm code, and if in fact no-one was in the building, I’d have no way to switch it off, and the police would show up and drag me away and lock me up for years and years, and I’d never see my beloved ship again.

The thought didn’t appeal to me too much, so I rang the mobile of one of the others on the team, to ask what was going on.

“Hallo” said he.

“Hallo” said I.

“Where is everyone?” I queried, “I’m at the office, and no-one is here.”

“Ah,” came the response, and with it enlightenment, “It’s Bank Holiday Monday.”

“What?!” disbelievingly quoth Yours Truly, “Another one?!”

Whereupon he laughed and verified that yes, it was another Bank Holiday Monday.

I sighed, squared my shoulders, and slowly began to make my way back towards the opposite end of the town, and the Shed again.

As I left the estate, I began to laugh, realising that I had indeed managed to reach the office before my housemate, but that it had done me no good at all, and all I had gained was the knowledge that the bus is indeed faster than walking, and perhaps a few more blisters on my feet.

What I really wanted was somewhere to sit down, drink coffee and rest my poor feet for a while. Pubs in the UK don’t seem to open before 11am, so I couldn’t even stop for a beer anywhere, which would have been equally welcome.

As I got to the church, the thought crossed my mind that perhaps they might have coffee and cakes there. So I popped into the yard, and went in search of coffee. They did have some, but nowhere to sit, and no cakes, only what a sign called “a biscuit” which rather put me off, so I wandered though the cars, and managed to find a few things I’d been looking for: a couple of small espresso cups, a mug tree for the kitchen, (40p the lot) a few more books (20p each), a cork pin board for my office (50p), a maglite and multi-tool (3 quid the pair), and a small filter machine for 2 pounds which I could take to the conferences.

Bundles of cheap second-hand clutter in bags, I continued to hobble on my merry – if slightly painful – way.

A few streets on I was accosted cheerfully, if rather extremely frailly, by an old lady who wanted to know if it was a Sunday, or in fact a Bank Holiday Monday, as they all seem the same to her. Apparently I either must deceptively look knowledgeable about such things, or I’m just perhaps the only person in this country who seems to pay any attention to other people around them. It’s really weird. No-one ever wants to make eye-contact.

Anyway. I explained about having been bitten by the situation myself, and we chatted for a while. She told me (twice) that she was from the highlands of Scotland, that I shouldn’t ask her why she was living in England, and that the reason she was living in England was because her husband had told her (when they were much younger) “We’re going to live in Carlisle”, so they did.

A brief aside: I promised my friend Kris from Doulos that I’d mention her in a blog post, and so I’ll just mention that the little old lady I met was about 50 years older than you, Kris, and about half as tall.

Anyway. A very sweet lady, and quite funny and friendly too. She told me I mustn’t go to work, but should go home.

I didn’t however, and instead went back to the Shed – after meeting briefly a beggar in the underpass who was being ignored by the rest of the general population walking past him in that peculiarly oblivious British way – and spent the rest of the day finishing those sound files. By the end of the day my brain was almost toast after having stared at audio waveforms for almost the whole day, and half of the week before.

At least I got some exercise, I suppose.