14 February 2014

Coffee & Bicycles

 A lot of bicyclists love coffee. To be fair, a lot of people in general love coffee, but bike enthusiasts seem to have an affinity for the geekery that comes along with the territory. Obsessing over components, proper techniques, the benefits of one material over the other- you can see the parallels between the two. Personally, I really enjoy coffee, but I'm by no means a snob. I'll drink Dunkin' Donuts, Millstone, hell even Folgers from time to time without much complaint. Recently though, I've come to see taste the difference between freshly-ground and pre-ground beans, and much prefer to grind those little suckers myself. Having dealt with a 9,000+ dB electric grinder for too long, I asked the Mrs. for a manual grinder for Christmas this past year, and of course, the Japanese-made Porlex was what I had my eye on (seen above). It's designed for portability, which also happens to be another attribute I value (additionally: being sub-9,000 dB). The grind is adjustable depending on your preferred method of brewing-- mine being a French Press at the moment, I can do a coarse grind, or if I were asking old Mr. Coffee for a pot of drip, I could do that too.

 The French Press is manufactured by Snow Peak (pictured above) and also made in Japan. It's titanium and designed for portability, much like the grinder. What's the point of all this portability, you ask? For me, it's being able to travel to various places, like my hotel room here in Mississippi, and still make a decent cup of coffee every morning. (I also find satisfaction in TSA having to re-screen my backpack at the airport). For others, like the folks at PathLessPedaled, it's about being able to pack it in your panniers and watch the sunrise from pre-determined points on a map:

 Similar to Bike Overnights, the Sunrise Coffee Club flies in the face of Emerson in that it is about both the journey and the destination. Basically, a group of people (inherently both bicyclists and coffee drinkers) all ride together to someplace like a beach or the International Space Station, and from there they brew their collective cuppa joe while the Sun rises up into the sky*. It's a delightfully simple premise, and I am conflicted in my desire to both participate in it and ridicule it at the same time. But again, they are based out of Portland and are thusly so much cooler than the rest of us can ever imagine to be.

Two white people shaking hands: the international symbol of trade.

 Also Portland-based, Stumptown makes one of the more highly-acclaimed coffees in the snob-o-sphere, and I got the opportunity to pick up a bag of it while connecting through PDX. Having never tried "top shelf" coffee before, I was sure to follow the correct protocol for making the perfect cup of coffee and experiencing it to the fullest extent. That said, there is only so much I can care about preparing a non-alcoholic beverage, so I opted for tap water heated up in the microwave. Don't ask me if it was optimal temperature, because all I know is that it was somewhere between too-hot-to-pick-up and I'm not certain this microwave works. I ground my beans, poured the hot water over them, and after a couple minutes, French-Pressed it like a champ. The result was surprisingly tasty. 

Looks like coffee.

 The tasting card that accompanied the bag of beans was fairly accurate, at least as far as my palette could decipher. There were notes of lemon, rose water, and narwhal tears, just like it described. More importantly to me- it didn't suck, so I appreciated that. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end and premium coffee beans are no exception. I am now drinking Eight O' Clock coffee purchased from the base commissary, which has a great cost-to-flavor ratio, unlike another coffee brand that I won't name, (it rhymes with Starbucks).

 I doubt I'll ever be at a point where I'm obsessing over the minutiae of brewing techniques or what bean reigns supreme, but I do enjoy having my hand in the process of making a cup or two. In the same vein, I will always be interested in the latest advances in bike frame material, component developments, etc., but at the end of the day, I really just enjoy riding a bike, no matter the prefix. And if you find yourself, as I do, enjoying both bicycles and coffee, then join the club- not necessarily the Sunrise Coffee Club, but it is an option if that's your thing.

- Bicyclist Abroad  Domestic

 * I am versed enough in astronomy to know that the phenomenon of the rising sun is due to the rotation of the Earth, and not, as many would have you believe, due to Ra's dominion over the sky world.

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