How I’m Consuming my Feeds

I’ve been very occupied lately with the job hunt, but thankfully have found work for the Fall.  I’m excited to follow up with my previous post on using RSS feeds with my progress!

I’ve improved the actual experience of getting news through RSS by organizing my feeds into more specific folders.  I found through some searching that this is what most people do with their RSS feeds, and it was certainly a pain point for me.  I now have separate folders for national/world news, local news, sports news, music notation blogs, and tech sites.  I have a few particularly low-volume/high-interest feeds outside of folders entirely.  This makes my RSS a lot more digestible, but I find myself totally catching up with some folders (mainly the tech news) and barely touching others.  One of the ones that I’m opening less is the national/world news, which was part of the whole goal of switching to RSS.  It’s largely because the feeds in here are a mix of worthwhile content and insightful op-eds buried under content that exists purely to fill quotas.  

Reeder as an app has grown on me.  I’m still manually syncing by OPML (although a Workflow could probably help speed that along down the road).  Discovering how to actually use the “Mercury Reader” feature on iOS was a major improvement.  Most articles only preview ‘before the break’ as you go through them.  Mercury Reader simply pulls everything after the break to read in the app instead of opening in your browser.  It’s must faster than waiting for all the extra elements of most sites to load and closing the ad that blocks the whole screen on most news sites.  I was using it heavily on my Mac (where it’s clearly labeled in a dropdown and a shortcut).  I assumed it wasn’t on iOS until I discovered you can get it by using the zoom-in gesture or tapping the favicon on an article.

Despite RSS improving, I’ve actually found myself drawing more from Twitter and Reddit again, because I’m managed to improve those experiences.  When Twitter announced they were dropping support for their Mac App, I wanted a better way to manage a group chat I was in on Twitter.  I picked up Twitterrific for Mac on sale and really liked the experience.  (Interestingly, the Twitter API doesn’t let 3rd party apps access group messages, so it didn’t solve that need).  After a bit of time using Twitterrific, I decided to switch to Tweetbot which I’m still using on Mac and iOS.  

I was always content to use the official Twitter app, but using a 3rd-party app in 2018 has really improved the experience.  While there are a few features missing (polls, in-app Periscope access, etc.) it is a chronological feed.  I didn’t realize how much I disliked Twitter’s algorithmic feed until I had a chronological feed again.  No matter how many times I told it that I didn’t want to see “what I missed,” I still saw it.  I was using Twitter less, not in protest of this feed, but because I found the content less compelling.  Having my raw feed, I feel the same connection to Twitter I did when I first signed up.

I would wholeheartedly recommend picking up either Twitterrific or Tweetbot if it didn’t seem Twitter is putting another nail in the coffin for 3rd party apps with a change to the APIs.  I hope this doesn’t come to pass, but I’m not optimistic.  I’ve been told that by using Lists, one can get a chronological feed natively on Twitter, but that seems like a lot of extra steps to just check a social media site.  I see my Twitter use basically dropping off again if the APIs break.

I mentioned also using Reddit a bit more than I did.  This is largely due to picking up Apollo for my iPhone on a whim.  I’ve always hated the Reddit mobile site, but always been fine with the desktop site on mobile.  I didn’t think there was a need for Apollo to solve for me, but I’m actually a big fan of the app.

Until (unless?) Twitter kills their API, I see this set-up for my feeds working very well for me.  When that time comes for Twitter, I don’t know how my consumption will change, but I’m sure I’ll post updates here.  I’ve got a few posts cooking, including a “blog roll,” or rather, feeds I’m reading a lot of that I can recommend.

Coffee Setup & My Coffee Story

I started college not drinking coffee and graduated a coffee nut.  I roast, grind, and brew my own coffee.

 Daily Brew

I use a Technivorm Moccamaster Grand (15-cup or 60 fl oz) for my daily brew.  I weigh out 108g of my beans the night before into my Baratza Encore and fill up the water reservoir on my Moccamaster.  In the morning I grind the beans while I take care of something else, put on the pot, and when it’s done take it off the hot pad so it can cool down enough for me to put into my 40 oz Thermos.  I bring a mug upstairs with me which will be cool enough to drink by the time I get out of the shower, and usually have one or two more when I get downstairs.  Then I pour a cup in my travel mug and the rest into my thermos (the thermos is a bear to drink out of while I’m driving).  Throughout the day I’ll drink straight from the thermos (I don’t even know where the mug/lid is anymore).  I probably spent too much on my Escali L600 scale, which I saw recommended on Sweet Maria’s.

 Other Equipment

Every now and then when I have the time and I feel like doing the work, I’ll do a manual brew into my Chemex. I use a fairly standard Bonavita gooseneck with it, and like being able to program the temperature on that.  Because I keep my Moccamaster away from my kitchen sink, I actually use that Bonavita to pour water into the reservoir.  I’ve seen horror stories of Moccamasters where the carafe has been used to pour water into the reservoir.  No matter what coffee maker you use, don’t do this, the oil build up is terrible for your machine.

I roast using a Behmor 1600 Plus, and probably violate all the safety guidelines they included in the manual.  I got a pretty good deal on it from someone on the Home Coffee Roaster’s Facebook group, and definitely recommend a hand vacuum with a Behmor.  I buy my green coffee (i.e. unroasted beans) through Bodhi Leaf who have awesome prices and a newsletter with a weekly deal on one origin of coffee

 My Coffee Story

When I started college, I didn’t like coffee.  I usually tried to drink it when it was too hot and just burnt myself and never tasted it.  I had problem falling asleep in classes even when I got a decent amount of sleep, and taking daily caffeine pills didn’t work.  My sophomore year I started having multiple nights a week where I’d get three hours of sleep, and buying energy drinks on these days was expensive fast (and energy drinks are terrible for your health).  I decided to force myself into liking coffee, picking it up whenever I was at a place it was free (e.g. waiting room at the mechanic’s, church…) and drink as much of it as I could.  I forced myself to do this with black coffee because I didn’t ever want to decline coffee when someone lacked my recipe of cream and sugar.  Looking back, this was a stupid justification, but the health benefits of black vs non-black coffee make me glad I followed this logic.

Eventually I found myself craving the taste of coffee once or twice and I decided I was ready to buy my own coffee equipment.  I actually found the 40-oz thermos first and decided I’d get a coffee maker that I could just fill that thermos up with.  Of course a standard US cup is 8 fl oz, so I got a 5-cup Mr Coffee before I realized that a “coffee cup” was not a standard US cup, and this made 25 fl oz.  Rather than brew two pots a day to fill up one thermos, I got a 12-cup (60 fl oz) Mr Coffee maker (that amazingly still works, a family member uses it) and put pre-ground Dunkin Donuts house blend coffee into it.

As I’ve learned from r/coffee and the Home Roaster facebook group, most people don’t drink 60 fl oz a day.  I did not know this when I started drinking coffee, and felt wasteful pouring out so much coffee.  I forced myself through intense headaches drinking 60 fl oz a day because I was a stupid 20-year-old who did all sorts of terrible things to his body.  Eventually I acclimated to this insane amount of coffee, and I have significantly more energy and attentiveness than I did before I started drinking it.  Maybe it’s an insane amount, but there’s no going back now.

I continued this way for about eight months.  When I was home for winter break my junior year, I went out to Dunkin Donuts to get more coffee and accidentally bought 3 lbs of whole beans.  Rather than go back to the store and admit I was an idiot, I found my great uncle’s hand coffee grinder and brewed a pot that way.  I found – even with store-bought first wave coffee – that it was a much better pot.

It was a wonderful coincidence that same night that I found r/coffee and discovered that there was more to coffee than just using a french press instead of a Mr Coffee.  I poured through all their guides fascinated and started looking into what I could do.  I wanted to keep drinking coffee in the quantity I already did, which eliminated the daily use of something like an Aeropress.  I thought I might really enjoy a Chemex from what I’d read, but wanted to try a cup made from a Chemex before I committed.

In the mean time, I started grinding my Dunkin Donuts coffee with a terrible blade grinder.  I quickly upgraded to my Encore and kept brewing the same beans and the same coffee maker.  Eventually I found a coffee shop in my college town that served coffee brewed in a Chemex and tried it.  I liked it, but I was unconvinced it was the right brew for me every day.  They recommended the Moccamaster and I haven’t looked back.

I started roasting my own beans mostly because of price.  I spend about $5/lb on green coffee and after the loss of weight from roasting, wind up with about 0.83 lb of roasted coffee per lb of green coffee.  Roasted coffee is fresh for 15 days, so getting anything that’s not local is probably not truly fresh, and local roasters sell at $12+ per .75 lb which winds up costing well over twice as much as roasting it myself.  I started roasting with a popcorn popper on my stovetop, which requires you to be cranking it the whole time and maxes out around half a pound per batch.  I picked up the Behmor to make it a more hands off process and allow me to roast a full pound per batch.

I’ve been able to keep this up for two years now, and it’s proved worth it.  Roasting itself has become a bit of a chore, but grinding it fresh every morning is really no trouble.  Coffee snobs are a niche enough market that there will never probably be an awesome smart home/automated solution for this, but it’s really good coffee.