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Morphy Richards 47970

This is my Espresso machine, the Morphy Richards 47970 a kind gift from my folks last summer when they were visiting and decided that me having an in-house caffeine solution was a good idea.

At first I couldn’t find a photo or the model number so thanks to Zap Consumer Site (Hebrew for Israel guys, sorry) for having the model and photo there.

Now firstly, title aside I love this Espresso machine. It makes great espresso and according to my sister-in-law a pretty good Cappuccino too.

Now of course it helps to have great coffee to work with and here in Modiin there is certainly no shortage of choices: –

Map picture

My two favorite places to purchase ground beans are Sarah’lehs Bakery/ Coffee-shop a Pillsbury franchise (this is a really nice family store) they have one brand of Italian coffee beans that is strong and tasty.

The other is Cafe Joe / Cup O Joe  a chain across Israel, they have two coffee shops in Modiin, one in the Azrieli Mall and the second at the Yishpro Center just outside of Modiin. Cafe Joe has a variety of coffee beans to choose from and an amazing machine that automates the grinding process based on bean selection, quantity and coffee machine type.

My preferred purchase with Cafe Joe is 200grams of their Kenya AA bean. If you are anywhere near one of their coffee stores in Israel and you haven’t tried their excellent coffee, great food and fantastic service then I recommend you do so, strongly.

Okay that’s the background on my Espresso machine and the coffee I use in it. Of course there is one more element, the water. I use tap water in my Espresso machine and Modiin like much of Israel has hard water the underlying geology of much of the region is limestone. You can see this in much of the local construction but also on the inside of our kettles. The limescale buildup is rapid and nefarious in how it affects untreated appliances however I’m not in the position to install a water softener so tap water it is.

This means that once a month I descale and run a maintenance regime on my Espresso machine or see it stop working.

This involves me performing some basic disassembly and then taking all the removable parts and cleaning them. All the cleaning of the parts is done using Vinegar and Baking Soda. I place everything into a bowl and leave it to soak as the mixture fizzes away. Following this everything gets rinsed off several times in piping hot water.

Meanwhile I have filled the water tank with vinegar and switched on the machine and run hot vinegar thru the system followed by several cycles of clean water.

On reassembly the system produces a noticeably better espresso. However before you run off and try this yourself check what your machine’s manufacturer recommends for your machine.

The one part though on my machine that needs more than a monthly cleaning is the cup that holds the ground beans thru which the pressurised, boiling water flows to create the espresso. This gets the same soaking and rinsing at least once every two weeks.

Still it’s all worthwhile for that wonderful home espresso experience don’t you think?

This morning I was at our Kuppat Cholim which literally translates from Hebrew as Pool of Sick People but is the nearest thing to an HMO or Healthcare Provider in Israel.

sickpeople

The Missus had asked me to pop over and fill a prescription for her and I was trying to remember how many antihistamine I had left. Any time I need a repeat prescription for my allergy meds (and pollen season is pretty much here)I’m lucky enough to be able to phone my Doctor and simply request it. A day later I can pick up the prescription. Of course the more you use these meds the less they seem to work.

atchoo

Anyway the best thing I find for me is Caffeine. Preferably a good, strong double espresso. I discovered several years ago that in a pinch if I’m a little wheezy it can even help with that.

Now pay attention, I’m not advocating any of you smart folks stop taking meds or start mainlining caffeine. This works for me as long as I drink my coffee in moderation. (DISCLAIMER)

I mentioned this to several Doctors over the years who all looked sceptically at me.  However this information has been around since the mid-1800’s as Coffee contains a chemical compound Theophylline

theophylline

This compound was used as an early treatment for breathing disorders. Anyhow it occurred to me that Coffee is ostensibly a homeopathic treatment (yes, I know it has side effects) so how come my health fund doesn’t give me prescriptions for Coffee?

Take two espressos and call in the morning? Why not? The Dead Sea is known for its therapeutic benefits for many skin disorders and one of the Health funds in Israel does actually fund trips to the Dead Sea for sufferers of these disorders. So perhaps it’s time I ran for political office on the therapeutic caffeine platform.

Please note that the author was not entirely serious when writing this piece (LOL)

Comment: Does that mean you weren’t entirely unserious either when you wrote it: From anonymous

Last week I was tamping the coffee grinds into the portafilter cup … the aluminum cup with a black insulated handle that holds the grinds and the heated water passes thru under pressure to make the espresso; I had been a little ill and not paying attention to how I was applying strength to things.
I placed the filled portafilter cup and rotated it and a rather loud snap left me with the handle in my hand and the rest of the aluminum part locked in place.
Had I been alone my first response would probably have been to let rip with a string of vernacular to make a sailor blush but my Mrs and the little guy always seem to help me control that urge just by being there. One brief visit into the laundy room later I was expletive free and of a mindset to resolve this issue until I could get a replacement part.
Oh sure, just manage without the coffee machine until the part arrives. Wait who said that? I’m not sure if my MacGyver like skills come from a natural ability, inherited from several generations back or simple necessity.
First attempt was to repair the handle using epoxy resin. Aluminum apparently is no great friend of this compound. The Mrs was ecstatic I didn’t glue my fingers together in a caffeine withdrawal frenzy. After she managed to stop guffawing, sorry it was more of a giggle, she’s way to lady-like to guffaw (especially at me) she reminded me that in the Sparta-like society that is Israel the ER woul probably just hacksaw my fingertips apart and better to find another solution.
I wrapped my cerebellum around several other trials with less than success until I arrived at an almost perfect solution: an adjustable locking wrench from my toolbox.
This was one of my earlier purchases for my toolbox and as such it was cheap. It’s a tool I have been meaning to replace when I have the chance with one that works better. I can use the espresso machine now but once in awhile the wrench springs open of its own volition to a hearty and poorly timed crash.
Oh well until I get the replacement part.
For 7 months now I have had an Espresso machine at home. I know, you are thinking that my coffee consumption skyrocketed and I am mainlining caffeine.. nope actually the opposite, I savor my 2-3 cups a day. So thanks Mum and Dad for buying us this when you were visiting in the summer.
I have made it my business to explore the different coffee beans available here in Modiin and try each of them to see who gives me the best cup of coffee. There was a point where my wife was bringing me fresh ground beans back from an international coffee chain in Hertzliya where she works but frankly this coffee didn’t stand up to my criteria.
Personally, its a balance of the following: –
  • Flavor – I like my coffee strong and rich; I’m an espresso drinker so it can’t be insipid.
  • Not too strong – unlike some extended family members (u know who you are) I don’t believe the coffee should be used for launching the shuttle, defibrillating heart attack victims or for stripping paint off the walls of the cellar when flood waters receed.
  • Caffeine – recent research has shown multiple therapeutic benefits for caffeine/ coffee; for allergies, asthma and the like .. duhh!!! I’ve had medical professionals scoff at me saying that coffee helps me more than steroids during allergy season for years .. hate to say it but I told you so. Note: coffee and all caffeine should be used responsibly. This works for me but I don’t recommend it to anyone else. Caffeine can and will interact negatively with certain medications.
  • Strength – strong but not so strong you need to buy stock in antacid.

I’m kind of surprised that up until now there is no single social network out there solely based on a love of coffee.

Anyhow, for those of you familiar with Monty Python’s Meaning of Life there are days when you might just find me in front of my Morphy Richards Espresso Machine chanting .. “Oh Espresso Machine, you are so big… you are so very great!”

If you didn’t get it, this was a just a little bit tongue on cheek. lol.

It is a definite sign of intelligence when you find other smart people who have the same idea as you but it’s also a sign that you need a stronger coffee blend in the morning if you have the idea five minutes after them.

My resume has been a challenge to me on several levels; as my job hunt progressed in the past I have had positive responses to the design and layout even though I broke one of the cardinal rules that all the people in the know, blogs and books tell you: it was a two page document.

I didn’t see how to pare down the level of detail to one page and still maintain confidence that I was showing my full skill set to prospective employees. In my moments of doubt I wondered if maybe I was simply overwhelming them with detail and not presenting a polished personal brand.

I have been the one recruiting in the past so I tried to get my head around being the recruiter who needs to understand the terminology and can grasp my brand in a short glance yet have a resume that still stands out from the pack.

I have a rule of thumb for productive brainstorming to solve any problem: –

Use a pencil and pad and do the brainstorm away from the computer.

I decided to sketch a “map” of how the resume should look. I used to be a cartographer at one time so maps of any kind always appeal.

Whilst doing this I wondered what was missing from my resume and how the resume fitted into all the information on the Internet about me. I wanted it all to jell into a cohesive picture that did represent my personal brand. My attempt at creating a business card for networking events helped me realize I wanted my LinkedIn, Blog and Twitter addresses in there; (I also wanted my Facebook link but since I feel that I use Facebook for my Social Networking more than Business I have left it out until I can revamp my profile there sufficiently) I also added a head-shot photograph to the personal information section.

I was (surprise, surprise) having a cup of coffee when it occurred to me that this was evolving into a Web 2.0 Resume; something was missing and still trying to reduce the document down to one page my Management and Technical Skills sections leaped out as important but in need of reducing in size drastically.

Today I took a metaphorical meat-cleaver to some of the details having realized that the ultimate Web 2.0 component needed adding: a Tag Cloud based on my technical and management skills and experience. 

The act of ensuring the tags I felt were the most important and thus prominent in the cloud made me look long and hard at my skill set which in turn helped me refine how I describe myself.

What is left for me to do?

    1. Translate to Hebrew: this I am going to post online and add a link to the English version for the more and more infrequent occurrence that someone in hi-tech requires the resume in Hebrew.
    2. Revamp my Facebook profile and add the link.
    3. Create a ready to go PDF copy of English and Hebrew resumes.

The resume is down to one page and I am hammering out the formatting so that I can insert the tag cloud as a vertical sidebar in both the Word doc and PDF alike.

In away the process of doing this has been more about self-awareness and interview preparation than just redefining my resume. Now I just need to get some good hits and sit down in the interview calmly and confidently knowing that I am the best person for the job. Wish me luck.

A hearty cheers to my brother in law who just returned from the US of A and offered to bring me a few goodies back.

Knowing that space and weight are an issue I was somewhat restrained in my purchasing but I am gleefully eye-ing: –

  • James Rollins latest novel, The Last Oracle. I can’t get enough of his writing as one of my favorite authors and never get to put the book down once I start reading it.
  • Cynthia Shapiro’s best selling career guidance book as recommended by Penelope Trunk.
  • The Columbia River Get-A-Way Driver. I have been after this forever since I read about it online somewhere. This is a totally useful toolfor anyone who constantly needs a screwdriver/ flashlight etc but wants it super small and due to travel constraints can’t carry a tool with a knife on. 
  • Tadgear have been having this T-shirt online and sold out several times. I’m going thru a period where having a couple of neat or funny T-shirts in the closet puts a small smile on my face so I figured why not? Oh yes, the image appeals somehow too.

  • http://coffee20.joffreys.com/ – Probably the smartest marketing idea I have seen in a while; Joffrey’s offered to beta testers the chance to receive samples of coffee and to give suggestions for their ultimate brew if they blog about the bean. Tomorrow morning we shall meet for some serious testing. Results to follow but confidence is high.

Well now to finish preparing for my interview, get some sleep and enjoy my swag tomorrow.

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If you haven’t guessed it I’m a tools guy. Not gadgets but tools. Like the blog name says, it needs to be practical.

I’ve written in the past about folding tools like Leatherman, SOG et al and different tools for the PC but I was at the tool store, Home Depot the other day to pick up a few things with my wife and I took my nearly 3 year old son for a trawl around the tools section.

It’s never too soon to explain to the little guy what each tool does; when I was just a little older than him I started running around the house trying to take everything apart to see how it worked. This was probably the starting point for my career in QA.

As we looked at Drills, Hammers, Screwdrivers, Spanners etc and I tried to teach him how to say each thing I was struck by a memory from childhood; my late grandfather was a very hands-on guy, he built his own house, had a factory and in his split level garage had a large workshop in the lower level.

As a kid this place was the magic kingdom to me; work benches, real cast iron clamps and an assortment of tools and projects he was always working on. One tool stuck in my memory, he had this beautiful, yes beautiful ratchet screwdriver about 60 cm long with a red varnished wood handle and chromed steel parts. I was forever hunting loose screws everywhere just so I could borrow the ratchet screwdriver and pump away at the handle and watch mechanism turn and rotate the screw back into its hole.

A couple of years ago I was on Route 17 in New Jersey near Paramus and I saw an old style tool store, after horse trading with my wife that I would gladly go round Nordstrom with her she agreed to stop, no doubt fearing that I was going to either start drooling over every tool in the shop or want to buy stuff that I would have to schlep back home to Israel.

We walked in and I roamed the aisles taking in everything and I went to chat to the ubiquitous old guy behind the counter. Remembering my grandfather’s ratchet screwdriver I asked him if they had such a thing in stock to which he replied just a little sadly that no-one makes tools like that anymore and if they do then the are made with plastic not wood. If they did make tools like that they would simply cost too much for him to hold in stock and frankly these days everyone uses a Cordless Drill/ Screwdriver.

He was kind of surprised that a guy my age would prefer mechanical over electric and we got to talking about the underlying philosophy of the sheer pleasure of using a tool like that even when an easier option might be available.

Empty-handed but cheered up from the conversation we drove on to Nordstrom where thankfully at least the coffee was superb (frankly they have some of the best Espresso ever); and yes I had a good time shopping with the Missus.

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Originally, I am a Manchester boy. Many people tell me here in Israel that my time living here coupled with marrying a New Yorker have softened my accent considerably. Before I moved to Israel I was a tea-drinker; not in the classical English sense of tea with milk in china but strong black tea with nothing in it; preferably leaf tea and Kenyan if I could get it or Earl Gray.

I came to Israel and during my time in the army I discovered coffee. Now mind you, none of this instant, granulated stuff but what they call Turkish Coffee. Strong, thick, black and sweet this coffee is coarse ground and brewed in a small tin open pot over a naked flame. My first taste of it was in the middle of an Armored Infantry exercise in the IDF Southern Training Center in the Negev. We were finishing up a morning of various exercises in APC’s (Armored Personnel Carriers) when ours stopped and the driver fished out his coffee kit (pakal kaffee as they call it). After brewing up using the APC as a wind-shade he handed me a shot-glass of coffee. One hit and I was hooked. Not just on the caffeine hit which for a coffee newcomer was considerable but also the rich flavor.

Since then I have discovered the wonders and differences of French Press coffee and Espresso. Each time I travel anywhere it fascinates me to see their idea of what constitutes good coffee.

Now if you aren’t a true coffee drinker you may not understand what on earth I am going on about here but the fact is in hi-tech particularly or if you are a night-owl like me in general, then coffee can really help your alertness and at least for me, productivity.

On days when my allergies may be bad or I simply didn’t sleep well the night before nothing helps like a strong cup of coffee. The caffeine from a double espresso seems to clear the thinking processes and it certainly stops the incessant sneezes of hay-fever on bad days.

However, I have a couple of rules for myself when it comes to coffee: –

  • No more than two cups of double espresso a day.
  • Never drink coffee after 8pm
  • Only, only, only drink the good stuff

Nothing is worse than drinking espresso made in a poorly maintained machine or bad coffee. So with this in mind I try to stick to drinking only really, really good coffee. Luckily, Israel has no shortage of excellent coffee houses who invest a lot of time in finding excellent coffee beans.

For those of you who get the chance to visit Israel and love your coffee these are my personal favorites: –

Cup O’ Joe / Cafe Joe: across Israel in various large towns

Arcaffe: as above

Sarahleh’s Bakery: in Modiin. They have excellent coffee and the baked goods a great too.

Well, now I have had my cup of coffee … back to work 🙂

 

 

There is something about the smell of a freshly brewed Espresso … whilst I suffer from a chronic lack of smell due to allergies this is one of the few things I can actually smell and enjoy.

Whatsmore, after drinking the rich, black coffee it tends to open up my sinuses, reduce my allergies and get me breathing again.

I remember the first coffee I ever drank. I was 26 years old, on reserve duty in the Tze’elim IDF training base and we were in an APC (Armored Personnel Carrier). The weather was cold and windy and we had been driving around for a couple of hours, training. We pulled up and got out for a break and one of the guys opened up what looked like a small plastic toolbox. It contained everything necessary from the gas stove to cups to make Turkish Coffee. (I had never had coffee as in England everyone drank Instant which seemed like a repulsive, acidic brew.) When the complex ritual of making the coffee on the fire had been completed we each got one. It felt nice just to hold something warm and it smelt sooo good so I tried it.

The caffeine kick was amazing and it tasted rich and potent and a little syrupy. I was hooked.

I discovered with time that if my allergies or Asthma flared up then Espresso could help a little in a pinch but really I just loved that such a small drink has so much flavor and punch to it.

I have resisted the temptation to purchase an Espresso machine for the house as I would probably drink too much coffee. However, I always felt the need to be able to make good coffee.

I tried French Press coffee makers but it wasn’t the same even with the best coffee. I decided that this was one of those situations where you make do. Recently, I was in a local store that deals in “chef” quality cooking products and saw they had their own coffee grinder and beans. After chatting with the owner who admitted right away that he too was a caffeine addict, he listened to my plight and offerred several suggestions.

Ultimately I left the store with a Stove-top percolator and coffee ground for it.

The one I purchased was strictly a one cup, double espresso maker. The percolator works simply; the lower half contains water that on boiling bubbles up thru the section containing the fine ground coffee and out thru a narrow pipe into a cup. The associated smell and sounds of the bubbling percolation leave you in the heights of anticipation.

The espresso in the cup even has la crema, the golden froth associated with fine espresso.

Why did I stress that the coffee be ground for this device especially? I fthe grains are too coarse then the pipe becomes blocked and even with a small pressure release valve this can suddenly reach critical mass. Coffee sprayed everywhere is not easy to clean up and you will find little dark patches on walls and ceilings for days after.

Like any other Espresso making device two things a vitally important to ensure a great Espresso:
  1. Keep it clean. Limescale buildup alone can give a terrible taste to the coffee. Rinse well and to remove limescale you can use a liberal solution of vinegar and baking soda (rinse thoroughly after as well).
  2. Good coffee, ground properly. Subjective but vital.

I don’t know if this is the best home brewed Espresso I will ever find but up until now it leaves me feeling happy. Still my quest for that perfect cup continues.