Monday, August 11, 2014

Espresso at 35,000 Feet

Unless you’re a working crew member, I don’t know why you’d want to get caffeinated on a flight. Maybe before landing to get ready for a meeting or something important, but the flight attendants are much too busy then to mess with the time-consuming task of making an individual espresso.

Nespresso Hi-Fly

Anyway, since I’m a pilot and espresso lover*, I’m thankful that my airline’s new Boeing 777-300ER’s come equipped with a dual station espresso machine. Sorry, but they're in 1st Class only.

The machine is a Nespresso Hi-Fly HFE9520 Series, model HFE2005-01, if you care to know. It’s a pod machine and the airline uses Illy E.S.E. espresso pods. Oh yeah, they have decaffeinated, too.

Apparently, the flight attendants received no training on how to use the machines and the only FA’s making espresso are the ones curious enough to have figured out on their own how to use it. So, on a recent international flight, the espresso machine sat turned off, cold and neglected, until I came around after a mid-flight crew break in the upstairs bunk above 1st Class.

The reaction from the FA’s when I said I’d like an espresso was, “we don’t know how to use that.” I told them I’d do it since pilots are taught this in training. The plane knows how to fly itself and we needed to learn something. They seriously pondered that for a moment.

I had a small group gathered around me as I went through the technical process of pressing the On button and waiting for the machine’s green Ready light to come on. Once on, I placed the pod in the holder and moved the locking lever down.

Then it occurred to me, why don’t I steam the milk first and have that ready for my fresh espresso shot? I poured several ounces of ultra-pasteruzed (UHT) milk from a small box into a pitcher and began the sputtering and weak steaming process. It was unbelievably slow up until the very end, when out from the steaming nozzle came a burst which sprayed milk everywhere, but barely missing me.

The crowd of FA onlookers were beginning to doubt my prowess at making cappuccino or whether I’d actually been trained at all. Comments were made.

Then, I pressed the brewing button. There are 2 different measurements for the draw of espresso which are denoted on the machine by a large and small cup. Since the coffee pod itself only contains 7 grams of ground coffee beans, I opted for the more concentrated smaller serving size. This is the recommended procedure to avoid over-extraction.

Before adding milk
A stream of espresso poured into the cup, forming a paper-thin layer of crema on top. A thick head of crema is the hallmark of good aribica espresso, which this is not.

I added about an ounce of steamed milk and a dollop of foam and set about returning to work in the cockpit. But not before some degree of positive recognition by the FA’s, who began making espressos for themselves with their newly learned skills.

Flight Attendant admiring my work
The cappuccino was weak and bitter, but where else could you get espresso at 35,000 feet? I wondered if those on the international space station above were doing any better.

* Espresso lover, snob, home roaster, owner of several high-end espresso machines, and grower of a coffee tree in my backyard.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Paris when it Sizzles

Ah, Paris. It's hard to take a bad picture there.

Four days in the city of light, or rather heat. Another hot July - it's starting to rival Dallas with the summer temperatures. I'd promised Camille a trip to Paris after she crushed her French AP exam, so I made good. Versailles, d'Orsay, and lots of walking.

Champ de Mars at Sunset

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Off the Hardrock Wait List and Off the Sofa

I recently got news that I'm off the Hardrock 100 wait list and am officially entered to run the race in two weeks (7/11/14). In the lottery to enter the race held last December, I'd been drawn last and occupied the bottom of the "veterans" wait list with little chance of getting in this year. Or, so I thought.

I've done almost no running since last October when I finished the Grand Slam of the World. Work, family commitments and other projects have taken up my time. Hardrock is one of the toughest athletic events in the world and it's a crazy decision to run the race at this point, but I'll try it. Lots of hiking planned this year and if I make it 100 miles and "kiss the rock" at the finish, it'll be a miracle.

Just got back from Buenos Aires this morning.

"Motor Bike" in San Telmo, Buenos Aires

Well, that wasn’t pretty. I got about 44 miles into the Hardrock Hundred before I dropped.

As posted above, I was way undertrained this year. I unexpectedly got off the wait-list and officially entered into the race about two weeks prior. However, I’ve run enough 100’s and run Hardrock enough (6 times) to know how to get it done. It didn’t work this year.

First, I went out with too hard an effort for my fitness level. Later, when descending in the rain into Telluride at 28 miles, I took a bad fall on a rocky trail. My knee was banged and bloodied as I limped into the Telluride aid station and met my family. I then pressed on another 16 miles until Ouray before I dropped.

My plan going into 2014 was to take the year off from running ultra's. It's going to be hard, but I need to stick with that plan and recover from the past 10 years of a lot of hard racing.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Downhill Running for Flatlanders- Update

Updated my earlier post with a video of treadmill downhill running. Scroll to bottom of page: