Podcasts

My Aeropress Brewing Method

Aeropress — by Casey Klekas

Photo credit: Casey Klekas, because it's a much nicer shot than I can produce in my ugly little kitchen. I do have that same kettle though.

I don't listen to many tech podcasts these days and thus I'm not subscribed to John Chidgey's show, Pragmatic. (Sorry John. It's not you, it's me.) But when the latest episode—in which Marco Arment guest-hosts to wax scientific about coffee—came up in my Twitter feed, I couldn't add it to my Huffduffer queue fast enough.

It's a great listen if you consider yourself a coffee nerd, and quite educational if you're a newbie. I particularly liked hearing Marco discuss why he doesn't fuss over his brewing process anymore. His method is similar to my own, but mine is even simpler in some ways:

  • I add about 1 (U.S.) cup of water to my kettle and bring it up to 195°F.

  • While the water heats up, I scoop some freshly-ground coffee—the most important factor, really—into my inverted Aeropress, up to the "bottom" of the #3 circle (the plunger having been inserted just enough to touch the #4 circle). I don't have a kitchen scale to weigh my coffee, but over time I've found this amount works nicely for me.

  • When the water's ready, I pour just enough to coat the grounds and let them bloom for 45 seconds to let out all that trapped carbon dioxide. Marco derides this very practice on the podcast, and maybe it is just placebo, but I do it anyway.

  • At the :45 mark, I add water to just under the top rim of the Aeropress, stir the slurry mixture around a bit, and let it steep another 45 seconds. At this point I typically run just a little of the hot water through the Aeropress filter/cap, not because I've ever detected any paper flavor in my coffee (I haven't) but because it helps the filter adhere to the cap when the time comes to flip it over.

  • At the 1min 30sec mark, I twist the cap on, flip the Aeropress onto my trusty coffee mug, and plunge. I try to finish before my iPhone timer reaches the 2min mark, and I always stop as soon as I hear any hissing noise coming from the Aeropress. Again, this might be placebo, but I've read that plunging any further will extract the more bitter flavors into the cup.

And that's it!

If this seems like a lot of details to remember, just know that writing it all out like this is severely more complicated than the actual brewing process. It takes me about 7min from start to finish, and most of that is waiting for the kettle to heat up.

The point I want to get across here is that I don't worry much about exact measurements. Like any recovering coffee nerd I've tried experimenting and being fussy and even emulating Aeropress championship recipes, but again, the most important factor by far is using recently-roasted, freshly-ground beans. If you start with good beans and a little practice, it's hard to screw up the end product.

As for the iPhone timer, I don't use any fancy coffee apps. I've tried a lot of them and always come back to the stopwatch bundled with the built-in Clock app. It's simple and it works fine.

Overcast.fm [App Store Link]

I know, I know, I'm a little late to the party posting this. In fact I'm only just now getting caught up on all of today's big news.

If you're wondering, my morning was spent with my wife and son at the downtown OKC library's storytime for toddlers, getting lunch, and eventually heading back home to lay him down for a nap. What can I say, that's what the life of being a stay-at-home dad is like sometimes.

Anyway, after months of anticipation I've finally had a chance to play with Marco Arment's new Overcast podcatcher for iPhone. My honest opinion so far? It's okay.

Don't get me wrong, Overcast has plenty of great features and special touches to speak of—just not enough to lure me away from Pocket Casts. If nothing else, the lack of an iPad client is a dealbreaker for me (though Marco does have one in the works). On top of that, Overcast is slow and buggy on my iPhone 4s. I can hardly blame him for not fully supporting such an outdated piece of hardware, but the fact remains.

With all that said, please don't let my first impressions tarnish your curiosity. If you're in the market for a new podcast app, Overcast is free to download and there's no reason not to give it a shot yourself. I just personally wasn't as blown away as I'd hoped.

For now, I remain optimistic that future updates will prove me wrong in the long run.

The Guy That Did That Thing: An Interview with Andrew J. Clark

The Guy That Did That Thing: An Interview with Andrew J. Clark

Introduction

My internet friend Andrew J. Clark has been gaining a lot of attention the past couple months. (Or is it notoriety?)

Not satisfied with a budding podcasting career, Andrew has also shown himself to be quite the iOS developer. He's a little hard to pin down but he has an interesting way of looking at the world, something that comes through in the following interview.

Constellation.fm

The podcasting syndicate formerly known as Fiat Lux1 is now called Constellation.fm. Along with a spiffy new site and some recent additions to the team, Constellation has some neat features you won't find on many other podcast networks:

  • Chapter markers, so you don't have to sit through boring sections to get to the good stuff. These work not only on the web but also in chapter-compatible podcast apps.
  • Extensive show notes, somewhat like those of the Technical Difficulties podcast. These notes are helpfully divided by their respective chapter markers.
  • A more mobile-friendly audio player, with larger tap targets for playing/pausing/scrubbing. The whole site is a joy to use from an iPhone, which is no mean feat.
  • Designed to be Huffduffer-friendly from the get-go, unlike the majority of shows powered by Squarespace or Soundcloud these days (a pet peeve of mine).

My buddy Sid O'Neill wrote up a post that explains Constellation.fm's design choices in greater detail and offers some insight into their overall philosophy:

“The closest way to describe Constellation is as a “podcasting syndicate”, but really that’s unsatisfyingly reductive.

[…]

Our endgame is to completely negate the need for a podcatcher. Sure, if you want to use one, Constellation will always support that. […] At the end of the day, we want to eliminate the barrier to entry. Why should it be so difficult for your listeners to listen to your show? It shouldn’t.”

It's good to see a group of people trying to innovate in a medium that is often resistant to both change and user-friendliness. Congratulations to the team at Constellation.fm on the launch, and I look forward to seeing what they've got in store!

* * *

As a writer, my goal is to inspire others to be more creative and do their best work. If my writing has helped or inspired you in any way, please consider supporting this site with a modest donation or by signing up for the $3/month membership subscription.


  1. Technically, Fiat Lux still exists as the parent company, and Constellation.fm is merely its new “podcasting arm.” I speculate that Fiat Lux will be dipping its feet into other fields soon. 

David Sparks Talks iBooks on the Technical Difficulties Podcast

Speaking of podcasts about writing, David Sparks recently guested on Technical Difficulties to discuss how he uses iBooks Author and other such tools to write and publish his Field Guide eBooks. Anyone considering getting into the self-publishing game should give it a listen.

One interesting point that came up in the conversation was the fact that a project created in iBooks Author doesn't necessarily have to be sold on the iBooks Store; it could ostensibly be used as a tool for putting together something special that can be freely shared with friends and family. Or anyone else with an iOS device, for that matter.

Shawn Blanc and Patrick Rhone's Guide to Writing

A fantastic conversation between two writers I respect and look up to. I only wish it had been longer.

Two points in the discussion that I particularly enjoyed:

  1. It's important that writers have fun writing. Sometimes I need to be reminded of this fact myself, and this was definitely one of those times.

    I've got about ten fairly large articles in the works, and I've been stressing for weeks about how to make each one top notch, but unable to focus enough to finish any one of them, which itself is another point of anxiety for me. Too much stress and not enough fun.

  2. Our audience's perception of our work can sometimes be skewed, and understandably so. They only get to see the stuff we choose to put out there, not the assembly line that brought it all together. They don't see all the drafts, edits, revisions, cuts, tough decisions, or the eureka! moments that it took to reach the final product.

    They see us posting photos on Instagram, or taking our kids to museums during the day, and perhaps they wonder, "What the hell is this guy doing not writing?" But that's rarely the whole story.

    As Shawn mentions on the podcast, there are a few benefits to working from home. As long as you're taking care of the negatives (managing your own health insurance and taxes, etc), there's no reason not to take advantage of the positives as much as possible.

So yeah, fantastic episode. Go listen.

Shawn Blanc's New Podcast: The Weekly Briefly

I've been listening to Shawn Blanc's daily, members-only podcast, Shawn Today, for a little over a year now. It's one of the few podcasts that I try to listen to every episode of, because Shawn and I share similar interests and I value his thoughts on those topics.

And now, he's branching out from Shawn Today and releasing one of the episodes to the public each week, under a different podcast name: The Weekly Briefly. The first episode—"Indie Life"—was just released in the last half-hour and I encourage you to go listen.

Dan Benjamin's New-and-Improved Podcasting Equipment Guide

Like the previous version, this podcasting equipment guide is very thorough and addresses which rigs to shoot for based on the type of podcast you intend to run. There's also a place to sign up to be notified about Dan's upcoming book, which will go into even more detail about setting up a podcast and even making a business out of it.

On Podcast Rambling

Yesterday, Ben Brooks wrote about his issues with most podcasts nowadays, and offers some advice:

“So here’s my proposal for making podcasts better: if you want me to spend 1-2 hours a week listening to your show, then you better spend at least that much time preparing for each show. Reading your RSS/Twitter feeds doesn’t count as preparation.”

This caused a bit of a stir with people. Now, I don't have any particular problems with those kinds of shows (in fact, I happily listen to several of them), but I think Ben has a point.

I've often wondered why certain shows just seem to slap together an outline of what they want to talk about, then meander around those topics at length rather than keeping the show tight and focused. It's not that I think every podcast needs to sound super-produced the way This American Life and 99% Invisible do, but I can think of very few shows that wouldn't benefit from a bit more care and editing.

Don't get me wrong, some shows are actually at their most entertaining while rambling a bit. Bionic and The Prompt are good examples of this, because the hosts are hilarious and have good chemistry. And my god, Merlin Mann has made a career of rambling (no offense to Merlin — I think he's very good at what he does).

But for most other shows, think about it this way: would you want to read an article that had very little thought or editing put into it? One that wastes your time and attention with needless repetition rather than getting to the point? I doubt it.

Why not apply the same thinking to podcasting? Food for thought.

Baldwin + Seinfeld = Awesome

Jerry Seinfeld recently appeared on Alec Baldwin's excellent podcast, Here's the Thing, and the only complaint I have is that it wasn't long enough. Whenever these guys have a conversation, there's always this enertaining magnetism that makes you feel like you're right there in the room with them. For another example of this, be sure to check out Baldwin's appearance on Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.

Review: Pocket Casts 4 for iOS 7

Review: Pocket Casts 4 for iOS 7

If someone had told me a month ago that Pocket Casts was about to usurp Instacast's spot on my iOS dock, I would have looked at them like they were crazy.

For as long as I could remember, Instacast was the podcast app that I felt provided the best overall experience on the App Store, and the one I recommended to everyone else who asked. But as it turns out, Instacast's recent 4.0 update sadly resulted in a step backwards in usability. I talked about this a bit in my recent article about the state of podcast apps on iOS 7:

“The playback controls cover up some of the podcast artwork, the advanced toolbar […] can no longer be hidden, and the cloud sync service no longer seems to work properly.”

Replacing an app on my dock is a pretty rare occurrence since I'm picky about what gets put there in the first place, but Instacast just hasn't been cutting it for me anymore. And so, I found myself doing something I never expected: I decided to give Pocket Casts another shot.

iOS 7 and the State of Podcast Apps

 There was a period of time – between early 2011 and about two weeks ago – when I would tell anyone within hearing distance that Instacast was easily the best podcast app for iOS. No doubt about it.

Oh, I'd tried all the big names at some time or another, of course — Pocket Casts,DowncastStitcher Radio, and even Apple's own Podcasts. Though each was great in its own way, something kept me coming back to Instacast time and time again.

It was super easy to use, my subscriptions were synced between my iPhone and iPad with almost no issues1, and of course, it was easy on the eyes. In my mind, the other competitors had lost this battle a long time ago. I was an Instacast guy through-and-through.

And then iOS 7 happened.

'Overcast: Coming Soon'

Marco Arment on his upcoming podcast app, Overcast

“Rather than try poorly, I’ve decided to dramatically simplify.

[...]

If you need tons of features or anything I’m choosing not to do, you’ll probably be happier with one of the others.”

My favorite thing about Marco is that he’ll “sacrifice” features to make a better app. Personally, I hope he leaves out all the extra cruft I never use, such as various playback speeds and a sleep timer.

I'm super excited for Overcast, although he says it'll likely be three or four months before it's released. It's going to be a long few months.

Talking About the Things We Love: An Interview with Myke Hurley

Talking About the Things We Love: An Interview with Myke Hurley

Introduction

As I've often discussed all over the internet, I am a huge fan of podcasts. I got my start listening to podcasts years ago when I discovered Diggnation and The Totally Rad Show, and from there I've followed a long, winding path as a listener to dozens of shows. Eventually, this path led me to the 70Decibels podcast network, which was headed up by none other than Sir Myke Hurley before it was acquired by the 5by5 network.

Some of my favorite shows are on this network: 512 Podcast, Bionic, CMD+SPACE, Enough, and Generational.

After listening to these shows for a while, I eventually came into contact with Myke himself via Twitter, and it turned out he was an awesome guy to crack jokes with. I’ve heard Myke conduct lots of interviews throughout his podcasting, but I thought it’d be fun to turn the tables a bit and interview him, and in my own way.

'19 Cute Kittens Fall Off A Cliff'

Over the weekend, Jordan Cooper invited me to be a guest on his Blenderhead podcast.

We discussed RSS readers, consumerism, the tech blogosphere's focus on CEOs, Instagram's popularity, my iPhone's home screen layout, the origin of the name 'Unretrofied' for this site, and I even got to gripe about my day job a little.

This was a lot of fun to record, so go check it out. And just so you know, the episode contains NSFW language so consider this your warning.

My First-Ever Podcast Appearance

A few weeks ago, Anže Tomić invited me to appear as a guest on his podcast. He lives in Slovenia and generally features guests from there on his Apparatus podcast, but has been wanting to get more English-speaking guests.

To that end, he has created a different show called Storming Mortal. The first guest was Myke Hurley, who appeared on the show last week, and I am now the second.

I'll be completely honest right now: I was initially hesitant to be on the show, for reasons (more like excuses) that will probably seem lame to anyone else:

  1. I am far more comfortable writing than I am speaking, mainly because it gives me time to compose my thoughts before I blabber on about something.
  2. I hate the sound of my own voice, and avoid listening to recordings of it.
  3. As with most experiences that are wholly new to me, I felt nervous about the whole thing. What if I say something stupid? What if I contradict myself from one sentence to the next? What if I start stuttering or talking too fast and stumbling over my words? Yadda yadda, my brain doesn't know when to shut up, etc etc.
  4. I thought my recording equipment (or lack thereof) would be insufficient. I don't own any mics outside of the one built into my earbuds.

After I told Anže all of this, he came back and basically said, "Dude. It's a 45-minute conversation about the stuff you do. Your earbud mic is fine. It really won't be that bad and I'm not taking 'no' for an answer :)"

I couldn't help but laugh, and agreed to do the podcast. We recorded it last week, and now it's live if you'd like to listen to it. It was surprisingly fun and somewhat helped me get over my "stage fright". Now I don't feel quite so nervous about any future podcasts I might take part in.

I'm reminded of this quote by Seth Godin:

“We’re so obsessed about the risk of shining brightly that we’ve traded in everything that matters to avoid it.”

Looking back, I feel sheepish for trying to turn down such a wonderful opportunity rather than embracing it. Anže was gracious enough to have me, and I nearly let my reticence get in the way of trying something fun and new. Shame on me, and I thank Anže for seeing past my BS.

Still, I personally won't be listening the episode; as I mentioned, I hate the sound of my own voice, and I was a part of the conversation anyway so I already know how it went. If you end up listening though, feel free to let me know if I said/did anything idiotic.

70Decibels Joins the 5by5 Network

Myke Hurley:

“As the network continues to grow, our ambitions grow with it. Our hosts put out shows that deserve a larger audience, and my dream of a career in podcasting is within reach. To get to the next level, we need help. We need a better infrastructure and even more great people to support the network we have created. That’s why I’m thrilled to announce that 70Decibels is going to be moving to the 5by5 Podcasting Network.”

Congratulations to Myke, Dan, and everyone else involved. I love many shows from both podcast networks, so this is pretty exciting.

John Roderick on Technology

I listen to podcasts a lot, maybe even a bit too much. In fact, I'm listening to the final episode of the B&B podcast literally as I type this, which means I'm typing very slowly now that my attention is divided. Instacast has a permanent home on my iPhone dock because I use it multiple times a day, as free time allows. And although I'm subscribed to many great shows, each with a number of entertaining episodes, I hardly ever add any episodes to my 'Favorites' list for later listening.

Just to be clear, this isn't due to a lack of enjoyment on my part, but rather because I don't typically feel the need to hear a podcast episode more than once. That's just how I am.

At the moment I have only five starred episodes in Instacast, from my entire history of podcast listening. The latest one was added yesterday: episode 028 of CMD+SPACE featuring John Roderick, who is well known both for being the singer of The Long Winters and being half of the eponymous Roderick on the Line podcast (a personal favorite of mine).

Just as I don't tend to 'favorite' many specific podcast episodes, I don't often feel compelled to talk about them here on Unretrofied. But this one is so worth sharing that I couldn't help myself. CMD+SPACE is mostly a tech-focused show, but Roderick is a person who has struggled with technology throughout his adult life. Despite this fact, or perhaps even because of it, he has led a truly fascinating, adventurous life and has so many great stories to tell.

I don't want to spoil the stories told in this episode because it's better to hear them yourself, but I will say that I found the 15:15-23:10 portion of the show to be a lot of food for thought. I hope I've made it clear that going on and on this much about it is as strong a recommendation as I can make, so please go check it out.