Bialetti Moka, the reliable little waiter

A joy of wild camping is doing without much of life’s clutter. However, a wilderness morning without fresh coffee seems as complete as a tent without its pegs.

The Italian Moka coffee maker is my travelling companion of choice – robust and available in just about every size imaginable.

I use a Moka for one and it is made from an indestructible aluminium design and weighs very little – perfectly suited to the rigours of an expedition to the rugged, wilderness islands on the horizon.

Frapa mocha lattecino

In Italy, ordering a cafe moka is not the same as ordering a mocha coffee in America’s cultural contribution that is Starbucks. They sound alike but do not taste alike – the former is a respected brand, a historical method and a practically designed utensil and the latter is the mixing of coffee and chocolate between salon appointments.


The Bialetti Moka Express logo is a very well turned out waiter, with one hand in the air, signaling he has received your order. Perhaps it is Senore Bialetti himself.

Thankfully Senore Bialetti designed the utensil as if specifically for packing into a sea kayak and, with no glass parts like some coffee makers, his sturdy aluminium creation is ‘ruggedised’ for expeditions – indeed, made from aluminium, it is almost indestructible.

Moka origin

The two-chambered moka pots have sat on Italian stovetops since the beginning of the last century, producing a small, strong, full-bodied coffee that is rich in aroma. Mokas were invented in 1930s Italy and are apropriately named after the Yemeni city of Mocha, a centre of coffee excellence for centuries close to where coffee is said to have been discovered.


A goatherd called Kaldi from the nearby highlands of Ethiopia is credited for the discovery of coffee – it is said he discovered the bean when noticing his goats, after eating berries from a certain bush, became spirited and, at sunset, cared little for sleep.


Kaldi reported his observations to the abbot of the local monastery who made a drink with the beans and discovered he stayed alert for the long hours of evening prayer.

Soon the knowledge of the energizing effects of the berries began to spread. As word reached the Arabian Peninsula, Arab trade routes spread coffee’s reputation across the globe.

Coffee protest

We once hosted an Italian from Milan called Arturo on a wilderness kayak tour whereupon he was given a filtered French press coffee at breakfast and, thinking nobody was watching, he poured it into the sand without saying a word.

Bigger is better

He later explained I had made him an ‘Americano’ and that ‘Americans do with coffee as they do with everything else – dilute it to make it bigger’.

After the expedition he kindly sent me my Bialetti Moka Express and I have used it ever since. Especially so when there are Italians around.

Moka process

Water is heated in a lower chamber. As the water comes to the boil vapour pressure approaching two atmospheres pushes the water up through ground coffee in a filter, which collects in the upper chamber as liquid coffee.

It’s really that simple, but it does take some practice – a careful eye, the right grind (never too coarse), a low flame, and removal from the heat as soon as it has percolated through — if one is distracted, it is easy to forget the Moka and its handle may melt in the heat of the fire.

Height 16cm, width 9.5cm.

Read other methods of making fresh wild camp coffee here.

*The term fresh is relative. On the high-street, at supermarkets and in city restaurants fresh fish really means days old so, when patiently waiting for your number to be called at the fish-counter, be ready to ask where your fish is from and how many days ago it was likely caught. Supermarkets invent terms to suit their needs and, as a discerning consumer, it really is your right to challenge nonsense. At Octane we have therefore made a new, differentiated and entirely transparent definition – Ocean-fresh. Simply put, it means caught and eaten same-day.

See ocean fresh calimari caught, cooked and served in under an hour

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s