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Kava Preparation Thoughts on kava preparation

Discussion in 'Kava Lounge' started by kavadude, Feb 13, 2014.

  1. kavadude

    kavadude ❦ॐ tanuki tamer

    Kavadude's Thoughts on Kava Preparation:
    Since there is a lot of debate on what is the 'best' prep method I thought I would write up a short post explaining exactly what kava prep is actually accomplishing, and what the variables and different methods are so you can experiment for yourself. Scroll to the bottom for the short version.

    The kavalactones are part of a resin within the cell walls of the kava root. So the first question is how do you get those kavalactones inside your stomach. The most obvious method is just to consume the kava root, but this is problematic because it can cause unpleasant side effects and there is the potential that you are consuming too much of the hepatotoxic compound flavokawain B. That said, some people do it, and if you choose to do it it doesn't really matter how as long as you get it down.

    The traditional way of consuming kava as practiced in the Pacific Islands, and the way preferred by most members here, is to extract kava with water. Very important to note that kava is not a solution. It is not the same as if, say, you stir some salt into water. Those tasty resins are not soluble in water. This is why, in my opinion, soaking kava is pretty much pointless. It is actually an emulsion. In order to extract the kava, we must break down the cell walls of the plant and force the resin to mix with the water.

    The first step in this process is grinding the root. As a rule the finer the grind the more potent it is going to be but when it gets very fine it is difficult to keep a lot of sediment out of your drink, which can add potency but cause side effects. So when you buy kava you should consider how fine of a grind you are willing to drink.

    The second variable is how hot the water is. Studies have shown that using hot water aids the extraction of kavalactones. There have not been any studies done on boiling water but several forum members have done it and it's safe to say that it does not destroy the kavalactones, although it does make somehow taste worse which is impressive.

    The third is how you agitate the kava. You can blend it, knead it in a strainer, or put it in a ziploc bag and roll on it with a rolling pin. Blending may also have the effect of breaking down the rootstock and effectively making the grind finer. The length of this step matters. There is a point of diminishing returns but I'd say if you are only kneading for like, three minutes, you are leaving kavalactones on the table and nobody wants that.

    The fourth is the coarseness of the strainer you use. The coarser the strainer the more sediment you get but the more potent it is. Some are very fine (muslin bags), others are fairly coarse (fijian strainer bags).

    A lot of members find it effective to re-use kava as well, for a second wash or even more (in my experience, the drink becomes very thin, soupy and ineffective at the third wash).

    Finally, some find it helps to add fats or emulsifiers such as milk or soy lecithin to the water.

    In my opinion, the amount of water used is not so important as long as you use enough to effectively knead, roll, or blend the kava, and the less water you use the grittier the kava will be but the less you will have to drink. So it's more a matter of personal taste.

    To sum up, here are the things you can change to potentially get more mileage out of your kava, depending on how much sediment you are willing to tolerate and how much work you are willing to do:
    - Finer grinds
    - Higher water temperature
    - Different prep methods and more time on prep
    - Coarser strainer
    - Re-using strained root multiple times
    - Adding fats or emulsifiers

    There is a list of techniques at, feel free to add your own.

    Sources: The Pacific Elixir, my own experience

    Infraredz's Thoughts on Kava Preparation:
    • My method outlines in the Kavapedia is a very simple method to get you started. I recommend that you try the traditional method and other methods listed in the kavapedia. Once you have a "feel for it" you can personalize your own preparation.
    • Other strainers can be used. Some other choices that work well for others include: "Fijian Strainers", clean t-shirts or other fabric, cotton muslin bags and double or tripled-up paint strainers. The finer the strainer, the less sediment will end up in the resulting drink but it's widely accepted that sediment increases potency. However it also can cause negative side-effects (especially in the GI) so find the right amount for yourself.
    • Regarding blenders: I purchased a $25 blender over a year ago and have left used it almost every day for that amount of time with no issues. Further, I actually don't blend in 2 minute intervals, but rather two, 3-4 min intervals and have had no issues with overheating. Your mileage might vary.
    • Almost everyone agrees kava taste better chilled or cooled so putting your bowl/mug/cup in the fridge is usually what I do.
    • There's debate about water temperatures, and while boiling water (or hot water, sub-boiling pt) are better at extracting the kavalactones, this was meant to be a bare bones, simple prep for all the newbies who can be overwhelmed (also, kava prepared with hot water tastes worse).
    • Regarding hot water, it has been proven that hot water is a better at extracting kavalactones.
    • There's also debate about using emulsifiers since kavalactones aren't water soluble and therefore must be physically agitated into a suspension. In my experience, milk, soy lecithin, and other lipids haven't had a significant increase in potency and they add more viscosity to the resulting kava which can already be very thick and hard to stomach. I'd recommend not worrying about it in the beginning.
    • Traditional preparations, where you "massage" and "knead" the kava will be more potent, without a doubt. That being said, in my experience, you would only need [for example] 6 tbsp instead of 7 tbsp. This difference does add up over time, though.

    Infraredz: Boiling Water Does Not Destroy Kavalactones
    "About three years ago, a test (using HPLC) was done on boiling the kava beverage (~212F). Loss after a few minutes at that temperature was considered insignificant. Less than 5% of the kavalactones were lost."
    [The link is broken, but the quote was from the owner of]

    "This one's more about special lab equipment based extraction so I can't be sure it applies here, but the graph on page 190 (and following pages) shows that, in general, the percentage of extraction increases as temperature increases. Yangonin extraction is essentially 0% until you reach boiling point"
    [link seems broken to me, but you could try it:]

    More Evidence
    "Various authors have suggested that the two compounds isolated by Cuzent and Gobley, kavahine and methysticin, are the same and correspond to methysticin as it is known today (see figure 3.1). However, the percentage analysis of carbon (C), hydrogen (H), and oxygen (0) given by Cuzent (1861a) for kavahine 5.85% C, 5.64% H, and 28.51% 0) is closer to the composition of didromethysticin (65.21 % C, 5.84% H, 28.95 % 0) than to that of methysticin 5.69% C, 5.15% H, 29.17% 0, calculated in Lebot and Cabalion 1986). The melting point of kavahine, 120-130 C, is also nearer to that of dihyromethysticin (116-118 °C, Winzheimer 1908; 117-118 °C, Borsche and Bodenstein 1929; 118 °C, Joessang and Molho 1970) than to that of methysticin 132-135 °C, Sauer and Haensel 1967; 136-137 °C, Rasmussen et al. 1979; 139-140 °C, Borsche and Peitzsch 1929a; see also Duve 1981). The differences bserved between these figures would be easy to explain if Cuzent had actually obtained and analyzed pure syncrystals, but the 10 °C variation in the melting point of his kavahine indicates that the substance he analyzed was contaminated. Our best guess is that Cuzent's kavahine was a mixture of dihydromethysticin and methysticin."

    More regarding chemical structure and implications for storage:
    "According to Duve and Prasad (1983), there are trends in the deterioration of the major active constituents in both dry powdered root and basal stems. Storage of the samples in screw-capped glass bottles at room temperature resulted in 26, 33 and 55% degradation of the major constituents in the roots and 24, 50 and 48% degradation in basal stems after 22, 36 and 39 months of storage, respectively. Moisture and temperature are probably the major environmental factors affecting the deterioration of dry powdered plant material. Stability of the active constituents appeared to be dependent on the chemical structure, with dihydrokavain being the least stable and methysticin the most stable (Duve and Prasad, 1983). In addition, stability improves with increasing melting point and the degree of unsaturation.

    These findings suggest that more polar substances are likely to be stable at room temperature. In contrast, in non-polar molecules like dihydrokavain, the pyrone ring tends to open up to form more polar acidic components which would be readily stabilized by moisture from the storage environment. The identity of the degradation products have not been established but formation of a characteristic off-odor from the samples has been described (Duve and Prasad, 1983), which probably reflects formation of the corresponding acids from the active constituents. Further studies are, however, needed before firm recommendations can be made on storage conditions for powdered kava."

    Predicted boiling points of kavalactones:

    As far as I know, these are all predicted and have not actually been observed.

    Boiling points:

    Kavain: 432.64 °C at 760 mmHg
    Dihydrokavain: 413±45.0 °C at 760 mmHg
    Methysticin: 496.48 °C at 760 mmHg
    Dihydromethysticin: 476.1ºC at 760 mmHg
    Last edited by a moderator: May 21, 2014
    Kavakavaking, SiX, EQ and 6 others like this.
  2. Bula man!

    Bula man! Member

    can you further explain the rolling pin method. I've seen many people on the forum use this method and i would like to try it at some point.
  3. kavadude

    kavadude ❦ॐ tanuki tamer

    Take a gallon sized ziploc bag and add kava and water to it. You'll have to get a feel for the right amount of water as if you don't use the correct amount you'll just be pushing water or kava around instead of applying pressure to it.

    Seal it almost all the way, lay it down on a flat surface while holding the top (obv. not flat enough that the kava leaks out) and very carefully squeeze the air out of the bag with the rolling pin. Then seal it entirely, and go to town on it with the rolling pin for however long you want. Obviously, be careful that you don't rupture the bag. I've never had a bag burst on me but occasionally some moisture seems to get out somehow so I lay down paper towels before I do this. The nice thing about this method is that your hands don't get all wet and smelly.
  4. Bula man!

    Bula man! Member

    huh thats cool. Ill try that out sometime
  5. Kapmcrunk

    Kapmcrunk The Kaptain of Crunk KavaForums Founder

    Nice post!
  6. HeadHodge

    HeadHodge Kneads Kava

    Hey Kavadude,

    You should tag this as "Kava Preparation"

  7. HeadHodge

    HeadHodge Kneads Kava

    Just now saw this great thread. THANKS!!! (y)

    A "Rolling Pin" preparation exists in The Kavapedia under "Kava Preparation". It's a "public" document, meaning anyone can edit it. I think it would be great if you could edit that document and update with this great info. You can find the original document by going to the "Kava Wiki". I think it called "The Rolling Pin Method", or something like that.

  8. kavadude

    kavadude ❦ॐ tanuki tamer

    I did that already!
  9. HeadHodge

    HeadHodge Kneads Kava

    WOW Awesome. (y)
  10. HeadHodge

    HeadHodge Kneads Kava

    Just looked at it and I don't see any changes to it since I moved it to it's own wiki page. Maybe you made the changes to it before I moved it to it's new location.
  11. kavadude

    kavadude ❦ॐ tanuki tamer

    Isn't it pretty much the same info? I'm not sure what changes you are suggesting. But feel free to edit it yourself. That's what a wiki is for!
  12. HeadHodge

    HeadHodge Kneads Kava

    None. If you're happy with it, I am to. Just wanted to point out that I moved it and that maybe you edited an older out of date version.

    So No Worries, no further action needed.
  13. infraredz

    infraredz BULA!

    Is it cool if I add my thoughts to the original post (since that's all that shows up in the kavapedia)?

    Also, I think kavadude should put his name up there to claim credit for his thoughts! (y)
  14. kavadude

    kavadude ❦ॐ tanuki tamer

    Go for it.
  15. HeadHodge

    HeadHodge Kneads Kava


    Yes credit for the author is very important to me and in the next upgrade, of The Kavapedia, it will show the Creator of the Thread with a link back to the original document. Just haven't had time to do it yet...... (But it's coming)
  16. HeadHodge

    HeadHodge Kneads Kava

    Holy Crap infraredz,

    Do your fingers have huge biceps, or something, on them in order to type that much each day? :wideyed:
  17. infraredz

    infraredz BULA!

    I typed that all up a while back...

    And yeah, I probably type way too much each day and will probably get carpal tunnel soon... :jawdrop:
  18. HeadHodge

    HeadHodge Kneads Kava

  19. richard

    richard Member

    I am curious about volume of water. Take the point about it not actually being a solution but my physics is not great. If I use too little water will there be a point that the water cannot take on more kalvactones? I like a little water and strong brew but fear I am leaving K's in the root as the water cannot take on more?
  20. Zaphod

    Zaphod Kava Enthusiast

    My experience tells me this is true - I have kneaded a bag of kava for a long time to try and get my first wash as strong as possible, and yet I have never failed to get a second wash. Same with my aluball.