Thursday, September 2, 2010

How to Make Kava From Dried Root

I've been meaning to write up an illustrated piece on how I make Kava. It's a question I get a lot, and I think both first-timers as well as other Kavasseurs could benefit from seeing how I make it. It would be great to hear suggestions, advice, or any other tips you can offer related to how you make Kava.

Step 1 - Select Your Kava

Do you want weekend grade? Weekday grade? Weekday-with-nothing-too-important-the-next-day grade?

Step 2 - Collect your gear.

You will need two large bowls that can hold around 6 cups of water. You will also need soy lecithin. Next retrieve a large spoon, a ladle, and a measuring cup. It is good to have two sieves - a large sieve to squeeze the Kava, and a smaller finer sieve to strain the Kava after it is squeezed. At the end of this post, I have added a link to Kule Kava Farm's smaller sieves, which are absolutely perfect for the final strain.

Step 3 - Heat the water and add soy lecithin.

Once you have everything together, heat two cups of water until they are warm. Pour the warm water into one of the glass bowls and stir in the soy lecithin.

Step 4 - Add additional water and Kava.

Add two more cups of water to the initial two cups of warm water and soy lecithin, so that you have four cups of water with soy lecithin. Next, add ONE cup of Kava - compacted - to the water. If you want more Kava than this, double up your order (two cups of Kava to eight cups of water). If you want a stronger Kava, use less water - though I don't normally like to drink Kava that is too thick.

Step 5 - Let your Kava sit.

Just let your Kava sit in the room temperature water for about thirty minutes. The finer the Kava is ground, the less you need to wait. However, it is always a good idea to let it sit for thirty minutes.

Step 6 - Squeeze your Kava.

This is the most important step, and one that makes or breaks the final product. Drape your larger sieve over the edges of your second glass bowl and pour half (if one cup of Kava/four cups of water) of the Kava into the sieve. Let the Kava move to the bottom of the sieve and squeeze it for about six minutes, dunking it in and out of the water and finally squeezing it into the root is fully dry. Take out the squeeze-dried Kava and pour in the second half of the bowl, repeating the same process. You can put all of the dried Kava aside and start the whole process over, creating a second, much weaker batch.

Step 7 - Final strain.

Once you are satisfied with the consistency of the Kava you have squeezed, pour it into the second bowl that is covered with a smaller, finer sieve. Gently squeeze whatever Kava is in the bottom out, being careful not to let the bigger pieces of Kava through.

Step 8 - Add ice (if desired) and serve.

This is how I make my Kava. No blender, just strength. I used to use less water, but realized that Kava tastes much better when it is more diluted. I like to be able to drink four or five shells. It would be interesting to hear other suggestions for brewing Kava. Bula!


  1. This is a great kava making instructon. I have a few questions and comments for my fellow kava drinkers out there. First, I never tried adding lecithin to my kava and I've always made a strong batch. Does anybody have an idea of how much stronger it makes it? and if its worth getting? Also, I like to keep my kava very sandy and dont do the final strain because alot of the good kavalactones are kept in that sand. So when I pour a shell I stir it up then pour and wait a minute for the sand to sink. Then I drink the shell until I hit the sand and then pour that back in to the pitcher, and mix again. By the end of the pitcher its left with a thick sandy mess. I dont throw this out, I take the second strain made from the already pressed root and add it to the thick sandyness left from the first batch. This makes the second batch alot stronger. This is just what I started doing about a year ago and thought Id share. I know alot of people dont like their kava too sandy. I also use cold water instead of warm. Does warm water help to pull more out of the kava? thanks for reading. Bula!

  2. I was reading that hot water kills the kavalactones. It might be true because I made a batch and didn't let the lecithin water cool all the way, and it was week. I must mention though, that it was the Tongan kava so I didn't expect it to be a trip. Anyway, i'll try it again and see how it goes. Thanks for the recipe!

  3. Just to clarify, I don't use hot water - I use room temperature/warm water. I heat the first two cups and add the soy lecithin (the lecithin seems to mix better with warm water), and then I add two cups of normal temp water to make the water room temperature. By the time I add the Kava, the water is room temp. Yes, heat can kill kavalactones.

  4. questions...
    Does warm water kill the kavalactones or does hot water kill them or just any warmth in general?

    How many bowls (not shells) of Kava do you make on the weekend? many bowls would one make on a weekday (assuming they have work in the morning)?

  5. how much soy lecithin do you normally use?

  6. I looked at several recipes for making traditional kava online, and most of them recommended 1 tablespoon per 1.5 cups of water...your recipe recommends a lot more tablespoons per cup...any reason why? Is it just so that it will be stronger?

  7. I've drank a LOT of kava over the years, experimented with the traditional methods, dosages, etc.

    I find myself coming back to simplicity: I typically put 3 tablespoons in a blender with ~2 cups water and a tablespoon of liquid lecithin. Blend for 5 minutes, do not strain, and drink. Much easier than the whole straining/squeezing thing and works great....

    I also often just mix in 3 tbsp into a glass of water and chug. Easy. Works just as well as your more complicated method, and uses less Kava. (Though you do have to be able to drink a chunky mix. It's not for wimps.) I often have another heaping tablespoon in a half glass of water about an hour or two later. Nice strong effect, and doesn't require a cup of kava powder!

    BTW, I buy mine from Fiji Emporium in Portland, Oregon. I've drank so much kava from different sources over the years, and not only is this some of the best/strongest waka I've encountered, it's just $20/pound (no, I don't work for them, just a really happy customer). Look 'em up online.

  8. Good instructions! I use a blender to blend after the first strain, but i know you prefer not to use a blender :D. Also I use room temperature water, but I put hot water in the measurement cup and add my soy lecithin in there, wait about 5 minutes, stir it up till its all mixed in, then pour it in the batch. Ive had good results doing this!

  9. Hi,

    Thanks for the recipe - I personally don't like the taste of kava so usually try and make a palatable blend.. this is the best I've tried so far..

    2 pints whole milk
    2 bananas
    2 heaped teaspoons of ground ginger
    1 1/2 cups Black Sand from k@h
    2 tablespoons of sugar
    a few ice cubes

    I blended that continuously for 5 mins and found it actually pretty nice, didn't bother to strain it.. if anything it was a little too strong, could probably be diluted further with extra pint of water after the initial blend to give a reasonable batch for weekend evening :)

  10. Wow. Isn't that really gritty and chunky? I can't imagine drinking unstrained Kava root.

  11. I used to drink kava, years ago. I recently started
    back up, and have been very much enjoying it once
    again. I've mostly been drinking Malekula Magic.

    I've been making my kava with just plain water,
    no lecithin. After reading Le Kavasseur's kava-making instructions, I decided to try using
    lecithin. I used about 1.5 teaspoons of granules
    per 4 cups water.

    YIKES. At the soak-and-squeeze stage, it foams
    up like crazy! And, it changes the taste from
    an agreeable piney/spicy flavor to a grassy
    flavor and texture I don't like. I can't say
    that it changed the strength of the brew terribly
    much, either.

    Am I missing something? This doesn't seem to
    enhance the brew, but rather makes it less
    enjoyable. I guess I'll stick to the tried
    and true traditional method. Hmmm. Now that
    I mention it...... :)

  12. "Wow. Isn't that really gritty and chunky? I can't imagine drinking unstrained Kava root."

    Yes, it is pretty gritty with this preparation.. I've got another batch of root coming this weekend so going to try your more traditional method next time - also I think the bananas I add to my Kavashake probably goes against the ethos of drinking on an empty stomach.

  13. I mixed up some "WOW" last night and use the liquid form of lecithin. It takes away some of the bitterness of the Kava and doesnt effect the strength at all. It almost gives the Kava an almondy sweet taste. Very smooth!!!

    I do mix mine with completely cold water...not tap water..its filtered ice cold from my fridge.


  14. I am a newbie to Kava and it's preparation. I am confused with most sellers of Kava powder stating 2 tablespoons per 8-16 oz of water but am reading in this blog alot of users using 1-1/2 CUPS. I just spent about 70.00 for Paradise Hawaiian Kava which is ALOT for me and using this much Kava seems like it would only last a few servings. What am I missing? are people spending that much money to drink Kava?

  15. 3 topped tablespoons. 1 cup boiling water and 1 cup cold water combined to 2 cups of very lukewarm (!) water. Strainerbag. Knead away for 10 minutes at least. The kneading,to me at least, makes the kava experience more mindfull. Not so much a quick fix, as something to be enjoyed in itself.

  16. Kavalactones break down in temps at or exceeding 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Just an FYI. If you use hot water make sure it's not too hot.

  17. OK Folks,
    I have been doing it with 1/4 cup of kava powder (from Fiji) and 2 cups of water plus 1 cup of soymilk (hoping the kavalactones would bind to the fats in the soymilk), blend it for 2-4 minutes, then pour it inside a tight mesh nylon bag and squeeze gently until all the liquid is out and is left in the bag is solids.

    But tonight I finally made it to the store that sells soy lecithin in granules.

    So I made 1/2 cup of the same kava, 1 and 1/2 TBSP of lecithin, 2 cups of water, blend for 4 minutes, then gently drain through same nylon bag, then bag in 1/2 cup cold water and massage in separate container to squeeze out more goodness, add 1/2 cup to main container, repeat step with new fresh water, massage, squeeze, drain.
    The resulting 3 cups of juice were the bomb - I am feeling almost... stoned, totally relaxed, at peace with the world.

    So I would say, the lecithin does make a difference, and how!

    I noticed that with the lecithin the solids tended to stay in suspension rather than dropping to the bottom and forming a layer of sludge of microparticles like they did without the lecithin.

    So I would say, take the trip to the health store and get some of that soy lecithin goodness.

    What I would do different next time is maybe use more water, the kava juice was probably too concentrated at 1/2 cup powder (2 oz) to 3 cups of water. The last gulps were a bit hard to swallow.

    But hey, totally worth it.

    Thank you, Douglas, for this blog, great resource, well done.

    Ale from Oahu.

  18. I find it easiest to blend with half milk half water, then add a little vegetable oil in the blender, then blend for 2 minutes. Afterwards you need to knead it manually, because what you want is small particles of kava in the mixture, straining it out makes it less potent. It mixes pretty well with maeng da kratom, the two complement each other well.

  19. I have a quick method also. I just blend for 3-4 minutes with a half cup coconut milk (5 grams fat per 8 ounces) and then "nuke" it for 30 seconds. My friend and I have found this works the best and really helps stretch out your kava supply. Straining really leaves some good kavalactones behind, imo. I usually just do 1 tablespoon because it's so strong. He does two tablespoons and often ends up completely knocked off his feet. I just tried Wow kava a few moments ago. We'll see. Our go to Kava is from an herbal supply company. Probably not the best quality but it really works and they grind into a very fine powder which seems key.

  20. I found one sorta scientific study, claiming increased extraction of kavalactones:
    "heating the water used to prepare the beverage to 45 C, agitating in a blender for 60 seconds per blending cycle, and splitting the volume of water used into three cycles results in over 40% of kavalactones recovered in the beverage."

    "Splitting the volume of water" meant doing 3 separate brewings with fresh water, then combining the 3 after brewing.

    The article doesn't mention lecithin.

  21. Ooops. Forgot to paste in the URL for the article on kava culture & beverage extraction:

  22. New to kava, but really glad of all the good tips here. Can you make a big batch and save it, or do you need to drink it all the same night you make it? If you keep it once it's made, do you refrigerate?