How to Make Strong Kava
This is a question I’ve asked quite often: how can I make my Kava stronger?
First, let’s think about what makes Kava into something our bodies can be affected by. If you don’t know, Kava is traditionally extracted into water or coconut water. There are many variations on this. But it makes sense to understand that the active component of Kava is Kavalactone. And, lactones dissolve in fats best and not water.
Traditional Water Extractions
So, why does tradition tell us to extract Kava into water? Well, part of the reason is because traditionally, Kava was first chewed by the female members of a family. They then spit the masticated Kava into a community bowl. So, it makes sense that since saliva is water-based that the drink made from this chewing would need to be water-based as well. I’m not saying this is the actual reason why traditional Kava drinks are extracted into water, but this sounds like a viable theory to me.
Another reason may be because liquids with fats in them may not be as easily consumed as liquids that are water-based. Kava Is made for gulping, so what sounds more enticing to you – gulping down a cup of water or trying to gulp down a cup of heavy cream? It’s also important to remember that making a drink from powdered Kava roots will thicken whatever liquid it’s extracted into by its very nature. Kava is a natural thickener, so if you are starting with a thick liquid, the final drink will likely be difficult to consume.
Knowing what we’re up against, what are our options?
Something With Fats In It
Well, luckily, lactone is about 10% of the total Kava material. So, what might make sense is to extract that into a mix of 90% water and 10% of whole milk, or something like 50% water and 50% of almond or soy milk. Either will help the extraction process out. Kava will extract into water, just not as effectively as into fats or oils. The problem is that oil and fats do not play well together. So the fat-containing liquid we choose should blend well with water. This blending effect is known as emulsifying. If we try to mix olive oil with water, they will quickly want to separate. But, if we mix milk with water it is a different story. This is because the facts in the milk are already emulsified.
Emulsified liquids make very efficient and potent extractors for your Kava powder.
So, one way of making strong Kava is to first pick a fat-containing liquid that you like to drink. Pure coconut milk and whole milk (or cream) contain the most fat, but neither are something everyone enjoys drinking. Also, it doesn’t take a super fatty liquid to extract most of the Kavalactones out of your Kava, so whole milk, coconut milk, and pure cream is a bit of overkill. Personally, I enjoy almond milk or soy milk equally. Even though their fat content is much less than something like whole milk or pure coconut milk, my homemade shells of Kava are plenty strong.
Having said that, some of my favorite Kava experiences were from drinks made with vanilla coconut water and Kava powder, and no milk whatsoever.
As a general rule, though, the lighter the fat-containing liquid you choose (like soy milk or almond milk), you may want to use a higher ratio of that to water. As mentioned earlier, I do a 50%-50% water-almond milk blend since soy and almond milk have much less fat than whole milk. If I use pure coconut milk, I only use about a 95% water and a 5% coconut milk blend. It’s not required that your fatty liquid blend well with your water, but it will make for a much more pleasant drink. That’s why milk of some kind if the perfect choice, whether it’s cow, soy, almond or coconut.
Next, many may have heard of additives during a Kava extraction. The most common additives is soy lecithin. Soy lecithin is a fatty material perfect for extracting lactones out of Kava. Soy lecithin also blends well with water, and not much is necessary to make an extraction stronger. It also has a very neutral flavor to it, and is not noticeable at all when blended into a Kava drink. This has been a choice for as long as I can remember, and it works well if you’re looking for an initial “punch” to be as strong as possible.
Something that is relatively new to the market is a products sold on Kava.com called “Kava Blender“. This product is organic and plant-based. It has a very mild flavor to it, it suspends in water, and seems to be quite effective at pulling lactones out during an extraction. I have tried the Kava Blender side-by-side with soy lecithin, and honestly, I don’t have a preference. The good thing about the Kava Blender is that it blends very well with water. It disperses quite evenly and, especially when using a blender, it is very easy to work with. Soy lecithin on the other hand almost requires the blender, because this fatty material, even when using granules, doesn’t always evenly disperse.
Add More Kava
Here’s something I don’t want to overlook. It’s perhaps the most effective way to make a strong Kava drink: Add more Kava!
The FDA tends to be very conservative with servings, especially when it comes to Kava. There is no known overdose with Kava. And, despite the media hype over the past decade, the world health organization has determined that Kava, when extracted by traditional methods into water, has absolutely no measurable link to liver damage.
What this means for you, is that you can try larger amount when extracting. Lactones do not take up a lot of room in your extracted liquid, so it is possible to double, triple, or quadruple the amounts of, powder you initially start with. You will be able to extract nearly double, triple or quadruple the amount of lactones into your drink if you wish. Well, this isn’t quite the case, but it is one very easy way to make a stronger Kava drink without the use of any additives.
Heat Your Kava
Some people have asked if they could heat up their Kava to make it extract better. This is delicate territory as Kavalactones start to break down at just 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Mind you, I said “start” to break down. It’s not like all of your Kavalactones will suddenly lose its effectiveness the moment it touches 140 degrees. What happens definitely takes some time. That time is about 4 hours or so.
So, this may sound like blasphemy to some, but personal experience and loads of recipes from customers who have made Kava brownies, hot Kava tea and other wondrous treats, all have heated Kava way beyond the 140 degree mark. And, 100% of those people have also said that they were able to enjoy the full effects of Kava. This has been confirmed by a series of tests that Kava.com ran on their Kava and their sterilizer. They heated Kava powder to a series of temperatures, 10 degrees at a time, up to 240 degrees Fahrenheit. What they found is that they could heat Kava powder almost indefinitely at 140 degrees without reducing the Kavalactone content, and about 30 minutes at 220 degrees. Wow!
So, although heating will eventually make your Kava less effective, you can experiment to your heart’s content. Be a mad scientist and play with your Kava! Try different things out. Make it a social event. Have fun and discover ways that work great for you, and makes a strong Kava drink that you can be proud of.
Add Stronger Kava
Okay, so this one might also seem obvious, but one of the most efficient ways to make a stronger Kava drink is to add stronger Kava to your Kava drink. Kona Kava Farm has two great products that are used just as much for making your Kava extractions have more “kick” as they are enjoyed on their own. These products are Kava Tincture Plus and Kavalactone Paste. [January 1, 2018 update: Kona Kava Farm now has Kava Tincture MAX 12% which is the strongest Kava product I’ve ever tested.]
Both can easily be added to your Kava extraction. Without question either will take it up a notch. But this is where I want to make something as clear as possible: KaAva isn’t necessarily meant to be the strongest possible punch in a single drink.
Kava is meant to be shared, to be enjoyed socially, to integrate into an evening of stories, conversation, music and fun. For me, I typically enjoy 3-4 shells of Kava in the course of an evening. And, the effects definitely “stack” on top of each other, as long as you gulp your Kava in the range of more than 1 per hour. At about 45 minutes, I’ll start on another shell, and it doesn’t take long to really start to feel the effects of Kava after that.
Kava headspace is definitely a unique and pleasant sensation, but driving isn’t always an option when that headspace kicks in. I’ve consumed Kava for nearly 20 years, and have tried every possible combination and form. But despite all of that, my favorite way to enjoy Kava, my favorite way to make strong Kava, is to simply consume more shells than one per hour over the course of an evening. It’s always been worth the sometimes bitter taste and the chalkiness.
So, what options are typically available? Let’s review:
- Extract into something oily or fatty (i.e. soy milk)
- Use a natural additive (such as Kava Blender or Soy Lecithin)
- Add more Kava (increase the amount of Kava you use)
- Heat Your Kava Up!
- Add something stronger (like Kava Tincture Plus or Kavalactone Paste)
Any of the above options are a good place to start. Since there are no hangovers, since it’s as safe as safe and be, I will typically consume 3-5 “shells” of Kava in an evening out. As previously mentioned, there is definitely a headspace that happens once one gets into their third, fourth, or even a fifth shell if the inspiration strikes. When consumed before the previous shell wears off, the effects can stack on top of each other, and things can get very interesting.
So, it’s not always about making as strong a drink as possible right off the bat. Kava likes you to relax, to take your time, to share with friends. So, Kava has made itself best enjoyed in gulps over the course of an evening, rather than doubling or tripling the amount of Kava you use in your efforts to make strong Kava for yourself or your friends. Maybe take the time to get to know Kava, to learn what its effects are, whether it’s a single shell, or several shells over the course of an evening. The Kava experience continues to surprise me in both the most subtle and the most obvious of ways. And, Kava has enriched my life and connected me with people and experiences that will last a lifetime. I hope you find the same.
Bottom line is to simply play, enjoy, and find the happiness that is within each shell of Kava!