Estimating alcohol content of traditional brew in Western Kenya using culturally relevant methods: the case for cost over volume

AIDS Behav. 2010 Aug;14(4):836-44. doi: 10.1007/s10461-008-9492-z. Epub 2008 Nov 18.


Traditional homemade brew is believed to represent the highest proportion of alcohol use in sub-Saharan Africa. In Eldoret, Kenya, two types of brew are common: chang'aa, spirits, and busaa, maize beer. Local residents refer to the amount of brew consumed by the amount of money spent, suggesting a culturally relevant estimation method. The purposes of this study were to analyze ethanol content of chang'aa and busaa; and to compare two methods of alcohol estimation: use by cost, and use by volume, the latter the current international standard. Laboratory results showed mean ethanol content was 34% (SD = 14%) for chang'aa and 4% (SD = 1%) for busaa. Standard drink unit equivalents for chang'aa and busaa, respectively, were 2 and 1.3 (US) and 3.5 and 2.3 (Great Britain). Using a computational approach, both methods demonstrated comparable results. We conclude that cost estimation of alcohol content is more culturally relevant and does not differ in accuracy from the international standard.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology
  • Alcoholic Beverages / analysis*
  • Alcoholic Beverages / economics*
  • Alcoholic Beverages / standards
  • Costs and Cost Analysis / economics
  • Culture
  • Ethanol / analysis*
  • Ethanol / standards
  • Humans
  • International System of Units / standards*
  • Kenya / epidemiology


  • Ethanol