Today’s post is brought to you by the wonderful gentleman who I happen to live with.  He is pretty much a genius, roasts his own coffee, makes better cocktails than any bar in any city, and knows a thing or two about every single topic known to man.  He was also pretty awesome, and included printable gift tags + recipe print-outs that we used last Christmas with our homemade gifts!

Take it away Mr. Gentleman:

So, the problem with most “homemade coffee liqueur” or “homemade kahlua” posts you see online is that almost all of them use instant coffee as the flavoring agent.  I’ve never quite understood this because, well, coffee is not terribly expensive, and the taste of brewed coffee beats the pants off instant, so why not just use brewed coffee to make coffee liqueur?

The problem, though, is that brewed coffee is too weak on its own to stand up to the potency of the liquors we’ll be using.  Therefore, the goal is finding some way to create a potent enough coffee potion to add lots of flavor and sweetness to the alcohol so that we can produce a coffee liqueur with a proper ABV (20% or so).  Using espresso doesn’t work because you’d need too much of it to produce the proper volume, and even then it wouldn’t have the right consistency.  Brewing extra-strong coffee doesn’t work for pretty much the same reasons.  The obvious solution is some kind of concentrated coffee syrup, which is what I finally decided to use!

But a big “BUT” here (and in the coffee world this is a big deal), we are literally destroying any origin-quality of the coffee.  Basically, we are burning coffee for a few hours to get it boiled down properly, so any of you fellow coffee snobs beware to not use your home-roasted single-origin beans for this project.  I use the wonderful Trader Joe’s “Joe” coffee.  It’s fresh, inexpensive ($5 for 14oz), and tastes great!

And FYI, Kahlua is rum-based.  I use a vodka/brandy base, which means technically this is NOT “Kahlua” and shouldn’t be labelled as such.  This is a “coffee liqueur”, as a “liqueur” is nothing more than a base spirit sweetened and flavored.

Okay, so here we go:

For a 750ml bottle, the basic recipe is as follows (details on each piece to follow!):

  • A fun bottle (try to re-use one you have emptied)
  • 12oz coffee syrup (instructions below)
    • 30oz fresh brewed coffee
    • 8oz (by weight) of dark brown sugar
  • 8oz vodka (not amazing quality. Something like Smirnoff works just fine)
  • 5oz brandy (this gives it some depth.  No need for the 10-year cognac here… maybe something along the lines of E&J XO, or Paul Masson VSOP, both around $12 a bottle.  Though I haven’t tried it, I’m sure you could forgo the brandy and use 13oz vodka instead)
  • 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract (try the wonderful homemade recipe here!), or a whole vanilla bean


And here’s the detail:

1.  Brew some coffee

    • We’ll be creating a 60% reduction of coffee + brown sugar, so brew accordingly.
    • For a 750ml bottle, we’ll need 12oz of coffee reduction, which means we’ll need 30oz of brewed coffee to start.
    • If you want 1L of liqueur, you’ll need 16oz syrup, so brew 40oz.
    • Remember, coffee should be brewed with two tablespoons of ground coffee per 6oz of COLD water.  For 30oz of brewed coffee, you’ll need 10 tablespoons of ground coffee.

2.  Brewed coffee + brown sugar

    • Some people might prefer this to be less sweet, so if that includes you… you know… don’t use as much :)
    • I use 8oz (by weight) of dark brown sugar per 30oz of brewed coffee.  I’m honestly not sure how much this is by volume… maybe something like a cup of packed brown sugar?  I really don’t know.  It should weigh the same as two sticks of butter. :)
    • Anyway, put the brown sugar in a pot, and pour the hot coffee over top.
    • If you want to add a pretty significant vanilla hint, feel free to add in one or two split (and fresh) vanilla beans.  I do this occasionally and it’s AMAZING!

3.  Reduce!

    • A 60% reduction should take right about 2 hours.
    • Try to use medium low heat… using a straight out boil will just make it taste burny.
    • You should be able to see steam, but no boiling action
    • The final product should be pretty darn syrupy.. enough the coat the back of a spoon
    • It will taste like, well, very-very strong, sweet coffee.  A little burny (but I warned you about losing all origin-quality!)
    • I usually pour the concentrate into a Pyrex to check the volume periodically.  Remember we’re aiming for 60% reduction, so 12oz from our original 30oz.

4.  Let it cool! Seriously.

    • Let it cool to room temperature… two hours or so.
    • Seriously.
    • Let it cool. Mixing hot stuff with alcohol is something you don’t want to do.
    • Seriously.

5.  Prepare the alcohol.

6.  Add the coffee and vanilla

    • Add the now-cooled (seriously I hope you let it cool) coffee syrup and vanilla extract (no vanilla extract if you added the whole beans during reduction)

7.  Let it mellow!

    • It’s incredibly tempting to taste this straight away… and I encourage you to do so.  But it gets better after a few days of rest.

8.  Enjoy!

    • I recommend keeping this refrigerated.  None of the ingredients require refrigeration, but it seems to keep better while chilled.  Not to mention it mixes better in a white russian if it’s chilled!
    • FYI, this is 21.2% ABV

This is super delicious straight-up, or in any of your favorite coffee-inspired cocktails.  Also try it with ice cream or any recipes!


In case you need some direction, here a few of my favorite coffee-flavored cocktails!

  • White Russian
    • 1.5oz Vodka (or vanilla vodka)
    • 1.0oz coffee liqueur
    • 0.5oz cream (heavy cream is best, but half&half is fine)
    • Build in an old fashioned glass with ice, float cream on top.
  • Mudslide
    • 2.0oz vodka
    • 1.0oz coffee liqueur
    • 1.0oz irish cream
    • Shake and strain into an ice-filled old-fashioned glass
  • Coffee Nudge (hot cocktail)
    • 0.5oz brandy
    • 0.5oz coffee liqueur
    • 0.5oz dark creme de cacoa
    • 5.0oz fresh brewed (warm) coffee
    • In a warm mug, pour coffee over other ingredients. Top with whipped cream.


If you would like, here is a .pdf with a handy recipe card to attach as well!  Click to download.  The pdf is a two-sided gift tag.  So, print one side (on cardstock works best), then flip it over and print the other side.

  • Directions for Cutting:
    • Cut off 1.25″ from the left and right sides
    • Cut off 0.5″ from the top and bottom (now you’ll have a sheet of paper that measures 6.0″ wide and 10″ tall)
    • Then cut horizontally every 2.5 inches.
    • You’ll have four double-sided tags, each measuring 6.0″ x 2.5″
    • Fold them in half, punch a hole in a corner with a hole punch, and tie them on the bottle with your fancy string or ribbon!

(couldn’t even wait to take a picture of a full bottle, it was that good!)

Thank you Mr. Gentleman for such an educational and awesome guest post!  Let me know in the comments if you would like more posts on coffee + alcohol!


Tagged with →  
Share →

9 Responses to Make: Homemade Coffee Liqueur (Kahlua) + Recipes and Printable

  1. Zuzanna says:

    This homemade Kahlua is fabulous! Thank you for recipe – it was (almost) esay and fun to do. My dad will be surprised to see it under the Christmas tree.

  2. Rosie says:

    I was so happy to finally find a recipe that used brewed coffee! 1 recipe I found called for glutten free vodka?! Thank you! I can’t wait to taste and share this creation :)

  3. Geeta says:

    This coffee liqueur is fantastic. I was able to adjust to my personal taste (stronger coffee flavor and less sweet). The directions are very detailed, easy to follow and amusing. Thanks! I look forward to reading your other recipes

  4. Beth says:

    Thanks so much! I’ve been looking hard for a proper recipe, and this is great. I used espresso (just used Eight O’Clock Colombian with espresso grind), and demerara sugar because I already had it. Otherwise, no changes (Skyy vodka, St. Remy VSOP), except I just did a half recipe because I’ve had so many duds with the other recipes online. I’m not sure yet whether it’s better than Kahlua, since it lost the initial blind taste test by a hair (after prolonged aging of about 5 minutes), but the consistency, color, and taste are all very good. (I judged it better, unblinded, but I confess my bias.) Congratulations!

  5. Cafe Cup says:

    It seems to be much better to use brewed than instant coffee to make coffee liquor. Good post.

  6. joan wolf says:

    This recipe is stelllar…I am making it continually because my friends keep drinking it…thanks for the information.


  7. Debra says:

    Got it brewing now. Like the real coffee, like the real vanilla, like the mix of alcohols.

  8. Mark says:

    Has anyone tried this with Rum? Would it be any better Mr. Gentleman?

  9. minnesotaAnn says:

    Want to thank you for your recipe, the details AND the printable PDF is wonderful !!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>