Homemade Coffee Liqueur (Copycat Kahlua)

One of the easiest homemade liqueurs is a version of the well known Kahlua. Simply mix some dried coffee with vodka, sugar, and vanilla and wait a couple of weeks and voila…you’ve made Homemade Coffee Liqueur!

Homemade Coffee Liqueur Served as a Chilled Shot

I first posted about Homemade Coffee Liqueur (Kahlua) almost ten years ago…and it showed. My youngest daughter worked at Nordstrom’s in their Visual Merchandising department; she was one of the elves that worked behind the scenes for weeks in preparation for the big reveal of all things Christmas which happens the day after Thanksgiving.

She was my helper bee and when I did this post she was not around and I had sort of counted on her. Heck I need a Santa type elf for all of the cocktail photos I wanted to publish; I need to get on that! Nonetheless, I made it again recently, I got some new snaps and I decided to publish again…it’s been a decade and it was lost in the archives!

Lauren has moved on from that job and even moved on from Denver and is living in San Jose, CA and loving it. I will say that for this single mom though that having one girl on the east coast and another on the west coast was not what I expected during all those years of raising them! I’m so grateful for my wonderful young neighbors and the family units we’ve built…I even have a part time dog!

So I decided that I best get this brew going stat; I want to give a couple of those families a bottle for Valentine’s Day; something really from the heart. If you’ve never made your own liqueurs before, they are so easy; for the most part it’s a blend of sugar, vodka, and flavoring.

I’ve made Limoncello and it’s the most time consuming because it consists of lemon rinds for the flavor; fun to make but not nearly as easy as my other favorites, including this coffee liqueur. The hardest part of this recipe is the wait!

Homemade Coffee Liqueur Packaged in a Bottle for Storing

There are a variety of methods I’ve seen for making home brewed Kahlua coffee liqueur. The primary difference in methods is using either coffee grounds in the brew or instant coffee. I’ve done both and personally prefer going the instant coffee route.

The one year I tried using coffee grounds there was no way to remove every bit of them; even pouring it through cheesecloth didn’t completely work and I hated to see the loss of the heavenly elixir that was soaked up by the fabric.

One thing I do that is not in most recipes it to cook down the sugars and water to get a bit of a syrupy consistency before adding the vodka. Is it totally necessary? Not really; just my personal preference and makes it more reminiscent of the real deal.

I’ve found that my favorite concoction includes some of my own revisions. For this Homemade Coffee Liqueur (Copycat Kahlua) I used dried espresso instead of instant coffee; I just think it’s a bit richer as a result. And beyond the standard water, sugars and vodka I add just a touch of chocolate liqueur to the mix.

Homemade Coffee Liqueur Served as Kahlua and Cream

It’s optional and not something you should run out and buy though, I have the luxury of making my own chocolate liqueur too so I always have some on hand.

I often use espresso in a chocolate recipe because they are so compatible with each other so I’ve just done ‘opposite day’ and added a bit of chocolate to this espresso based liqueur. There is some vanilla bean too but those suckers are SO pricey; I’ll forgive you if you decide to forego that ingredient too.

My additions are subtle but I think it makes for a richer, more delicious product and I simply love this Homemade Coffee Liqueur!

By the way; I don’t recommend that you use either Everclear or your best vodka for this; I don’t care what the ‘experts’ say. Everclear is often recommended but it’s grain alcohol that has such a high proof that many liquor stores won’t even carry it; just look for a bottle of 100 proof vodka; I typically use Smirnoff 100 Proof.

Using great sipping vodka is also not required; save that for your favorite cocktails. Once you mix the vodka with sugars and coffee and let it age a bit; the vodka will mellow out. I usually ask a liquor store for a recommendation if they don’t have the Smirnoff 100 Proof available and spend around $15 for a 750 ML bottle.

I do love making liqueurs and have several more favorites we love; hope you enjoy them too.

My Favorite Homemade Liqueurs!

I love making homemade liqueurs; they're easy and so rewarding. Great gift ideas too!

PIN IT! ‘Homemade Coffee Liqueur (Copycat Kahlua)’

Homemade Coffee Liqueur Served in a Liqueur Glass

Homemade Coffee Liqueur Bottled in a Flip Top

Yield: 20 Servings

Homemade Coffee Liqueur

Homemade Coffee Liqueur Served as a Chilled Shot

I think better even than Kahlua...make your own coffee liqueur using vodka, dried espresso, vanilla, and chocolate liqueur.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Additional Time 28 days
Total Time 28 days 1 hour 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 4 cups water
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1/4 cup dried espresso
  • 3 cups vodka
  • 2 vanilla beans, split
  • 2 shots of chocolate liqueur

Instructions

  1. Combine the water, both sugars and dried espresso in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.
  2. Bring to a boil; turn the heat to low and simmer for a minimum of 1 hour.to reduce the mixture and make a more syrupy consistency.
  3. Watch constantly and stir occasionally.
  4. Remove from heat and let cool.
  5. Add vodka, vanilla beans and chocolate liqueur.
  6. Pour everything into a storage container.
  7. Age for 3-4 weeks in a cool, dark location; stirring once or twice a week. (Note...it's absolutely drinkable earlier; so if you have less time to age it than that; gift it and make a note on the gift tag to wait just a bit).
  8. When ready to bottle, remove vanilla beans, bottle mixture and store.

Notes

I cut up the vanilla beans and add them to some sugar...nothing at all wrong with Kahlua flavored sugar in your coffee!

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

20

Serving Size:

2 oz

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 237Unsaturated Fat: 0gSodium: 8mgCarbohydrates: 40gSugar: 39g

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183 Comments

    1. I don’t have a specific time frame but I know I’ve had mine for up to a year. The alcohol serves as a preservative and I’ve never had any go bad on me.

  1. How would you compare the sweetness of your homemade version with that of Kahlua?

    Kahlua swings a bit too far out there on the sweet side for my palate.

    1. I think they’re probably very similar Eddy but the beauty of making your own? You can modify it! Start with less sugar and only add more after it’s done if you find it necessary. I’m guessing here but I would say use 3/4’s of the recipe. If it’s not sweet enough then add a bit more at a time until you get the desired sweetness.

      The sugar has nothing to do with the product being shelf stable so changing it won’t affect quality at all.

    2. Well, I always say you should make a recipe the way it’s written the first time, THEN make your adjustments afterwards. I’ll do it that way.

  2. I prefer it with rum. However, I have friends that prefer it with Vodka. I’ve been using your recipe for a few years now. At first I only used the vanilla beans, I now often use vanilla extract. I give it as Christmas gifts. It has gotten so popular that I end up making about 6+ gallons a year. The vanilla extract option was for expediency at first, now it is my go to. I’ve made the Kahlua with rum, vodka and brandy. I have some friends that like it with brandy for their morning coffee. LOVE this recipe!

    1. I’ve never tried it with rum but have seen it used…maybe for my next batch I will; I know it would be good! Love that you are a devoted user…thanks a bunch for touching base…Barb

  3. Mine seems to be too thin…what can I do after now to thicken it…
    I have already added the alcohol and vanilla and aged it 3 weeks.
    But pretty thin.

    1. It is thinner than commercial products but the flavor is what counts. I haven’t tried it because I didn’t think there was a need for it but I’ve thought that if someone wanted this to be thicker they could boil down the sugar and water to get a thicker syrup before it’s added to the other ingredients. It’s just a step that I have never taken so I don’t include that option because I’ve never tested the results.

      1. My recipe (from my mother) is 9 cups water, 9 cups bakers sugar (it dissolves easier) and 4 oz Kava instant coffee (because it is deacidified), 2 oz pure vanilla extract and 750 ml of 80 proof vodka. I love the way it tastes (don’t like flavor in the version that uses rum instead of vodka). You bring the water, sugar and coffee to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes, let cool completely and add the vanilla and vodka, then bottle I usually start drinking it right away I do not let it sit for anytime at all. But I’ve been trying to find out the proof of the final product and so far no luck with that. Any ideas what it might be?

        1. You are asking the proof of the alcohol content right? So would it not be 80 proof as is the vodka you used?

    2. I made this and it is absolutely awesome. I was going to share, but to yummy. Going tomake a double batch.
      Thank you sooooo much

  4. Hello!

    Thank you for this recipe. I look forward to making it. I’ve read through the comments and your responses and didn’t see this question, but I apologize if I’ve overlooked it!

    I’m trying to sort out what I’ll need to make enough for 18 gifts. I saw that your recipe had a yield of 8, but I wasn’t sure what that 8 represents (servings, bottles, etc.) or the volume of bottles I should buy, especially if I let the water and sugar reduce. Have you doubled/increased your recipe before? If so, did it still turn out well?

    Thank you again for the recipe!
    Laura

    1. You can increase it 2 or more times, no problem. That serving business is way off…I’ll have to fix that when im back in the office…thanks for the heads up!

  5. Hello again!

    I’ve made my coffee liqueur and it is ageing quite nicely. The only question is how thick should it be? I poured a.50 ml serving and it just seems too thick and sweet. By the tablespoon it’s fine, and I poured some into my eggnog and that was yummy! What should I do to thin it out? If I add vodka, that sets me back in the ageing, yes?

    1. You can either thin a bit with vodka or water…remember unless you’re consuming it all immediately, the liqueur will continue to age so unless you’re putting in another whole bottle, I don’t think adding a little vodka would hurt. Also remember that Kahlua is sweet and thick too…knowing it will be typically mixed with something else, just take caution to not thin it too much.

      1. I think this is my last question, and again I really appreciate how responsive you’ve been!! I actually made two batches, one from the Costco vodka (80 proof) and the only 100 proof vodka I found was Potter’s. This is a low priced vodka ($17 for 1.75 l) which has “4 stage ultra filtration”, and I’d say it’s been ageing since about 12/2. I can definitely taste a difference – Costco is smoother and I believe the taste has improved. Potter’s definitely has a bite to it – maybe it’s improved? I tried mixing a tiny bit of each and that did not help. It’s not awful, although mixed with milk was actually pretty good. I know you said most don’t drink it solo, so do you think I’m okay to give this?

        1. Yes. Part of what the time spent does is mellow that vodka. The 100 proof, if given enough time, will also extract more flavor from the elements that are included. I usually buy an inexpensive brand like Smirnoff that’s probably about the same as the Potter’s and I’ve never had complaints.

          See why I don’t use Everclear? It’s awful if you ask me; actually BURNS. No thanks!

          I would tell the recipients to leave it alone for two weeks if you’re giving it now; that month matters…even longer is fine too.

          I don’t mind the questions; glad to help!

  6. Hi!
    I am about to attempt this recipe tomorrow and was wondering how I go about bottling prior to the three weeks. I need to give these out next weekend as gifts and I see that you mentioned you can bottle prior an just make note of the date to open. But do I leave the vanilla beans and any sediment in the individual bottles or would I strain them out first?

    1. If you separate out all of the good things that the vodka is extracting from for flavor that soon, I fear it will not have the hoped for result. I would normally give some leeway but a full three weeks short? I think you need to bottle with instructions to strain when the time is right.

  7. Do you have any suggestions on amounts of vanilla extract for this recipe? I’m making this in bulk and buying whole vanilla bean pods for what I’m making isn’t rationale for me. Or what if I did 1 pod and some amount of extract? Any suggestions you have on amounts would be greatly appreciated!

    1. You can substitute One tablespoon of vanilla extract for each vanilla bean Erin without a problem. Enjoy!

      1. Arrrggghhhh I’ve made this using the beans which are pricey. Is the flavour really the same if I use 1tbs extract instead? That would certainly reduce the cost?

        1. I prefer the vanilla bean Liz but the question was what to use and yes, you can use it. It might not be as potent but it’s to accentuate the flavor so should be fine. I’ve never made it using anything but vanilla beans but I did some research and saw the extract suggested so thought it a good one to mention.

        2. Ok, because I can buy the beans , I’ll use them but thanks for sharing the alternative. Making some tonight

        3. I did find two organic vanilla beans for five dollars at sprouts. I don’t know if that store is in your area or not but if so there’s a good option for less expensive beans.

      2. Thank you! I really appreciate your quick responses! I am not what anyone would call a fine cook, so I want to be sure I’m understanding terminology correctly. When you say a vanilla bean, you’re referring to the entire pod, as opposed to one bean from within, correct?

        Thank you, again, and I can’t wait to try this!

        1. Yes Erin, exactly. And the directions indicate ‘split’ which means you do want to split them open lengthwise to release those little beans inside. The pod stays in too since there is flavor it in and it’s removed at the end. Also thanks for the info on Sprouts beans. I’m know they’re not everywhere but I have one close by…it’s my favorite store!

        2. I’m making my first large batch tonight. Do you think you reduce the syrup to half of the original volume? Two thirds?

          Thank you! I’m so excited to try this!

          OH! I’ll need to give several people their bottles early. I know you said above to give it to them but advise them to wait. So does that mean I should strain everything right before I give it to them or should I let everything continue to “brew”?

          Thanks again,
          Erin

        3. Erin…so sorry for my late reply; I’ve been offline all day trying to get my home decorated for the holidays. And I would say about half volume; you’ll know it’s good to go when it coats the back of a spoon like syrup would. Hope this isn’t too late to help!

          Oh and if giving as gifts I would definitely strain it first otherwise they would have to…no one wants work with their Christmas gift. 🙂

        4. Thank you! That’s about what I figured. I thought it might need to be fairly strong since the alcohol would thin it out.

          Using one of your previous posts, it sounds like you get about 2 x 750 ml bottles. So if I want 20% ABV, like Kahlua, I need 40% of 100 proof vodka and 60% coffee syrup. Reducing it to about half was prefect, not only in terms of amount, but a good, strong taste.

          I tripled the batch to make 9 x 500 ml bottles and I have it all in big bowls in my fridge. My hubby went to a local wine making store and brought me a case of flip top bottles – no shipping charges!

          I really appreciate all of your hand holding, and I can’t wait to try this in a couple of weeks!!

          I hope you have a wonderful holiday season, and I’ll think a thought for you as I sip my liqueur!

        5. Your friends will love you. One thing I insist on with mine? The bottles MUST be returned if they expect refills next year. 🙂

  8. Can you give me an approximate volume amount you should have after simmering? I tasted my reduction and the coffee flavor was not as strong as I thought it would be. Can you add more coffee at that point?
    thanks!

    1. Shoot I wish I could but I haven’t made it in a bit. But for me the rule is YOUR taste…if you think it needs more add some. You could probably even do that if you’ve started the process; just dissolve some more powder in hot water and add it to the mixture. I have never done that but this is really a simple process and should work fine. Good luck…and let me know!

    1. You can serve it straight up in cordial glasses or over ice in a lowball glass. I also like to add a touch of half and half to it and maybe even some vodka. Sort of a White Russian but with chocolate liqueur instead of Kahlua. Hope that helps!

      1. I get most of my bottles online because I find a larger selection than locally. I’ve found some at World Market occasionally but it’s been awhile so I can’t recall if any were with corks or not. The last couple of years if I need bottles I go to http://www.specialtybottle.com/ – hope that helps!

    1. I am making tonight with Rum, since Kahlua is made from Rum! I am a Vodka drinker, however, and use 100’ for other Liquor recipes. Made Mandarin Orange, and left the zest peals in for a few weeks. Then, sliced them thin, and cooked in Sugar Syrup, and dried and coated with sugar. It’s a super easy melt in your mouth candy! Two for one!

    1. No, I use a dried/instant espresso called Medaglia D’Oro (I can get it from my regular grocer and think Whole Foods carries it too) – here’s a photo: http://www.ebay.com/itm/like/160935707748?lpid=82

      In a pinch you can use regular instant coffee but just add a bit more. I’ve heard some folks use ground espresso but I have not so hesitate to say yes because without testing I wouldn’t be certain of the quantity required.

  9. I am making gifts for folks this Christmas one of which is herbed vinegar. Living in Florida, autumn and winter are our prime growing season. The thing is that I bought a ton of white wine vinegar and I don’t want to put the herbed vinegar back into the bottles. Several years back, my brother and his wife gave me a bottle of coffee liquor that was to die for, so I decided to use my wine vinegar bottles for coffee liquor. I just want to say that I visited several blog sites until I settled on your recipe. I’ve already made a batch of home made vanilla, and my beans are spent, so if I can’t find any at the local grocery store, I’m going to use vanilla extract. I am also considering going a different route than vodka, because that is what my vanilla is in. On the other hand, no one is going to be drinking the vanilla extract… or so I think. In any case, thanks for sharing this, and also your story about your Uncle Ed. That really touched my heart.

    1. Thank you Chris: I hope you love it. I don’t think there is anything more special that we can give for holiday gifts than something we made from the heart with our own hands. I hope you love it!

      He was a special guy; one of the VERY few in this world that got away with calling me Barbie. 🙂

  10. I have another question.

    I am going to gift my coffee liqueur and was thinking about putting one of the vanilla beans in the bottle. The bottle would then come with your instructions on making Kahula flavored sugar. Thus the question: Would leaving the bean in the bottle further change the liquerur—or is all the vanilla flavor already extracted from the bean? I think the bean in the bottle would make for a homey touch but I don’t want to ruin the liqueur.

    What do you think about this?

    dag

    1. Hmm. I can’t say if it would change the bean or the liqueur but if it were me? I would just tie the bean around the top of the bottle with some raffia or other rustic ribbon and include a card for it’s use. Good idea too…I gift this to friends and family every Christmas and keep the beans; more than I need. I shall now gift them their beans too!

    2. Hi Dave,

      I am making vanilla extract this year to give out as Christmas presents. The recipe calls for the extract to steep for six months. I can’t see how keeping the bean in the coffee liqueur could hurt, but in all honesty, no one will know it is in there because of the color of the liqueur. If you are doing it for esthetics, I’d say why bother. If you want to ramp up the flavor of the vanilla, then go for it!

    3. All the recipes I’ve found use dried espresso/coffee. What about actual espresso? Would it replace some of the water in the recipe?

      1. You can certainly try that; it’s the concentrated nature of the dried product that produces the flavor after being mixed with the other ingredients. How about making it extra strong before you combine it with the vodka and sugar…you’ll need it more concentrated than normal I’m thinking to get the flavor you’ll want with the finished product.

  11. I’ve done this recipe exactly as recommended. The month is not quite up and I can’t keep my sampling spoon out of the container! Still I’m wanting to play with the recipe and wondering what would happen if I substituted Rum for the Vodka (Rum seems to be a more natural pairing). Have you tried this? should I use the same portions?

    1. I have not tried rum Dave but why not? Would love your feedback; seems it would just add another element of flavor and richness to the end result and that would be good!

        1. I’ve made it with rum, vodka and brandy (special request). They are all good, and some friends like the rum and others prefer the vodka. The rum seems a tad smoother to me than the vodka. And the Brandy is actually pretty good. I have a friend that wanted the brandy Kahlua for her coffee.

        2. Some people use Everclear and not vodka and I won’t. It might extract more from the grounds but it is so harsh it’s not worth it! I want to try rum but have way too much in the liquor cabinet right now to make anything!

  12. Hi

    I just made this thanks for the recipe. One question though, I think I might have burnt it a small bit and there is small bits at the bottom of the bottle. Would I be best leaving it in till after the 3 or 4 weeks and then running through a sieve?

    1. If it were me John I would strain out those bits now…if indeed any is burnt that would avoid having that burnt taste affect any of your product.

      1. Ok. I have ran it through a sieve to get the heavy stuff and slowly but surely its going through paper towels as its all I had to get the finer stuff. But its looking a lot closer to what the image has above.

        Cheers

        1. Sounds like a plan John. I usually use something caller Butter Muslin to strain my liqueurs but if I’m out, I’ll do a coffee filter or paper towels too…whatever works!

  13. Vanilla Beans are very expensive. Have you made this with Vanilla Extract? Do you know what the substitution measurements would be? I have 2 Vanilla Beans and plan to make a double recipe and may use Vanilla Extract to make up the difference, hoping that it doesn’t change the delicious flavor.

    1. I have not done that Carol but I would try it too if I didn’t have the beans that I get from Costco at a reasonable price. Please let me know how yours turns out…Barb

  14. Quick and easy … Cheap vodka, handful or two of coffee beans, sugar to taste. Remove some vodka from bottle, add sugar and dissolve to your taste, add coffee beans and leave to ‘brew’ until strong enough for your liking. Shake bottle at least once per weel. Drain off and consume!

  15. Hi there.
    Bright sunny morning here in Durban . I looked up your recipe this morn and decided to give it a try. Will definitely let you know it went. Regards Leon

    1. irish cream recipe
      1/3 rum
      1 cup whiskey
      1 can sweetened con. milk
      2 cups half n half
      3 eggs
      2 T chocolate syrup
      1t vanilla extract
      blend sweetened con. milk, half n half, eggs, chocolate syrup, vanilla in blender well. stir in alcohol . makes a very nice irish cream bottle and enjoy

      1. Umm…sounds good. Couple of questions Craig? Do you refrigerate it and how long is the shelf life? Thanks…Barb

  16. I was wondering if it is fine to drink it within only several days of making it and if so how does it taste? Also what about using cheap vodka>

    1. I use inexpensive vodka but not the cheapest…and the aging serves to mellow it out a bit. You can drink it at any time; you’ll just notice a smoother result with a bit of aging.

  17. Hello!

    I am definitely making this (and the cranberry one!) this year for gifts. They have recently privitized the liquor stores here, and I cannot find chocolate liqueur (along with a wide variety of other “specialized” liqueurs) anywhere. Can I use chocolate in some other form? Thanks!

    1. Oh I like to throw it in because I made it too…but you don’t have to. Thinking hmm, maybe just a spoonful of cocoa would work? I just think that coffee and chocolate both compliment each other so well but it’s not imperative.

  18. Hi there! I love this recipe! I was wondering where you got those great storage containers with the spouts? Also, I am also using this for Holiday gifts and there are so many bottles on the web I am not sure which ones to use. I want them to be pretty and decorative but I don’t want the recipients to have a hard time pouring. I was thinking swing top bottles but do you have trouble pouring with these? Let me know your thoughts. Thanks so much!!!

    1. The swing top bottles work fine but they are pricey to purchase locally so I found some when I made Limoncello that are much less expensive but their closure is just a simple screw top so I bought some shrink bands to go around the top for gift giving. Here’s a link to those bottles but this site also has the swing top which are more expensive but better suited for storing larger quantities.

      http://www.specialtybottle.com/hexagontallclearglassdecanter85oz250mlwgoldlid.aspx

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