Coffee Flavored Liqueur

Many years ago, we were drinking quite a bit of Kahlua. We would use it straight, as Black Russian mix, and as a dessert topping like on ice cream or a sweet bread. Anyway, that could get quite costly. The wife of a work colleague gave us a recipe for making our own. The trick is to give it plenty of time to meld; 3 months seems like a minimum period.

kahlua 003

After making the recipe recently, I was almost at the point of not publishing it because of the economics. I priced out the ingredients versus the cost of commercial Kahlua, and it appeared that nothing was saved by making it myself. Then, I made a slightly different version- the label on the Kahlua bottle says that it is a Rum and Coffee Liqueur and we had been making it without any Rum. So I made a batch with 20% of the alcohol coming from rum. Now the question was which tasted better.

So I organized a tasting party, and offered the participants three versions of my Kahlua. It surprised me that the version of choice was the home made version without the rum! It even beat out the commercial Kahlua in this blind taste test. So I decided that even if the economics of making “Kahlua” at home were questionable, because it tastes better I should give you the recipe.


(Betty Griffing 1970)

  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 4 cups granulated sugar (or 4 cups Splenda)
  • 2 oz. instant coffee
  • 1 quart or fifth of brandy (an inexpensive brandy is preferred)
  • 1 vanilla bean, chopped coarsely (or 1/4 cup [-4 Tsp] extract)

Mix together sugar and water and boil for 20 minutes.
Let cool. Pour into glass container that holds about 60 oz.

Add liquor and vanilla bean.
Seal tightly and put in cool, dark place for 30 days. Do not refrigerate.
Strain chopped bean after 30 days. Then return to the cool, dark place for a couple more months minimum.

I use the Instant Espresso Coffee and Christian Brothers Brandy.

This is the old, original recipe I got in 1970. More recently, daughter Jenn loaned me a small paperback book named “Classic Liqueurs- The Art of Making and Cooking with Liqueurs” written by Cheryl Long and Heather Kibbey. One of the recipes in the book is for “Mexican Coffee Liqueur”. The biggest difference in their recipe is that they use 80% vodka instead of all brandy. They also add a small amount of chocolate extract and a drop of red food coloring. One interesting comment they make in their book is that you can not make a good “Kahlua” using just vodka- you need some brandy.

So, if taste isn’t an issue, than I suggest just buying the real Kahlua. But if you want a better taste, then you might want to experiment with making your own Coffee Flavored Liqueur; after all, both versions I made beat the real Kahlua for taste in our blind taste test!

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