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Homemade Kahlua {Coffee Liquor Recipe}

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Make homemade kahlua with this easy-to-follow coffee liquor recipe. The resulting spirit is far more nuanced in flavor than what you find at the store and makes a great gift! Use it in baking recipes or your favorite cocktail.

A small bottle of homemade kahlua next to a glass of coffee liquor on ice.

Always the hostess, I’m constantly looking for ideas for my next fete. I’m also always looking for recipes that double as great gifts. This homemade coffee liquor recipe does double-duty as both a unique touch to your own party or a great homemade gift to share.

How to make homemade Kahlua

The process is much easier than I anticipated. Making your own liquors sounds complicated, but like making extract, preparation time is minimal, and then you just wait a little. Of course, the waiting time for vanilla extract and coffee liquor differ dramatically! One takes a year, and the other can be enjoyed almost immediately.

So if you came across this recipe while looking for a stunning gift you can make a week before an event, keep reading darling.

The basic process is this:

  • Make a syrup – you’ll want to make sure you cook the sugar syrup long enough to thicken. If you pull the syrup off the heat too early, your coffee liquor won’t have the same viscosity as the store-bought liquor and will feel “watery”.
  • Add your coffee – the coffee flavor comes from instant coffee! Use the unsweetened espresso granules you would use in baking with chocolate (like in these brownies).
  • When the coffee syrup cools down, stir in your liquor and vanilla.
  • Let the whole mixture rest for a week to really let the flavor develop.
  • Divide the coffee liquor into storage bottles and chill to enjoy or store.

Which liquor do I use to make Kahlua?

This is an interesting question because the internet will yield a variety of answers! The coffee liquor purchased at the store is rum-based, so if you’re looking to make your version as close to that as possible, use rum. Two other popular liquor options are vodka and Everclear.

In researching this recipe, I decided to try 2 of the 3 options, so tested a rum and a vodka-based kahlua. I used the same syrup recipe for both to maintain consistency and then asked a few friends and neighbors to test both.

Personally, I couldn’t decide whether I preferred vodka or rum. I think both might be good in different uses. The “research panel” preferred rum to vodka for sipping, but said both worked well for cocktails, with the vodka working better if mixed with a sweet liquor.

The rum-based Kahlua has a somewhat sweeter flavor naturally. Rum is a sugarcane-based liquor after all, so it brings out the flavors of the sugar in the mixture. You can use spiced or clear rum or a mix! It really depends on your personal preference.

pouring homemade coffee liquor into a glass

If you want a cleaner, sharper, less-sweet coffee liquor, use vodka. The coffee flavor was really bright and clean in the vodka base, so when used in recipes with Irish cream, the coffee shone through.

I didn’t test Everclear because that required dilution and I just wasn’t in the mood to measure. Also, you can’t find Everclear everywhere, but everyone can find vodka and spiced rum.

How long does homemade Kahlua last?

Thanks to the liquor and sugar content, the shelf life of homemade kahlua is rather long. Technically, you don’t even have to refrigerate it. This recipe is lower in sugar than others, so has a slightly shorter shelf life.

At room temperature, you can store this for several months, probably up to a year. In the refrigerator, probably up to 3 years or so! You’ll know if it’s turned because the liquor will smell off and taste watery.

How to store homemade kahlua

Keep the liquor in an airtight container in a cupboard or in the refrigerator. Light can encourage the sugars in the liquor to break down faster.

Since this is homemade and we don’t add any preservatives – other than sugar and alcohol of course – you’ll get the longest shelf life if you store this in the refrigerator or freezer.

What to make with homemade coffee liquor

Enjoy your homemade kahlua liquor in a variety of ways. Stir it into coffee for a hot coffee cocktail, and use it in baking recipes, tiramisu, or martini recipes.

close up of the coffee liquor in the glass

Regardless of how you enjoy it, please remember to be responsible and safe! Cheers, darlings!

A small bottle of homemade kahlua next to a glass of coffee liquor on ice.

Homemade Kahlua

Yield: 6 cups
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes

Make homemade Kahlua with this easy-to-follow coffee liquor recipe. The resulting spirit is far more nuanced in flavor than what you find at the store and makes a great gift!


  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup instant espresso powder (see notes)
  • 2 cups rum or vodka (see notes)
  • 1 vanilla bean, split (see notes)


  1. In a saucepan, combine the water, sugars, and espresso powder.
  2. Place over medium heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved and the water has reduced to a light syrup. You want it to be just thick enough to lightly cling to the spoon. spoon lifting out of the sugar syrup to show the desired viscosity
  3. Remove the syrup from the heat and allow it to cool. Stir in your liquor and place the liquor in a large storage container. Add the vanilla bean to the container.
  4. Allow the mixture to rest, sealed, in the refrigerator or in a dark cabinet for 1 week. Then remove the vanilla bean and divide it between smaller containers.
  5. Homemade coffee liquor can be stored at room temperature in a dark cabinet for several months, and in the refrigerator for several years.


  • This results in a very bold coffee flavor. If you want it to be a little less bold, use 3 tablespoons of instant espresso. Alternatively, you can replace the water in the recipe with strong brewed coffee.
  • See the post for a full explanation of the liquors. For rum, you can use a spiced or clear rum. The spiced rum will add a sweeter and spicier note to the coffee liquor.
  • If you don't have a vanilla bean, add a tablespoon or two of vanilla extract.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 56 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 42Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 2mgCarbohydrates: 7gFiber: 0gSugar: 7gProtein: 0g

These nutrition values are estimates. Exact values will vary depending on the ingredients, brands, and quantities used.

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