Homemade Kahlua: Part 1

Please Note: I have found a better coffee than the Farmer Bros 100% Arabica Coffee in this article. You can buy it at Whole Foods Grocery Stores. It is made by Allegro and the variety is called “Mexico Zaragoza”. It is an organic coffee and it is light roasted. It makes the best homemade Kahlua® you will ever make. I made a post called “Allegro Mexico Zaragoza Coffee For Homemade Kahlua” where you can read about it.

There are many recipes for homemade Kahlua on the Internet. Some are simple and can be made very quickly using instant coffee and others require more time to make. I decided to make Kahlua (coffee liqueur) and tried a few of the available recipes. I discovered in a very short time that in order to make a good quality coffee liqueur I would have to figure out how to add the coffee flavor without the coffee becoming bitter or without the liqueur becoming too watery. These were the first obstacles to overcome.

The finished liqueur must be of a certain viscosity and alcohol content. If coffee is brewed in water, then the liqueur will be watery and will have a low alcohol content. You can get around this problem by using instant coffee. I tried several different instant coffees – some freeze dried and others heat dried – and I found that all instant coffee is bitter. There is just no way around it.

I had the idea that I could simply infuse ground coffee directly into spirit – totally cold – and that was the breakthrough. It worked. By infusing ground coffee directly into the spirits I was able to use any commercially available coffee. Real Kahlua is made from 100% gourmet Arabica coffee beans. I felt that it was necessary to use 100% gourmet Arabica coffee in my recipe as well so I found an online source at Dr. Soda.

Real Kahlua also has a unique aroma that comes from cane spirit, which is a cousin of rum. You don’t find cane spirit in too many liquor stores, but Bacardi rum is widely available. I found that Bacardi Superior rum does impart an aroma and flavor that is very close to real Kahlua so that is my first choice for the spirit used to make this liqueur.

Real Kahlua is also made with some caramel so my recipe uses standard caramel syrup along with some standard sugar syrup. Real Kahlua is a fairly viscous liqueur so it is necessary to boil down the standard sugar syrup to 90% of its original volume to obtain the desired viscosity. If you use too much caramel, the liqueur will have an undesirable, lingering aftertaste. This recipe calls for the making of a blending stock with the right combination of caramel and sugar syrups to obtain a smooth tasting finished product.

Homemade Kahlua

Infusing Ingredients:

  • 4 cups rum (Bacardi Superior Light Rum is best but a cheaper brand may also work)
  • 1 cup Farmer Bros. Medium Roast 100% Gourmet Arabica Coffee

Infusing Directions:

  1. Combine rum and coffee in a 2 qt. Mason jar. Shake vigorously to thoroughly mix ingredients.
  2. Macerate for 4 weeks then strain and filter the contents with a metal coffee filter. Let settle for about 3 to 4 weeks then rack off the clarified part and filter the remainder with paper coffee filters to clarify the infused spirits.

Blending Ingredients:

Blending Instructions (sweeten and blend the liqueur):

  1. Make a blending stock using the following proportions:
    • 5 oz standard caramel syrup
    • 10 oz standard sugar syrup boiled down to 9 oz. (90% of original volume)
  2. Add blending stock and vanilla extract to the infused spirits according to the following proportions:
    • 4 oz infused spirit
    • 6 oz blending stock
    • 1/4 oz (1 1/2 tsp) vanilla extract


  1. Medium Roast Gourmet Arabica coffee available online from Dr. Soda.

Part I – Infusing the Coffee

Shown below is a shot of the ingredients and 2 Qt. Mason jar. Bacardi rum will impart a better aroma (shown below: back row, middle), but you can use a cheaper brand of rum (e.g. Ron Caballero – shown below: back row, right).

Measure and add the coffee to the jar, then measure and add the rum.

Here is a shot of all the ingredients shaken up and ready to set aside for maceration. The ratio of rum to coffee is 4 to 1. In this case I added 5 cups rum and 1 1/4 cups of coffee.

Continue to Homemade Kahlua Recipe – Part II


  1. So what would happen if I used vodka instead of rum? I don’t necessarily want to make a “Kahlua” but something like that. I just bought some vodka that’s why I ask ;)
    anyway looks like a great recipe!

  2. Vodka will be okay … I used vodka in some early test recipes and it wasn’t bad at all … the main reason for using rum was to imitate the real Kahlua.

  3. jdhansen63 says:

    Have you played with the infusing time? I’ve been making cold brewed coffee for some time, and typical infusing times range from 12 to 24 hours. What’s the benefit of infusing for 4 weeks? Also, I use Sucanat (essentially pure dried sugar cane juice) as a sweetener. Have you tried using anything other than cane sugar for the sugar syrup or caramel? Do you think substituting Sucanat would work?

  4. Actually, I have been giving this some thought in the months since I made this post. It was a little bitter, but not much. I plan to play around with the recipe a little bit – perhaps shorten the infusion time and make a few other minor adjustments.

    Re: Sucanat … I have tried other sweeteners and I prefer cane sugar for all my liqueurs. I’m sure there would be some recipe where Sucanat or brown sugar or other sweetener might be harmonious, but cane sugar does the job really well for any recipe I have tried without adding any other flavors.

  5. Thank you. You sure can post an absolutely clear and concise instructable. Last year, you sucked me in, and I followed your recipe almost exactly. That batch was a big hit as Xmas presents, and I had to follow up with two more batches just for ourselves. You have me hooked, now.

    I must say that when I modified your recipe somewhat, it definitely went downhill. Maybe it was the shortcuts I took on clarifying the infusion, or adding too much cocoa powder (I primarily use this for coffee nudges and like the chocolate flavor). At any rate, I am edging back to your original formula.

    I finish my batches off with more rum and brandy, so that coffee nudges are simpler to make. I found really inexpensive vanilla beans at our local store (surprising since we are on an island), so I constantly infuse vanilla beans in 100 proof vodka. It seems to be better than commercial extract, but at any rate, it’s way more fun. I just top up the vanilla infusion when needed and occasionally replace the beans.

    I make a two gallon batch at a time, and use 20 cups of cane sugar per gallon of distilled water. A quart of Karo syrup not only ups the sweetness, but helps prevent crystallization. Thanks again for turning me on to this sport, it is fun.

  6. oj marston says:

    Hello, This recipe looks amazing. Thanks for doing all of the hard work for us! We are wondering based on your recipe of using 4 cups of rum and 1 cup of coffee, how much does a ‘batch’ yeild? We are trying to decide on how much rum we need to buy if we want to get together and make 30 bottles, 16oz each.

  7. You’re welcome. I’m glad you like the recipe. Okay … for the math … let’s see. To the best of my recollection, I would get about 3.5 cups of infused spirit per batch (starting with 4 cups of rum). Your target is 30 times 16 = 480 ounces. The blending ratio is 4 out of 10 ounces to make the infused spirit part (4 oz plus 6 oz blending stock) or 40%. So 40% of 480 = 192 ounces. You would need to make 54.86 batches to get 192 ounces (192 divided by 3.5). Somewhere around that much. I think it’s best to make smaller batches to nail down the amounts more accurately and to get a feel for it. Things might vary a bit.

  8. I just finished this recipe tonight, I’ve been wanting to try it for a long time as I found your recipe over a year ago! Anyway, after just mixing the blending stock, infused spirits and vanilla, my first little taste it… it still seems to be fairly bitter, though my infusion of the rum with the coffee was about 6 weeks (I forgot about it), so that’s probably why. I’ll certainly try another batch once I finish this one!

    One note on your math above… you’ve mixed your units, you took 192 ounces and divided by 3.5 cups, hence the large number of batches (54.86). 192 ounces = 24 cups and 24/3.5 ~= 6.85 batches.

  9. This recipe takes some trial and error to get the proportions and timing all right. I found I was having to deal with the bitterness, too.
    Thanks for pointing out the math error. I messed up :-(

  10. Hi I just ran into this recipe recently. I was curious based on some comments above if maybe you have tweaked the maceration times at all. I think I read one of the comments on page 2 saying that they did 2 weeks and that got rid of the bitterness.If you have anything different to add that would be greatly appreciated!

  11. Hi benza11 – Back when I first made the recipe I did several test batches with small amounts of coffee. I remember 4 weeks seemed optimum. It was a little weak with 2 weeks and it was not much different after 4 weeks. So it just seemed to me that it was best to go 4 weeks.

  12. Thanks for the response. Based on things Ive read around the internet on cold brewing the time you macerate would depend on how strong of a coffee flavor you prefer. I had seen times(albeit with water) as low as 12 hours. I think you are right that you need to experiment some to figure out how you like it. I have previously tried a recipe that brewed the coffee hot and had no rum or caramel. it had a nice flavor initially but got bitter and was not viscous at all. you seemed to have the same concerns I have. thanks for the recipe. i cant wait to make it!

  13. Hi,
    Thanks for the recipe. I tried my first batch last night, although with some modification. The coffee grinds were put in a mesh bag and after maceration filtered through paper, so the straining was alot easier and avoids the last 3 weeks for clarification. However, it macerated for a bit more than 2 weeks instead of 4. The final product texture was good but the coffee flavor seemed weak, almost like the rum flavor was stronger than the coffee, somewhat bland tasting. I’m wondering if by using the mesh bag more rum was retained than in your version. I started with 5 cups of Bacardi and 1 1/4 cups of coffee which resulted in 1000 ml (4 1/4 cups) of infused spirit whereas I think you ended with less infused spirit. I’m wondering if you had any suggestions on how to safely increase the coffee flavor of either the blended final product and/or the infused spirit (I didn’t blend all of it).

  14. Hi skyblu – I suppose the two main differences are the infusion time and the mesh bag. The only way to know is try another batch and either (1) infuse for 4 weeks or (2) infuse without the mesh bag. The proportion of coffee to rum is right.

  15. Hi,
    Thank you for sharing this wonderful recipe.

    I would like to share with you this calculator I made just for it.


    Kahlua Calculator

    function Kahlualator() {
    var spirit = document.getElementById('amount').value;
    var spirit_oz = (spirit * 8);
    var spirit_rate = (spirit_oz / 4);
    var coffee = (spirit * .25);
    var proof_now = document.getElementById('strength').value;
    var proof_later = document.getElementById('weakness').value;
    var proof_abv = (proof_later / 2);
    var proof_it = roundNumber(spirit *((proof_now / proof_later)-1),2);
    var proof_it2 = (proof_it * 8);
    document.getElementById('spirit').innerHTML = spirit;
    document.getElementById('coffee').innerHTML = coffee;
    document.getElementById('proof_abv').innerHTML = proof_abv;
    var caramel = roundNumber(((spirit_rate / 2) * 4),2);
    var sugar = roundNumber(((spirit_rate * 1) * 4),2);
    var vanilla = roundNumber(((spirit_rate * .0625) * 4),2);
    document.getElementById('caramel').innerHTML = caramel;
    document.getElementById('sugar').innerHTML = sugar;
    document.getElementById('vanilla').innerHTML = vanilla;
    var blend = roundNumber((sugar + caramel + vanilla),2);
    document.getElementById('blend').innerHTML = blend;
    var caramel2 = roundNumber((1/(1+2))*(proof_it2-vanilla),0);
    var sugar2 = roundNumber((2/(1+2))*(proof_it2-vanilla),0);
    var vanilla2 = roundNumber(((spirit_rate * .0625) * 4),2);
    document.getElementById('caramel2').innerHTML = caramel2;
    document.getElementById('sugar2').innerHTML = sugar2;
    document.getElementById('vanilla2').innerHTML = vanilla2;
    var blend2 = roundNumber((sugar2 + caramel2 + vanilla2),2);
    document.getElementById('blend2').innerHTML = blend2;
    function roundNumber(num, dec) {
    var result = Math.round(num*Math.pow(10,dec))/Math.pow(10,dec);
    return result;

    Cup(s) of spirit to be infused

    Proof of spirit to be infused

    Proof of final product

    Infuse  cup(s) of spirit
    with  cup(s) of coffee.

    Blend per instructable:
     oz Caramel
     oz Sugar*
     oz Vanilla
     oz Total

    Blend per proof calculation:
     oz Caramel
     oz Sugar*
     oz Vanilla
     oz Total Dilution

    Approximate ABV of final product %

    * Note: Sugar needs to be reduced 10%


  16. Sorry, it didn’t keep the code intact. Let me know if there is another way to get it to you, if you want.

  17. hi phasma, Thank you for sharing the calculator. This is pretty cool. I’ll look at it some more and try to work it into the site.

  18. You are welcome. Here is a link @pastebin: http://pastebin.com/0mQ1Yc6j
    Hopefully that will help more than my original post. Feel free to delete my above posts. Also worth noting is that the amount of vanilla on the proofing part is just based off the spirit amount, probably should just be added gradually to taste. Also, I did not calculate in for the sugar reduction, hence the approximate values for ABV and Yield. One could proof it with 151 if needed!

    Again, thank you very much for sharing your recipe. I did use whole bean coffee (EIGHT O’Clock) ground very fine and it was ready in less than 24 hours! I know it will improve in flavor if left longer, but sometimes you just can’t wait.

  19. ebysoccer08 says:

    I like this idea. Everyone’s complaining about bitterness. I suggest just coldbrewing coffee then mixing in the booze and extra sugars and flavors. Coffeeholics know that shorter times and colder temperatures make a much sweeter coffee. This is suggesting infusing coffee directly into liquor, so don’t know if it translates but I bet just reducing the time to the standard 1-2 days would sweeten it considerably? Otherwise maybe it’s not even necessary if you just brew iced coffee strong enough. It’s never “too watery” or anything when I do that.

  20. garden98011 says:


    Do I shake the coffee/rum mixture daily or leave it still for the four weeks?


  21. for garden98011 – Yes, you should shake it a couple of times, but leave it still for about a week before straining.

  22. I’m excited to try out this recipe and give small bottles (probably Grolsch) to friends & family for Christmas 2013. I did have a couple of of questions though:
    1. Does one 11oz Farmers Bros. coffee can have enough grounds for two batches?
    2. I don’t think that I’ll ever use 6.75c of standard caramel syrup, or 7.5c of standard sugar syrup (even for two batches of your recipe). Is it okay to reduce the ingredients by 50% to produce half-size yields? Also, how would that affect the boil times and volume targets?
    3. The sugar syrup recipe calls for the use of distilled water, do I also use distilled water for the caramel recipe?
    4. Lastly, how does one boil down syrup to 90%…?…transfer it back and forth from the boiling pot to the Pyrex measuring cup?

  23. garipaldi:
    1. 11oz coffee for two batches … probably so. I think I got about 3 or 4 batches from 16oz.
    2. It is okay to make smaller batches of the syrups. You may have to play with the boil times. If the finished volume is too little (too thick), you can add more water to bring them up to the correct volume.
    3. Yes. Distilled water is best.
    4. I had to transfer it back and forth a few times before getting the hang of it. You don’t have to scrape it all out each time. Once you pour it into the glass measuring cup, just leave any straggling amount in it. When you finish, you can scrape it out of the boiling pan. It all gets measured in the measuring cup in the end. You can probably do it by the boiling time once you work it out.

  24. SlashRacer says:

    Ok….So this was my first time trying this and I am new to all of this. I have two questions and both are inregards to the carmel syrup. I fear I have heated the carmel too much. What happens if you cook/heat the sugar to much?

    Your instructions says to boil it down to 6 3/4 cups, but the image in the directions shows it at 7 1/2 cups. Is the image correct or the 6 3/4?

  25. Hi SlashRacer
    The correct amount for the finished batch is 6 3/4 cups. The image was just for presentation. It wasn’t meant to show the amount for one batch. If you reduce it down too much when heating, you can simply add more water after you pour it into the jar. In fact, it is expected to come out a little bit less when you pour it into the jar and then add a little water to bring it up to the right level.

  26. Jon Haugan says:

    I have made flavored Kahlua for a few years. The important thing to con cider is using vanilla bean. I have been experimenting with the different flavors of rum, the caramel syrup from my disorono I make. My next experiment is with using sorghum.

  27. I am from Canada.. Are you using US ounces or Canadian ounces…(UK)?

  28. Mike Doughty says:

    The recipe is in US Ounces.

  29. to remove the bitterness from coffee, use a pinch of salt in a cup. Add more to a pot. this may work in this process. I haven’t tried your mix yet but am looking forward to it. Thanks, Patch

  30. Hi – I’ve seen recipes that use whole bean coffee instead of ground coffee for the infusion…and letting sit for 3 weeks. What are your thoughts on using whole bean instead of ground coffee? Thanks.

  31. Mike Doughty says:

    KJ – I think that grinding the coffee beans creates more surface area for the spirit to be able to be in contact with the coffee. I believe whole beans would not infuse as much as when grinding. A good analogy would be would you brew a cup of coffee with whole beans or with ground coffee?

  32. I love White Russians, and have recently read articles indicating that Kahlua has changed their recipe, and is not nearly as good as it use to be, that is why I want to make my own.

    So, I have a few questions to ask you:

    1. Have you ever tried adding some dark rum, like Myers Rum, to the white rum that you use? The reason I ask is; because Myers has a thicker caramel flavor to it by itself, and it may make your recipe even better or richer.

    2. Have you ever added cocoa powder to your recipe?

    3. Why not add vanilla bean(s) directly in with the rum and coffee? I saw a website showing how to make homemade vanilla extract using vodka, and I’m sure rum would work just as well. The real question would be; how many vanilla bean(s) soaked in rum for 4 weeks, would be equivalent to 1/4 oz. of vanilla extract?

    Any and all comments are greatly appreciated.

    The homemade vanilla extract website is:

  33. Mike Doughty says:

    John – I haven’t tried using dark rum. I have tried cocoa powder to an earlier try (which wound up as a different recipe – see http://www.homebrewunderground.com/86/tropical-coffee-liqueur-part-1/). The flavor has natural chocolate notes – probably from the rum and the coffee. I thought about trying a vanilla bean. Even if I don’t make a liqueur from it you can still make vanilla extract. That would be interesting :-)


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