Homemade Kahlua Recipe for Yourself or Gift Giving

This homemade kahlua recipe starts with freshly brewed coffee instead of instant coffee granules. It’s great for gift giving or simply indulging yourself.

For another sweet grownup drink, try making a batch of this creme de cacao.

two glasses of kahlua with ice.

I love the flavor of coffee, so it’s no surprise that I also love Kahlua. It’s not something I have often, but Kahlua with a little splash of cream makes a dandy little dessert. Trust me. 

Homemade Kahlua recipes abound on the internet, but most of them rely on instant coffee granules for the coffee flavor. I wanted to start with the real thing for my homemade coffee liqueur.
kahlua with cream in a glass from above.

Homemade Kahlua with Espresso

Starting with freshly ground coffee beans provides the richest flavor, but any good-quality ground coffee will work. I use a stovetop espresso maker to make mine. If you don’t have an easy way to make espresso at home you can swing by your local coffee shop and ask them to brew some for you. You could also just brew a really strong pot of coffee.

Here’s the most important thing you need to know: Whether you’re making this for yourself or as a gift for one of your favorite people, it is easy. Seriously easy.

ingredients for coffee liqueur, shot from above


Coffee Many homemade kahlua recipes call for instant coffee granules. Not this one. This recipe starts with freshly brewed espresso or really strong brewed coffee. I’ve had readers share that they’ve used cold brew coffee with success, too.

Sugar This recipe uses a bit less sugar than some so it’s not so cloyingly sweet. Use your favorite brand of granulated cane sugar. I prefer organic. You could certainly use brown sugar if you like, or coconut sugar. 

Rum or vodka  This gives the liqueur its kick. The bottled brand of kahlua starts with rum, but you can make this homemade kahlua recipe with rum or vodka. Do you need to start with high end liquor for this? You do not. Save yourself a little cash and grab what’s on sale. 

Vanilla extract Use real or imitation vanilla extract or homemade vanilla for a subtle vanilla flavor.

process shots, making homemade coffee liqueur

Making Kahlua

You’ll start by combining the water, freshly brewed espresso or strong coffee, and sugar in a saucepan, simmering until the sugar is completely dissolved.

Remove from heat, allow to cool, then add the liquor. Seal the coffee liqueur into a large jar (or two if necessary). Ideally, you’ll let it sit in a cool dark place for a month or so. This allows the flavors to meld and come together. 

In order to have this homemade kahlua ready for December gift-giving, plan to make a batch or two in late October. Of course, it doesn’t have to sit that long; this homemade kahlua recipe just improves with time.

two highball glasses with kahlua and ice

Making this Homemade Liqueur for Gifts

This homemade kahlua is less expensive than the store bought option and depending on the size bottle you decant it into, it will make a number of bottles for giving.

I like to use recycled bottles to package this homemade kahlua recipe for gifts. Add a tag with simple instructions for making a simple kahlua cocktail:

How to Make Kahlua and Cream: 

  • 1.5 ounces homemade kahlua
  • 4 ounces half and half

Fill a highball glass with ice. Pour in homemade kahlua. Add half and half.

How to make a White Russian: 

  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 1 ounce homemade kahlua
  • Splash of heavy cream

Fill a highball glass with ice. Pour in homemade kahlua and vodka. Add cream.


This delicious coffee liqueur can be kept at room temperature. Store it in a cool, dark place and it will last for several years. Theoretically speaking, of course. The odds of it not being used up by then are slim, right??

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it okay to let it sit for longer? 

Absolutely! If you want to get a jump on holiday gift giving, you can make it months in advance. The finished product lasts on the shelf for several years. 

Should I refrigerate it?

There’s no need to refrigerate this liqueur. The vodka or rum do a nice job of preserving the flavors. 

What if there is sediment at the bottom of the jar?

This may be from the brewed coffee. You can strain it through a layer of thin cloth or a coffee filter to remove the sediment.

gift bottles with homemade kahlua

★ Did you make this homemade kahlua recipe? Don’t forget to give it a star rating below! ★

two glasses of kahlua with ice.

Homemade Kahlua with Espresso

Yield: 8 cups
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Resting Time: 30 days
Total Time: 30 days 10 minutes

Learn how to easily make this favorite liqueur at home, without using instant coffee. Use freshly brewed espresso or really strong brewed coffee to give this drink its distinctive flavor.


  • 1 cup (8 ounces) brewed espresso or strong coffee
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2-1/2 cups water
  • 750 mL bottle of vodka or rum
  • 3 tablespoons vanilla extract


  1. Mix brewed espresso, sugar, and water in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring mixture to a simmer, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
  2. Add vodka (or rum) and vanilla, then transfer to a large jar. Let sit for 4-6 weeks so flavors will meld.
  3. For gift giving, transfer the coffee liqueur into pretty bottles and tie on a tag with instructions for using it.


On the coffee: If you have an espresso maker, make enough to net 8 ounces of espresso. To use a coffee maker, brew a batch of coffee that is really strong and use that. Or you could go to your local coffee shop and ask them to brew it for you.

Depending on the size of the bottles or jars you decant this into (I've used upcycled kombucha or small liquor bottles) you'll end up with a handful of containers that make great little gifts. Just add a label and a ribbon and off you go.

Sure, you can let the flavors meld. But really. The kahlua police will not come after you if you start sampling it right away.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 24 Serving Size: 1/8 cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 141Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 2mgCarbohydrates: 17gFiber: 0gSugar: 17gProtein: 0g

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highball glass with Kalua and ice, a stream of cream pouring in

Originally published November 2015; this homemade kahlua recipe has been updated.

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About the author: Kris Bordessa is an award-winning National Geographic author and a certified Master Food Preserver. Read more about Kris and how she got started with this site here. If you want to send Kris a quick message, you can get in touch here.

45 comments… add one
  • Kathy Shean-Jones Dec 20, 2023 @ 13:26

    Have you tried this before waiting 4-6 weeks???
    I just found this and want to make some for gifts. I can tell the recipients to wait 4-6 weeks – but I know that I won’t want to!!

    • AttainableSustainable Dec 21, 2023 @ 6:56

      It doesn’t have to sit that long, it just improves with time. It’s fine to start sampling it right away!

  • Nancy Dec 11, 2023 @ 5:58

    Has anyone tried adding a bit of cinnamon to the recipe? I love cinnamon in coffee and thought this might add a new twist to the recipe. Thoughts?

  • Amber Nov 4, 2023 @ 16:22

    What kind if rum do you recommend? Would Kraken work for this? It one of my favorites.

    • AttainableSustainable Nov 9, 2023 @ 8:49

      You can really use any kind since it’s infusing other flavors. Feel free to use your favorite or whatever is on sale 🙂

  • Debra Taylor Aug 7, 2023 @ 7:13

    I have doubled some recipes and they did not come out very well. Do you think it would be possible to double this Kalua recipe and it come out right?

    • AttainableSustainable Aug 10, 2023 @ 6:09

      Yes I think it would be fine!

  • Debra Taylor Aug 7, 2023 @ 7:06

    Could I use a French Press to make my strong coffee for this kahlua??

    • AttainableSustainable Aug 10, 2023 @ 6:10

      I don’t see why not.

  • Mary Henrickson Jan 1, 2023 @ 17:26

    I have excellent decaffeinated whole bean coffee. Can I grind them and brew strong coffee to use to make kahlua?

    • Kris Bordessa Jan 4, 2023 @ 12:57

      I don’t see why not!

  • sandy reynolds Dec 25, 2022 @ 13:40

    Can you combine vodka and rum for this recipe?

    • AttainableSustainable Dec 29, 2022 @ 8:44


  • KarlaM202 Dec 4, 2022 @ 10:24

    Just found your recipe – love the idea of using fresh brewed vs. instant. Quick question on the sugar. As others have noted, most recipes out there have more sugar. I’m a fan of Kamora over Kahlua – because it’s a bit darker and sweeter..

    Any suggestions on the sugar ratio’s if I would like it a bit sweeter? I’d really hate to mess this up and make it too sweet!

    I have lost my mom’s recipe, but she used instant coffee, but added a whole vanilla bean into a gallon jar,as well as some whole coffee beans, and if you touched it before the 4 months she required, you had better run!

    Will be making this this week ! I will be using the rum..wish I had found this sooner !! Just batched my first ever Limoncello, and have Cranberry Orange Liquor, and Cranberry Orange Vodka in the works, also!

    My pantry is starting to look like a liquor cabinet with all the boozy goodness and a dozen pint jars of vanilla in various stages of readiness!!

    Thanks for any feedback, and Happy Holidays!!

    • Kris Bordessa Jan 4, 2023 @ 13:12

      Late to respond, but if you’re afraid it won’t be sweet enough, you could certainly add a bit more sugar.

      • Summer Mar 4, 2024 @ 6:00

        I would suggest using dark brown sugar instead of granulated. It gives it a dark, richer and more robust flavor.

        • Kris Bordessa, National Geographic author/certified master food preserver Mar 14, 2024 @ 14:01

          I wouldn’t be opposed to that!

  • Marie Munday Nov 27, 2022 @ 11:38

    Will it get sweeter as it ages? Thank you!

    • Kris Bordessa Jan 4, 2023 @ 13:13

      Aging it won’t make it sweeter, no. You could add a bit more sugar if it’s not sweet enough for you!

  • Kateinbelmont Sep 20, 2022 @ 9:42

    This recipe cites yield as 4.5 cups. Clearly with 750 ml of liquor it is way more than that. Before I start I’d like some clarification on quantities.

    • AttainableSustainable Sep 20, 2022 @ 11:08

      It will be right around 4.5 cups in the end. The liquor is around 3 cups, the rest simmers so will cook down a little. The end amount doesn’t have to be exact, but it’ll be close. I hope you love it!

    • Cathy Nov 30, 2022 @ 9:51

      I just made it exactly as the recipe states, and it made 8 cups of kahlua. Two full quart jars. It tastes amazing already. Can’t wait until a few weeks to see how it improves.

  • Christine Oct 24, 2021 @ 4:59

    I make mine with cold brew. I just made some yesterday and saw this post today 🙂

  • Luisa Watson Oct 16, 2021 @ 7:20

    I recently went to a Mexican restaurant with my husband. We had flan for dessert as is traditional and my husband loves it. He usually is disappointed as he likes mine better. He looked at me and said: “You got to try it, is different and really good.”
    It was really good! I asked the owner and he smiled and said they used Kahlua! I just made your Kahlua recipe and is sitting in the basement. It will be ready for our traditional Three Kings Day celebration, January 6th!
    Thank you very much….

  • Jane Mar 13, 2021 @ 9:22

    I’ve used vanilla vodka and it’s great

    • Kris Bordessa Mar 13, 2021 @ 17:08


  • Celeste Wood Dec 14, 2020 @ 13:31

    I make my own Kahlua also Here’s a tip for all those trying their hand at this, let your sugar water cool completely after you remove it from the burner, let it cool to room temperature before you add the vodka, if you add alcohol while the mix is hot you risk burning off the alcohol and thats no fun!

  • Jenny Dec 2, 2020 @ 11:57

    Thank you!! I used strong coffee, hope that was ok. I also stored in fridge or is room temperature ok?

  • Terri Nov 11, 2020 @ 5:56

    How long does this keep, and should it be refrigerated? Looking forward to trying it out!

    • Kris Bordessa Nov 23, 2020 @ 17:23

      I don’t refrigerate mine and it keeps for months.

  • Louise Sep 29, 2020 @ 16:59

    Would it be ok to let it sit for longer ? I would love to make it know for Xmas what are your thoughts ?

    • Kris Bordessa Sep 29, 2020 @ 17:33

      Yes, of course! Start early. 🙂

  • Cathy S, Austin Texas Dec 18, 2019 @ 20:27

    I went to Starbucks for the espresso. I bought the coconut sugar and next time I will use half brown and half regular sugar for a sweeter taste.
    I divided the first part of the recipe before adding the liquor. One half I used rum and the other half vodka. I might try bourbon next time.
    I used cheap vodka since I also made vanilla this year and had left over. I did go with Plantation original dark rum. My kids recommendation, since I didn’t know what to buy. I bought 8 ounce bottles on Amazon.
    They made great holiday gifts at work. Everyone raved.
    Thanks for the recipe.

    • Lois Sep 15, 2020 @ 17:03

      So… when going to a Starbucks for the Expresso – how do you order it ? Recipe calls for 8 ounces. Do you order it “by the shot” ? Thank you !

  • Brianna Lohse Aug 26, 2019 @ 9:13

    Super easy to make!
    Just curious, but is it supposed to have a sediment that settles at the bottom? I was pretty sure I got the coconut sugar to resolve, but there is about an inch of sediment collected at the bottom of my bottle.

    • Kris Bordessa Aug 28, 2019 @ 11:48

      It may be small coffee particles? I’d just strain it through a layer of thin cloth or a coffee filter to remove the sediment.

  • Jim V Dec 23, 2018 @ 5:39

    How do you make the espresso? Recipe for that? All I know is espresso is strong.

  • Michelle Mar 24, 2018 @ 19:23

    Easy to make and makes a great gift.

  • Joe Feb 24, 2017 @ 6:50

    This recipe looks great, can’t wait to try it! In your ingredients, you list “1 cup brewed espresso.” Does this mean 1 full liquid measuring cup, or 1 small espresso-sized cup? Thanks!

    • Kris Bordessa Feb 24, 2017 @ 7:22

      One measuring cup, 8 ounces!

  • Karen Aug 28, 2016 @ 6:42

    I must try this! Do you find that top shelf vodka is necessary, or will the flavors be enough to hide it if I use cheap stuff?

    • Kris Bordessa Sep 10, 2016 @ 7:18

      I don’t think top shelf is necessary, but that’s me.

  • Michelle Nov 24, 2015 @ 6:45

    Wonderful! Kahlua used to be my favorite “grown up” beverage to indulge in during the holidays. This year I started making herbal-infused cordials, (I just shared a post, if you are interested https://seekingjoyfulsimplicity.com/holiday-gifting-simple-herbal-infused-cordials/) which are a lot of fun because the ingredient combinations are endless…but I will definitely be making some kahlua. And I agree – I don’t need the “so sweet my teeth ache”!

  • Auburn Nov 20, 2015 @ 8:10

    How interesting! Love Kahlua! I noticed that you use 1/2-1/3 of the recommended sugar amounts from the other recipes. Do you notice this being much more bitter than normal Kahlua?

    • Kris Bordessa Nov 20, 2015 @ 8:38

      I find it not so cloyingly sweet! 😉

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