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.

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

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.
ingredients for coffee liqueur, shot from above

Real coffee flavor in this homemade kahlua recipe

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.

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.

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process shots, making homemade coffee liqueur

You’ll start by combining the water, freshly brewed coffee, and sugar in a saucepan, simmering until the sugar is completely dissolved. Mix in the liquor (you can use vodka or rum) and then seal it in a jar so it can sit in a cool dark place for a month or so.

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

two highball glasses with kahlua and ice

Making this homemade liqueur for gifts

Ideally, this coffee liqueur recipe should have a chance to rest after you’ve made it, so the flavors can mingle and meld. 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. If you find yourself with just weeks (or days) to get it together, simply make it and give the recipient a “don’t open until X” directive.

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.

gift bottles with homemade kahlua

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

two highball glasses with kahlua and ice

Homemade Kahlua with Brewed Coffee

Yield: 24 servings
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.



  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. pouring coffee into pan for homemade coffee liqueur
  2. Add vodka and vanilla, then transfer to bottles or jars. 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. (See the Kahlua and cream recipe above.)


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

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.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 24 Serving Size: 1 grams
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 116Unsaturated Fat: 0gSodium: 27mgCarbohydrates: 11gSugar: 8g

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

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About the author: Kris Bordessa founded Attainable Sustainable as a resource for revitalizing vintage skills. Her book, Attainable Sustainable: The Lost Art of Self-Reliant Living (National Geographic) offers a collection of projects and recipes to help readers who are working their way to a more fulfilling DIY lifestyle. She’s a certified Master Food Preserver and longtime gardener who loves to turn the harvest into pantry staples.

27 comments… add one
  • 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.

  • Carol L Nov 5, 2017 @ 17:24

    I believe that Kahlua and other coffee liqueurs are made using rum, not vodka.Why don’t you use rum instead of Vodka?

    • Kris Bordessa Nov 14, 2017 @ 7:58

      You could absolutely use rum instead of vodka.

  • 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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