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The following 101 on Kahlúa-style homemade coffee liqueur comes from HOMEGROWN member Sabrina, a California gal who left the suburbs for her own wooded patch of homesteading heaven. (You can get to know her better here—and don’t be shy. Say hello!) Thanks for sharing your not-so-secret recipe, Sabrina, and please keep the good ideas brewing. 


The word “liqueur” comes from the Latin term liquefacere, meaning “to melt” or “to release.” We can trace the history of liqueurs back to the 13th century, when alchemist monks—whose sole purpose was to create and perfect these elixirs—first derived them as healing medicines. (Nice work if you can get it.) The monks’ secret recipes were carefully guarded for hundreds of years. There’s even an ancient version of chartreuse that contains 130 plants, herbs, roots, leaves, barks, brandy, distilled honey, and sugar and is the only known liqueur in the world that’s naturally green in color. Frankly, it doesn’t sound all that appealing to me—but, hey, I’d try it. Anything in the name of science, right?


It is in this spirit of homemade, all-natural, homeopathic pursuits that I justify the creation of my own liqueur—specifically coffee liqueur, similar to Kahlúa. Depending on the affliction, I treat myself with this versatile remedy in one of many healing concoctions: black Russian, white Russian, Irish coffee, Kentucky coffee, mudslide—the list goes on. OK, so perhaps it doesn’t treat any serious physical illnesses or diseases, but it does serve nicely as an occasional tipple, and a steaming mug of Irish coffee can go a long way towards improving my mental state. (Please enjoy responsibly.)

Unlike those monks, however, I won't keep my recipe a secret. So, dear readers, heal thyself.



Depending on evaporation, the recipe below yields about 1 ¼ to 1 ½ gallons, which fills twelve 12-oz bottles. I like to make this in a large batch for gift giving, and since bottles usually come in cases of 12, these amounts work for me, but you may want to scale down your recipe. While the liqueur ages, I keep the whole batch in a food-safe beer/wine fermenting bucket.


» Heavy-bottomed nonreactive stockpot

» Wooden spoon for stirring

» Large sterilized container with a lid (or cloth) for aging

» Sharp knife

» Cheese cloth, muslin, coffee filter, or something similar to act as a strainer (optional)

» 8 cups water

» 12 cups sugar

» 3 cups instant espresso coffee (A tip: It’s worth using a good quality instant espresso; I use Medaglia d’Oro.)

» 12 vanilla beans (You can make do with less; just cut the beans in half before you toss them in. It’ll be fine.)

» 12 cups vodka or rum. That’s about 1 ¼ of the big bottles, so you’ll have an extra ¾ bottle to find a use for. (Shucks.) I usually use the leftovers to make a batch of vanilla extract.



Bring the water to a simmer in a large pot. Stir in the sugar and coffee grounds until completely dissolved. Remove from heat.


While the pot is cooling, slice your vanilla beans lengthwise, almost to the very end, leaving about half an inch, so that the bean is still in one piece but in the shape of a “V”. Using a spoon or the edge of your knife, scrape out the vanilla seeds (aka vanilla caviar) and set aside.


While the liquid is still a bit warm, pour the sugar-coffee-water mixture into your sterilized container. Stir in the vanilla caviar and the vanilla beans. Once the mix is completely cool, add the vodka. (You don’t want to cook off the alcohol!)


Cover the container with a lid or a cloth secured with a rubber band and let it rest for at least four to six weeks. The longer it rests, the more mellow and complex the flavor becomes. For a more refined appearance, you can strain the liqueur before you bottle it. After bottling, I like to put a whole or a partial vanilla bean in each bottle—just because it’s pretty.



Got a question for Sabrina? A drink recipe for using that homemade liqueur? Post it below and keep the conversation rolling. You might also be interested in 101s on homemade extracts, tinctures, mead, and an elderberry syrup flu fighter. You might even consider joining the Brewers Pub group. And you can always find more things to cook, preserve, plant, grow, make, craft, and sip in the HOMEGROWN 101 library.



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