Homemade Kahlua (Coffee Liqueur)

Each year for Christmas I try to come up with a theme for the recipes I share during the month of December.

And this year? Well this year in the spirit of Christmas, we’ll be making some homemade spirits! I know alcohol may not appeal to everyone, but for me it’s a festive indulgence to make these sweet liqueurs that I don’t treat myself to otherwise during the year. So for the next few weeks I’ll be sharing a few homemade liqueur recipes that can be used for entertaining or for gift giving, along with printable tags and cocktail serving suggestions.

Homemade Kahlua

First up – we’re making our homemade version of Kahlua. Kahlua is a coffee liqueur that’s a favorite to serve in drinks using milk or cream. The recipe is a simple base of sugar, water, and instant coffee heated together. You then let that base mixture cool and finish off by adding vodka and vanilla. If possible, it’s best to let the mixture set for a couple weeks to let the flavors mingle.

I’ve been happy using an inexpensive brand of vodka in this recipe but of course you are free to splurge on a pricier brand if you’d like.

Once your mixture is finished, you can transfer the mixture to a bottle or to a jar for storage. I did both! I was so happy to find one of those cute glass swing top bottles on one of my thrift store shopping trips and it worked great for storing my Kahlua. (You can find glass swing top bottles on Amazon too). But I still had a little more than would fit in my bottle so I put the remainder in a glass canning jar.

For optimum flavor, store the mixture in a cool dark place for a couple weeks before using to let the flavors meld.

Bottle of homemade kahlua with cocktail recipe label

I’ve also got three easy recipes for cocktails to make with Kahlua so you (or the person receiving the gift) can put the Kahlua to good use, as well as a printable tag that includes the recipes.

How to make homemade Kahlua and use it in three tasty Kahlua cocktails - the Sombrero, the Colorado Bulldog, and the White Russian

But sometimes I find myself not even needing a cocktail recipe. A little splash of Kahlua with a little splash of milk is a super simple and tasty way to enjoy your homemade Kahlua too!

More DIY Liqueurs to try:

Homemade Kahlua

Make your own Kahlua with simple ingredients – perfect for mixing in cocktails or for gift giving.
Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time1 hour
Course: Beverage
Keyword: Homemade Beverage, Kahlua
Yield: 32 oz
Author: Beverly


  • 2 cups Water
  • 1-1/2 cups Sugar
  • 2 Tbl Instant Coffee
  • 2 cups Vodka
  • 1 Tbl Vanilla Extract


  • Combine the water, sugar, and instant coffee in a medium saucepan.  Bring the mixture to a high simmer, but do not bring it all the way to a boil.  Reduce the heat a bit and let the mixture keep simmering, stirring occasionally, for about an hour.  This helps deepen the flavor of the sugar and the coffee.
  • Remove the mixture from the heat and let it cool completely.  Once the mixture has cooled, mix in the vodka and the vanilla extract.  (If you add the vodka while the mixture is hot, the heat can cause too much of the alcohol to evaporate away).  Your final product will be a very rich and dark liquid.
  • Transfer the mixture to a glass bottle or other container with a tight fitting lid for storage.  If possible, let the mixture set for a few weeks to let the flavors meld together.

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  1. I make this every Christmas to give as gifts. Every year I am asked to make it again and friends and family even bring back the glass bottles for me to use again. That’s how I know it’s a hit!

  2. Thank you for this!! I make the Kahlua using a vanilla bean which is very expensive. Also I love the idea of the decorative bottle and recipe card. Makes a terrific gift

  3. Do you use espresso instant coffee or just any brand of instant coffee? Does this matter? I am going to make these as gifts for this Christmas. When is a good time to start this process?

    1. I just use any brand of instant coffee which still works fine to add the coffee flavor you need in this recipe. If you are giving these for gifts, you might want to start the process about two weeks ahead of time so that the flavors can meld together.

    1. The swing-top bottle shown is a 16 oz size, but you can fit almost 20 ounces in the bottle if you fill it up all the way to the top.

  4. My friend has made kahula for years very similar to this. She uses bourbon which adds a different spin! I showed her your recipe and she agreed its what she does but suggests not putting coffee in right away because it turns batch bitter. She also uses equal parts water and sugar. Thoughts?

    1. I suppose there could be potential for the coffee in the mixture to turn bitter if you simmered the batch for a long time. Because I only do the first step of simmering for about an hour, I haven’t experienced any bitterness to a batch. As far as the sugar and water, it’s probably a matter of preference on how sweet the final product is. I find that my measurements were a flavor profile that I enjoyed – enough sweetness to balance the power of the alcohol, without being overly sweet.

        1. Yes, you could make these a several weeks in advance. During those weeks the flavors will continue to meld together and the flavor will get even better!

  5. I make this every year with peppermint vodka and the crew at work loves it. They ask me when this year’s batch will be there.

        1. You could probably substitute brewed coffee – I would suggest trying about 1/4 cup and brew it quite dark and strong.

  6. Thank you for this recipe! Very delicious indeed. I once made many years ago in Hawaii. Better than store brand πŸ’•
    Lost recipe but tried many. Yours is the closest so far. I did substitute Vodka with Brandy. Used 1/2 instant coffee and 1/2 instant espresso. Rich and yummy with a kick!
    Thank you again. Happy holiday season to you and family.

  7. Thank you very much! Made some mods to the recipe and it’s delicious. Replaced the vodka with white rum. Also, instead of water and instant coffee, used 2 cups off fresh brewed coffee. Excellent flavor!

  8. At last Ive found an actual recipe………the first Ive been able to write up with my arthritic writing hand but I had been looking for along time. want to try and make as gifts (I personally do not drink alc.ohol) So thanks

  9. I wonder, instead of using the 2 cups of water and instant coffee if you could just use 2 cups of cold brewed or regular brewed coffee…

  10. I have always made Kahlua with Vodka but also heard recently about the rum. I’ve been making it with rum now for a couple of months and I must say, it tastes more like the store bought Kahlua. Will make it only with rum from now on.

  11. For years everyone has said to use vodka when making homemade Kahlua, but the company has come out and said it is rum that is the alcohol used in making it. Have you heard this?

    1. I have not tried that, but it would probably work. I’m not sure however if the brewed coffee would get stronger during the hour it simmers as compared to just having some instant coffee in the mixture.

    1. I haven’t ever tried substituting another sweetener (such as Swerve) but I think it would work. As long as it will dissolve completely, I think it should be OK.

  12. Oh my, this looks amazing! By the looks of the reviews on Pinterest it also taste amazing. Too bad I didn’t see it early enough for the eggnog mudslide I want to make. Pinning for later use. Thanks for sharing!

  13. Like the sound of this.
    When you simmer your sugared coffee water mix, how much are you aiming to be left with after an hours simmering

    1. Your homemade kahlua should stay fine for several months. I always use mine up in a few months and it always stayed good during that time.

    2. I have always used mine up within a couple months and it has always stayed good during that time with no flavor change or spoilage.

    3. Hi, I made a batch 4-5 years ago. just a month ago I found a bottle of it , that I had forgot about, it was so good and tasty so I just made more. love it with fresh cows milk White Russian it might be called.

  14. I love making homemade kahlua ! For even more depth of flavor, I use 2 split vanilla beans instead of extract. 1/4 cup instant espresso and 1 tsp dark cocoa added to the sugar syrup and brought to a boil. And 2/3 cup brandy with the vodka. Amazing flavor !

  15. I’m excited to try making this, and now I’m wondering if you’ll be coming up with Irish or Canterbury Cream? I’m already trying to figure out how it might be done based on how you made this Kahlua, but if you already have instructions, then that would be a lot better for me. πŸ™‚

  16. Kailua is my favorite spirit. The sugar in it is what I am trying to avoid. If a sweetner is necessary are there any healthier choices that can be used or can you make it without?

    1. I tried to do a little research on this and some say Splenda can be substituted in a “simple syrup” while others say No Way! It might be worth experimenting and see if you like the results. I would think a Splenda/water combo would not need to be simmered for an hour because Splenda dissolves so much more quickly.