How To: The Food Hacks Guide to the Ultimate Homemade Kahlua & Irish Coffee

The Food Hacks Guide to the Ultimate Homemade Kahlua & Irish Coffee

Coffee liqueur is pretty easy to make at home, and if you've read our guide on why instant coffee is a pantry essential, you know that we recommended the powdered stuff over fresh-brewed when making your own Kahlua at home...until now.

Inspired by Los Angeles-based company Fliquor Bean, which cold brews coffee in a base of whiskey (yes, whiskey) rather than water, I made Kahlua the lazy way by steeping coffee in ice-cold vodka for 14 hours and then adding the other ingredients (vanilla and sugar). I also took a page from Fliquor's book and made a second batch of cold-brew coffee, only using Scotch whiskey as the steeping liquid.

Fliquor Bean says that their cold-brewed boozy coffee is great for writer's block. Hmmm. Image by Ben Richardson/Sprudge

First, I went out and bought cheap booze and coffee. Don't judge me, I'm still real. I'm just cheap as hell and couldn't bear the thought of pouring coffee into a couple of cups of Glenlivet or Belvedere.

Altogether, the supplies came out to be a little over twenty bucks. Image by Karen Ahn/WonderHowTo

Next came the proportions. When I make cold-brew coffee, I usually follow Yumi's recipe. For these boozy versions, I used a ½ cup of coffee and 2 cups of vodka and Scotch respectively.

I figured that the alcohol would extract more flavor and aroma from the coffee, leaving me with a super-strong concentrate that would work well for my DIY coffee liqueur, in the case of the vodka, or served over ice, with the Scotch.

Yes, I know it's decaf, but that's what I drink. Image by Karen Ahn/WonderHowTo

The results? Pretty damn good. Both the coffee-and-vodka and coffee-and-Scotch brews were smooth with no hint of acidity. Best of all, both tasted like coffee—real honest-to-goodness coffee, but with a massive, for-adults-only kick.

Some tasters noted that they might prefer a smoother, sweeter liquor like bourbon in which to cold-brew the coffee, since Scotch, with its smoky notes, can be a bit much to take, especially for those who aren't Scotch drinkers.

Image by Karen Ahn/WonderHowTo

And because the steeping process was so long, I could taste different notes of fruits, nuts, and spice in the coffee, all of which were amped up by the alcohol. Once I added agave and vanilla to the vodka version, I proclaimed it the best homemade Kahlua I'd ever produced.

L: a quick White Russian made with reduced-fat milk and my homemade Kahlua. R: Cold-brewed coffee made with Scotch. Image by Karen Ahn/WonderHowTo

The rich, strong flavor of coffee really enhances the liquor and vice versa, so if I were going to make either of these mixes again just for sipping over ice, I would definitely get a better brand of liquor, or use one of several easy methods to improve the taste of bottom-shelf vodka.

However, I think that cheaper vodka is just fine with homemade Kahlua, because any taste defects in the alcohol get masked by the sweetener and vanilla. Ditto with the Scotch whiskey, which I will save to make my own bastardized version of Irish coffee—with plenty of sugar and cream.

Just updated your iPhone? You'll find new features for Podcasts, News, Books, and TV, as well as important security improvements and fresh wallpapers. Find out what's new and changed on your iPhone with the iOS 17.5 update.


looks like a great homemade Christmas present. one probably stupid question, do you use the grounds to steep in the alcohol and then filter, or do you brew the coffee with cold water, filter then add the coffee drink to the spirit?

The beauty of this method is you steep the grounds in the alcohol, no water required. Filter afterward. If you try it, let me know what you think of the results. I'm still tinkering with proportions.

Thanks for sharing this! How much vanilla extract and agave do you use?

whats that ratio of sugar and vanilla

I just eyeball the measurements and taste as I go. If I had to guesstimate, I'd say I use about two tablespoons of agave, more or less, depending on how sweet you like things. I also stick in one vanilla bean pod (once the insides have been scraped out) rather than using vanilla extract. Feel the flavor is better.

Do you add the sweetener and vanilla beans after the brewing period or at the beginning?

I'm making this for Christmas this year. How long do the vanilla beans stay in the vodka coffee? Will it be ready in time? Also, I don't have any agave and was planning on making a simple sugar syrup. Do you think this will be ok?

I say leave the vanilla bean pod to steep for a day, if you've got the time. If you don't have the time, use really good quality vanilla extract. It'll get the job done.

Sorry to butt in.
IMHO mixing drinks for a few years on the side..

Agave nectar is deeper, more complex, has a longer finish, than the simple syrup .
Simple syrup is cleaner and fresher tasting.

It depends on your tastes but I think it will work out.

Thanks for this—that's a good explanation of the differences. I've been defaulting to agave because it's easier, but I think simple syrup would be a really nice touch.

Thank you so much for your responses! I'll leave the vanilla in for 24 hours and use the simple syrup. I can't wait to try the finished product!

Let us know what you think of the results! I hope you find them tasty.

Could someone please just post the recipe in one place? Ingredients, order of doing things, how much of what, etc.? I really like the sound of this versus the instant coffee version, but at least those give an actual recipe. I'm too much of a newbie at this to make eyeball guesstimates.

I am doing the Kahlua version and this is what I am planning on doing. WIll update this if it tastes rank.

  • 1 cup coarse ground coffee beans
  • 4.5 cups vodka
  • 4 Tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 2 Tablespoons of Simple syrup or to taste


  1. Mix 1 cup ground coffee beans with 4.5 cups vodka in a container.
  2. Cover container with plastic wrap and let sit in fridge for 12 hours.
  3. Strain the cold crew vodka/coffe grind mixture using a coffee filter, cheesecloth or french press.
  4. Make simple syrup by boiling 1 cup of water to 1 cup of sugar, let it disolve down into a syrupy mixture.
  5. Add 4 tablespoons of vanilla extract to the strained cold brew/vodka mixture.
  6. Add 2 tablespoons of simple syrup to the cold brew mixture or to taste.
  7. Enjoy (Hopefully)

I will update this post tomorrow with how the above recipe comes out. This is just piecing together what I have read in the links and above comments. Hope this helps!

This turned out great! I added maybe 4 tablespoons of simple syrup instead of 2. Be careful, it is full strength vodka! Not the lower Kahlua ABV.

What is the shelf life? Like most kahluas, do you want to let it age for a month or so?

Share Your Thoughts

  • Hot
  • Latest