Homemade Kahlua – A Great Gift & Occasional Treat

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Homemade Kahlua

So, who’s ready to start talking Christmas?

Please don’t throw rocks at me.

By this point in the year, most stores have already put out Christmas decorations and many of them are playing Christmas carols constantly. I love to watch social media go nuts over this every October. It’s not even Halloween yet! Thanksgiving is weeks away! Stop expecting me to be cheerful already! And I admit, the commercialization of the holiday season is disheartening and consumerist-minded, but in a way I have to agree with the stores putting out stockings a few months early. I also like to start preparing for Christmas when it’s still autumn.

(I’ve also been known to listen to Christmas music before Halloween, but that’s another issue entirely and I won’t even begin to try and defend myself on it.)

The thing is, I like to make as many Christmas presents as I can, and making gifts takes time. One of my favorite things to give friends and acquaintances is a nice bottle of homemade kahlua.

Kahlua is a liqueur. It’s coffee and vanilla flavored, and syrupy in consistency. It’s basically a flavored, alcoholic syrup, and it mixes well in a number of wintertime favorites. I wouldn’t say that it’s healthy, but as a rare treat it can be part of an enjoyable evening.

And you might be annoyed with me for going on about Christmas gifts this early in the season, but this is why I’m doing it: Kahlua has to stand for three weeks before it can be strained and given as a gift.  I’m giving you a week or two to gather supplies and three weeks to make your kahlúa, so you should have it ready just in time to take it as a host’s gift to the first Christmas party of the year.

You’re welcome.

Homemade Kahlua


  • Large pot
  • Wooden spoon
  • Large pitcher or bowl
  • Cheesecloth
  • Funnel
  • Nice vessel to strain it into (I like this one.)

Homemade Kahlua 1



  1. Bring your water to a boil. When it’s good and hot, add your sugar and coffee granules and remove from heat.  Stir until everything is dissolved. It might take a while for them to dissolve, especially since raw sugar is so coarse, but they must dissolve well in order for the kahlua to be full-flavored and smooth.
  2. Next, remove the mixture from heat. Let it sit until it’s almost to room temperature, then pour it into a large pitcher, jar, or bowl. This is the vessel that the kahlua will be staying in for the next three weeks, so make sure that you’re able to cover it well (and don’t use your favorite pitcher, either, since it will be out of commission for nearly a month). Add the brandy or vodka and the two vanilla beans. Give everything one more good stir, then cover up your kahlua mixture and put it out of your sight.
  3. Consider marking your calendar or creating an event in your phone to alert you when the three weeks has passed. Don’t worry if it stays in a few extra days; it will be fine.
  4. After the three weeks have passed, it’s time to strain your concoction and get it into whatever pretty vessel you’ve chosen. That actually works best in two steps: First, strain your kahlua into a jar. Next, get a funnel and pour the final mixture into its final bottle. (Another option: Buy small bottles and split one batch of homemade kahlua into two or three gifts.) Close the lid tightly, and you’re ready to gift it! It should last for several months at least at room temperature.

Additional Steps

Of course, you may decide that you just want to keep this homemade kahlua for yourself, but if you do in fact give it away, there are nice touches you can make to be sure that it presents well. Personally, I like to find a simple, sparkly Christmas ornament and hang it around the neck of the bottle. You can always wrap a nice ribbon around it, or add a bow on top. If you’re especially crafty, turn the glass bottle into a keepsake by decorating it yourself. Actually, you should just go check out our post on how to make DIY gifts more beautiful.


About Emry Trantham

Emry is a writer, teacher, photographer and mother. She is interested in all things DIY and is willing to try any project at least once. She loves spending time with her kids and loves gardening, projects, and chickens.

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  1. Laide says

    Pls is it compulsory to use volka or brandy, pls there alternative to these bcos I don’t like anything alcohol. Thank you.

    • Meta says

      If you don’t like anything alcohol, why are you looking at recipes to make alcoholic liquor?? I just don’t understand

    • Emry Trantham says

      Kahlua is alcoholic by definition, so no, I don’t really think there is an alternative. You might search for a coffee-flavored syrup recipe, though, if you’d like something similar.

  2. Francine Thomas says

    I pinned this one! Sounds so yummy! One of my coworkers gave me a recipe for Kahlua that uses FLAVORED coffee. such as the chocolate Macadamia nut coffee. It adds an abundance to the word YUM!!!

  3. Donna Mac says

    Hi…Just a quick tip from an old bartender from decades ago…when you pour anything with Kahlua, pour the Kahlua in last. It mixes faster and better! Just a tip! 😀

  4. Bettie says

    Sorry, but REAL Kahlua IS RUM based…..with Sugar, Cornsyrup, vanilla bean and coffee……What is with all the different types of alcohol like Vodka?

    • Lisa says

      Different alcohols will have different flavors. I found this out making brandy peaches and vanilla extract. Your choice of alcohol just makes the gift unique to you. I’m not real fan of rum so I tend to avoid it. Although I will use it in gifts because my family does.

  5. Kelli D says

    I too am wondering why you use Brandy versus Rum or Vodka…. what is the flavor of the Kahlua using each type of alcohol? Just wondering.


  6. Lisa says

    I was singing Christmas songs the other day so, I completely understand. What about using brewed coffee? This makes me remember making Kahlua one year with Southern Pecan coffee. No vanilla bean though. I’m going to have to search for that recipe. Also, do you chop up the vanilla bean? Is that why you strain the mixture?

  7. Ol;inda says

    Is Rum, Brandy, and Vodka GF? How do you know if they are not made with GM as I don’t want THAT in my body. If I have Vodka I get potato vodka. What is the consensus on Rum and Brandy now? Alcohol never goes bad. When they make Kahula it doesn’t go bad so why does this have a shorter shelf life?

  8. Angelia says

    How long does this last? I have never made this before and not sure how long it will last. I am wanting to make this as gifts.

    • Jeri says

      I have been making homemade Kahlua for the last 25 years. I find that the older it is the BETTER it is. It is drinkable after about a month, but I was recently delighted to find a bottle in the back of my cabinet that was about 6 years old and was that ever delicious! So I never wait until my current supply is diminished before making a new batch. I always place a label on the bottles indicating the date I made it.

        • Jeri says

          I was taught to use Brandy to make Kahlua, but I know people who use Vodka and I don’t think the end result really tastes any different. I always look for the absolute cheapest bottle of brandy that I can find!

        • Jeri says

          Stephanie, as a side note… years ago I stopped using vanilla bean in my Kahlua simply because it is rather pricey. I think it tastes just as delicious without it and I can’t tell the difference. If you were so inclined, you could make a bottle with vanilla bean and one without and see if you notice any real difference. If money is no object, of course, go for it! Making Kahlua is so simple and it does make a very nice gift. Have fun!

          • Stephanie says

            Thanks for the tip, Jeri! Oh, darn…I guess I’ll have to sample the two like you suggested. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it. 🙂

  9. Stephanie says

    This will be fun to make for gifts. I’m not a huge Kahlua drinker, but I think the original contains rum. Is there any reason you like to use brandy instead? I’m just curious if something happens during the process of making it that results in brandy being preferred over rum, or whether it’s just a personal preference. Thank you so much for making this info available–I love these kinds of posts!

  10. Monica says

    Thanks Emry!! My homemade vanilla extract became ready the first of this month, 8 weeks, so 3 weeks will go fast LOL.

  11. Monica says

    Thank you for sharing this!! I love Kahlua, is the sugar the ingredient that thickens it? I am going to make this. Have everything and I am going to add some organic vanilla bean powder, yummy!!

    Which liquor do you like to use? I was thinking Brandy.

    • Emry Trantham says

      The ingredients don’t have to be organic; we just believe in organic here and always try to promote the organic lifestyle. Bottled water would be fine–again, we usually opt in favor of filtered water because there is less waste from filtered water than bottled water.

  12. Fernwise says

    This being something I make regularly – you’ll need to use some higher-proof base liquor than ‘regular’ 80 proof vodka/whatever to have this recipe result in the 40 proof of ‘real’ Kahlua. While I HATE to bring algebra to a blog (my own or others!) … this would yield a bit over 1.5 liters. Two cups (just under 1/2 liter) of typical 80 proof base would give you about 30 proof.

    • Emry Trantham says

      Thanks for doing that math! I actually like that this recipe makes it a little bit weaker than normal kahlua, but that’s still good information to have.

      • Emry Trantham says

        Although I did just measure this to make sure your deductions are correct, and it actually came in at about 1.4 liters, so it’s somewhere between 30 and 40 proof.