Homemade Coffee Liqueur

Part of being unemployed means stretching my budget. Name-brand liqueurs, like Kahlua, are an extravagance that I can ill afford. So, in real olde-school style, I’ve made my own coffee liqueur from vodka and some extra decaffeinated coffee that I made for a guest. I never drink decaf, but for the most part, coffee liqueurs have very little caffeine in them, so there’s nothing lost there.

First I took the decaf coffee, about 2 cups of it, and added 1 cup of sugar and a dash of salt. I boiled this down about a cup, which thickened into a light syrup. Once this cooled down, I added it to 2 cups of vodka. The vodka had a bit of an anise flavor, though, that I didn’t expect to magnify, but did considerably. I put this into an old liqueur bottle with a dozen or so coffee beans, then capped it. Three cups is just a little less than 750ml. I’ve estimated the resultant liqueur to be about 50 proof (2 cups @ 80 proof/3 cups).

About three days later, I tried it, and it was…, well, the anise and coffee made it taste a lot like cough medicine. I felt there wasn’t enough sugar in it, which was confirmed when I compared it to a shot of Kahlua I snuck out from a relative’s birthday party. (Hey, anything for science!) So, I’ve since added a quarter cup of corn syrup and a little more salt, which smoothed out some of the anise flavor, but it still isn’t close to Kahlua.

Cheap coffee liqueur is often more sugary than anything else. My mixture is a little better than the cheap stuff, but it’s nowhere near as smooth as the top shelf versions. Mrs. Ferment and Melba both liked it, but Mrs. Ferment’s folks, who took a quick taste test of my liqueur versus Kahlua, did not. This is fair. I’m not sure how I feel about it. I made it to keep the White Russians flowing, but I have to use a complimentary vodka or else there is a really crazy clash of overtones, which doesn’t suit the cocktail.

When I try this again, I’m going to crack the coffee beans before putting them in the bottle, boil down the coffee a bit further, and use a vodka that does not have anise overtones. And add more syrup. It’s crazy how sweet Kahlua is.