Coffee flavored liqueur drinks or spirits have been enjoyed alone or added to coffee liqueur cocktails for hundreds of years. Essentially, a coffee liqueur is a distilled alcoholic beverage that has coffee as one of the major components. In recent times, the rise of micro distilling has created new opportunities for new and different coffee liqueurs, many of which combine complex, high-quality coffees with spirits. It’s no surprise that this change has also started to peak the interests of home coffee consumers.
The History of Coffee Liqueurs
While it’s believed that the first coffee liqueur was first made all the way back in the 1500s, most modern coffee liqueur brands that we know and love today originated in the twentieth century. Many popular brands originate from coffee growing countries that also produce alcohol. For example, Tia Maria was originally manufactured in Jamaica, while Kahlua was produced in Mexico in 1936. Throughout the twentieth century, coffee liqueurs became popular with various pop culture references. For example, the White Russian was made popular by the 1998 film The Big Lebowski. In recent years, newer coffee cocktails have been developed, and people are increasingly demanding higher quality coffee liqueurs.
The Difference Between Liquor and Liqueur
Before getting into the details of making your own coffee liqueur recipe at home, it’s important to know the difference between liquor and liqueur. Liquor refers to a classic fermented spirit that is made from raw materials. For example, grains are used to make vodka and whiskey, while sugar cane is used to make rum. On the other hand, a liqueur is a ‘base’ liquor that has been flavored and sweetened. This provides it with a syrupy consistency and a specific flavor, with sugary flavors often added after the distillation process. In general, liquors will have a higher alcohol content compared to liqueurs and they are not always sweet.
Coffee Liqueur Vs Liquor Coffee
The terms that are used to describe coffee-related alcoholic drinks can sometimes be confusing. Liquor coffee or coffee liquor drinks is a term that refers to cocktails made with brewed coffee, such as espresso martini or Irish coffee, which typically contain coffee and distilled alcoholic beverages. On the other hand, coffee liqueur is a standalone beverage that uses coffee as one of the main ingredients. They can be enjoyed on their own or used in cocktail recipes. Some coffee liqueurs are made with a coffee concentrate while others are produced with instant or soluble coffee.
Consistency and Sweetness: Why They Matter
You can use coffee liqueur as the base for a variety of different cocktails or enjoy it alone depending on the consistency. For example, the Black Russian and White Russian are cocktails that both use milk in their recipes, meaning that Kahlua’s syrup-like consistency is crucial to creating this drink successfully. On the other hand, other drinks such as the coffee negroni or espresso martini require a thinner liquid with less sugar to be used. There is a wide range of coffee liqueurs available on the market, and each one has slightly different consistencies. Some will be sweeter than others and they all have differing mouthfeels. The variables can be altered to create the consistency that you want. A good, versatile coffee liqueur should have a flavor profile that works well with any classic coffee cocktail. However, when creating a coffee liqueur at home, it’s a good idea to know which cocktail you want to use it to make.
How Coffee Affects the Finished Product
Some large coffee liqueur brands will use instant or commercial-grade coffee to produce their cheap coffee liqueur beverages, before masking this with added sugars or caramels, giving it a stickier mouthfeel and a sweeter flavor. Despite this, there are always new products emerging that use higher-quality coffee beans. Quality is becoming more and more of a priority for more discerning consumers. For example, the brand Mr Black offers coffee liqueurs that are made using top-grade wheat vodka and specialty-grade cold brew coffee. Using higher-quality coffee beans with an inherently desirable flavor profile allows you to boost the complexity of your liqueur naturally, leading to less of a need to add sugar and artificial flavors.
How to Make Coffee Liqueur at Home
You can make your own coffee liqueur at home with a few simple ingredients. You’ll need:
- Cold brew
- Raw sugar
To make the liqueur:
1. Make caramel by simmering two parts sugar with one part water until brown and caramelized. Allow to cool before adding to the other ingredients.
2. Combine one part vodka, one-part cold brew, and one part caramel.
3. Place the container in the fridge and allow the liqueur to mature for at least fifteen days.
Another recipe to consider uses:
- 30g coffee
- 50g raw sugar
- 175g water
- Use any filter brewing method to make a concentrated pour-over coffee. Use thirty grams of medium-fine ground coffee with 175g water boiled to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. This should produce around 100g of coffee concentrate.
- Add 50g raw sugar to the concentrate.
- Combine with an equal part of vodka.
Making your own coffee liqueur at home gives you plenty of options whether you plan to drink it on its own over ice or use it in a cocktail. You can use these base recipes for coffee liqueur and tweak them to your liking.
Step By Step
1. Collect Ingredients and Equipment
You will need coffee, alcohol, raw sugar, and any flavorings that you want to add, such as vanilla extract. You will also need a method of brewing your coffee. A suitable container is all you will need if you want to make cold brew, but if you want to use a hot brew, you’ll need a coffee maker. You can use an espresso machine, a Moka pot, drip coffee machine, pour over kettle, or even a capsule coffee maker if you wish. You will also need a large mixing bowl, a pot for caramelizing the sugar, and a coffee filter.
2. Make the Coffee
The first step is to prepare your coffee. It’s recommended to go for the best quality coffee you can find and grind the beans freshly before using them. You can do this using a burr grinder. If you don’t have a coffee grinder, many coffee shops and roasters will do it for you.
3. Caramelize the Sugar
This step is essential to perfecting the final result. While you can just add sugar to the coffee, you will notice a massive difference if you caramelize it first. Thankfully, it’s also really easy to do. All you need to do is mix equal parts sugar and water in a pot on the heat. As it heats up, the sugar will dissolve easily. Keep stirring it as it begins to boil and bubble and take it off the heat when it starts to thicken up.
4. Combine the Ingredients
Combine the caramel and your flavorings with the coffee and mix until it is all well-dissolved. Allow it to cool before adding your alcohol. Then, pour it all into a bottle and let it sit for a few days.
After around three to four days, you should filter the coffee using a metal filter. Clean the bottle, then pour the mixture back inside. Allow it to sit for a long time – ideally, a few months. Liqueurs tend to taste better the longer you leave them.
Finding the Right Ingredients
You will, of course, need coffee to make your own coffee liqueur at home. While you can use instant coffee to make it, you’ll always get better results if you invest in some of the quality specialty coffee that is available today. You can use espresso, drip coffee, and other types of coffee to make coffee liqueur. However, the best results tend to come from using cold brew, as it is more complex and tends to be fruitier compared to other coffee types. Freshly ground, medium roast coffee should be used for the best results.
Another important ingredient for making coffee liqueur at home is the sprit. Alcohol is the most important part of any liqueur. Vodka is a popular choice, but rum can also make a really nice liqueur. The best option is aged rum for the caramel and smoky notes that really complement the coffee.
Ways to Use Homemade Coffee Liqueur
When you’ve made your own liqueur at home, there are plenty of options when it comes to what you can do with it. One of the simplest options is an Espresso Martini; just shake your liqueur with a shot of espresso and vodka to get a generous amount of froth on top. Alternatively, try a White Russian, made with coffee liqueur and vodka.
Coffee liqueur can be enjoyed on its own or added to many different cocktails. While there are plenty of brands to buy, making your own coffee liqueur at home is a fairly easy process that allows you to experiment with different flavorings, coffee types and more to get it exactly how you like it.