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Feb 23, 2012 05:10 PM

Best quality coffee liqueur- preferably without breaking the bank

Does anyone have a favorite good-quality coffee liqueur? I'm looking for something without corn syrup and strange chemical flavorings- it's for mixing primarily, but I need to avoid as many synthetic chemicals and additives as possible. As far as I'm aware Kahlua has both corn syrup and flavoring additives, but it's been difficult to find ingredient information for alcohol.
Midpriced if possible, thanks!

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  1. Hi- I completely understand that my answer is not really the answer to your question, but it may be an option for you.

    Make it. It's unbelievably simple and inexpensive.

    Some recipes have you steep for weeks- here's one that you can make and use same day. I avoid ones that use instant coffee, because I avoid instant coffee.

    adjust quantities as required, that recipe makes a ton (or make the batch, and give bottles away as gifts!)

    11 Replies
    1. re: caviar_and_chitlins

      Have you made this particular recipe? If so, do you use standard vodka or higher-proof grain alcohol? This looks shockingly easy (and cheap!).

      1. re: tinnywatty

        I have made homemade kahlua. This recipe may be a little different from the one I made, but it's at least as close as I recall- I had a "Big Lebowski" party, and couldn't believe how much I was going to have to spend on Kahlua, so I stumbled across a recipe very similar to this one- but I reduced the coffee and sugar down a bit, I do vaguely recall that. It was perfect, and I could use my organic coffee/sugar, which is what you are looking for in the sense of no icky chemicals.

        1. re: tinnywatty

          This article has a bit of an explanation as to what you're going to get with home made.

          I've made several liqueurs at home now (not coffee, but it's on the list) and it's really quite easy and rewarding.

          1. re: tinnywatty

            Hmm, just realized that it will come out to about 10% alcohol by volume. I'm not sure how long it would keep at that percentage.. might try doubling the alcohol in the original recipe to increase the abv.

            1. re: tinnywatty

              Since you put this little bug in my head, I made a small batch today-

              -3 cups water + 6 TBS grounds, simmered down to 2 cups, strained via french press
              - .25 lbs organic sugar + 1/4 cup pure maple syrup (ran out of sugar)

              mix together, let cool

              -1 TB vanilla extract
              - 2 cups vodka (thinking about your comment about the % alkeehol)

              good stong coffee flavor, nice kick.

              enjoying a lovely white russian now. it's delicious!

              1. re: caviar_and_chitlins

                Oh, thanks for the update! I am going to try it with cold brew coffee, which tends to be stronger, since that should lower the alcohol by volume lesst. I am also using rum, since supposedly it as a deeper flavor than does vodka.

                1. re: tinnywatty

                  Okay, so I made three cups of cold-brew coffee concentrate (3 cups of water, about 3/4 cup of finely ground organic coffee); added half a cup of light brown and half a cup of white sugar, and reduced to 2 cups. I mixed it 1:1 with Flor de Cana light rum, which should make it just about 20% abv. It tasted a little rummy but smooth and rich, and I've never really tried coffee liqueur alone so I thought it was fine. Then, unfortunately, I remembered that the recipe called for vanilla and put in two tablespoons (the recipe called for 3.5). Unfortunately, it now smells overwhelmingly of vanilla and I'm no longer excited about it. It also has a bit of a strong rum flavor in a white russian. SO, my plan is to make another half recipe the same way using cold-brew and vodka this time, to water down both the vanilla and the rum. I'll probably taste it before mixing the batches, and report back when it's done.

                  1. re: tinnywatty

                    Update- my boyfriend and his mom both decided that it tastes just like Kahlua, with a better coffee flavor, and I should leave it alone. At some point I'll try a fresh batch with vodka instead of rum, but it will take a long time to use up this much already.

                    1. re: tinnywatty

                      thanks for the updates- I'm glad the vanilla tempered a little, or found an audience.

                      I'm glad I made my batch, but I'm glad it lasts. I'm thinking the opposite of you- next time- RUM!

                      1. re: caviar_and_chitlins

                        I think it really must have mellowed into the other flavors, because it was much better the next morning. I'm concluding that I'm just not a huge fan of light rum; but even I still really enjoy the liqueur. Tested it out on two new people last night and both thought it was great.

                        1. re: tinnywatty

                          Or something threw your palate off the night before. Don't make a final decision on one tasting, it's amazing how much something you ate or drank - even hours before - can affect the taste of liquor later.

        2. Of the ones I have tasted, I would rank them:

          1. Coffee Heering. From the Danish people who make the cherry liqueur. This is the way I would design a coffee liqueur. I tasted it at Tales of the Cocktail in 2009 and saw a bottle in 2010-11 at a bar here in Boston, but I have never seen it for sale here. If you find it, buy it!
          2. Galliano Ristretto. Nice dark roast. Less breadth of flavor as Coffee Heering, and more roasted notes. This is our house coffee liqueur.
          3. Kahlua. There is nothing bad about it, just nothing too great. We've had a bottle for years.

          3 Replies
          1. re: yarm

            Yarm - have you had Trader Vic's Kona Coffee Liqueur? I have tried it side by side with kahlua and I think it has considerably more coffee flavor, I have never had the other two you mention so can't compare it to them but I much prefer it to Kahlua.

            I have never had the Tia maria which is rather pricey, I see it is made with jamaican coffee - have you tried that one?

            1. re: ncyankee101

              I have not (neither Trader Vic's nor Tia Maria). Nor have I tried Patron XO Cafe which apparently has been getting decent press (not cheap though).

              I have tried Fair Trade which was decent but pricey. Perhaps a small step below Ristretto regardless of price. I also tried Allen's Coffee Brandy which was a raw but overall not too bad for practically bottom shelf stuff -- in fact, one high end restaurant/bar in Boston uses it for their Espresso Martinis regardless of price; then again, it didn't become Maine's top selling spirit for nothing.

              1. re: yarm

                I have also heard excellent things about Santa teresa Araku rum coffee liqueur and now regret removing it from my cart in an online order a couple months ago. (I didn't hear these excellent things until after I placed the order.)

          2. Firelit is all the rage in California (I don't know if you can get it elsewhere). I don't think they use any additives:

            1. I normally wouldn't suggest it as a tequila, but PatrĂ³n XO Cafe is dry (not sweet) with notes of vanilla.

              2 Replies
              1. re: hawkeyeui93

                I'm interested in this as a contrast to the normal sweet liqueur. I'll have to see if I can find it in one of the tiny bottles.

                1. re: hawkeyeui93

                  Boyfriend just made us buy a bottle if this. Definitely not sweet! It was pretty good.