Step 1: Basic Ingredients
Here are the important components to a great coffee liqueur:
Great, strong, whole bean coffee. I went to my local coffee shop (La Costa Coffee) and picked their French Roast. I bought a half-pound, but think you could manage with about a quarter pound. If you do not have a coffee grinder, buy the coffee right before you use it. Ground coffee only keeps about a day, whole bean only a week, so plan appropriately. It needs to be ground just a smidge more coarse than espresso grind, however, if you are wary, espresso grind will be just fine.
Everclear or other grain alcohol. Everclear is readily available in the U.S. Be sure to use the highest alcohol content you can find. Most people in the states will only be able to find 151, but if you are lucky, you may be able to get the 190. Both work just fine, the only difference is the alcohol content in the final product. You will need 1 cup of alcohol.
Turbinado sugar. I'd recommend any kind of raw sugar before white sugar. Turbinado sugar is just another name for raw cane sugar. It adds a great flavor to the final product. You will need a 1/2 cup.
Vanilla Extract. Add depending how much vanilla flavor you would like. Omit if you do not like vanilla. I added about 1 1/4 teaspoons. Some people add vanilla beans, other spices, or cinnamon sticks, but I have not tried these so cannot vouch for them.
Coffee grinder with adjustable grind setting (or have your coffee pre-ground).
Moka pot, espresso maker, or french press. Moka pot is recommended, with espresso maker as a second.
Small to medium sized saucepan.
Heat-resistant mixing bowl (I used a glass Pyrex container).
Step 2: All About Coffee Beans
Step 3: Making Your Coffee
If you have never seen this crazy contraption in the photo, rest assured, it is available in most home-goods and cooking stores. The bottom reservoir is filled with water. I boiled hot water in an electric kettle before filling the reservoir each time and this cut prep time in half. You fill the water to just below the pressure valve on the side.
Coffee grinds go in the middle portion. You do not need to pack it tightly, just scoop it in until it is full.
Coffee needs to be ground about espresso coarseness. Do a test run first to see if the grind needs to be adjusted. If the water has a hard time coming out, make your grind more coarse. If the coffee appears too light or tastes weak, make your grind less coarse.
Place it on the stove and watch. The stove should be at medium heat.
Step 4: The Coffee
Step 5: Let It Cool
Step 6: Bottles
You can buy Grolsch at your grocery store or local BevMo for about $6-8 for 4 bottles, plus you get to drink a few delicious beers in the process.
To clean them, I recommend boiling them in a large pot for a few minutes, but in reality, a good cleansing under the faucet would do. The Everclear is a high enough alcohol content to discourage bacterial growth. I ended up using 2 1/2 Grolsch bottles for this recipe.
Step 7: Adding the Sugar
Mix the sugar syrup and your coffee. This is where you add the vanilla. I added 1 1/4 teaspoons, but you can add more or less to taste. Let it cool completely. I cannot stress this enough. Everclear evaporates at a higher temperature than your average alcohol, so you need to make sure the mixture is not still hot.
Add 1 cup Everclear to the mixture and have a final taste. Good, huh?
Step 8: The Hardest Part
Fill your bottles and cap them. Ensure the caps are snug and air-tight. Most "experts" recommend leaving your liqueurs on a shelf for 2-3 months to allow the taste to fully develop. Can you drink it earlier? Of course!
The liqueur over time will develop a layer of "crud" that will need to be filtered out. You can do this a few days after making it. I used a metal coffee filter, but these same experts recommend filling a regular strainer with cotton balls and pouring the mixture through it. Why cotton balls? The thickness blocks the particles while allowing the fluid to pass through. When they get clogged you can easily toss them and add new ones, whereas straining through a dishtowel will require many dishtowels and laundry later on.
Return to the bottles, then let sit for awhile. A few months later you'll have a great drink to enjoy with friends and family, or a cheap Christmas gift to distribute!