Recipes | Beverages & Smoothies

Low FODMAP Coffee Liqueur

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Our Low FODMAP Coffee Liqueur is our version of “Kahlua”, which is rum based and therefore high FODMAP. This coffee liqueur is based on vodka, so it is an approximation, but if you are looking for a coffee liqueur to sip, pour over ice, a scoop of ice cream, add to your coffee, or to use to make a White Russian (see below), then this is the recipe you have been waiting for.

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What Is Kahlua?

Kahlua is the most popular of the coffee liqueurs (there is also Tia Maria, Kamora, and others) and is based on rum. According to Monash University lab testing, rum is high FODMAP even at tiny 10 ml servings.

Is Alcohol Low FODMAP?

Some alcohol is low FODMAP and we have a very comprehensive article for you on Cocktails & Mocktails to guide you through what you need to know about wine, champagne, beer and hard alcohols.

Is Vodka Low FODMAP?

Yes, vodka is low FODMAP. According to Monash University lab testing, vodka is low FODMAP at 30 ml servings. It is also pertinent to point out that Monash does use Australian healthy eating guidelines when establishing serving sizes for their app, and there is no further information on vodka in the small print, meaning there is no Moderate or High FODMAP info given. It might very well be low FODMAP at larger servings. Also, alcohol is known to trigger IBS symptoms in some people.

Is Coffee Low FODMAP?

Yes, black coffee is low FODMAP. I use instant coffee for this recipe, and it has been lab tested by Monash and is low FODMAP in 4 g or 2 heaping teaspoon amounts per serving. (These are their designated volume/weight equivalents. Please note that one brand can have a very different ratio from another due to varying densities). 

Can I Make A Low FODMAP White Russian?

Yes, with our Low FODMAP Coffee Liqueur and lactose-free dairy products, you absolutely can! (see Tips below).

Can I Halve Or Double The Recipe?

Yes, you can. This recipe can scale up or down easily, with great results.

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About Creating Low FODMAP Coffee Liqueur

I have a BFF, Mary, who I have known since the 80s. She is an amazing cook and baker and has helped me develop, test and taste recipes over the decades. She said to me, “Dédé, this one broke me”. Let me explain.

If you research homemade coffee liqueurs on the Internet, you will find all sorts of approaches and ratios of ingredients. Since the low FODMAP diet can be so convoluted, I decided from the get-go that I was going to use instant coffee and vanilla extract (as opposed to the route taking whole coffee beans and real vanilla beans) to make our recipe as streamlined as possible.

Homing in on those recipes, there was still a huge variety of recipes. Some had twice the coffee amount than others. Some twice the vodka, some twice the sugar. And then there was the assembly and preparation. Some whisked ingredients together, others cooked a sugar syrup first; some had extended simmering.

I ended up make 7 versions – and they (nearly) broke Mary. Let’s just say tasting 7 versions of any alcoholic based drink is not easy, both from the perspective of not getting snockered, and also being able to keep one’s palate fresh. I was giving sets of bottles out left and right because I wanted a well-rounded tasting panel. Over 15 people participated in the tastings and there were some clear winners, which ended up aligning with my taste preferences, as well. 

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Cooked vs. Uncooked

As I mentioned above, some recipes called for simmering; others didn’t. The simmering part never included the alcohol, rather, it was about simmering the sugar, water and coffee components.

Some of our tasters preferred the uncooked version; other found that the uncooked were OK but lacked body. On the other hand, there were several recipes online that called for extended simmering – 2 hours and even more – and, in my opinion,  these concentrated the coffee/sugar/water mixture way too much. Even when combined with the vodka and vanilla after cooling, the resulting beverage was too syrupy.

I ended up with a happy medium: some cooking, but not too much.

Goldilocks Syndrome: Finding The Right Coffee Taste & Look

I call it Goldilocks syndrome – you know, when you have to keep trying at something to make sure that it is the “perfect” thing, be it taste, texture, temperature, visuals, or what have you. (Like shopping for a new bed; don’t get me started!)

It was very interesting. The amounts of coffee ranged from 2 tablespoons per recipe to 2 cups of instant coffee. Obviously, a huge range. Both ends of the spectrum were generally not preferred by testers, with the 2-tablespoon recipe also getting seriously marked down for poor visuals. It looked like pale, watery coffee and we wanted that rich look, like Kahlua itself. 

What Is The Best Instant Coffee?

As I explained, I knew from the beginning that I was going to use instant coffee, for ease of preparation, but which one? I assume if you are reading about making your own coffee liqueur that you are a bit of a “foodie”. Now, I happen to really dislike that word, but it gets the job done. Come join our Low FODMAP for Foodies Group on Facebook. There you will find like-minded people, like our community member Hilary Hursh, who happens to be a coffee expert.

I reached out to Hilary in the beginning of my development stage and she had a lot to add to the discussion, for which I am very grateful.

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Enjoy on the rocks, straight up, or make a White Russian!

What Is Instant Coffee?

From Hilary: “’Instant” or “Soluble’ coffee are general terms that cover 3 main different types of products: Freeze Dried Coffee, Spray Dried Coffee and Agglomerated Coffee.  All of these products are made from roast and ground coffee that is extracted with water, typically while applying heat and pressure.

Once extracted, the “brewed” coffee is further concentrated by freeze concentration or evaporation, and then dried by spray drying or freeze drying. Generally speaking, the ‘best tasting’ instant coffee is the result of freeze concentration and freeze drying as the most flavor volatiles are maintained, these products will also be the most expensive.

In some cases, coffee ‘aroma’ is captured during the roasting or extraction process and added back to boost the flavor before drying (similar to orange juice concentrate manufacturing if you are familiar with that). 

Agglomerated coffee is a further-processed version of spray dry coffee where the fine coffee particles are steamed to adhere together into larger pieces that are easier to measure and dissolve.

Most retail branded instant coffee is either freeze dried, which creates the largest particles, or agglomerated, which looks most similar to roast and ground coffee and is commonly called ‘crystals’ for its somewhat shiny appearance. Spray dried coffee is sometimes labeled as ‘espresso powder’ or used in dry blended coffee mixes like the classic General Foods International Coffee.”

What Is Instant Espresso?

More from Hilary: “Side note: the term ‘espresso’ does not have a standard of identity when it comes to instant coffee, whole bean, or roast and ground coffee. Consumer perception of ‘espresso’ is a darker roast and finer grind than a typical coffee but that does not always hold true, it is simply a marketing term that consumers are typically willing to pay more for.”

Which Instant Coffee Should I Use?

So, that might be more than you ever thought you wanted to know, but I found this fascinating and also helpful in my recipe development. I knew I was going to use the same instant coffee in all of my versions, so that we had a more even playing field, and I went with Bustelo, which is freeze-dried. BTW they happen to call it “Instant Espresso Coffee”, so they have all their bases covered.

Vodka vs. Rum

The ratio of vodka was also a very interesting part of the research. As I mentioned before, Kahlua is based on rum, and vodka is not like rum – at all. Vodka has a bite to it, and if you are not a vodka fan, this recipe might not be for you.

Since rum is made from sugarcane, I did, at first, (version #1) try to make a caramelized sugar syrup as part of the mixture, to lend a “rummy” base, but it did not work well.

How Much Vodka Is Too Much Vodka?

Similarly, to the ratios of coffee, the vodka amounts in our 7 samples ranged, but not quite as dramatically. I suggest that you make the recipe as described once, taste it, and if you would like to adjust the amount of vodka up or down, feel free. Even a slight change in vodka amount can markedly change the taste and experience of the outcome.

For this recipe I used 100 proof. There are recipes that suggest using grain alcohol or Everclear, and you could try those if you like.

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Brown Sugar vs. White Sugar

I had high hopes for incorporating brown sugar into the mixture. Since my caramelization of white sugar did not work, I thought that brown sugar would bring some of that sugarcane, gold rum flavor to the mix. The versions with brown sugar were at the bottom of the tasting scale. 

Recipe development is so interesting to me; this was a perfect example of having a sound theory that was disproved in practice.

A Note On Coffee, Caffeine & Alcohol

You can make this with decaffeinated coffee, but I just wanted to remind everyone that coffee and alcohol can both be gut irritants. Drink to your tolerances – and of course, always in moderation.

Please read our article on Coffee and also on Drinking Alcohol.

What Is The Best Low FODMAP Coffee Liqueur?

SIGH. This recipe was a bear to develop, mostly because while there were some clear winners and clear losers, there were also several that folks loved. It comes down to whether you like your drink vodka forward, or whether coffee, or sweetness are more important.

The recipe I landed on is similar to Kahlua, but it is not quote as sweet, which I think is a good thing. If you want to up the sugar and water a bit, you can. That won’t alter the FODMAP content.

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Troubleshooting

Make the recipe as described below. Then assess for your liking. Is it too thick? Reduce less. Not sweet enough? Add more sugar, etc. 

How To Make Low FODMAP Coffee Liqueur

Use the Bustelo instant coffee, as recommended, and measure it out accurately.

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Whisk together the water, sugar and instant coffee in a large pot and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Adjust heat way down so that you can maintain a very low simmer; as low as you can go.

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Simmer for 40 minutes. The mixture should very slightly reduce and thicken but should not become quite thick. Maple syrup texture is too thick.

Whisk mixture as it comes off the heat and allow to cool to room temperature, then whisk in vodka and vanilla extract. Strain through a very fine-meshed strainer into bottles, seal tight and store up to 3 months. Your low FODMAP Coffee Liqueur is ready to serve. Use as you would Kahlua. 

How To Serve

Use our Low FODMAP Coffee Liqueur any way you would use Kahlua: one the rocks, make a White Russian (see Tips), get creative! We like to use it in recipes, too. Try our Low FODMAP Chocolate Chunk Kahlua Buttercream Bars and our Low FODMAP Mocha Toffee Crunch Cake.

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More Low FODMAP Liqueurs

Also be sure to check out our additional low FODMAP liqueurs:

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5 from 1 vote

Low FODMAP Coffee Liqueur

Our Low FODMAP Coffee Liqueur is our version of “Kahlua”, which is rum based and therefore high FODMAP. This coffee liqueur is based on vodka, so it is an approximation, but if you are looking for a coffee liqueur to sip, pour over ice, a scoop of ice cream, add to your coffee, or to use to make a White Russian (see below), then this is the recipe you have been waiting for.

Low FODMAP Serving Size Info: Makes about 3 cups (720 ml); 12 servings; serving size ¼ cup (60 ml) 

Makes: 12 Servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
Author: Dédé Wilson

Ingredients:

Preparation:

  1. Whisk together the sugar, water and instant coffee in a large pot and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Adjust heat way down so that you can maintain a very low simmer; as low as you can go. Simmer for 40 minutes. The mixture should very slightly reduce and thicken but should not become quite thick. Maple syrup texture is too thick.
  2. Whisk mixture as it comes off the heat and allow to cool to room temperature, then whisk in vodka and vanilla extract. Strain through a very fine-meshed strainer into bottles, seal tight and store up to 3 months. Your Low FODMAP Coffee Liqueur is ready to serve. Use as you would Kahlua.

Notes:

Tips

  • Low FODMAP White Russian: The classic White Russian is 1-part coffee liqueur, 1-part vodka and 1-part dairy, classically heavy cream. You can use up to ¼ cup (60 ml) liquid heavy cream and it is low FODMAP. Please read our article, All About Cream & FODMAPs, which clarifies what is listed on the Monash app.
  • Because our Low FODMAP Coffee Liqueur contains vodka, we suggest you take a modified approach and try half heavy cream (conventional, or lactose-free) and half Low FODMAP Coffee Liqueur, perhaps staring with ¼ cup (60 ml) each.
  • Fill a rocks glass with ice cubes. Add our Low FODMAP Coffee Liqueur, then top with a cream layer. TO make it super pretty, with separate layers, you can also pour the cream off the back of a spoon over the liqueur.

FODMAP Information

Our recipes are based on Monash University and FODMAP Friendly science.

  • Sugar: Monash University and FODMAP Friendly have both lab tested white, granulated sugar. Monash states that a Green Light low FODMAP serving size of white sugar is ¼ cup (50 g). FODMAP Friendly simply states that they have tested 1 tablespoon and that it is low FODMAP. Regular granulated white sugar is sucrose, which is a disaccharide made up of equal parts glucose and fructose. Sucrose is broken down and absorbed efficiently in the small intestine.
  • Vodka: Both Monash University and FODMAP Friendly have lab tested vodka. Monash University reports that it is low FODMAP Green Light at a 30 ml serving size. FODMAP Friendly gives it a “Pass” at 1 shot or 30 ml.

Please always refer to the Monash University & FODMAP Friendly smartphone apps for the most up-to-date lab tested information. As always, your tolerance is what counts; please eat accordingly. The ultimate goal of the low FODMAP diet is to eat as broadly as possible, without triggering symptoms, for the healthiest microbiome.

Course: Beverage, Drinks
Cuisine: American

Nutrition

Calories: 205kcal | Carbohydrates: 30g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 1g | Sodium: 2mg | Sugar: 30g | Calcium: 1mg

All nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered estimates. Actual nutritional content will vary with brands used, measuring methods, portion sizes and more. For a more detailed explanation, please read our article Understanding The Nutrition Panel Within Our Recipes.