No Waste: Frugally Fantastic Coffee & Tea Liqueurs

A café au lait-Mexican chocolate ‘tini

If you’ve read more than a few posts on this blog, you know that I love to find ways to get as much use out of food items as possible. Pineapple peel wine? Heck yeah! Fermented grapefruit peel syrup? Definite yes! When I recently came across a mention of making coffee liqueur from coffee grounds, I knew I had to try it. And while I was at it, why not also make something out of the black tea bags we normally toss out?

If you’re interested in trying these yourself, great! If you drink cheap coffee or tea, however, I would caution you to think about if it makes sense: the quality of the finished product will be determined by its ingredients. We use Peace Coffee, and we like to use the French press method to make our coffees.

Would something like a cheap coffee work? No, I’m not going to name one, but you know what I’m referring to – if it comes in a giant container and you might find it at the office, it’s probably not going to be your best choice for this project, so just don’t do it. Buy yourself a quality coffee, and use a method that’s gentler on the coffee than using a drip coffeemaker.

To make the coffee liqueur, I simply put the grounds from a pot of French press coffee into a glass jar, added a good quality (moderately-priced) vodka, and let it infuse for a couple of weeks. Would more time be beneficial? Perhaps, but I was eager to try it. After the time had elapsed, I strained the grounds out. As with the wines I make, I prefer to sweeten when using it, rather than committing to a level of sweetness by sweeetening the whole bottle. If you and your partner have differing levels of preferred sweetness, you’ll appreciate this approach.

The first batch I made was just coffee, and the finished product was smooth and delicious. It compared very favorably to the coffee liqueur I might have purchased at the store, except that I could control the level of sweetness (I find pre-sweetened brands too sweet)…and I could use stevia to sweeten it. A winner, for sure!

The second batch was a coffee and chicory, to which I added cocoa powder, a dash of cayenne, a pinch of allspice (and a few other spices) to approximate a “Mexican” coffee. We tend to add quite a bit of chicory to our coffee, so the finished liqueur had a pronounced (and slightly bitter) chicory note. No worries, though – we added a few drops of hazelnut-flavored stevia to create a very easy-drinking beverage.

Last but not least, we had been saving the contents of our tea bags (Barry’s and Yorkshire teas), and to them, I added cinnamon sticks, anise stars, cardamom pods, cloves, and a bit of black pepper. If you guessed that it was chai, you’d be right! This one really surprised me: it was sublime. The flavors of the spices melded very well, and the finished liqueur is complex and gloriously silky. Guess who’s going to be saving all of her “spent” tea bags from now on?

Chai ‘tini

Tip: let the grounds drip through a coffee filter to prevent “silt” from forming at the bottom of the bottle when you strain it.

So, before you toss out that quality tea bag or those premium coffee grounds, why not use them to make “second time around” liqueurs? Cheers!