First Stop: Veracruz
The coffee extract used in Kahlúa starts with hand-picked Arabica beans from Veracruz. We visited the coffee museum at El Cafe-tal in Coatepec, Veracruz to learn more.
A coffee culture
Our guide grew up drinking coffee and started her sons guzzling the stuff when they were babies. By the time our tour started at 10am, she’d already put back four cups.
Examining the beans
Inside the ripe cherry's red husk sits a coffee bean. The beans are hand-picked to ensure that each one is really ripe. While machines are certainly more efficient, the lack of a trained eye runs the risk of unripe beans in your morning coffee.
Drying the beans
After they've been picked, a machine rinses the unroasted coffee beans three times. Workers then empty bucketfuls into the sun to air-dry for 70 hours. Many coffee farmers also use machines to speed this process along.
The husking machine takes the dried beans and brushes off the papery white skin. There are different-sized slots in the machine to sort the beans by size.
Beans ready for roasting
The beans arrive at the distillery and await the roasting process in 1000 kilogram bags.
Tostador de cafe
This machine roasts the coffee, and man, does it smell good.
After ten minutes in the Tostador
Roasted beans come down this chute to spin until cool.
Meet Alfredo Pérez Nava
He oversees the entire process at the Kahlúa factory. Here, he's taking out a sample to do quality control before the roasted beans go into holding tanks.
Same coffee, different roasts
Clockwise from bottom left: samples roasted 8, 10, 12, 14, and 15 minutes.
Grinding the Beans
The beans are ground twelve hours after roasting. Here, a sample of the ground beans heads over to quality control to make sure that it's ground to the proper size.
Checking the grind
The ground coffee sample should remain in the middle of the strainer; if too much ends up on the top or the bottom, it means the grind is too fine or too coarse. These grinds are juuust right.
The Separador de Cafe
After the coffee is brewed for almost an hour, it runs through this big filter.
It looks like soil, but smells like coffee
After brewing, the factory sends truckloads of filtered coffee grinds to local farmers to use as fertilizer.
What does 96.2% alcohol taste like?
The rum that goes into Kahlua starts out seriously boozy—before dilution, it tastes a bit like nail polish remover. This spirit gets diluted and added to the coffee (with a little caramel coloring and vanilla) to make Kahlua. Then it's rested, filtered, and bottled.
Time for bottling
This machine caps all of the bottles.
Lots of Labels
Each bottle gets a label on the front and another on the back, and then receives the red-ribboned seal of Kahlúa.
Ready to drink
Boxed up and ready for shipment.