Coffee Facts

Red Eye Coffee: An Extra Energy Boost

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If a sudden jolt of energy is what you need in the morning, then a red eye coffee is the drink for you. While some versions of this drink take that energy boost to an even greater extreme, a red eye coffee is undoubtedly a potent beverage option. In this post, I’d like to share all you need to know about a red eye coffee so that you can decide if it is the drink for you. 

What Is Red Eye Coffee?

Red Eye Coffee

A red eye coffee is a simple drink that combines a typical drip-brewed coffee with a single espresso shot. That combination contributes to the strength and general flavor profile of this drink. 

You can drink a red eye coffee hot or cold. And since this drink has such a simple list of ingredients, you’ll find that it is also effortless to make. 

Why Is It Called a Red Eye? 

We are accustomed to using fancy names like cappuccino, macchiato, and latte when ordering coffee, so where did the Red Eye name come from? 

Unlike many coffee drinks, the Red Eye did not start in Italy but America. The name comes from the red eye flight, an overnight flight typically from coast to coast in America. These flights leave passengers red-eyed, weary, and in need of the massive jolt that a beverage like a red eye coffee can provide. 

When your eyes are bloodshot, and you need to stay up all night, a red eye coffee is the drink for you. 

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Why Red Eye Coffee? 

To some, a red eye coffee might seem like overkill. If you need a jolt, why not just drink espresso? What benefits make a red eye a popular choice with many? 

The caffeine level of red eye coffee made with normal drip coffee and espresso is quite high, which is why people drink it. You can get an enormous caffeine boost without having to drink four or five cups of coffee. 

Why not just drink espresso, then? First of all, the additional caffeine from the standard drip coffee gives a red eye even more caffeine than an espresso. Secondly, many people enjoy being able to sip a hot cup of coffee. A red-eye provides you with the extra caffeine jolt from espresso while also allowing you to savor and enjoy a full cup of coffee. 

How To Make Red Eye Coffee

The process for making a red eye coffee is as straightforward as you would assume it to be. Begin by brewing your regular drip coffee of choice. Pour your coffee into a mug or cup. Then top the base coffee with one shot of espresso. 

After completing those essential steps, it is up to you to add amendments like sugar or cream. If you find yourself a fan of red eye coffee, you’ll be pleased to find that making one at home for yourself is not so hard to do. 

How To Order a Red Eye Coffee

While any barista worth their salt should know what a red eye coffee is, you may not find it openly displayed on many coffee shop menus. That does not mean that you cannot order it! Even Starbucks has red eye coffee on its secret menu. Walking up to the counter and simply asking for a red eye should be enough. 

Be aware that some coffee shops use alternate names for this caffeine-packed coffee, so remember that it’s one shot of espresso in one standard cup of caffeinated coffee. You can always ask for a cup of regular coffee with a shot of espresso if you aren’t sure what this particular shop calls it. 

What Does Red Eye Taste Like?

Although a red eye coffee is not a complex drink, its taste remains challenging to define. Many of the individual flavors you taste while drinking one will come from the roast of coffee you decide to brew. 

As you likely know from drinking a typical cup of coffee, the relative lightness or darkness of the coffee bean will significantly impact the taste of the final brew. The same is true for a red eye coffee.

Likewise, the variety of espresso that goes into your red eye coffee will also alter your drinking experience. Most espressos consist of several flavors, the ratios of which make for differing flavor characteristics. 

Ultimately, it is up to you, or your barista, how the red eye you drink will taste. If you’re like me, you’ll take plenty of time to experiment and find which combination of coffee and espresso is best. 

Is Red Eye Coffee a Strong Drink?

If you have experience with espresso, you know that it can have a high concentration of caffeine. But perhaps you didn’t know the degree to which that is true. In fact, according to Consumer Reports, one ounce of espresso can have as much as five times as much caffeine as a single ounce of regular coffee. 

Considering red eye coffees combine the high amounts of caffeine in espresso with caffeinated coffee, it can be a powerful drink. For that reason, ordering a red eye coffee is suitable for those who need a jumpstart in the morning or healthy adult coffee drinkers who have a bit of caffeine tolerance.  

Other Common Names for Red Eye Coffee

If you haven’t heard of a red eye coffee before but what I have described so far sounds familiar, then you may have heard someone refer to this drink by a different name. As it turns out, several names all refer to this same beverage. Many of these names are specific to some areas of the county, so be aware if you hear any of these names in a coffee shop:

  • Shot in the Dark
  • Sludge Cup
  • Oil Spill

Regardless of the name you call it, a red eye coffee has the same mix of ingredients. So if you enjoy this drink, know that any of the names in the list above are valid. 

Variations of Red Eye Coffee

There are a few variations of red eye coffee that are exceptionally similar. The red eye coffee exists on a distinct spectrum of coffee, and different espresso-based drinks offer different levels of caffeine. 

Although somewhat surprising, a red eye coffee sits at the low end of that spectrum. Read on in the sections below to learn more about the two drinks that outrank it in caffeine content. 

Black Eye Coffee

A black eye coffee is essentially the same as a red eye coffee. The only difference is that a black eye coffee has two shots of espresso added rather than one. This additional shot only increases the powerful sense of alertness that these drinks can bring you. 

Dead Eye Coffee

Perhaps you have noticed the trend by now. While a black eye coffee adds one shot to a red eye coffee, a dead eye coffee goes one step further and is the strongest of the three. If you order one, you can expect a cup of regular coffee with three shots of espresso. 

Green Eye Coffee

Red eye, black eye, and dead eye coffee are relatively common drinks. But if you have been a coffee enthusiast for a while, then you may have heard of a green eye coffee as well. 

Let’s clear up some confusion here. A green eye coffee is precisely the same as a dead eye coffee. Both beverages consist of coffee and three shots of espresso. 

A green eye coffee is nothing more than the version of the popular drink sold by Starbucks. While not an item on the regular menu, a green eye coffee is available on the “secret” menu. 


If you’re looking for the kind of energy that will motivate you to take on the day, a red eye coffee should be one of your go-to drink orders. Not only will combining coffee with espresso make you feel wide awake, but it may also prove to be quite enjoyable. So next time you want to try a new hot coffee drink, why not give a red eye coffee a try?

Happy Caffeinating! 

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