What Is Red Eye Coffee?

by Peter Taylor | Last Updated: 10 February 2020

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What Is Red Eye Coffee?

There is no better way to start your day than with a warm (or iced) cup of coffee. It accelerates you into success each day. But what do you do if you feel like you just aren’t feeling the same buzz from your coffee that you used to? Some people may suggest drinking a second, third, or fourth cup. However, we have another suggestion: try adding a shot of espresso to your coffee.

What is red eye coffee? Red eye coffee is a regular cup of drip coffee with an added shot of espresso in it. Some coffee enthusiasts refer to it as “the best of both worlds: coffee and espresso.”

In the rest of this article, we will discuss multiple important questions about red eye coffee, including:

  1. Why is it called a red eye coffee?
  2. How much caffeine is there in a red eye coffee?
  3. What does a red eye coffee taste like?
  4. How do you make a red eye coffee?

Why is it called a red eye coffee?

Have you ever heard of a red eye flight? If not, it’s a flight that flies through the night to get you to your destination first thing in the morning. In stories, it is most commonly referred to when talking about the long haul from the West Coast to New York City.

Back in the days before planes were designed with comfort in mind, a coffee with a shot of espresso is just what you needed to help you stay awake during the long haul. Additionally, the “red eye” also refers to how the passengers looked when they got off the overnight flight – tired and with bloodshot eyes.

There are a few other names for a red eye coffee.

  1. In some places, you will find it listed as a Hammerhead or a Mondo.
  2. In Alaska, many people refer to it as a Sludge Cup.
  3. In the Pacific Northwest, it is often referred to as A Shot in the Dark.
  4. In Nothern California, it is common to find this drink listed on a menu as a Train Wreck.

If you have ever heard of a black eye, dead eye, or a green eye, these are also variations of a red eye with different caffeine levels.

  1. A black eye is a cup of coffee with two shots of espresso added into it. It gets its name from the black ring that appears in your coffee after pouring in the shots.
  2. A dead eye is a cup of coffee with three shots of espresso added. This drink gets its name for the overload of caffeine that could supposedly lead to organ failure.
  3. A green eye is Starbuck’s version of a dead eye. You can order this at any Starbucks location and will receive an iced or hot coffee with three shots of espresso added.

How much caffeine is there in a red eye coffee?

Well, considering that a red eye coffee is two different caffeine-filled drinks in one, it packs quite a punch.

A regular cup of coffee, eight ounces, contains about 95 milligrams of caffeine. One ounce of espresso, equal to one shot, has about 64 milligrams of caffeine.

When you add the two of these together, you are left with a strong cup of coffee that clocks in at 159 milligrams of caffeine.

Upping the ante, the stronger versions of coffee mixed with espresso above pack an even mightier punch.

The two shots of espresso in a black eye brings you 223 milligrams of caffeine. A dead eye (also known as a green eye from Starbucks), with three shots of espresso, brings your caffeine intake to 287 milligrams in just one beverage.

While this may sound like a jolt and, depending on your tolerance, feel like one too, it still keeps you safely under the 400 milligrams per day mark. 400 milligrams has proven to be a safe amount of caffeine for a healthy adult to take in daily.

Of course, you should listen to your body and brain to decide if this is right for you.

If you start to feel a lot of anxiety, nervousness, and restlessness, it may be time to cut back on your caffeine consumption. Other adverse side effects of too much caffeine include stomach aches, muscle tremors, irritability, inability to control your bladder, and an increased heart rate.

In addition, more caffeine doesn’t necessarily mean more focus. If you keep drinking coffee to help you study or work, there will come a point that additional caffeine simply makes you wired and jittery instead of focused.

What does a red eye coffee taste like?

The taste of a red eye coffee depends on the roast and flavor of your base coffee.

A darker roast of coffee is likely to be slightly more bitter and smoky, while a lighter roast is more likely to be bright and acidic. Many red eyes are made using a medium blend, providing hints of each flavor from light and dark roasts.

As for the espresso, you will typically find a wide range of flavors in one little cup, or shot, of espresso. An espresso should be acidic, sweet, nutty, bitter, and slightly spicy. When you add these flavors to your coffee, each subtle flavor is enhanced by the espresso. What you end up with is an extra rich-tasting cup of coffee.

What Is Red Eye Coffee?

From here, you can still doctor it up if you please. Depending on what additives you put into your regular cup of coffee, you will probably want to add the same things to your red eye. However, due to the rich and intense flavors of the coffee and espresso combined, many people need to add slightly more of their favorite additives to achieve an optimal taste.

How do you make a red eye coffee?

It’s simple! Now that you know the two key ingredients, you can make your own red eye coffee.

To make this brew at home, you will need an espresso machine or a Keurig-type machine that can brew both coffee and espresso. For it to officially be considered a red eye coffee, the coffee should be brewed first, and then the espresso should be poured into the cup of coffee.

After you have brewed both components and combined them, you can finish off the beverage however you like. The most common additives include cream, sugar, vanilla, or cinnamon.


As we wrap things up, here are some important points that you can take away from this post:

  1. This type of coffee is called a red eye coffee for its supposed ability to keep you awake throughout the night. Throughout a long haul flight from the West Coast to New York City, before planes were updated to provide more comfort.
  2. There are stronger variations of a red eye. A black eye has two shots of espresso in one cup of coffee. A dead eye (or green eye at Starbucks) has three shots of espresso in one cup of coffee.
  3. A red eye has approximately 159 milligrams of caffeine in it. An eight-ounce cup of coffee has about 95 milligrams of caffeine and a shot of espresso has about 64 milligrams of caffeine.
  4. A healthy adult should not exceed over 400 milligrams of caffeine in a day. Exceeding this amount could result in fast heartbeats, sleep deprivation, stomach pains, muscle tremors, and nervousness.
  5. Making your own red eye coffee at home is not difficult! As long as you have an espresso machine or a Keurig-style machine that can brew both coffee and espresso, you are all set.


  1. JayArr Coffee
  2. Consumer Reports
  3. Mayo Clinic

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