Last Updated on November 30, 2022
What is red eye coffee? It’s the morning brew (or anytime brew) that gives you more than just a caffeine jolt.
A red eye is simply drip coffee with an extra espresso shot added in. The name comes from the red eyes you may get after drinking it, but not because of any sleep deprivation.
Just like regular drip coffee, the caffeine in the espresso will give you energy for your day ahead, but it’ll also have some additional benefits thanks to its high antioxidant content.
Order it at your local coffee shop, or make it at home.
And, we love how easy this drink is to make at home – all you need are two ingredients: freshly ground coffee beans and water (plus milk if you want). And even better yet? You don’t need fancy tools to make it at home. Sure, you’ll need a vehicle for brewing your regular, drip coffee, and a way to create a shot of espresso.
There are a few ways to brew an espresso-like cup of strong coffee that can be used as your espresso shot(s) for a red eye coffee. We’ll talk more about that in a minute.
But first, let’s answer the question, what is red eye coffee, anyway?
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- Quick: Espresso and drip coffee
- Quicker: Espresso maker with espresso shots
- Quickest: Espresso machine with pre-ground beans.
What is a Red Eye Coffee Drink?
A traditional red eye is a standard cup of coffee with an added espresso shot. It’s the same as an Americano, but more often those are consumed by those who want a little bit of milk in their coffee as well as some added caffeine.
In the case of a red eye, there is no need for any milk or sugar- just espresso and coffee. Of course, you can sweeten it up and lighten it with cream or milk if you prefer.
The red eye is usually caffeinated by one or two shots of espresso, but if you don’t want it to be so dark, feel free to use a single shot.
There are also blended red eyes with ice in them- this makes an iced coffee version of the drink that’s perfect for the warmer summer months.
How Did Red Eye Coffee Get It’s Name?
According to Snopes , the term red eye was first coined in 1828 referring to those who had been up all night drinking whiskey.
However, it wasn’t until later that a coffee drink with an espresso shot added became known as a red eye.
There are a few different stories where the name comes from, but according to Esquire , the most popular story is that a customer in a diner asked for a cup of coffee with an espresso shot added because he had been up all night and wanted to “wake his eyes up.”
Which makes sense, as it’s often consumed by those who have been up all night working or partying.
Another possible origin is the term “red eye flight” which refers to a cross country evening flight from coast to coast. That’s what I think of when I hear the term, red eye.
Today, people who drink a red eye are most likely those who have been up all night in a boardroom or working at the computer.
Or perhaps students who have stayed up all night studying and need a caffeine boost! Some people also drink a red eye when they’re sick, because it’s an easy way to get that extra dose of caffeine without needing to have a bitter cup of coffee.
The exact origin of the red eye is still up for debate, but it’s tasty either way!
What are some variations of red eye coffee?
Black eye, dead eye, sludge cup, shot in the dark, and hammerhead are some of the variations of the red eye coffee drinks.
- Black eye coffee is an Americano with one additional espresso shot added.
- Dead eye coffee is drip coffee made using two espresso shots.
- Sludge cup has an espresso shot that’s been brewed directly into the cup of coffee without filtering it out after brewing, which makes the liquid look like sludge.
- Shot in the dark is an Americano with a double shot of espresso.
- Hammerhead is drip coffee made with three shots of espresso.
Oh, and green eye coffee has a whopping three shots of espresso in it! You can ask for that at Starbucks coffee shops, if you dare.
How Do You Make a Red Eye Coffee?
Brewing a traditional red eye is simple- just add an espresso shot into a standard cup or mug of coffee.
This can be done with any kind of cup- drip coffee makers, pour over systems, French presses... It doesn’t matter.
Feel free to use your own homemade espresso shots if you want- or you can buy some at the store instead.
If you don’t have an espresso machine but still want a true red eye, try using one of our other methods below to make it at home.
Quick: Espresso and drip coffee
The simplest way to make a red eye is with your drip coffee maker, and another brewing device like an Aeropress or V60 .
Start by making a regular cup of drip coffee. Then, brew the same amount of espresso that you added into the cup of drip coffee.
There are several methods to brewing an espresso-like shot without actually using an espresso machine:
- Use a French press
- Use a Moka pot
- Use an Aeropress
Learn how to make espresso-like coffee using all of these methods right here.
Then, simply pour the espresso over the drip coffee in your cup, and enjoy your homemade red eye!
Quicker: Espresso maker with espresso shots
If you have an espresso maker at home, then you can brew up a true red eye in no time.
- Start by grinding some fresh beans on your espresso grinder until they’re very fine and powdery.
- Then, brew your espresso shot(s) directly into a cup of coffee.
- You can add creamer and sugar if desired- or drink it black!
Quickest: Espresso machine with pre-ground beans.
If you don’t have an espresso grinder at home (or don’t want to have to clean one later!) then you can use this trick instead.
Simply take some pre-ground coffee and brew it as usual. Then, brew the same amount of espresso shots into the cup of brewed coffee.
No grinder necessary!
By the way, are you thinking of adding an espresso machine to your coffee gear?
How Much Caffeine is in Red Eye Coffee?
It depends on how you make it. An 8 ounce cup of drip coffee normally has around 120 mg of caffeine .
A single shot of espresso is normally around 60-75 mg (of course, this can vary depending on how finely ground the beans are and other factors).
So if you add 2 shots into a standard cup of drip coffee, you will end up with a red eye that has around 180 mg of caffeine .
What Does Red Eye Coffee Taste Like?
A red eye is a very smooth and easy drinking cup of coffee that has undertones of the two different types of beans.
It’s usually sweeter than regular drip coffee or an espresso shot, since it contains both sweet flavors (the drip coffee) and bitter (the espresso).
Why Do People Drink Red Eye?
People might drink a red eye for many different reasons.
Some people drink it because they’re tired and need the extra caffeine boost.
Some people drink it to wake themselves up in the morning, or when they’re exhausted after staying up all night.
Other people simply enjoy the taste- it’s a richer cup of coffee with lots of flavor.
Conclusion: What Is Red Eye Coffee?
So, how about you? After learning more about red eye coffee, are you ready to try a cup? If you’re looking for a strong, bold cup of coffee to give you an extra jolt, give it a try.
You might want to begin with a standard red eye, though, and hold off on those extra shots!
Candi Randolph is a coffee lover, blogger, and content creator who loves to share her knowledge with the coffee-drinking world. You’ll often find her tending to her coffee bar at home, deciding which method to use to brew her next cup of java. Life is full of important decisions. ☕