What Is a Red Eye Coffee? And How To Make It

There are times in someone’s life when they need something stronger than just full-strength coffee. In which case, maybe you’ve heard of red-eye coffee.

But exactly what is a Red Eye coffee?

In this article, that is what we’re going to find out and how to make your own.

What is a Red Eye coffee?

A Red Eye coffee is a regular cup of drip coffee to which is added a single shot of espresso. To move into the even stronger territory, you can add two shots, which is called a Black Eye, or even three shots, which is called a Dead Eye (sometimes also Green Eye)- although the effect from that much caffeine would surely be to raise the dead.

There are plenty of times when you may need that extract kick of caffeine, whether that’s a Red Eye, Black Eye, or even a Dead Eye. Now you can order with some peace of mind.

What is a red eye coffee

Why is it called a Red Eye coffee?

The Red Eye coffee variant was first created, unsurprisingly, in the U.S, as a way for business people to stay awake on long-haul flights overnight or in the early hours of the day.

Legend has it that it originated on the West Coast to New York route, flying across the widest part of the States. 

The name itself refers to the red-rimmed eyes of the business travelers stumbling through the arrival gates at LaGuardia airport after their early morning flight, exhausted but still wide awake from the caffeine jolt, ready for that breakfast meeting.

Red Eye vs Black Eye Coffee

As previously mentioned, Red Eye is one shot of espresso added to a cup of drip coffee, and Black Eye is two shots.

Whereas the name Red Eye comes from the physical characteristics of the coffee drinker, the name Black Eye is said to come from the appearance of the coffee when the espresso is poured in, making a black spot on the surface of the drink.

An alternative suggestion for the name Black Eye is that it makes you feel like you have been punched in the face, and looking at the caffeine intake this could be a reasonable feeling.

The level of caffeine in a regular cup of drip coffee is around 100 milligrams. A shot of espresso has about 70 mg. So a Red Eye has about 170 mg of caffeine.

A Black Eye with double espresso comes in at 240 mg of caffeine, and that is getting to be a serious level.

The recommended maximum intake of caffeine for an adult is 400 mg, so that is something to think about before you order too many of these super-strength drinks.

What is a Red Eye coffee called at Starbucks?

Drip coffee with a shot of espresso is known by various names in different regions.

In some places, it can be called a Hammerhead, a Mondo, or a Train Wreck.

In the Starbucks chain, their staff is encouraged not to use the slang terminology, and to refer to it in the correct form as a ‘coffee with a shot’.

However in real life, to make it simpler for the customer who is familiar with the nickname, it is mostly just called a Red Eye. The Human Resources department might want to change the world, but people always get in the way!

How to make a Red Eye coffee

The “wake up” factor from the high level of caffeine in a Red Eye is certainly the most popular aspect of the drink, but the flavor should also be considered.

If the drink is not made right, it’s like drinking bad-tasting medicine just to stay awake.

Freshly brewed drip coffee has a mild flavor with fruit notes. Espresso has a darker, more earthy taste. Combining the two makes for a whole new flavor profile that can be enjoyed while caffeine does its job.

When making it at home, if you don’t have a drip coffee maker you can use a French Press or a pour-over, like a Chemex.

To substitute for espresso you can use coffee pods, or a stove-top pot also known as a Moka pot. Either way, the key as it is with all types of coffee, is freshness.

On that note, the following advice may get you into trouble, but it’s worth trying.

If you go to a café for a Red Eye you know that the espresso shot will be pulled to order, but you may want to ask politely, “how fresh is the brewed coffee in that jug?”.

Depending on the professionalism of the barista, you may get a reasonable answer.

Final thoughts on Red Eye Coffee

As you can see, a Red Eye coffee is not that complicated of a drink, just a regular drip coffee with a shot of espresso, but it can make a massive difference to give you that caffeine boost you may be looking for.

Make sure to watch your caffeine consumption when drinking too many of these, however, you can easily reach the max recommended daily allowance after only a couple of drinks (especially so if you go for the stronger Black Eye or Dead Eye variants).

Now, we hope this article has helped shed some light on another interesting coffee variation, and you’ll be able to order or make this brew with confidence.

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