What Is Red Eye Coffee? Prepare for Liftoff!

Hi! My name is Arne. After a few years as a barista, I've dedicated myself to a mission: To bring more good coffee to the people. To this end, my team and I provide you with a broad knowledge base on the subject of coffee.

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You’ve heard of latte macchiato, espresso macchiato and cappuccino … but what is red eye coffee? While the name might raise some eyebrows (pun fully intended), this is one of the most popular coffee drinks to order around the US.

You’ve heard of latte macchiato, espresso macchiato and cappuccino … but what is red eye coffee? While the name might raise some eyebrows (pun fully intended), this is one of the most popular coffee drinks to order around the US.

Even if it’s not the menu, there’s a good chance your barista will know what it is and how to make it. And if not, just show them this article! 

What Is Red Eye Coffee?

Okay, let’s get down to business here  – what is red eye coffee? I mean, if you’re going to add a red eye coffee drink to your coffee recipe arsenal, you should probably know what’s in it. Well, at its core, red eye coffee is just regular drip coffee with an added shot of espresso

The result is a strong, highly caffeinated and full bodied cup of Joe. It’s sure to alleviate any red eyes you might have from fatigue. Speaking of red eyes, that’s where this drink’s odd-sounding name comes from. People needed the extra caffeine boost to keep them awake for long red eye flights. As it turns out, the nickname got some traction. 

While the origin of the red eye coffee is fairly mysterious, it became a staple at local coffee shops during the ‘90s. However, most people knew it as a “shot in the dark” or “coffee with added espresso” back then. Starbucks eventually jumped on the bandwagon when they added the “red eye” as a secret menu hack. 

Speaking of coffee shops, here’s something you’ll want to keep in mind if you plan to order this brewed coffee and espresso combination. While a traditional red eye is made with one espresso shot, some coffee shops may pull doubles. That means you could be getting more caffeine than you expected from this drink. 

How Much Caffeine Is in Red Eye Coffee?

Arne is Testing How Much Caffeine There is in Each Coffee Drink.

A lot of people order the red eye for the caffeine boost, but how much of a kick does it really have? This can vary based on how much drip coffee you’re using. Still, you’ll find that most red eye coffee recipes use around 8 ounces (236.5 milliliters) of drip coffee. 

With a shot of espresso added, you’re looking at close to 240 milligrams of caffeine in the average red eye drink. 

Of course, there are plenty of factors that can increase or decrease that caffeine content. Using a dark roast over a lighter roast, trading a super automatic coffee machine for a normal drip coffee maker  – these things can all play a role in the final caffeine levels of your red eye. 

Why People Need Red Eye Coffee

Can you imagine a world without red eye coffee? How else would we function during long haul flights or hours and hours of a family road trip? Without red eye coffee, we might end up as under caffeinated zombies. I guess it’s a good thing we’ve got the option! 

For the most part, people need a red eye when they know regular coffee or a shot espresso isn’t going to do the trick. I can’t think of a better way to pull an all-nighter or power through a long shift. 

The high caffeine content is the biggest reason you’ll find people ordering this drink. That said, others just like the taste. 

Although espresso poured into drip coffee might sound like an odd combination to some, it’s less bitter than you might think. Sure, a single shot of espresso can seem bitter on its own. However, when you pair that with the sweetness of drip coffee, you’re in for a treat. You’re likely in for a sleepless night too. 

Pro Tip: If you enjoy coffee with a healthy dose of cream and sugar, you’ll likely need an even healthier serving in your red eye. 

How to Make Red Eye Coffee on a Super Automatic Espresso Machine

Pulling a Delicious Coffee from the Jura Z10.

Sure, you can definitely order a red eye at your favorite coffee shop. However, you can also make it at home in your super automatic espresso machine. Besides saving a little money, brewing at home gives you full control over the caffeine level. After all, you can decide exactly how much drip coffee and espresso you want in your drink. 

Since most super automatics can also make up to 8 ounces (236.6 milliliters) of regular coffee, this type of machine is all you’ll need for your red eye. Specific directions will vary from machine to machine. Still, here’s a quick rundown on how to make this caffeinated combo: 

  1. The first step is grinding coffee beans in your super automatic and filling up the water tank. After all, preparation is key! 
  2. You’ll start by brewing a regular cup of coffee. With most super automatics, you can make a large cup of coffee, so you’ll want to use that option. 
  3. Once you’ve got your drip coffee, you’ll want to brew a regular shot of espresso in a separate cup. 
  4. The final step is combining the two and adding anything else you might like to drink in your coffee. 

While a super automatic espresso machine is definitely handy for making a red eye, you can still accomplish the same red eye coffee taste with a drip coffee maker and manual espresso machine. Heck, I’ll even go as far as to say you could make a red eye using a French press and a moka pot!

The Bottom Line

What is red eye coffee? If we’ve learned anything here, it’s that drip coffee and espresso shots can make a great combo. 

And if most coffee lovers can agree on one thing, it’s that regular coffee, pour over or French press doesn’t always pack the caffeinated punch you need. That said, if there’s one coffee drink that’ll perk you up, it’s the red eye. 

Try ordering this drink from your barista or even making it yourself at home. If you’ve got a long night ahead of you, I’m willing to bet it’ll keep you going! 

How often do you drink red eye coffee? Got any fun stories you want to share about your experiences with this powerful drink? Please let me know in the comments below!


Most medical professionals will tell you that a healthy adult shouldn’t consume more than 400 milligrams of caffeine per day. So, drinking two red eyes back to back may not be the healthiest choice. If you need more caffeine, black eye coffee, green eye coffee and dead eye coffee contain higher (but still safe) caffeine levels.

Black eye coffee follows a similar recipe to red eye, but uses two shots of espresso with drip coffee instead.

The difference between these three comes down to how many shots of espresso they use. Red eye uses a single shot, black eye uses a double shot and dead eye coffees use a triple shot of espresso for a strong cup.

Most red eyes have around 240 milligrams of caffeine, while black eyes have close to 308 milligrams. A typical dead eye coffee contains 376 milligrams of caffeine.

Hot water isn’t a requirement for a red eye cup of coffee. You can make an iced red eye, black eye, dead eye and even a green eye coffee. Just add ice to your drip coffee.

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