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Red Eye Coffee: What is It and How Do You Make This Drink?

Do you have a big exam tomorrow? Or a long road trip coming up? Maybe your baby is newly teething. These are all great reasons to try out an exceptionally caffeinated Red Eye coffee. This bomb pairs brewed coffee AND espresso for a guaranteed perk-up.

Keep reading to learn all about this peppy drink and how you can make your own at home.

What’s a Red Eye Coffee?

Like most coffee drinks, the Red Eye comes with a collection of different names and definitions. This is an inevitable consequence of regional variation and cafes trying to put their spin on the drink.

what is red eyed coffee
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So let’s start with the basics.

A Red Eye coffee drink is a drip coffee with espresso poured on top.

Think of it as an Americano. Except, instead of hot water, you use brewed coffee instead. The result is a wildly caffeinated drink with a rich flavour and a heavier body than an average cuppa joe.

Many claim it offers a similar jolt to cold brew.

Unlike most espresso drinks of Italian origin, this one seems to have started in the U.S. It gets its name from the famed red-eye overnight flight from America’s west to the east coast. Need to stay awake all night? This is your drink.

The infamous red eye has evolved into the working person’s drink — most commonly consumed on the go, when there’s a need to be awake and productive, but without the luxury of multiple cups of coffee.

You can find the drink sold under several different names depending on where you’re ordering it. The most common is a “Shot in the Dark” or a “Black Hole.” You might also see drinks called a Black Eye or Depth Charge.

Variations tend to come in how many shots of espresso you add to the coffee. In many coffee shops, a Red Eye is a drip coffee with two espresso shots because double shots are standard in most cafes.

Of course, Starbucks has its naming system. And because Starbucks is so common, their definitions have taken hold in public as well. At Starbucks, a Red Eye coffee has a single shot of espresso, a Black Eye has a double shot, and a Green Eye has a disturbing three shots of espresso added to a drip brew (1).
We can also help if you’re curious to know what an americano is or how to make Irish coffee.

How to Make a Red Eye Coffee

Compared with fancy Italian coffee drinks, making a Red Eye coffee is very simple because there’s no need to froth milk. The only tricky part is you need to both brewed coffee and pull a shot of espresso.

This video shows how easy you can do it in a cafe setting:

The first thing to do is to pick good beans. Because you are making two different types of coffee, this is an excellent opportunity to explore blending different flavours (2). Try complimenting a citrusy and nutty drip brew with a full-bodied chocolatey espresso, for example.

The next step is to brew a cup of regular drip coffee. If you don’t have a coffee machine, any of these models will serve you well in our review of the best drippers.

The third step is to pull a single or double shot of espresso, depending on just how hyperactive you want to be. If you need an espresso machine, check out our top picks.

To finish your Red Eye coffee, simply pour your espresso over your drip coffee, and enjoy the ride.


A cortado is a traditional Spanish drink that consists of 1:1 espresso to lightly steamed milk. It gets its name from the Spanish word for “cut” because the milk cuts through the intensity of the espresso.

To make your own, check out this cortado recipe.

A Dead Eye coffee usually refers to a drip coffee with a whopping THREE shots of espresso added, what Starbucks calls a Green Eye. That said, because there is so much regional variation, it’s always worth double-checking a drink’s definition when visiting a new coffee shop.

There is approximately 300 mg of caffeine in a Red Eye coffee made from 8 ounces of brewed coffee and a double shot of espresso, but this can vary substantially depending on beans and the brewing method. Anywhere from 200 to 400 mg of caffeine is possible.

  1. Chowhound. (n.d.) Starbucks Secret Menu Items. Retrieved from https://www.chowhound.com/pictures/starbucks-secret-menu-items-ranked/
  2. Grant, T. (2020, August 28). Finding The Right Coffee To Suit Your Needs. Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2020/08/finding-the-right-coffee-to-suit-your-needs-flavor-harvest-propina/
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I come from a country where people drink domestic coffee (what the rest of the world knows as Turkish coffee) and where Nescafe designates all instant coffees ever made. So, imagine my first encounter with, say, Hario V60...Yes, it was love at first sight.  Today I’m a moderate coffee connoisseur and a huge coffee lover. My favorite brewing methods are the V60 and traditional espresso-making. Yet, despite my country’s long tradition of Turkish-coffee-adoring, I somehow cannot stand it. That’s just too dark, even for me.

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