What Is A Red Eye Coffee? The Strongest Coffee Explained

Last Updated:

Fluent In Coffee is reader-supported. We may earn a small commission if you buy via links on our site. Learn more

red eye coffee

Can’t decide between a large cup of coffee or a strong caffeine punch?

Well, why not choose both?

Just order a red eye coffee, a drink you can sip slowly but still enjoy a strong energy kick.

Want to know more? You’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll go over everything about red eye coffee, including how to make it at home.

Let’s dive straight in.

What is a Red Eye Coffee?

a person drinking red eye coffee

Red eye coffee has the best of both worlds – a cup of brewed coffee combined with a shot of espresso. It might sound a bit like overkill, but if you need to stay awake all night, this is the drink for you.

You might be wondering – why is it called red eye coffee?

This drink is named after the term “red eye flight,” which we use to refer to a flight that departs at night and arrives the next morning. 

You know, the long flight on which you barely get any sleep, leaving you with tired, red eyes. 

Well, this drink won’t help you get rid of bloodshot eyes, but it will at least keep them wide open throughout the entire flight. 

Now, if you don’t see the red eye coffee listed on the menu, that doesn’t always mean the coffee shop doesn’t make this drink. Depending on where you are, red eye coffee can be found under different names.

In the Pacific Northwest, this drink is known as the “shot in the dark,” while in northern Cali they call it the “Train Wreck.” My personal favorite is “oil spill,” which is how this coffee is known in Kansas.

As I’ve already mentioned, red eye coffee combines brewed coffee and espresso. But it’s arguable which one is added first. The majority of recipes add espresso on top of brewed coffee. But there’s also a handful of those that insist on pouring espresso first.

How to Make a Red Eye Coffee?

Now that we’ve discussed what red eye coffee is, let’s see how you can make it at home. 


To make red eye coffee, you’ll need two different coffee makers. 

First, you’ll need an espresso maker. These machines come in all shapes and sizes, but you don’t need a model with tons of bells and whistles for red eye coffee. 

Manual or automatic, it doesn’t matter. As long as your machine can pull a good shot of espresso, you’re all set.

As for the coffee part, you can actually use your preferred brewing method for regular coffee. Pour-over, Chemex, Aeropress, French press – whichever you have available.


To make red eye coffee, you’ll need:

  • 8-ounce regular coffee
  • 1-ounce espresso shot
  • Sweetener (optional)


This drink is pretty easy to make. Here’s how:

  1. With a brewing method of your preference, make 8 ounces of regular coffee. Set aside.
  2. Pull an espresso shot using an espresso machine. 
  3. Pour espresso on top of regular coffee.
  4. Add sweetener if necessary.


If you’re keeping a close eye on your calorie intake, I’ve got some good news. A cup of red eye coffee has as little as 10 calories! Unless you add some kind of sweetener, that is.

But as far as caffeine content goes, this drink has a generous amount of it. Well, this should come as no surprise given the fact it consists of two strong coffee drinks.

Let’s look at the numbers. 

A cup of regular coffee contains between 70 and 140 milligrams of caffeine, depending on the type of roast. In most cases, red eye coffee is made with medium roasted beans, and it contains about 95 milligrams on average.

As for the espresso, a single shot contains about 63 milligrams of caffeine.

That’s 158 milligrams per cup of red eye coffee! 

Doesn’t seem like a lot? Well, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration states that our daily caffeine intake limit is 400 milligrams. This means you shouldn’t drink more than three cups of this potent beverage.

Red Eye vs Black Eye vs Dead Eye Coffee

three cups of coffee

Some coffee menus might include other variations, such as black eye or dead eye coffee. 

As we already established, the red eye coffee consists of 8-ounce regular coffee and a single espresso shot. The drink is sweet but bold, with slight acidity and bitterness. 

Black eye coffee is an upgraded version of the drink that is made with two shots of espresso instead. Doubling up on espresso makes your coffee stronger and bitter, but it also brings out smoky and nutty notes.

And then there’s the dead eye coffee. This variation is made with three shots of espresso, so it guarantees an extreme energy kick. 

Dead eye coffee has a much fuller body and a strong flavor than the other two types. Not going to lie, the flavor can be quite overpowering. But dead eye coffee is usually consumed for its kick, not its taste. 


The article still hasn’t answered all of your questions? Let’s make that right. Here’s a quick FAQ with some questions you might have about this drink.

What does Red Eye coffee taste like?

The bitterness of espresso and the sweetness of regular coffee are perfectly mixed into a strong cup of red eye coffee. You can expect particular notes depending on the type of roast used for brewing.

Lighter roasts have enhanced fruity tones and prominent acidity. Medium roasts make your coffee taste rounded, slightly acidic, and with nutty and deep caramel notes. And as for dark roasts, they bring out the bittersweet and smoky flavor.

What is green eye coffee?

Green eye coffee is a Starbucks version of dead eye coffee. It consists of three espresso shots as well as a cup of drip coffee.

What’s a Triple red eye coffee?

This term is commonly used to refer to what we also know as dead eye or green eye coffee. Consisting of three shots of espresso, this coffee has a caffeine content of almost 300 milligrams. 

Final Thoughts

If you need an extra energy kick to get through the day, a cup of red eye coffee is up for the task. By mixing espresso and regular coffee made with your preferred brewing method, you get the best of both worlds.

Red eye coffee strikes the perfect balance of sweetness from brewed coffee and bitterness of espresso shot. 

And if somehow this drink is still not strong enough, no problem. There are variations with double or triple espresso shots that are sure to keep your eyes wide open.

Red eye coffee never gets boring! Play around with different beans, roasts and brewing methods, and find what suits you the best.

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

As you found this post useful...

Follow us on social media!

We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!

Let us improve this post!

Tell us how we can improve this post?

Photo of author
Viktoria Marks
Viktoria is a writer and a journalist who can't imagine sitting by her computer without a large cup of java in her hand. She loves sampling coffee from all over the world as much as writing about it.