What is a Red Eye Coffee and do you need one? If you have to ask, the answer is probably yes.

The first time I heard of a Red Eye was in the 90’s. Hackers, up all night, would need that something extra to perk up their code. Think of the Matrix, but before the sequels. Thus the Red Eye. Depending on the city, some older cafes call it a ‘shot in the dark’.

These are not just fancy coffee shop names but powerful blends of coffee and espresso designed to invigorate the senses.

Decoding the Trio: Red Eye, Black Eye, and Dead Eye

Simply put, a Red Eye Coffee is a coffee with an espresso shot. The Black Eye Coffee comes with 2 espresso shots. And naturally, the Dead Eye Coffee comes with 3 espresso shots.

  • Red Eye: Starting with the most well-known of the trio, a Red Eye combines a cup of drip coffee with a shot of espresso. The name “Red Eye” is inspired by the late-night flights from the US West Coast to NYC, known for keeping passengers awake. The drink mirrors this sentiment, providing a strong caffeine boost for those needing to stay awake and alert. It’s known in different parts of the US as “shot in the dark” or “sludge cup.”
  • Black Eye: Taking the intensity a notch higher, the Black Eye incorporates two shots of espresso with the regular drip coffee. This variant offers a richer depth, ideal for those who find the caffeine kick of a Red Eye insufficient.
  • Dead Eye: The boldest of the bunch, the Dead Eye is not for the faint-hearted. Combining a cup of drip coffee with a whopping three shots of espresso, this brew is the epitome of caffeinated strength. Often, it’s ordered by seaso

What is Red Eye Coffee?

A Red Eye coffee contains 158mg of caffeine.

What it is: A Red Eye is a traditional drip coffee (usually an 8oz. to 16oz. cup) with a shot of espresso added in. The Red Eye offers an extra caffeine boost over your standard cup of joe.

The Red Eye Coffee is a potent concoction that combines drip coffee with an espresso shot, delivering approximately 158 milligrams of caffeine. Originating from the U.S. in the 1990s, it was dubbed a “shot in the dark” or “coffee with a shot” before it was incorporated into the Starbucks secret menu. Its name draws inspiration from red eye flights, indicating the beverage’s role in combating weariness. Variations like the Black Eye and Dead Eye intensify caffeine levels by adding more espresso shots, reaching up to 287 milligrams. Regionally, its name changes – “Train Wreck” in Northern California and “Sludge Cup” in Alaska, for example. You can read more on the history of the Red Eye here.

What is Black Eye Coffee?

A Black Eye coffee contains 221mg of caffeine.

What it is: The Black Eye takes things up a notch. It’s a regular drip coffee combined with two shots of espresso. With double the espresso of the Red Eye, the Black Eye is perfect for those needing an even stronger caffeine boost.

What is Dead Eye Coffee?

A Dead Eye coffee contains 284mg of caffeine.

What it is: For the bravest souls, the Dead Eye features a regular drip coffee with three shots of espresso added. With a whopping three shots of espresso, this is the go-to for extreme caffeine seekers. The name itself implies that it’s for those moments when you’re feeling entirely drained.

Credit: Olena Bohovyk

How to make Red Eye Coffee at Home

  1. Start with Fresh Coffee Beans: Begin by selecting your preferred coffee beans. For a robust red eye, you might consider a medium or dark roast.
  2. Grind the Beans: Use a coffee grinder to grind enough beans for a standard cup of drip coffee. The coarseness of the grind should be medium, similar to the texture of sand.
  3. Brew the Coffee: Using your preferred method (e.g., drip coffee maker, French press, pour-over), brew a cup of coffee.
  4. Prepare the Espresso: While your coffee is brewing, use an espresso machine to pull a shot of espresso. If you don’t have an espresso machine, a strong coffee from a Moka pot or Aeropress can be a substitute, though it won’t be a true espresso.
  5. Combine: Once both the drip coffee and espresso are ready, pour the espresso shot over the drip coffee.
  6. Customize (Optional): If desired, you can add milk, sugar, or any other preferred additives to your red eye. However, traditionally, a red eye is served black to preserve the strong, bold flavor.
  7. Enjoy: Your red eye coffee is ready to give you the caffeine boost you might be seeking! Drink responsibly, as this is a high-caffeine beverage.

Note: The red eye is named after its ability to help you stay awake, much like taking a red-eye flight. So, it’s best enjoyed when you need that extra kick!

Dylan offers a musician's take on the world's best coffee experiences. Savoring every drop, from robust roasts to nuanced notes.