A red eye coffee can overcome almost any morning

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Red eye coffee is popular among those who need a powerful caffeine fix to keep them wide awake. It’s a simple drink to make, which makes it perfect for the occasion it’s intended for: a foggy-headed morning. It usually consists of one or more shots of espresso added to normal drip or black coffee. 

In spirit, it’s similar to a red eye beer (beer with a splash of tomato juice). What makes a red eye coffee different from other coffee drinks is its strength. It combines the best of two worlds.  The espresso shot gives you the benefits of a quick and effective caffeine jolt. The cup of hot coffee lets you sip and slowly wake yourself up with a perfectly hot cup of goodness.

History of red eye coffee

Red eye. I am sure you have heard the term before. Even if you haven’t, you’ve probably been on one of those overnight flights that nobody really wants to take. Red eye flights are those that leave late at night and arrive at your destination in the morning. Some people love it, but others have trouble sleeping on the plane, which causes fatigue and “red eyes.”

A woman's red eyes
© Venturist | Creative Commons

The red eye coffee drink was designed for those who needed to be up all night, or needed a caffeine pick-me-up in the morning. The espresso shot added to a cup of regular coffee does just that. It’s simple but effective—just like a red eye beer which is supposed to cure your hangover. A red eye coffee is meant to bring you back to life and energize you for the day, even if you didn’t get much sleep.

Alternatives to red eye coffee

There are a few alternatives to red eye coffee, in case it’s not suitable for your tastes. Some people might need something stronger for those long nights. Most of these alternatives revolve around a similar concept as red eye coffee. They include black eye coffee, dead eye coffee, and the Starbucks’ green eye coffee.

Black eye coffee

A black eye coffee is similar to red eye coffee but usually consists of two shots of espresso. The name is derived from the feeling you get after drinking this strong cup of caffeine. It feels like a punch in the face. This is great for those who can handle their caffeine and need something a bit stronger than a red eye. Most places will know exactly what you are talking about if you order this. It’s also simple enough to make at home.

Two espresso shots brewing on the espresso machine
A black eye coffee gets both shots.

Dead eye coffee

Dead eye coffee is a drink that takes black eye coffee to another level. Instead of adding two espresso shots, you add three. While two or three shots may not seem like a lot of caffeine, when they come in a normal cup of coffee it can really add up.

The name dead eye coffee comes from the feeling of a strong concentration of coffee. When your body gets a huge dose of caffeine, it might have trouble functioning for a while. Hence the term “dead eye.”

The strongest drink at Starbucks: Green eye coffee

The strongest drink you can order at Starbucks is a venti green eye coffee. It’s not on the menu, but they’ll know what it is if you ask for it. After all, they named it. It’s really just a dead eye coffee made by Starbucks, whose brand color is green.

I don’t recommend ordering this coffee, as it is likely to contain about 430 mg of caffeine which is over the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s recommended daily limit for caffeine consumption by healthy adults (400 mg).

I mean, you can order it, but don’t drink it all.

How to make red eye coffee

Red eye coffee
© Bean Poet

Red eye coffee is simple and easy to make at home. Even though it’s easily accessible at most coffee shops, making it yourself will save you money and a trip to the coffee shop.

You’ll need a device that can make espresso and one that can make coffee. A Nespresso Vertuo machine can do both.

We have a post that explains the difference between the two.

Red eye coffee recipe

  1. Brew your favorite coffee using a French press, drip coffee maker, pour over cone, or other device.
  2. Make a shot of espresso. (Or two. Or three.)
  3. Pour the coffee first, then float the espresso on top.

Some people like to spruce up the coffee and make it their own. Tasty add-ons that complement the drink include cream, sugar or flavored syrups. For such a strong coffee, you may want to try it with some cream before diving straight in.

How much caffeine is in red eye coffee?

A lot. Since it’s two coffee drinks in one strong drink, it does contain quite a bit of caffeine.

To break it down, a regular cup of coffee containing eight ounces of liquid usually has about 95 mg of caffeine. For most, this is enough. One shot, or one ounce, of espresso usually contains about 64 mg of caffeine. Those two added together gets you to about 160 mg of caffeine. However, not many North Americans drink an eight-ounce coffee. A “tall” from Starbucks is 12 ounces. If you’re using a good size cup or mug, this increases the caffeine content even more.

The stronger alternatives to red eye coffee can often run up to 280 mg of caffeine or more. Even though it may sound great to get that much caffeine in one drink, listen carefully to how your body feels and don’t go over the recommended limit of 400 mg of caffeine per day.

Caffeine can affect people very differently, so pay attention to what you’re body’s telling you.