What Is Red-Eye Drink Coffee?

Find out what red-eye drink coffee is and why it has become a popular option for people who need a caffeine pick-me-up.

Red-Eye drink coffee
Red-eye coffee is high in caffeine

Red-eye coffee is a caffeinated beverage that incorporates both black drip coffee and shots of espresso. 

It was named after late-night flights, known as ‘red-eye flights’. It has a high caffeine content and normally consists of one cup of coffee and a shot of espresso. As someone who works late, but likes to get up early, I often find myself ordering a red-eye coffee from my favorite barista to give me the boost I need.

Red-Eye Drink Coffee Taste

The taste of Red-eye coffee is not sweet or light but rather deep, dark, and hearty. The mixture overall has an earthy and slightly bitter taste to it, similar to that of a plain cup of black coffee or some extra dark chocolate.

While in a coffee beverage like an Americano, it is possible to taste the flavor of the espresso separately from the water it is mixed in, the coffee in the Red-eye mostly absorbs the espresso taste to make it almost unrecognizable. This may be why the Red-eye coffee is mostly enjoyed by those wanting an energy pick-me-up rather than a taste of espresso.

Although red-eye can be made to an individual’s taste, it is generally there to serve a purpose. That purpose is for the drinker to get extra caffeine and feel more awake.

Keeping Coffee Drinkers Awake

Red-eye coffee has quickly become a favorite of the coffee-drinking community due to its high caffeine content. A high caffeine content means this coffee will likely perk up drinkers faster and for longer than a regular Americano or cup of drip coffee would. As you can imagine, it can be a fantastic help if you have to make a flight at an irregular hour, hence its name.

You might be asking yourself ‘How much caffeine is in this beverage?’. The amount of caffeine is a lot more than a regular drip coffee.

Red-eye coffee contains roughly 160 milligrams of total caffeine. This is much more than a single shot of espresso containing 64 milligrams of caffeine, a double shot of espresso containing 128 milligrams, or an individual cup of coffee that has 95 total milligrams of caffeine. This exceptionally high level of caffeine in just one simple beverage is what keeps coffee drinkers coming back for more.

How to Make Red-Eye Coffee

If you’re on a budget or don’t want to have to leave the house to order a Red-eye coffee, you can easily make one for yourself at home. When making a Red-eye at home, you can choose your own coffee, prepare it in your existing machine, and customize your espresso shot preferences.

There isn’t much prep time for this drink and you use dark or lighter roasts. The only thing that’s really important is that you mix the drinks before the water gets cold in either. If you do it after, your specialty coffee will take on a more sour taste which isn’t as palatable.

The ingredients needed are:

Step 1: Create the Black Coffee

Coffee maker making coffee
Red-eye coffee goes best with drip coffee

To make a Red-eye at home, the first step is to pick whether you want to use instant coffee or use ground coffee beans. Then, choose your coffee-making method. Some people go for an instant, while others use their espresso machine to make an americano.

For some, red-eye coffee goes best with drip coffee.

Step 2: Pull the Espresso Shots

Once you have made your cup of black coffee, it is time to pull your espresso shots. Some of the best at-home options for making espresso are an espresso machine, a Moka Pot, or an Aeropress.

Step 3: Combine Your Coffee

When you have made both your black coffee and espresso shots, you must act quickly to combine them, so they do not get cold and take on a bitter taste. To combine your coffees, you should:

  • Pour your black coffee into your mug of choice
  • Turn your espresso shot upside down into the cup of coffee quickly without spilling it.
  • Repeat if you are adding more than one espresso shot.
  • Use a spoon to mix the espresso and coffee. This will prevent you from having a ‘sludge cup’.
  • Option to add milk or ice cream depending on the type of Red-eye you are making.
  • Sip and enjoy!

6 Variations on Red-Eye Coffee

There are actually a few different variations of this high-octane coffee. Some of these variations include different numbers of espresso shots, instant vs. ground coffee beans, and even dollops of milk or cream to go with your pour-over coffee.

1. The original Red-eye Coffee

The original red-eye is an espresso shot in a cup of ground and brewed black coffee with no milk. It is usually a dark roast used and it is probably the simplest coffee recipe on this list.

2. The Black-eye coffee

Black-eye coffee is made with espresso shots in a cup of black coffee. Be careful if using this brewing method, as it might be too much for inexperienced coffee drinkers.  You might occasionally hear of this drink referred to as an ‘oil spill’ because of its texture.

3. The Green-eye Coffee

Here is another coffee that should be enjoyed in moderation. It includes three shots of espresso in a black cup of brewed coffee. The acidity of this type of coffee can be far too much for some, so be careful if you are prone to acid reflux.

In terms of strong coffee, it doesn’t get much stronger than this one.

4. The Sleepless in Seattle Coffee

One espresso shot in a cup of brewed black coffee with a splash of half and a half or heavy cream. The cream makes the strong roast coffee more palatable, so it is probably a good option for people who want to try red-eye coffee but aren’t seasoned coffee drinkers.

5. Red-eye Coffee Drink Spin

1 espresso shot in a cup of ground and brewed black coffee with no milk served over a tiny scoop of ice cream. This option is usually found at novelty Italian restaurants, or on the secret menu at coffee shops.

6. Cold Brew Red-Eye Coffee

Glasses of cold-brewed coffee
Ice red-eye coffee

The cold brew red-eye coffee is made the exact same way as normal red-eye, except you pour the finished product over a glass containing ice cubes. It’s an ideal way to get the extra mg of caffeine into your system on a warm day, but proceed with caution as when that caffeine hits, you will know you’re not in Kansas anymore!

Side-effects of Red-Eye Coffee

Before you proceed with any of the above options, you should consider the side effects. Strong coffee can leave you feeling anxious, give you insomnia, and affect your nervous system.

The Red-eye coffee is one of the strongest options available for coffee lovers, so consider whether a normal cup of joe is a better option for you before you proceed with it.


  • Cian Murray

    Cian Murray is an experienced writer and editor, who graduated from Cardiff University’s esteemed School of Journalism, Media and Culture. His work has been featured in both local and national media, and he has also produced content for multinational brands and agencies. Find Cian on muckrack.com.