What Is Red-Eye Coffee?

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

Mug of freshly brewed espresso - What is red-eye coffee
Red-eye coffee is high in caffeine

It was named after taking a late-night flight, also known as a “red-eye,” due to its high caffeine content, consisting 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 red-eye from my favorite coffee shop to give me the boost I need.

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 that this coffee is likely to perk up drinkers faster and for longer than a regular Americano or cup of drip coffee would.

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A cup of red-eye has a total caffeine content of 160 g

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

Variations on Red-Eye Coffee

While some might think that Red-eye coffee refers to one specific type of beverage, 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. 

Top view of the different types of coffee
Red-eye coffee variations

Some of the most popular variations on Red-eye coffee are:

  • The original Red-eye: 1 espresso shot in a cup of ground and brewed black coffee with no milk.
  • The Black-eye: 2 espresso shots in a cup of black coffee made of instant like Nescafe Classico. 
  • The Green-eye: 3 shots of espresso in a black cup of ground and brewed coffee.
  • The Sleepless in Seattle: 1 espresso shot in a cup of ground and brewed black coffee with a splash of half and a half or heavy cream.
  • A spin on the original Red-eye: 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 coffee shops.

How to Make Red-Eye Coffee

If you’re on a budget or simply 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.

The ingredients needed are:

  • Coffee beans or instant coffee
  • Espresso beans
  • A coffee grinder
  • A coffee maker
  • Water
  • A mug
  • A spoon for mixing
  • Milk or ice cream (optional)

Step 1: Create the Drip Coffee

To make a Red-eye at home, the first step is to pick whether you want to use instant coffee or ground coffee beans. Then, choose your drip coffee-making method. The most common ways to brew drip coffee at home are:

Step 2: Pull the Espresso Shots

Once you have made your drip coffee, it is time to pull your espresso shots. Some of the best at-home options for making espresso are:

  • Espresso machine
  • Portable espresso maker
  • French press
  • Moka Pot
  • On the stove

Step 3: Combine Your Coffees

When you have made both your drip 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 1 espresso shot
  • Use a spoon to mix the espresso and coffee
  • Option to add milk or ice cream depending on the type of Red-eye you are making
  • Sip and enjoy!

The Deep Taste of Red-Eye Coffee

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. 

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Red-eye coffee flavor is deep, dark, and hearty

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.

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