What Is Red Eye Coffee/Why Is It So Strong And How To Make It

a red eye coffee sitting on a wooden circle with coffee beans in the shape of a heart.

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclaimer for more information.

The brewing methods for espresso vary greatly. An excellent option is red-eye coffee.

As the name suggests, it is brewed to cure your red eyes from a long, tired, and wakeful night. 

Most espresso-based drinks are made to taste good, red-eye coffee was invented to provide you with high amounts of energy, and heightened senses.

Let’s dig a little deeper and learn why it’s so strong, if it’s safe to drink, how it’s made, and other popular questions about this famous drink.

A red eye coffee in a maroon cup sitting on a matching saucer

Exactly What is Red eye coffee?

It is made using a regular drip coffee machine and an espresso machine.

It’s a blend of a standard-size normal drip coffee with one shot of espresso poured in. However, your local coffee shop may surprise you with two shots in a cup, which is a dead eye.

Why is it called red-eye coffee?

Red-eye is the most common symptom of a long restless night, long flights, and lack of sleep. Red eyes are often called bloodshot eyes.

This usually happens when you are very tired and have had a sleepless night.

The drink’s name was derived from this. Coffee was invented to cure red-eye symptoms and thus started being called red-eye coffee.

This first occurred in American flights going from the west coast to the east coast, instead of serving multiple cups, the flight attendants would increase the caffeine consumption by making red eyes. (these flights are also known as red eyes)

To help them stay awake for the rest of the day, passengers drank this highly caffeinated beverage.

A single cup averages 159mg-223mg, depending upon the shots poured in your coffee. 159mg of extra caffeine is more than enough to wake you up in the morning with alertness and mindfulness.

A red eye coffee in a white coffee cup and business strategy on wooden table

There are different variations:

If your caffeine tolerance is high, too, and a single shot of espresso added doesn’t make much of a difference, you can try dead-eye coffee and black eye coffee.

What is black-eye coffee?

It has double the strength of red-eye coffee since it has double the shots.

It’s also known as the double shot in the dark. It gained popularity after red-eye didn’t satisfy individuals’ energy needs.

Two popular theories drove its name. The first being its color.

Black eye coffee has the most pigmented color. It’s dark-brown to black with hints of crema floating at the top. Not only this, when you add two shots of espresso, they create a black outline at the top of the mug.

Since a lot of places serve red eye’s with a double shot make sure you’re not ordering a black eye and having 4 shots put in it.

The caffeine content in black eyes is usually higher and might reach up to 223-250mg.

A black and white picture of a red eye coffee being held in someone's hands sitting on a table with a camera next to him

What is dead-eye coffee?

Dead-eye is the triple power punch of red-eye. Unlike red-eye coffee drinks, dead-eye coffee has three shots of espresso in the beverage.

Dead-eye, also known as triple-red-eye, has 300+mg of caffeine. This is a high amount to drink all at once.

Dead-eye got its name from the effects it gave to individuals. It’s so much caffeine that your body stops functioning for a couple of seconds before registering its effects.

It sounds weird but I’ve seen it happened, its as if the individual zones like they are daydreaming.

What is the flavor profile of these “Eye” drinks?

The primary purpose of these drinks is to give you high jolts of energy, but these ‘eye’ drinks can have a completely different flavor profile.

Unlike other espresso-based beverages, you are not simply drinking one espresso shot, but two and three, accompanied by drip-brewed coffee; it’s bound to be different.

coffee beans spilled out over a table with pieces of caramel and a scoop to make a red eye coffee

What does Red-eye coffee Taste Like

Red-eye coffee has a reasonably balanced body with less bitterness since it only has one shot of espresso. Expect it to be dark, flavorful, rich, and dense. These flavor profiles can depend on the coffee beans you use.

It will be sweet and nutty when using medium roast but bitter and spicy when using dark roast. It will be more enhanced and flavorful than regular coffee. The crema also compliments its taste beautifully with acidity.

How Does Black-eye coffee taste

Black-eye will be more bitter, denser, and darker than red-eye. It’s more complex and closer to the taste of espresso. You will find black-eye to be more mouthful than other drinks. It would be very bitter, highly caffeinated, and highly dense.

It will resemble espresso’s flavor profile and give away sweeter, nutty, darker undertones depending on the roast and coffee beans you used. With two shots of espresso, expect a lot of crema in your coffee. If you are sensitive to acidity, avoid black coffee because there’s double cream in it.

The flavor profile of Dead-eye coffee drinks

Dead-eye coffee is going to be the strongest of them all. It will have three shots, meaning three times the energy boost, three times the boldness, and three times the crema. 

This coffee is bound to be stronger, smoother, acidic, and full of complex flavors.

a grey mug with triple eye coffee in it after being brewed at home

Can you make them at home?

As long as you have a drip coffee maker, french press, or an automatic pour-over and an espresso machine you can easily make “eye coffee”

To brew ‘eye’ hot/iced beverages:

  • Grind your beans medium for drip coffee. Unless you prefer a fine grind for filtered coffee, please note: Fine grind size will extract more flavors than medium. Also, a metal filter is safer and allows oils to combine with the coffee, giving it a mild acidic profile.
  • Once you grind for drip coffee, turn on the auto-drip brewer and allow it to brew the whole carafe. Carafes usually brew in 10 minutes.
  • In the meantime, grind your beans for the espresso shot. It should be a fine grind to extract most flavors out.
  • To perfect your espresso shot, find the correct settings in your machine. The ideal setting for the shot is Temperature: 190-205 degrees Fahrenheit, Extraction period: 25 seconds, Pressure: 9-Bars.
  • Once both the brews are ready, pour one cup of drip coffee in your mug when it’s still hot. Cold coffees go bitter and stale. Pour the espresso shot right after pulling it because hot espresso tastes delicious. Crema evaporates when left to be cold.
  • For red-eye: pour one shot; for black-eye – pour two shots; for dead-eye coffee: pour three shots.

If you want cold brew ‘eye’ coffee you can use a Chemex, if you don’t have a Chemex read our review here.

Similarly, you can brew espresso with semi-automatic espresso machines or fully- and super-automatic espresso machines. If you haven’t invested in an espresso machine yet, you can always use manual Moka pots.

How much caffeine is in red-eye, black-eye, and dead-eye coffee?

Caffeine is a natural stimulating drug that affects your central nervous system by blocking sleep and releasing dopamine. It has its pros and cons so it’s important to know how much you’re drinking.

a man drinking straight out of a coffee pot wanting as much caffeine as possible

The caffeine content in red-eye coffee

Red-eye coffee has the least amount among the three since you only add a single shot of espresso.

It is made of drip coffee and one espresso shot.

  • Drip coffees (8oz): 95-170mg depending on the coffee beans and saturation. If you saturate coffee grounds for longer, they will extract more content. Usually, the averge amount in drip coffee is 95mg in every 8oz of the mug.
  • Espresso shot(one ounce/29ml): 64mg of.

Drip coffee: 95mg+ espresso: 64mg= 159mg of caffeine.

The average caffeine content of red-eye coffee drink is 150-223mg, depending on the brewing method you preferred for drip coffee. 150mg per dosage is considered safe and healthy.

Caffeine in black-eye coffee

Black-eye coffee can use drip/filtered, french press, aero press, Chemex, etc.

  • The caffeine content of drip coffee can range between 95-250mg
  • The caffeine content of espresso: 64mg per shot. So, 128mg caffeine in two espresso shots.

Caffeine in drip coffee: 95mg+one espresso shot: 64mg+one espresso shot: 64mg=223mg.

The average caffeine content in black-eye can range between 223-300mg

The caffeine content in Dead-eye coffee

Lastly, triple red-eye coffee drinks are the scariest of them all. First, its taste will be too complex for some individuals, and second, the caffeine content is too much for some.

Depending on the drip coffee you brew and the coffee beans you chose, the content of drip coffee can range between 95-250mg.

Dead-eye coffee is made with three espresso shots, and the caffeine content of these shots is close to 192mg.

Drip coffee: 95mg+one shot of espresso: 64mg+another shot of espresso: 64mg+third shot of espresso: 64mg= 287mg of caffeine!

a sign that says unsafe in reference to drinking too much caffeine in a red eye cofee

Is it dangerous to drink this much caffeine at one time?

The answer can depend on various factors: Your tolerance, sensitivity, medical history, current medicines you are prescribed, sleep schedule, etc.

A dosage of 100mg-150mg at a time is usually considered safe. A daily amount not exceeding 400mg is recommended. Anything above this limit can have immediate effects on your body, and other long-term side-effects may compile as well.

Red-eye coffee is usually considered safe, but black-eye and dead-eye must be drunk in moderation or avoided altogether depending on the individual.

Health dangers of consuming too much caffeine:

  • Regular consumption in high quantities soon starts to build a tolerance. Your body stops getting affected by caffeine and soon starts showing withdrawal symptoms.
  • Withdrawal symptoms may include sleepiness, anxiety, hyperventilation, longing, depression, etc.
  • A high dosage can cause many health risks, including high blood pressure, psychological changes, dehydration, etc.
  • Consuming 500mg caffeine all at once can lead to a fatal overdose.

Can you order red-eye, black-eye, or dead-eye at Starbucks?

Yes, you can order all three varieties of ‘eye’ coffees at Starbucks. However, it is widely known as “drip with espresso” instead of red-eye.

A lot of times you can’t even find it with Starbucks secret menu items.

For example, red-eye coffee is called ‘drip with espresso’ or green eye at Starbucks. In fact, red-eye coffee is not even a popular/known name at Starbucks. Some baristas might acknowledge the name, but other customers are pretty oblivious to its existence.

Since you probably won’t find the three varieties in the menus (both online and offline). If you walk into Starbucks and describe your beverage, you are most certainly going to get ‘eye’ coffee.

The different names of ‘eye’ coffee varieties by geographical area

‘Red-eye coffee’ and its variants aren’t famous all around the US and may be referred to as something different than these names: red-eye, black-eye, and dead-eye coffee.

Not just worldwide, but different states have other names for the same beverage. 

Some famous names of red-eye coffee or its variants are:

  • Shot in the dark: A famous name recognized in the pacific northwest. Pacific Northwest is a geographical region covering the northwest corner of the United States and the southern part of Canada. Northern California, Oregon, western Montana lie in this region. ‘Black-eye coffee’ is referred to as ‘double shots in the dark.’
  • Train wreck: Specifically in Northern California.
  • Hammerhead: Popular name used for red-eye in most coffee shops.
  • Oil spill-sludge cup Ulysses, Kansas (The US)
  • Mondo: Northern, east coast

Conclusion

It’s always fun trying new drinks but with the amount of caffeine in these make sure to do so in moderation.

I love the flavor of the eye coffee’s especially the dead eye but I usually use a decaf organic espresso bean from Lifeboost to be able to enjoy the flavor without the heavy amount of caffeine.