If I’ve pulled an all-nighter and need more caffeine to keep me awake in the morning, I ask my barista for red-eye coffee. Red-eye coffee is a regular cup of brewed coffee with a shot of espresso. It contains 68% more caffeine than a regular drip coffee. Let’s learn more.
History of Red Eye Coffee
Red-eye coffee got its name from coffee drinkers who needed more caffeine to stay awake on red-eye flights.
Red-eye flights are overnight or late-night flights to domestic or international destinations. These flights leave the airport at night and arrive in the morning, resulting in tired passengers who are more likely to have red eyes. Many even call them the working person’s drink.
When you don’t get enough sleep, your eyes have less lubrication and oxygen, which can cause you to have temporarily red eyes. If you also spent more than two hours looking at a computer or straining your eyes reading in dim light, you’re even more likely to have red eyes in the morning.
Not only are you likely to have red eyes when you haven’t gotten much or any sleep, but you need more caffeine. Thus, adding an espresso shot to a cup of coffee helps you stay awake a little better.
Across the US, there are different names for a cup of coffee with an espresso shot, including:
- Sludge cup (Alaska)
- Shot in the dark (Pacific northwest, southwest Colorado, and parts of New Mexico)
- Stink eye (Horse Brass Pub in Portland, Oregon)
- Train wreck (northern California)
- Mondo (northeast coast)
- Oil spill (Ulysses, Kansas)
How Much Caffeine Is in a Red Eye?
A regular cup of coffee has about 95 mg of caffeine. Meanwhile, a single espresso shot has about 65 mg of caffeine. Combining a cup of coffee with an espresso shot gives you a coffee drink with 160 mg of caffeine.
Red-eye coffee has 68% more caffeine than a cup of coffee and 145% more caffeine than an espresso shot.
Many people assume that espresso has more caffeine than coffee. However, you’d actually consume more caffeine with two cups of coffee (190 mg caffeine) than a red eye (160 mg caffeine) or two espresso shots (130 mg caffeine).
The reason coffee has more caffeine than espresso is that the hot water has a longer period of contact with the coffee beans. Since espresso uses pressurized water that goes through it more quickly, it has less caffeine.
If you are habitual of multiple cups of coffee every day and worry about the caffeine intake, you can use decaf drip coffee as the base for your red-eye coffee drink.
Tasting Notes of a Red Eye
Red-eye coffee combines the sweetness of a cup of coffee with the strength of a shot of espresso. So, the result is a stronger cup of coffee. It tastes a lot like an Americano with more body.
The tasting notes of a red-eye coffee depend on the type of coffee and espresso you use. Whatever tasting notes the coffee or espresso normally has will transfer to your overall drink.
For best results, use your favorite coffee beans with a coarse grind for the coffee and a finer grind for the espresso. Using the same beans for both the coffee and espresso will result in a smoother taste than if you use two different coffees or roasts.
If you use two different coffee beans with different roasts and flavors, the coffee drink won’t taste as smooth and balanced as it would with the same coffee bean.
Of course, if you add a darker roast espresso to a lighter roast of normal drip coffee, the result will be a stronger-tasting coffee. Using a dark roast espresso may also taste more bitter when compared to a regular drip coffee.
Why Is Red Eye Coffee Drink Popular Amongst Millennials?
The Millennial Generation was born between 1981 and 1996, ranging in age from their late 20s to their early 40s. Interestingly, Millennials don’t drink more coffee than other generations. But they spend more money on higher-quality coffee experiences.
Millennials also spend more than any other generation at coffee shops each year. Most generations tend to spend $7-$172 at coffee shops yearly. Compare this with the average Millennial who spends $1410-$2008 each year. And when they’re in their favorite coffee shop, they tend to buy espresso-based drinks like red eyes.
Millennials are also more likely to use specialty coffee brewing methods like pour-over, French press, and Chemex. So, it’s no wonder Millenials are likelier to choose a red eye when they want extra caffeine. Since Red Eye coffee can combine trendy drip coffee into an espresso drink, it provides the best of both worlds.
Red Eye vs Black Eye vs Dead Eye Coffee Recipes
Red-eye coffee, black-eye coffee, and dead-eye coffee contain different amounts of espresso and caffeine:
- Red-eye coffee: 1 cup of coffee + 1 shot of espresso (160 mg caffeine)
- Black-eye coffee: 1 cup of coffee + double shot espresso (225 mg caffeine)
- Dead-eye coffee: Three espresso shots poured over one cup of coffee (290 mg caffeine).
The dead eye coffee recipe in Starbucks is called green eye coffee. In addition, the lazy eye drink has single or double espresso shots with a cup of decaf drip coffee.
Red eyes get their name from red-eye flights and the need for more caffeine when you’re red-eyed and sleepy. Both black eye coffee and dead eye coffee are adaptations of the red eye name.
Supposedly, black eye coffee gets its name from the dark spot in the middle of a cup of coffee after you add two shots of espresso to the middle. And dead eye coffee most likely refers to the need for even more espresso when you’re dead-eyed from lack of sleep.
When caffeine consumption reaches between 250 to 700 mg per day, it can result in negative side effects. So, drinking dead-eye coffee could result in nausea, headaches, increased anxiety, or difficulty in sleeping. Therefore, the amount of caffeine in dead-eye coffee may be too much for some people.
How To Make a Perfect Red Eye at Home
Here are the steps you should follow to make the perfect red-eye coffee at home:
- Grind your coffee beans: Using the same coffee beans for each machine will produce the best red eyes. Use the correct grind for each machine to avoid overly bitter or sour coffee or espresso.
- Brew a cup of coffee: Use your favorite coffee brewing method to brew a pot of coffee. A French press, Chemex, or pour-over are excellent choices.
- Pull a shot of espresso: Use your favorite espresso brewing method to pull a single shot of espresso.
- Pour the espresso into the coffee: One option is to pour the espresso into the coffee by hand. You can also allow the espresso machine to pour the shot directly into the cup of coffee without losing crema.
What Pairs Well With a Red Eye?
There’s no reason you can’t add creamer and sugar like with your regular brewed coffee. Plus, red eyes pair well with many different sweet and savory foods:
- Croissants: Buttery croissants are simple but indulgent. Neither the coffee nor the croissant competes for flavor dominance in this pairing.
- Toast: Plain toast, buttered toast, or avocado toast are good options. Toast with cream cheese and berries is an even better accompaniment.
- Bagels: Bagels go well with every coffee variety. It pairs even better if you smother the bagel with your favorite flavor of cream cheese.
- Coffee cake: The sweetness of coffee cake goes nicely with the rich, combined flavors of coffee and espresso.
- Crepes: A delicate crepe topped with whipped cream and berries can bring out deeper flavors in your coffee.
- Danishes: Whether you choose a cheese or Fruit Danish to have with your red eyes, you won’t be disappointed with the resulting flavor combination.
Can You Swap the Espresso for a Dark Roast?
Swapping the same amount of espresso for dark roast coffee won’t give you the same rich flavor. However, it will have about the same amount of caffeine.
Adding a dark roast coffee to a light roast or medium roast coffee simply results in a richer-tasting coffee. However, it won’t be as rich as dark roast coffee alone.
Interestingly, coffee and espresso have about the same amount of caffeine per gram: 9.5 mg for coffee and 9.2 for espresso. Thus, if you add a shot (around 7 grams) of dark roast coffee instead of espresso, you’ll still end up with around 160 mg of caffeine.
Did you enjoy our article on red-eye coffee drinks? We hope that you did.
You can easily make the perfect cup at home with your favorite coffee and espresso maker. Be sure to use the same beans for the coffee and the espresso for a more balanced coffee. Simply pour a shot of espresso into your coffee to have more caffeine to face your day.
Red eyes are richer cups of coffee than usual. They also provide 68% more caffeine than regular coffee. So, try them when regular coffee is too weak, or you need more caffeine. It’s especially helpful to drink one after a red-eye flight or an all-nighter.
Let me know what you thought about the article in the comments below, and share this article with your coffee-loving friends.