If you’re a coffee enthusiast, you’ve no doubt heard of the red-eye variation. Even though it goes by dozens of different names depending on where you live and who you buy it from, it’s a cup of coffee with one or more shots of espresso added to it. Keep in mind that there are multiple variations on this theme.
To understand all the critical points about red-eye, the best way to get started is with the basics, like what it is and why people call it red-eye. The other facts people tend to be most interested in are the amount of caffeine in the popular drink, how Starbucks red-eye coffee is made, and how you can create your red-eye at home (for a fraction of the cost).
Of course, if you’re making homebrew red-eye, you’ll need a precise ingredients list. Also, finding out about the health effects, both pro, and cons, about how much red-eye coffee a healthy adult can drink in a typical day.
What is a Red Eye Coffee?
The most general definition of red-eye brew is this: It’s drip coffee combined with espresso shots. But there are so many variations; it’s essential to note the following points:
- There’s no agreed-upon reason for calling the drink a “red-eye.”
- Depending on where you order it, red-eye can contain varying numbers of milligrams of caffeine.
- Most people agree the drink originated in the U.S.
- Most recipes instruct you to mix one serving of drip coffee (dark roast, medium roast, or light roast) with one shot of espresso or more.
- Flavors like cinnamon and vanilla are often added to the drink, as are cream and sugar, but that does not affect the caffeine content.
- You can save money by making red-eye at home, which usually involves buying an espresso machine, preparing your own brewed coffee, and then adding as many shots of espresso as you wish
Why Is It Called “Red Eye Coffee”?
You’ll often hear that red-eye coffee is named after the so-called “red-eye flight” from the West Coast to New York. Those flights were named for the hue of passenger’s eyes during the long flight, and the accompanying alertness, during the plane trip to their destination.
Aside from the fact that every healthy adult should monitor their caffeine consumption, the red-eye coffee drink does deliver a reliable number of mg of caffeine to assure alertness for at least several hours.
What are some of the other names you might hear? If you travel around the U.S., expect to encounter many different names for the same thing, a cup of red-eye coffee. If you’re not sure, always ask the server, “Is this the same as a one-shot red eye?” and they’ll be happy to tell you.
Alternate red-eye coffee names that appear in various locations around the U.S.:
- Tomato beer
- Sludge cup
- Shot in the dark
- Wellard coffee
- Train wreck
- Oil spill
- Ojo Rojo
What is a Red Eye Coffee from Starbucks?
Never at a loss to cash in on a coffee-related trend, Starbucks has attempted to drive the narrative and define red-eye coffee in its way. For instance, the company offers at least three beverages, namely:
- Green Eye Coffee: The green eye has three shots of espresso added to a cup of regular brew
- Black Eye Coffee: The black eye has two shots of espresso added
- Red Eye Coffee: Red eye has just one shot of espresso added
How Much Caffeine is in a Red Eye Coffee?
Whether you order a red eye cup of java in Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, Kansas, or New York City, you can calculate how much caffeine you’re getting in any of the variations. But, it’s imperative to know how many shots of espresso they put in.
The math is simple. It’s no secret that a typical cup of brewed coffee contains, on average, about 95 mg of caffeine. Each added shot of espresso has about 63 mg of caffeine. Thus, standard red-eye, with one shot of espresso, weighs in at 158 mg of caffeine, a two-shot at 221 mg, and a cup with three espresso shots at 284 mg.
How is a Red Eye Coffee Made?
Brew one cup of drip coffee and add one shot of espresso directly to it. That’s the basic recipe. Any roast of drip coffee will do, and you can use your favorite brand of espresso. The choice is yours.
Red Eye Coffee Ingredients
The ingredients list is short for red-eye coffee. Remember that there might be more than the essential components of brewed coffee and espresso if you order it at a cafe or specialty shop. It’s the amounts and types of each one and the quality of bean used in the brewing process that can make a huge difference in what red-eye coffee tastes like.
Here are the main ingredients along with some alternates the people use when they make red-eye coffee at home:
- Brewed, drip coffee (core ingredient)
- One or more shots of espresso (core ingredient)
- Chocolate syrup
- No-calorie sweetener
- Condensed milk
- Almond milk
Is Red Eye Coffee Bad for You?
If you’re a healthy adult, it’s essential to know how much caffeine you consume daily. You’ll see some health journals and such (but we can’t vouch for the information because we’re coffee-lovers, not doctors) that say adults should keep caffeine consumption below the 400 milligrams-per-day mark.
So, is red-eye coffee bad for you? For most healthy people who don’t have a problem with caffeine, it’s probably okay to drink no more than two red eyes per day or just one black eye or green eye. It all depends on what you can handle and what your doctor says is okay for you to drink.