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What is Red Eye Coffee? Easy Recipe & Facts

what is Red Eye Coffee

The Red Eye coffee is a classic espresso drink containing drip-brew coffee, which makes the coffee stronger. Ordering a ‘Red Eye’ tells the barista that you’re more tired than normal and you’ll need more caffeine. It is a popular drink with a lot of nicknames, such as ‘sludge cup,’ ‘shot in the dark,’ and dozens of other localized names. In essence, Red Eye coffee combines regular drip coffee with shots of espresso. Read on to find out exactly what a Red Eye coffee is and how to make it at home:

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What’s a Red Eye Coffee?

A Red Eye coffee is when drip coffee and espresso are added together, though the order in which they are poured is up for debate. Some recipes will start with espresso first and drip-brewed coffee second, while other recipes insist on having the coffee first so that the espresso is on top.

Regardless of whether it is drip coffee or espresso first, a red eye coffee is named after the caffeine jolt it gives the drinker from the extra caffeine. Red Eye coffee has a lot of localized nicknames, as well as Black Eye coffee and triple-shots added to coffee.

black coffee
Image Credit: AnnieSpratt, Unsplash

Does the Number of Shots Matter?

Yes and no. Some coffee shops add a double and call it a Red Eye coffee, while others call that a Black Eye coffee. Traditionally, a Red Eye coffee contains only one shot of espresso with drip-brewed coffee. However, most coffee shops now pull double shots instead of single.

Some coffee shops will still pull a double-shot if a customer asks for a single and split it in half, which tastes different than a true single-shot. The single-shot vs. split double may get confusing, but you can simply ask the coffee shop to pull a single or split the double.

What’s a Canadiano?

Although it’s not a popular nickname and the name may be misleading to other coffee-related topics, the ‘Canadiano’ is occasionally a nickname of the Red Eye as a light jab towards the Americano. That’s because the Red Eye/Canadiano adds coffee to their espresso, and the Americano adds water, indicating that the Americano is the weaker choice.

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What’s a Black Eye Coffee?

Where the traditional Red Eye coffee has one shot of espresso with drip coffee, the Black Eye has two shots of espresso. It contains more caffeine than the Red Eye, but not as much as the Dead Eye or Green Eye (three shots). It will have the sweetness of the espresso with the acidity that drip coffee always has, but it can be very strong in bitterness and flavor if you’re not used to espresso.

Double Boiler Espresso Machines
Image Credit By: pxfuel

What’s the Difference Between Coffee & Espresso?

The difference between coffee and espresso is that espresso brews much faster than coffee. It requires finely ground and packed tight, then very hot water is pressure-shot through it within seconds. Coffee takes a longer time to brew, regardless of the brewing method.

The Red Eye coffee must be made with drip coffee and espresso for it to be a real Red Eye coffee since the brewing method for espresso is completely different. Even the coffee itself must be drip coffee, so pour-over and French press coffee won’t do.

Does espresso or coffee have more caffeine?
Image Credit:, Shutterstock

Can You Swap Espresso for Dark Roast?

Unfortunately, no. Red Eye coffee needs one shot of espresso, which has a different taste and brewing method than dark roast coffee. While dark roast may taste and feel stronger, it’s still coffee, and can’t swap espresso out for a Red Eye.

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black coffee

How to Make a Red Eye Coffee

Making a Red Eye at home is fairly easy, as long as you have an espresso maker and drip brewer at home. For a traditional Red Eye coffee, you’ll only need one shot. For a modern Red Eye coffee (which is also called a Black Eye coffee), you’ll need two.
5 star average
Prep Time 2 minutes
Cook Time 4 minutes
Total Time 6 minutes
Course Drinks
Cuisine American
Servings 1
Calories 2 kcal


  • Drip coffee maker
  • Espresso machine
  • Coffee mug


  • 1 ounce finely-ground coffee beans
  • 0.6 ounces medium-ground coffee beans
  • 12 ounces filtered water


  • Start brewing the drip coffee.
  • Brew the espresso right before the coffee is done (single or double, whichever you choose), then pour it into a coffee mug.
  • Once the coffee is ready, pour it over the espresso shot and enjoy.


Calories: 2kcal
Keyword espresso, red eye

Featured Image: Pxhere, CC0 Public Domain


Sean Brennan

Sean’s obsession with coffee started when he received his first French press as a gift almost ten years ago. Since then, his love of coffee – and the number of coffee gadgets he owns – has grown considerably. A scientist by training, there is no stone he has left unturned in the never-ending quest for the perfect cup of coffee. He has spent many hours tuning his pour-over technique, thinking about how to best compare grind quality, and worrying about whether the Nicaraguan or Kenyan beans will make the best cold brew. These days he favors the Hario V60, and starts each day by hand grinding his coffee before enjoying a cup prepared with care and attention to detail.

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