Starbucks Red Eye vs. Americano: Which Brew Reigns Supreme?

Starbucks Red Eye vs. Americano

Some coffee drinkers reach for the Americano, enjoying the subtler espresso flavors with plenty of caffeine to kick-start their mornings. Others dive right into the caffeine with a powerful red eye that’s undeniably robust and energizing. This leaves many wondering which brew is “supreme?”

Starbucks Red-Eye is a cup of coffee with an espresso shot(s) added. It’s creamy, thick, and delicious. Americanos are a mix of espresso shot(s) and hot water. The result is a lightweight beverage with jam-packed espresso flavor.

Should you order the Starbucks Red Eye or the Americano? Don’t worry – we’re here to help. Below, we uncover all of the differences between these two popular types of coffee so you can make the right choice at the pull-up window.

What Is A Starbucks Red Eye Coffee?

The term “red-eye” coffee isn’t new. In fact, nobody knows exactly when this trend started. However, it became incredibly popular during the 90s and has maintained dominance in the coffee realm ever since. 

The phrase is likely connected to overnight flights, where passengers will tire and experience red eyes.

Starbucks, the globally renowned chain, naturally took advantage of the trend.

The “Starbucks Red Eye Coffee” was born. Yet, it’s not as complex or fascinating as it sounds. Really, it’s brewed coffee with a shot of espresso. This not only enhances the bold flavor but adds a significant boost of caffeine. 

What is A Starbucks Americano?

It’s no secret that the Starbucks Americano is a popular drink. You’ve likely heard people in front of you order it repeatedly. But why?

The Americano is a delightful beverage that combines espresso with hot water. While this might not sound like the most appealing drink on the planet, it’s a great way to chug a significant amount of caffeine without too harsh flavors, which is common with a hefty espresso shot.

This coffee beverage has withstood the hands of time. It has existed since World War II when American soldiers stationed in Italy needed to dilute the strong espresso flavor. With its lengthy past and prominence in the coffee world, the Americano has proven itself a top-notch contender on the Starbucks menu.

Red Eye Coffee vs Americano: Key Differences

Let’s dive into the critical differences between Red Eye and Americano:

CategoryStarbucks Red Eye CoffeeStarbucks Americano
Flavor ProfileNutty, caramellyEspresso
TasteBold with a hint of drip coffee’s uniqueness.Smooth, slightly bitter with the essence of espresso.
AromaStrong, roasted beans combined with regular coffee.Rich, robust espresso aroma.
Caffeine Content (Grande size)Approx. 257 mg (182mg from brewed coffee + 75mg from espresso).Approx. 225mg (3 shots of espresso).
Starbucks Red Eye and Americano coffee profiles

Differences in Base Ingredients

The most significant difference between the Starbucks Red-Eye and the Americano lies in their base ingredients.

The Starbucks Red-Eye begins with regularly brewed coffee. Then, a shot of espresso is added.

On the other hand, the Americano starts with a shot (or a few shots) of espresso. Hot water is added on top.

Differences in Caffeine Content

Another key difference is the caffeine content.

Because the Starbucks Red-Eye contains coffee and espresso, it has a higher content that hovers around 257 mg (grande-size).

The Americano has slightly less, albeit still an impressive amount of caffeine – around 225mg (grande-size).

Keep in mind that these numbers can vary depending on the size of the coffee and how many shots are added. 

Differences in Serving Size

Serving sizes range from “short” to “venti.”

However, the typical serving size for red-eyes and Americanos is “grande.”

This leaves enough room for the coffee or water and an espresso shot(s).

Differences in Flavor Profile

Because Starbucks Red-Eye’s base is coffee, a distinct coffee flavor is present. This flavor can be a range of tastes, from nutty to caramel and everything in between.

The Americano is solely espresso and water. So you can taste the flavor of the espresso more readily. However, due to the water content, it’s not nearly as intense as a shot of espresso.

Flavor Profile, Body, and Mouthfeel

Blending coffee with espresso, Starbucks Red-Eye has a medium body that’s somewhat thick and creamy.

The Americano differs substantially. With just water and espresso, it is incredibly lightweight and smooth. 

Brewing Method

The Starbucks Red-Eye contains coffee. Therefore, coffee must be brewed before adding the espresso. It’s typically done using a drip coffee maker.

Since the Americano is simply espresso and water, it starts by brewing espresso in a specialty espresso machine. Then, water is heated and added to the drink.

Prep Time

Both of these drinks are relatively quick and easy to prepare.

However, the Americano takes a few minutes less (1 to 2 minutes total) because there is no need to brew a separate cup of coffee.

In total, it typically takes anywhere from 4 to 6 minutes to make a Starbucks Red-Eye.


The Starbucks Red-Eye has a lower acidity compared to the Americano. 

That’s because the coffee complements the espresso and helps to tame some of the undeniable acid levels that straight espresso shots have.

Price Comparison

A lot of factors contribute to the price of Starbucks coffee drinks, including location, size of the drink, how many shots are added, etc.

However, it’s typical for Red-Eye drinks to be about $0.50 to $1 more expensive than Americanos due to the inclusion of brewed coffee.

Which Coffee is Better for Productivity and Energy?

Because the Red-Eye contains a higher caffeine content, it will provide a more prominent “kick” – especially soon after consumption.

Yet, the Americano may give you that well-known caffeine boost for longer. Although it’s not a substantial amount, the concentrated espresso base of Americanos may give you an extra hour of energy. (Go ahead and say “Woohoo!)

Which One Is Right for You?

Which one is right for you depends on two key factors: your preferred flavors and desired caffeine.

If you prefer the strong and powerful flavor of espresso, stick with the Americano. If you want equal parts yummy coffee and robust espresso, the Red-Eye is a good option.

On the other hand, if it’s long-lasting energy you seek, go with the Americano. For those who prefer the quick boost, Red-Eyes is an excellent solution!

Popular Variations of Red Eye Coffee and Americano

The two most popular variations of the Red-Eye drink are the black eye and the dead eye

  • Black eye – Refers to a Red-Eye with an added shot of espresso (two total).
  • Dead-eye – Kicks the caffeine content up another level with a third shot added to the mix. Needless to say, the dead-eye is reserved for days when you really need it.

There are quite a few Americano variations. The two most popular include the misto and the flavored Americanos.

  • Misto – This is a type of Americano with milk added. The dairy adds some delightful creaminess and tames the flavor with more sweetness.
  • Flavored – Americanos can be flavored in so many different ways. From caramel syrup to vanilla and hazelnut, there are endless possibilities.

Verdict: Starbucks Red Eye or Americano?

Honestly, you can’t go wrong with the Starbucks Red-Eye or the Americano. Personally, I like the Red-Eye because I enjoy the higher caffeine content and the flavor of coffee. What can I say? There’s just something so yummy about a traditional cup of Joe!


Is there a decaffeinated version of Red Eye and Americano at Starbucks?

You can order a Red-Eye or an Americano with decaf coffee and espresso.

How does the caffeine content in Red Eye and Americano compare to other Starbucks beverages?

The Red-Eye and Americano have higher caffeine content than most Starbucks drinks, averaging 20 to 50 mg more per ounce.

Can I customize my Red Eye or Americano at Starbucks with additional flavors or milk?

You can customize your Red-Eye or Americano however you please!
Christopher Mize

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