I wholeheartedly love my French press.
That said, the strong, silty nature of French press coffee (though delicious!) can mask the more nuanced flavors of the brew and leave a bit of grit in your mug.
And that is where the James Hoffmann French press method comes into play. By making a few tweaks to this tried-and-true brewing method, Hoffmann has found a way to resolve one of the few issues we’ve ever had with French press coffee.
The result: something quite smooth.
Don't believe me yet? That's where our blind taste test comes in. We got seven willing participants to try two "mystery" brews and decide which one they preferred.
So, if you’re growing bored with your coffee routine, keep reading for an in-depth understanding of this method and my opinion—as well as those of seven others—on whether this method is worth the extra time.
In this article, you'll learn...
● All about James Hoffmann, his coffee expertise, and why people are talking about his French press method.
● What coffee enthusiasts and experts are saying about this brewing technique.
● A clear, step-by-step guide to trying out the James Hoffmann French press method at home.
● What happened when we did a blind taste test comparing the traditional French press brew and Hoffmann's version.
● A detailed comparison of the two brewing methods and their results.
● Answers to some frequently asked questions about the French press and Hoffmann's method.
Who Is James Hoffmann?
A British coffee-aficionado.
James Hoffmann is a former espresso machine salesman turned coffee expert. He won the 2007 World Barista Championship using a single-origin bean for espresso and has since taken the coffee world by storm.
He co-founded Square Mile Coffee Roasters, has close to 2 million YouTube subscribers, and published several books, including The World Atlas of Coffee.
Hoffmann is known for his suave yet dorky British persona and unabiding love for coffee. Seriously, if you ever need coffee inspiration—I highly recommend watching one of his videos.
His love for Java comes through in every word.
Why the Hype?
Internet hype can be a scary thing. Sometimes, it's accurate, but mostly, it's greatly over exaggerated. However, I can safely say that there’s merit to the wild hype for Hoffmann’s French press method. The coffee just tastes better.
Brewing in a French press comes with a few challenges, the most commonly cited being the gritty mouthfeel and sediment left in your cup.
Hoffmann’s method eliminates that particular challenge, brewing a smooth, sediment-free cup of delicious coffee.
The first time I tried it I honestly thought I was drinking coffee brewed in an AeroPress, not a French press. It’s that smooth.
But here’s the catch: you’ll need double the patience and some dark roast coffee on hand.
Even with the extra brew time and specific roast requirements, let’s look at why the hype may still be well-deserved.
The Coffee Community's Take on the James Hoffmann French Press Method
Most folks were shocked that a French press could prepare such a smooth, full-bodied, and sediment-free cup of joe. I also read quite a few comments saying they didn’t know home-brewed coffee could taste this great.
There were only two complaints I found online after reading far too many “hot takes.”
But first, can we appreciate how—in the age of the internet—Hoffmann’s French press method somehow managed to have only two red flags?
- Temperature – Will the coffee be cold after steeping for that long?
- Roast – Does it only work with dark roast beans?
The first “red flag” didn’t hold water.
I have used the Hoffmann method at least once a week now for several months, and not once has my coffee been cold. In fact, it cools to just the temperature I wait for my normally-brewed coffee to reach before I take a sip.
Hoffmann's method involves two separate steeping and waiting periods. But the longer steep does not significantly impact the temperature. Your coffee will be toasty upon the first sip.
The second “complaint” does have some merit.
Hoffmann’s method works best with dark roasts, less great with medium roasts, and not well with light roasts. Light-roast grounds don’t sink as well as the other roasts, so those cups are generally less smooth.
Still, 98% of all the comments were enthusiastic about the results. And, many coffee drinkers were willing to make the switch to Hoffmann’s French press method!
If you have only a light roast on hand and want to try this method, be extra diligent in the scooping process. Scoop off all the foam and any extra grounds floating on top. Again, this is not the recommended method, but it might work in a pinch. (Also, steep for less time, as light roasts may become sour if left for too long!)
What is the James Hoffmann French Press Method?
Before we jump in, keep in mind that Hoffmann also credits The Coffee Collective and Tim Wendelboe with developing this method. For the purpose of this review, we’ll continue to call it “the James Hoffmann Method.”
The Hoffmann Method does a stand-up job of keeping out the silt, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart (and cup).
But be aware that it does take more time than the traditional, 4-minute French press recipe. After the initial 4-minute steep, you wait an extra 5-8 minutes.
But wait a second—won’t steeping it for longer make it bitter?
Immersion brewing techniques, particularly French presses, are hard to over-extract. The second wait isn’t to continue the extraction process, as the water is already coffee-laden.
It's to let the grounds settle to the bottom, so they won’t float around in your cup. Those 5-8 minutes make the coffee surprisingly smooth and full-bodied.
That’s also why Hoffmann’s method refrains from plunging all the way down. Doing so would stir up the grounds and result in a more bitter, silty cup.
Let's get brewing!
TOTAL TIME: 12-18 MINUTES
- French press
- Two spoons (preferably not metal if you’re using a glass French press)
- Whole beans or preground coffee of medium fineness (preferably dark roast)
- Digital scale (optional but highly recommended)
- Grinder (optional but highly recommended)
Step 1: Prep
STEP 1 TIME: 1-3 MINUTES
Hoffmann calls for between 60-70 grams (~17-20 level tbsp) of coffee per liter of water, so around a 1:15 ratio. If you prefer a stronger cup, shoot for 70 grams (20 level tbsp) of grounds, instead of 60 (17 tbsp).
If you try this with imperial units rather than metric, make sure to keep the water equivalent to 1 liter, which is just under 34 fl. oz or 4 ¼ cups.
(Note: don’t multiply the tablespoons by 15; if you do, you’ll end up with 127 - 150 fl oz. of water, four times more than needed. That’s because the ratio works for weight, not for volume. )
Measure out your coffee—either pre-ground or whole beans. If using whole beans, grind them to medium grind size, not coarse. Then, pour them into your freshly-warmed French press.
1) Boil your water, no need to aim for a specific temperature.
2) While you're waiting for your water to boil, start grinding and weighing out your coffee beans (using a medium grind size, not coarse)
3) BEFORE you pour your coffee grounds into the French press...
Preheat your French press by pouring in enough water to fill it a few inches high, then carefully swirl it around. Then, dump the water into the sink.
Step 2: Steep
STEP 2 TIME: 4 MINUTES
4) Place the coffee grounds into your french press.
5) Pour your water over the grounds, making sure to dampen everything. No dry spots! A little turbulence is good.
6) Then, set a timer for 4 minutes, sit back, and relax.
Step 3: Stir & Scoop
STEP 3 TIME: 1-2 MINUTES
7) With one spoon, stir the crust that has formed on the top of the liquid. Break it up gently.
8) Next, take both of your spoons and scoop any foam and remaining particulates off the top. Continue until the surface is mostly clear.
This might not be the first time you’ve heard us say this, but it’s just as relevant now as it was a few articles ago. Please don’t use metal spoons if you have a glass French press; they could crack, break, or shatter your lovely Bodum. Try wood or plastic instead!
Step 4: Wait
STEP 4 TIME: 5-8 MINUTES
9) This is the key step in Hoffmann’s method, where all the grinds fall to the bottom to leave you with a remarkably smooth cup.
10) After stirring and scooping, set a timer for 5-8 minutes and wait. Or make your breakfast. Or read the news!
If you’re working with a light or medium roast, set your timer for 5-6 minutes. Darker roasts can sit for longer without becoming bitter. But light roasts may become sour if left for too long.
Step 5: Pour
STEP 5 TIME: 1 MINUTE
11) Once your second timer rings, insert the plunger and press down till it’s just above the surface of the liquid.
12) Then pour your coffee, using the plunger as a strainer. Go slow and be patient. Make sure to keep one finger on the top of your French press so the plunger doesn’t go flying.
Finally, sip and enjoy!
Experiment: The James Hoffmann Method vs Traditional Method
First things first, I have to thank my enthusiastic participants in this experiment, who offered very honest insights. Coffee brings people together!
For our blind taste test, I prepared both the James Hoffmann method and the traditional method with the same ratio: 1:15, so approximately 65 grams (~18.5 level tbsp) of coffee per 1 liter (34 oz).
The participants were aware that both methods were brewed in a French press; however, they were not aware of the difference in brewing time or stirring. They were also aware that I used the same beans for both methods. They were simply asked to sip and discuss the differences between the two cups.
Maintaining the ratio helped illuminate any differences between the brews, such as mouthfeel, depth of flavor, and bitterness. I used Peet’s Medium Roast, Big Bang, for both of the methods as well.
Before serving my participants, I poured the standard method into cups labeled with an “A,” while Hoffmann’s went into the “B” cups. Participants had the opportunity to try both cups before offering their respective opinions.
The Standard 4-Minute Method (A)
- Prepped by coarsely grinding the beans and boiling water before letting it cool off a bit. Warmed the French press.
- Bloomed the grounds for 30 seconds with about ¼ of the heated water.
- Gently stirred the slurry and then let steep for 4 minutes.
- Pressed down the plunger and poured it into the "A" cups.
Here’s what the participants had to say about method A (all direct, anonymous quotations):
- “More tannin-y, more acidic feeling, acrid”
- “A just tastes like hot water compared to B”
- “Has a jolt as you go to swallow it”
- “Noticeable aftertaste”
- “A is spiky on the back of the tongue”
- “A gets a B”
The James Hoffmann Method (B)
- Ground Peet’s Big Bang beans to a medium size, boiled water, and warmed the French press.
- Hoffmann does not mention blooming the grounds, so instead, I poured in all the water on the first go.
- Waited for four minutes.
- Stirred the top crust, then scooped off foam and extra granules.
- Waited another five minutes.
- Inserted plunger above the surface and poured it into the "B" cups.
Although you may already guess which one scored higher, here’s what my participants had to say about method B:
- “Smooth feeling”
- “Stronger scent, much more pleasing scent”
- “Goes down smoother than A”
- “B gets an A”
- “Smooth the whole way down”
- “B makes me want to hold it”
It’s pretty clear which one the real favorite was!
How the Two Compare:
Although their preferences were pretty clear, let’s break it down even further.
- Depth of flavor
Hoffmann’s method is uncharacteristically smooth, unlike the normal gritty mouthfeel associated with French presses. My taste testers kept commenting on how flavorful Hoffmann’s method was, while the other cup tasted almost watery in comparison.
Despite the watery taste, the traditional method resulted in a far more astringent cup than Hoffmann’s.
- Immersion Brewing Method in a French press
- 1:15 ratio
- Peet’s Big Bang Medium Roast
- Rich flavor
As you can see, I had to scrape the bottom of the barrel for any similarities between these two methods.
Though they were both cups of coffee, they were almost entirely different drinks. One was smooth, the other gritty. One was slightly bitter, the other round and pleasant.
Although they both had deep, dark flavors, Hoffmann’s method was richer than the traditional method.
The extra time it takes to brew James Hoffmann’s method is worth it. If you want a much smoother, far less silty mouthfeel as you sip your coffee, this technique gets the job done/does the trick. That said, the JHM might not be in the cards for you as a daily practice.
If you’re in a rush, stick to your usual method. A good cuppa coffee is better than no cuppa coffee, and there’s a reason the French press has been around for centuries. But, on those days when you have the extra time and want to treat yourself, by all means, take those additional 5-8 minutes.
Plus, you can use that time to your advantage. I often make my breakfast while my coffee steeps or pitter around the house, taking care of a few chores.
At the end of the day, I would much rather drink Hoffmann’s method than the traditional one. And my seven helpful taste testers ardently agreed.
Best Ratio for James Hoffmann Ratio?
Hoffmann offers a range in his YouTube tutorial: 60-70 grams (~17-20 tbsp) of coffee per 1 liter (34 oz) of water (1). If you prefer a more potent brew, grind 70 grams instead of 60.
Generally, if you stay somewhere between 1:14 - 1:16, you should be just fine.
This method is up for experimentation ratio-wise, so play around with different measurements till you find the one that suits you best!
Does the Grind of the Coffee Make a Difference in the JHM?
French press recipes tend to call for coarsely ground beans, so imagine my surprise when Hoffmann's said medium!
So, whip out your grinder and set it to medium.
Evidently, when brewing the smoothest coffee possible in a French press, medium grind size is the happy medium! (Pun intended!)
Hoffmann does not explain why he uses a medium grind size for his French press method; however, I have a theory. Hear me out!
Have you ever heard of coffee cupping (2)? This is where coffee aficionados and taste testers gather to silently taste multiple identical cups of coffee before discussing their notes and revelations.
The steps for coffee cupping are rather similar to James Hoffmann’s French press method. Start with a medium grind size, wait for 3-5 minutes, break the crust, wait a little longer, and then sip.
Each method cautions against disturbing the grounds and uses time to its advantage.
Medium has long been considered the most balanced grind size, producing consistent flavors, particularly in immersion brewing methods.
James Hoffmann’s method reminds me of coffee cupping on a much larger scale, so it tracks that he’d use a medium grind size too!
How Does Water Temperature Make a Difference in Coffee Extraction?
The National Coffee Association says that water temperature should be between 195-205°F (90.5-93°C) at all times for premium extraction (3).
So, what is extraction? It’s the rate at which the yummy, coffee-tasting particles flow out of the beans and into the water.
Water temperature is an essential factor in extraction (4). The higher the temperature, the quicker the extraction.
Which is why cold brew coffee needs to be steeped for so long—lower temperature, slower extraction.
However, with higher temperatures comes greater responsibility: hot water will extract more flavor and more bitterness, whereas colder water may not extract enough of the flavor you crave.
Finding that sweet spot is tricky, to say the least. And the ideal temperature varies depending on your brewing mechanism too!
But in general, light roasts can be extracted with slightly hotter water. Dark roasts prefer slightly lower temperatures to avoid over-extraction and bitterness.
And you may not believe this, but the chemical makeup of the water you use will also affect your cup of joe.
Psst: Use neutral, filtered, fresh water (and not hard water), if you can.
Best Coffee to Use for the James Hoffmann Method?
Hoffmann emphasizes using good beans for this method. After all, delicious coffee begets delicious brews!
There are several factors to consider before choosing your coffee for the Hoffmann method:
- Single-origin vs blend
- Whole bean vs pre-ground
Make sure you buy your coffee fresh. How do you know it’s fresh? Check the bag and see if it’s been more than 10 days from the roasting date. Ten or below, and you’re good to go!
I personally love single-origin coffee, but a blend will work just as fine here. What you pick depends on personal preference alone!
The choice of roast is less about personal preference and more about necessity.
I recommend using dark roasts here, or medium roasts if you don’t have any dark on hand.
Only work with light roasts if you have no other option; the grinds may not sink to the bottom during the steeping and waiting period.
Last but not least, grind the beans yourself if you have the option.
While there is nothing wrong with buying pre-ground (I’ve done it!), freshly ground beans will result in deeper, more delicious flavors.
Which is what we’re all after, right?
If you’ve ever spent time in a kitchen before, you know that good food takes time.
So, it only makes sense that good coffee (like, really good coffee) takes time too.
This fact is exemplified by James Hoffmann’s French Press Method, which takes a few more minutes to brew.
But my blind-taste-test participants and I are in agreement: Hoffmann’s method is worth the extra time and more.
It produces the smoothest cup yet maintains the robustness and depth of flavor that the French press is known for.
So, wash some dishes or read other Robust Kitchen articles during that second waiting period. You won’t regret it.
Grant, T. (2020, March 26). A Beginner’s Guide to Cupping Coffee & Improving Your Palate. Perfect Daily Grind. https://perfectdailygrind.com/2020/03/a-beginners-guide-to-cupping-coffee-improving-your-palate/
Hoffmann, J. (2016). The Ultimate French Press Technique. In www.youtube.com. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=st571DYYTR8
Jie, T. (2017, October 5). Guide To Coffee Cupping (R. Tan, Ed.). MICHELIN Guide. https://guide.michelin.com/hk/en/article/features/guide-to-coffee-cupping
National Coffee Association of U.S.A. (n.d.). How to Brew Coffee. Www.ncausa.org. Retrieved May 15, 2023, from https://www.ncausa.org/About-Coffee/How-to-Brew-Coffee
Rao, N. Z., Fuller, M., & Grim, M. D. (2020). Physiochemical Characteristics of Hot and Cold Brew Coffee Chemistry: The Effects of Roast Level and Brewing Temperature on Compound Extraction. Foods, 9(7), 902. https://doi.org/10.3390/foods9070902