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 The Good and Bad of James Hoffmann’s French Press Technique…

James Hoffmann is arguably the king of coffee on the internet. He is an incredibly knowledgeable coffee practitioner, with a wealth of experience in various different coffee businesses, and of course, on Youtube. 

He has been putting out coffee related videos for over a decade, and his techniques are seen as the gold standard for coffee enthusiasts the world over. 

His french press technique flies in the face of conventional wisdom, and promises a clean, silt/sludge free cup that will blow any other cafetiere method out of the water.

So, should we all follow James’ method to the letter, or are there elements of the traditional French press technique worth hanging on to? Well, let’s find out. 

Key Takeaways: 

  • Don’t plunge all the way down to the bottom of the French Press. This disturbs the bed of coffee that has already been extracted. 
  • Pour your coffee carefully and use the plunger as a strainer. 
  • This technique takes time!

What is James Hoffmann’s French Press Technique?

James Hoffmann’s French press technique calls for a longer brewing time, use of a finer grind size than you might think, and (critically), not plunging all the way to the bottom…

There are a few reasons behind his thinking. 

Giving your coffee more time to brew, whilst reducing the grind size slightly will help extract more of those essential coffee oils from the grounds. You may think there is a risk of over extraction and bitterness creeping in, but because the French press is a pretty forgiving brewing method, this is pretty unlikely. 

James recommends you think of your French press filter more as a strainer than a plunger, using it to hold back some of the larger sediment rather than simply plunging and pouring. 

Full Technique Breakdown: 

I would recommend watching James’ full French press technique video below (it’s only 3.5 mins long), and giving it a try for yourself . This way you’ll be able to take elements of his technique and add it to your arsenal. 

Here is a brief step by step summary of James Hoffmann’s French press technique: 

Step 1: Use Freshly roasted, freshly ground coffee (I’d recommend a medium to dark roast). 

Step 2: Grind your coffee beans to a medium consistency. This leaves a lot of room for interpretation, but where a traditional technique calls for a coarse grind (Molden salt), James recommends something closer to a pour over (brown sugar). 

Step 3: Use a 1:14 coffee to water ratio. Use approx 70g of coffee for every 1 litre of water (I used 35g coffee and 500g of water). 

Step 4: Pour water over the coffee grounds and stir slightly to break up any clumps.

Step 5: Leave the coffee alone for 4 minutes. 

Step 6: Once some of the coffee on the surface has sunken to the bottom of the French press, remove some of the crust and floating sediment on the surface with a couple of spoons, and leave for a further 5-8 minutes. 

Step 7: Plunge your French press just so the mesh filter sits on the surface of the coffee, rather than pressing all the way down to the bottom. 

Step 8: Using your plunger as a strainer, carefully pour a cup, making sure not to disturb the settled bed of grounds at the bottom of the French press. 

Where it Differs from Conventional Wisdom

There are a number of areas in which James Hoffmann’s French press technique is a little unconventional. However, there is sound rationale behind each of them, and his method is definitely worth a try. 

Traditional  James Hoffmann
Brew Time 5 Minutes 9-12 Minutes
Agitation None Stir at Beginning, Remove Crust after 4-5 Minutes
Grind Size Coarse Medium
Plunge All the Way to the Bottom Filter Rests on Brewed Coffee Surface
Equipment Required French Press, Kettle French Press, Kettle, Scale, 2 Spoons,Water Filter
Coffee Dose 80-100g Coffee Per Litre of Water 60-70g Coffee per Litre of Water
Coffee-to-Water Ratio 1:12 1:14

Here is a table summarising the key differences between a traditional French Press technique and James Hoffmann’s recommended technique. 

Finer Grind Size

James recommends you use a medium grind size, as opposed to the traditional coarse grind that has been the norm for decades. 

You can see the image on the right is a more traditional, coarser grind, whereas the one on the left is a medium grind size.

Personally, I think this depends on the specific coffee you’re using and how much extraction and body you are looking for. But, airing on the side of medium as opposed to coarse can lead to a more flavourful cup, due to the additional coffee solubles you’ll be able to extract. 

Longer Brew Time

Most people let their French press coffee steep for a couple of minutes before plunging and serving. This, says Hoffmann, is the fatal flaw in traditional French press brewing.

I think this, along with the no plunging rule, are the key points of difference between Hoffmann’s French press method and that of conventional wisdom. 

Letting your French press brew for around 10 minutes definitely allows more coffee oils and molecules to be released from the grounds, helping to develop a more deep bodied cup.

More Agitation

This is a double edged sword. 

On the one hand, Hoffmann emphasises the importance of breaking up crust and clumps on the surface of the coffee bed, but he also encourages you not to touch the grounds that have settled at the bottom of the French press. 

This means that although you would agitate the French press more than normal using his method (at the beginning and middle of the brew), the bed of grounds at the bottom of the carafe shouldn’t be disturbed.  

Allowing the Coffee to Bloom

James Hoffmann’s French press technique also calls for blooming, whereas most traditional methods do not. Blooming is the “occurrence of a foaming and bubbling during the brewing process, that can be seen as you add water to ground coffee…it represents mainly the release of CO2 and some oils from the inside of ground coffee, as water begins to permeate and displace it.” – North Star Coffee, Demystifying the Coffee Bloom.

Allowing your coffee to bloom de-gasses it and releases the sourness and bitterness that is usually trapped inside the CO2. The blooming phase opens up the coffee grounds to give you a more balanced flavour. 

Not Plunging Fully

One of the key differences between James Hoffmann’s French press technique and the traditional method is what he does with the plunger. 

James uses the metal mesh filter as more of a strainer than a plunger, and this aims to give you a ‘cleaner’ tasting cup of coffee as a result. 

The idea behind this is that, as the coffee steeps in the French press, the grounds that started at the top of the carafe during the blooming process will gradually float down to the bottom. 

These are basically extracted at this point and have done their job in releasing their oils into the water, giving you nice strong coffee. Therefore, the theory is that plunging all the way to the bottom and disturbing this bed of coffee grounds will create unnecessary turbulence and just add slt or sludge into your cup. 

Removing Hard Crust

James also recommends removing the majority of the crust that sits on top of the French press about half way into the brewing time. 

The idea here is to take away some of that bitter, harsh tasting coffee that sits on the surface after the blooming phase. This also gets rid of some of the unwanted sediment and fines that may be floating on the surface. 

Pouring More Carefully

Because James’ French press technique uses the plunger more as a strainer than an actual plunger, you’ll have to pour your coffee more carefully. You can’t really pour the coffee all at once, and you’ll have to be careful not to let any sediment into your cup, as this would defeat the objective of his technique. 

A tip would be to try and hold your coffee cup close to your French press and at an angle, so you don’t have to tip the carafe all the way. This will reduce your chances of disturbing the settled grounds at the base of the French press. 

What I Like About it

There are a few things I really like about James Hoffmann’s French press technique. He is a big authority in the coffee industry, and I really respect what he has achieved across his Youtube channel, Square Mile Coffee Roasters and various other ventures. His tips and advice are steeped in years of coffee experience at the highest level, so he can definitely be trusted. 

Less Bitter Coffee

One of the big benefits to using your French press the James Hoffmann way is the well rounded, less bitter tasting coffee that results. There is a lot to be said for not disturbing the coffee grounds any more than necessary, and the allowing the coffee to bloom and removing the crust definitely offers a sweeter taste. 

Encourages Deconstructing the Brewing Method

Another benefit of following James Hoffman’s French press method is the overall philosophy of deconstructing and analysing every aspect of the brewing process. Whilst this might not be to everyone’s taste, it does help identify weak points in the traditional French press method and find ways to improve them. 

Whilst James doesn’t specify a recommended water temperature, this is again something he would encourage experimenting with, as he has in many other videos, (see below): 

The key message here is that James really advocates that you think about every input in the coffee making process deliberately, and make adjustments and enhancements wherever possible. 

This philosophy isn’t for everyone, and realistically the majority of coffee drinkers out there want the best cup they can get with the least ‘effort’ (time, knowledge, technique, cost, equipment used) possible. 

However, making some simple changes like using filtered water rather than tap water and weighing your coffee can go a long way to producing a more delicious cup of joe in the morning. 

Less Sludge in the Bottom of Your Cup

Another advantage of James Hoffmann’s French press technique is that it reduces the amount of silt and sludge at the bottom of your cup. 

Using the plunger as a filter and not disturbing the bed of grounds sitting at the bottom means there is a much lower chance that these pesky granules will end up in your cup of coffee. This gives the coffee a much smoother mouth feel and less body than the traditional French press technique. 

As you can see below, a traditional French press method leaves quite a lot of silt in the cup:

‘Cleaner’ Taste

James’ French press method produces an overall cleaner cup of coffee, due to the lack of crust, disturbance in the coffee grounds and lower levels of sediment that ends up in the cup. 

Not only is there less silt and sludge, but the coffee has a more refreshing taste to it. Using this alternative method reduces the heaviness and bitterness of the coffee, delivering a more balanced flavour profile. 

What I Don’t Like About it 

Whilst there are a number of major benefits to using James Hoffmann’s French press technique, there are also a few aspects of it that might not be to everyone’s taste… 

Less Approachable for Beginners

Whilst it’s great that James has deconstructed the French press technique, this method does require a bit of technique and skill. It may seem straightforward on the surface, but the additional equipment needed, time required and steps in the process may put some coffee lovers off. 

Afterall, the French press is so popular thanks to its simplicity and approachability. So, whilst each element of the French press brewing process can be optimised and improved, there is still something to be said for keeping things simple and easy. 

Longer Brew Time

Whilst a longer brew time gives you a higher coffee extraction, this is no good if you’re in a rush and need a caffeine hit pronto. Not everyone has 15-20 minutes spare in the morning to weigh out their coffee beans, grind them freshly, use a water filter and wait around for their coffee to brew. 

Hoffmann’s technique is well worth a try if you’ve got time on your hands, but if you’re in a rush, then opting for a more traditional French press technique may be more appropriate. 

Can be More Messy

Despite ending up with less sediment in your cup, the process of scooping out the crust, grinding coffee beans and having to pour more carefully can all lead to a more messy experience. 

More Skill Required to Pour

This may not seem like a big deal, but you need to be mindful of how you’re pouring your French press to get the best results out of James Hoffmann’s technique. 

If you just go ahead and free pour, you risk disturbing the sediment at the bottom of the carafe that you’ve worked so hard to separate from your brewed coffee. You also need to make sure you don’t pour so vigorously that the plunger falls out of your French press. 

This isn’t something you’d normally have to consider, but with James’ technique, the plunger is just sitting on the coffee’s surface. Therefore, it’s easier to accidently spill coffee out of the French press and make a mess. 

Difficult to Pour Out All Coffee at Once

Again, since you’re using the plunger as more of a strainer in James Hoffmann’s technique, it can be difficult to pour all of your coffee out at once, as you’ll have to adjust the position of the strainer constantly. 

A way around this is to either pour a small amount of coffee at a time, then move the plunger down to the lower water height, and re-pour. Or, gradually plunge your French press as you pour, whilst making sure not to disturb the coffee grounds at the bottom. 

Should You Use James Hoffman’s French Press Technique? 

I would say that it is definitely worth giving James Hoffmann’s French press technique a try. Period. 

It is quite amazing how just a few tweaks to the traditional method can have such profound effects on the flavour, mouthfeel and overall drinking experience of a cup of coffee. 

Trying this technique also gives you another extreme to compare the traditional method to, and then adjust the brewing time, grind size, water temperature, level of plunging and so on to your liking. 

James Hoffmann’s French press method is more akin to a V60 than a traditional French press, so is perfect if you are using lighter roasted coffee beans. Also, if you want to bring out more floral, fruity, citrus flavours or acidity from your coffee, James’ method will definitely help. 

Where a traditional French press technique tends to emphasise dark, earthy, full bodied coffee, Hoffmann’s promotes more delicate flavours. 

If a French press is your main brewing device of choice, or the only one you have access to, then it is definitely worth giving James Hoffmann’s technique a try. 

However, if you prefer a more rich, full bodied cup of coffee, don’t have much time on your hands or simply don’t have the desire to change up an old faithful technique, then sticking to your guns is the way to go. 

Alternative French Press Method You May Want to Try 

I have experimented with plunging all the way down, James’ suggestion of not really plunging at all, and something in between. 

I’ve found that the best combination of reducing sludge build up, pouring enough coffee quickly and retaining some of that desirable french press body, is to slowly plunge your coffee as you pour

You can effectively combine James Hoffmann’s method with the traditional one, to give you a clean tasting cup of coffee but also retain some of that familiar body and earthiness. 

I personally like using this method, especially if I’m using a dark roasted or more umami tasting medium roasted bean. For example, if the prominent tasting notes are chocolate, caramel, nuts or in any way smoky, then I’ll look to emphasise this by plunging slowly whilst I pour. 

However, if I only had a French press to hand and was using coffee beans with more winey, fruity, floral, citrus or acidic tasting notes, I would most likely use James’ technique more strictly. 

The good thing about learning James’ technique is that you can try it out for yourself and experiment with different methods, to give either a cleaner, smoother cup, or a more gritty, fuller bodied one. 

Other French Press Tips

Here are a few useful tips to help step up your French press game, regardless of how you like to plunge! 

Use Medium or Dark Roasted Coffee

One of the best things about the French press is just how versatile and forgiving it is to use. You can make coffee using pretty much any coffee bean you like and still get a great result. 

However, to get the best out of your French press, I would recommend opting for a medium or dark roasted coffee bean, that has rich, smoky, or earthy tasting notes, as opposed to citrus, floral or fruity ones. 

For example, flavours like chocolate, nuts, stone fruits, caramel or cocoa nibs would be better suited to a French press than wine, grape, strawberry, lime, lemon or flora. This is because the full immersion brewing process that takes place in a French press tends to emphasise more full bodied, rich flavours, whereas more delicate, acidic ones can sometimes get lost. 

For more information on which beans work best in a French press, check out this article: 15 Best Coffee Beans for French Press.

Clean Your French Press Regularly

Another handy tip if you use your French press every day, is to make sure you clean it regularly. It may be hard to see on the surface, but small coffee fines, sediment and oils can build up in your French press plunger pretty quickly. 

This can lead to discoloration, rancidity and even mould! To avoid this, check out these 9 Tips: Maintain and Clean a French Press the right way. 

Experiment with Small Adjustments in Grind Size

Generally speaking, a medium to coarse grind size will work best in a French press, owing to the longer immersion brewing process that takes place. 

‘Medium to Coarse’ can be quite a large range to operate in however, so it is definitely worth experimenting with small adjustments in your own grind size to see what suits your tastes best. 

For more information on French press grind size, check this article out: The Best Grind Size for French Press Revealed

Pour French Press Coffee Evenly When Serving Multiple People 

Whether you are using a more traditional French press technique, or something more contemporary like James Hoffmann’s, the closer you get to the bottom of your brew, the stronger your coffee will get. 

This is because the coffee grounds will slowly float down to the bottom of your French press’s carafe, and the closer you get to these, the higher extracted coffee you’ll be pouring. 

Therefore, if you are pouring for a larger group, try to pour a small, roughly even amount in each cup in rotation, rather than filling each one up individually. 

This will ensure everyone gets a relatively similar tasting cup of coffee, and no one is left with a weak, or overly bitter taste in their mouth! 

For more useful French press tips, check out these articles: 


Overall, James Hoffmann’s French press technique is a refreshing take on the traditional method that has been used for decades. James is a leading light in the coffee industry, and there is always a lot of merit in his tips, tricks and coffee brewing advice. 

Whilst his method may not be for everyone, I applaud his ideology of always trying to improve every aspect of coffee brewing, and his ability to convey complex subjects in a straightforward way is very impressive. 

I’d encourage you to try James’ method for yourself and see if you like it. Don’t be afraid to experiment with new coffee brewing techniques and adjust them to your liking. At the end of the day, the best cup of coffee in the world is the one you enjoy the most! 

Related Questions

Who is James Hoffman? 

James doesn’t go into great detail about himself and what he does on his own website, but his Wikipedia page describes him as “an English barista, YouTuber, entrepreneur, coffee consultant, and author. Hoffmann first came to prominence after winning the World Barista Championship in 2007 and has since been credited as a pioneer of Britain’s third-wave coffee movement” – James Hoffmann Wikipedia

He is often cited as the leading authority in the specialty coffee world, and has the largest Coffee Youtube Channel out there. 

Does a French Press Make Good Coffee?  

Yes, the French press makes amazing coffee, despite it being one of the most humble and widely used coffee brewing devices out there. French press coffee tends to be quite strong, full bodied and flavoursome, with more silt and sediment than other coffee brewing methods. 

Frequently Asked Questions

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