The Step-by-Step Guide to James Hoffmann's French Press Method

October 13, 2021 6 min read

The Step-by-Step Guide to James Hoffmann's French Press Method

If you're ready to take your coffee beyond K-cups, brewing in the French press is a great first step. It's a time-tested method that both beginners and connoisseurs love. The best part? Unlike a lot of specialty coffee techniques, the French press is simple to use and easy to learn.

A regular complaint about brewing with a French press is that it leaves grounds in your coffee. This is common, but there is a technique that reduces this issue: James Hoffmann's French press method.

In this article, we'll detail his meticulous method. It will get you on the right track towards making amazing French press coffee without a lot of the sludge and silt.

Who is James Hoffmann?

In the specialty coffee world, James Hoffman's a big deal. He's an influencer and coffee consultant known throughout the industry for years. His YouTube page has is a wonderful (and entertaining) trove of coffee information.

James Hoffman at the 2007 World Barista Championship

James Hoffmann at the 2006 World Barista Championship. Photo by Ranveig.

He rose to fame after winning the 2007 World Barista Championship. Soon after, he founded his own coffee company, Square Mile Coffee Roasters. His most ambitious undertaking was a 2014 book titled The World Atlas of Coffee.It details everything you want to know about coffee: histories, varieties, growing methods, roasting processes, and preparation.

His YouTube channel now boasts of almost 1 million subscribers. As a result, his reputation has only grown, and he is known for his meticulous approach to his topics.

What's different about Hoffmann's French press process?

Most French press recipes are simple:

  1. Put ground coffee into the carafe.
  2. Pour boiling water over the coffee grounds.
  3. Wait 4-5 minutes.
  4. Plunge the filter all the way down.
  5. Pour your coffee!

If you use this method, sometimes 4-5 minutes isn't enough time for the coffee grounds to settle. This can result in a brew that feels silty, sludge-y, or uneven. Some people don't mind this. In fact, some actually prefer it! Depending on the coffee type, it can deliver a bold flavor and unique mouthfeel.

If you'd like something more advanced, then James Hoffmann's method is for you. With a couple of extra steps, his technique allows the coffee grounds to settle. This produces the full flavor of the French press method without the silty texture.

Here is an overview of James Hoffmann's French press technique:

  1. Boil water, weigh coffee, and grind coffee.
  2. Pour boiling water over coffee grounds.
  3. Wait 5 minutes.
  4. Stir the grounds a bit, breaking through the crust that forms.
  5. Scoop foam and floating coffee bits out of the carafe.
  6. Wait another 5 minutes.
  7. Plunge the filter only until the top of the liquid.
  8. Pour and enjoy!

Below you will find step-by-step instructions with animated visuals. That way, your first Hoffmann French press can be perfect!

What Kind of Equipment Will You Need?

James Hoffmann French Press Gear 1
James Hoffmann French Press Method Gear 2
  • Fresh roasted coffee (whole bean is ideal)
  • A French press
  • A kettle for boiling water
  • A kitchen scale that measures grams
  • A grinder (a burr grinder is ideal)
  • Two spoons
  • A timer (or you can use your phone timer)
  • A small bowl

Your coffee will taste better if you buy whole beans and grind them before brewing. Pre-ground coffee tends to get stale quicker, and it will likely result in a less flavorful brew.

A Step-By-Step Guide

We should start by telling you that freshness is most important factor in coffee. No technique in the the world will make stale, beans taste better. So, if you want the best results, make sure you're buying coffee within one to two weeks of its roast date. Anything else, and you risk wasting your effort.

Want the best beans for French press? We've hand-selecteda three-bag sample pack that has theperfect flavor profiles for French press.

Step 1: Start boiling water

Boil your water first so that you can prepare everything else while your kettle heats up. You'll want at least 500g of water in your kettle when you start.

A note about water quality and flavor: yes, water quality does affect flavor, but you don't necessarily need filtration. A good rule of thumb is this: if your water tastes good out of the faucet, it's probably fine to make with coffee. If you don't like the taste out of the faucet, try using a water filter.

Step 2: Weigh your coffee

For this method, we will be a ratio of 30g of coffee to 500g of water. This doesn't have to be a hard rule. If you find that this recipe isn't strong enough or is too strong, try adjusting the amount of coffee by a gram or two.

Weighing your coffee beans is more accurate than using volume measurements. If you don't have a scale, then 30 grams of coffee is roughly 4 tablespoons.

Step 3: Grind your coffee

James Hoffman French press method grind size medium coarse to coarse like breadcrumbs

You'll want coffee grounds that are roughly the same size as breadcrumbs.

You'll want coarse to medium-coarse coffee grounds. The most important thing to remember is not to grind them too fine, which will result in a burnt or acrid flavor. Fine grounds can also escape the French press's filter, making your coffee silty.

Step 4: Put Coffee in French press and pour 500g of boiling water

James Hoffman French press method pouring hot water

Once your water is boiling, remove it from the burner (don't forget to shut off the stove!). Immediately pour 500g of water over the grounds.

You'll want to pour in circles, making sure to evenly coat the grounds. It doesn't have to be perfect. Just make sure that there aren't any dry spots.

A gooseneck kettle will help you pour more accurately. Occasionally, with traditional kettles, it's easier to spill. Either way, make sure to pour carefully!

Step 5: Wait five minutes

This is a great time to start breakfast, feed your dog or cat, or zone out and wake up. During these initial five minutes, the coffee will steep, infusing the water with its unique flavors. If you've got fresh beans from a specialty roaster, take some time to enjoy the aromas. Over time, see if you can spot the differences between coffee origins, blends, and roasts!

Step 6: Stir the grounds

James Hoffman French press method stirring slurry

After five minutes, a crust should form on top of the slurry. This is a good thing! Now, you'll want to break up that crust so that all the grounds get a chance to steep.

If you have a glass carafe, be careful not to stir too hard near the edges of the glass. In rare cases this can cause the glass to crack because of the heat and the impact.

Step 7: Scoop the foam and bits on top

James Hoffman French press method - scooping grounds with spoon

This step can be easier with two spoons, but the general idea is to scoop out as much of the foam, bits, and grounds as you can. You don't need to get everything, but make sure that you get the bigger chunks and grounds.

Step 8: Wait another five minutes

This is where Hoffmann's method takes longer than other techniques. But this step is the key! Over the next five minutes, the rest of grounds will settle toward the bottom of the carafe. Plus, the coffee is probably still too hot to drink (unless you like your coffee extremely hot).

Step 9: Plunge the press until the screen rests on top of the liquid

James Hoffman French press method press to top of liquid

As you can see, Hoffmann's method is different: you don't plunge all the way down to the bottom of the carafe. The reason for this is so we don't stir up what's been settling for the last five minutes. It should make your cup clean, crisp, and silt-free.

Step 10: Pour carefully and enjoy!

Your coffee is now ready to drink. Pour carefully! You want to avoid stirring up the grounds that have settled at the bottom.

Cleaning up

Once you've had a delicious cup or two, you'll be left with a French press full of grounds. You can do a lot with used grounds, if you want to go that route. Otherwise, you can put them in your compost or trash bin.

Check out our quick guide to easily cleaning your French press after each use. Whatever you do, if you have a glass press, don't knock it against the side of your trashcan to get the remaining grounds out. That's a surefire way to break the glass. Trust us, we know from experience!

Final Thoughts

As you can see, James Hoffmann's French press technique takes a little bit more time and effort, but we think it's worth it. You'll have less silt, a cleaner cup, and the flavor will be incredible.

Don't forget that coffee is an incredibly personal experience. If you find that this method isn't delivering the results, try tweaking some of the details like the grind size, amount of coffee, and the water temperature. Part of the fun of specialty coffee is dialing in your own preferences, whatever those might be.

Last but most definitely not least, do not forget that the freshness of your coffee is the most important flavor factor. At Seven Coffee Roasters, we roast  and ship within 72 hours of your order. 

You won't find fresher coffee anywhere else. Try our  French Press Sample Pack and find out!