If you have ever brewed a cup of coffee, you may have heard, read, or seen social media about a coffee gentleman called James Hoffmann. You may then have wondered: who is this person, and should I trust him?
To answer the second question first, yes, you can probably trust James Hoffmann on coffee advice great and small. Hoffmann, who won the 2007 World Barista Championship in Tokyo, is a coffee entrepreneur, the author of the World Atlas of Coffee, and has most recently achieved a level of vlogging celebrity by sharing his knowledge on YouTube, a web platform on which he has nearly 1,000,000 subscribers. Hoffmann is widely considered, both within the specialty coffee industry and among laypersons, to be a coffee expert. Let’s learn more about him.
Born in Staffordshire, UK, Hoffmann came into the coffee trade as a product demonstration specialist for Gaggia espresso machines, after a brief stint in the music publishing industry. (As previously reported in these pages, Hoffmann also has a former life as musician King Seven.) In 2007, Hoffmann co-founded Square Mile Coffee Roasters in the UK, and remains involved in the company (which took over London’s Prufrock Coffee a few years ago as well). In 2010, Hoffmann and collaborators operated a particularly special and quite temporary experiential brewed-coffee cafe in London called Penny University, whose influence on coffee service and menu design continues to resonate today. Hoffmann consults for the espresso equipment company Victoria Arduino and holds a small interest in the company’s UK distribution, and, last but not least, he casually vends coffee tchotchke through his webstore Tens Hundreds Thousands.
But it’s Hoffmann’s YouTube presence that likely brought you to this page, and this is no small wonder. During the initial blast of COVID-19 and subsequent worldwide lockdowns, Hoffmann was embraced by a new, wider audience for his approachable, authoritative videos on crucial coffee-at-home topics like the pandemic-perfect “Making Cappuccino/Latte/Flat White at Home (without an Espresso Machine)” and more advanced subjects like “Ceramic Coffee Filters: Magical or Maddening?“.
Hoffmann’s videos are practical, easy to understand, and funny. His demeanor—a perfectly British mixture of humility and expertise—makes it feel rather easy to dive into any subject alongside him without feeling the strain of a steep learning curve. And though Hoffmann is considered an A-lister among specialty coffee geeks, his YouTube subject matter is inclusive. All kinds of normal-person coffee subjects are addressed in his videos, and his most popular feature is “The Ultimate French Press Technique,” which has more than 3,000,000 views. The video series now generates enough income for Hoffmann to live on, he tells Sprudge, even without his other business interests.
Hoffmann, who stated for the record that he understood this profile “to be technically flattering” but was also “deeply troubled” by its existence, has otherwise taken his internet celebrity in stride. His videos (of which he produces 4-6 a month) receive thousands of comments, and he is the recipient of a steady stream of coffee queries, of course.
“I receive quite a few series of questions a day between my email, Patreon, and social media accounts,” says Hoffmann. “I don’t have the capacity to respond to custom recommendation requests anymore, but if there’s a wider utility to the answer (rather than just scratching the mental itch of an individual) then I’ll try and be helpful if I can,” says Hoffmann, who adds he also receives requests to send people personalized birthday greetings, but is not on Cameo.
When he is not authoring books, consulting and speaking variously across his industry, vlogging, and having a personal life, Hoffmann says he also drinks coffee, usually prepared at home on “some sort of home coffee brewer” (currently, it’s this one). So go ahead and soak up Hoffmann’s coffee knowledge knowing you’re in good hands—but just be careful not to overdo it on the delicious espresso pucks.
Liz Clayton is the associate editor at Sprudge Media Network. Read more Liz Clayton on Sprudge.