James Hoffmann: Room For Dissent?

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#1: Post by coffeemmichael »

Very interested to hear the takes HB has.

Schomer, Rao, & Perger were selected for name recognition- feel free to substitute their names with literally any other coffee figure with a large audience.

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#2: Post by TomC »

I'm glad this topic was broached. I love James Hoffmann and appreciate all he's contributed to the online coffee-sphere. I think he takes a pleasing, middle of the road, non-offensive stance on most things. But I don't think he sees himself as immune to criticism or counterpoints.

He's done well by himself building his brand online. No harm-no foul there. But I too would like to see him have a firmer stance on things rather than just polling the audience. Very few people want to be the voice of dissent on a very public platform like YouTube. It's definitely one part of what makes HB so much better/more valuable to someone who's truly curious or passionate about great coffee, you'll actually be challenged, or face the insights of very intelligent minds here, on HB, whereas on a platform like YouTube, it's more about click-bait, mildly informative, inoffensive content that builds your following rather than polarize it.

Rao didn't bother with YouTube, but I hesitate to guess he'd have done very well if he had. Perger did, and we all know how he's doing now (unrelated to YouTube).

The only other heavily influential person in specialty coffee who actually engages the coffee world on a large social media platform who's worth a damn is Tim Wendelboe, and he's more valuable in my mind than any of his peers.
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#3: Post by walr00s »

I mean, one thing James is pretty careful about is not making extreme statements. Take his DF64 review for instance, it wasn't directly negative even though he had some fairly harsh critiques of the equipment. I think he goes above and beyond to not enter into controversial debates where public opinion hasn't settled (like longer brew times for instance or flats vs. conicals). And that does lead to some people, including in this community, finding him sort of...milquetoast, which I think is fair.

I do think you can read into James a bit if you're willing to take the time. Like his 9barista review, he says it takes ~10 minutes to make a shot and you just have to trust that it is doing what it says it's doing...to me, that says "yeah, this is a cool novelty, but I'd never recommend buying this over something like the Flair or Robot." But maybe that's just my interpretation, and I am willing to admit that I am charmed by him.


#4: Post by rmongiovi »

Well, I'm just a coffee drinker, certainly not a cognoscenti, and I've only watched a few of his videos. My first thought was an internal question with regard to who is this guy and why should I think his opinion matters. I'm too old, and definitely not the personality type, to be swayed by an influencer which is frankly what he appears to be to me. So I listen to his opinions but if I disagree I see no reason to disagree with him. I've got no vested interest in really caring what he thinks. Combined with his soft spoken delivery that leaves me with absolutely no desire to do more than just shrug and move on.

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#5: Post by Spitz.me »

I think there's no room for these types of videos that really contribute nothing to the conversation other than weird speculation for personal gain (you made a video that you monetized with James Hoffman's name in it). Is James Hoffman doing wrong to the world of coffee?
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#6: Post by Peppersass »

Tempest in a teapot. There's plenty of that already in coffee world.

I enjoy Hoffmann's videos, though I've only watched a small fraction of his extensive library (not enough hours in the day, yada yada...) I find his approach pleasant and engaging, if somewhat loquacious, and nearly always informative. And that's how I view what he does -- he provides interesting information on basic and intermediate subjects, and some testing of theories that are bandied about in coffee circles.

Hoffmann's middle-of-the-road approach on this stuff is just fine with me, and I see no reason why he should shift to a more opinionated stance. We have plenty of people in coffee world who do that, and it doesn't always serve our interests -- i.e., often it's more heat than light. Sure, we need people who take strong positions and question conventional wisdom. That's how some important advances have happened. But that doesn't mean everyone has to do it, or that those who focus on providing non-controversial information have no value to us. I think we need someone like James Hoffmann in coffee world, and I'm glad we have him.

I've only watched a couple of Tim Wendelboe's videos, but definitely agree that he has a lot to offer. I've read quite a bit about cupping, and done a fair amount at home, but still got some excellent tips from Wendelboe's videos on the subject. It really helps to watch an expert go through each step explaining the what and the why. I have to say that I prefer Tim's no-nonsense, low-drama and succinct approach over James's more lengthy and produced approach, but that won't stop me from watching Hoffmann's videos when they cover interesting topics. Perhaps more germane to this discussion, I haven't seen anything controversial in Tim Wendelboe's videos so far.

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#7: Post by Chert »

I learned about 'tall poppy syndrome.' I had never heard of it before.
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#8: Post by baldheadracing »

What I've found interesting is the comments to Michael's video on YouTube. The YouTube comments section (so far) has had quite a different tone from the typical p*ssing-fest found in YouTube comment sections.
Peppersass wrote:... Perhaps more germane to this discussion, I haven't seen anything controversial in Tim Wendelboe's videos so far.
On the roasting side, Tim Wendelboe has disagreed - politely - with Scott Rao on, for example, the shape of RoR curves, although he does strongly recommend Rao's book. To paraphrase, "I(Tim Wendelboe) tried a particular thing that Rao recommended and, while that thing didn't quite work for me, I learned a lot experimenting, and just because that thing didn't get better results for me doesn't mean that it won't work for you - try what Rao says for yourself and come to your own conclusions."

If you have Rao's Best Practices book, then you can read on pages 30 and 32/33 what appears to be Rao's acknowledgement/response to the RoR and DTR 'controversies.'

To get back on topic, I don't think that James Hoffmann has wandered into roasting controversies, saying on a few occasions that he himself is not a roaster.
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#9: Post by coffeeOnTheBrain »

Indeed Hoffmann chooses the topics carefully and tries to formulate everything he says as inoffensive as possible. I agree that it is possible to interpret his carefully constructed sentences to find criticisms, it is just not so obvious to the naked ear and probably even less to someone without a great level of knowledge about the topic at hand.
In my eyes that actually is a strength of a good reviewer, after all a review should not affect a bad business in a bad way, but rather make good businesses shine. I mean who would willingly bankrupt someone just because they are bad at what they are doing. Only if someone harms other with a business one should consider such steps.
Hoffman definitely has this level of power and even made a video about it.

Edited: In a polite review one needs to read between the lines, what is not said is often as important as what is said.

The topic of the video was something different though. Hoffmann was just the example.

I actually kind of disagreed with Hoffmann here on HB twice in the last few month and got a bit of mixed feedback.
Some took the chance to actually start a discussion: James Hoffmann's $$$ single dose flat burr grinder reviews [VIDEO]

While other were funny and hopefully aware how ironic their post was: James Hoffmann's $$$ single dose flat burr grinder reviews [VIDEO]

Others took offense: James Hoffmann on Understanding Espresso: Pressure

To his defense, I was a tad polemic ;)
To my shame I even went as far as editing my first post to not face the wrath of Hoffmann's followers. So I had the same feeling about some taking his word as written in stone, but do these people exist.

The first two examples are both related to the same statement of mine, which was wrong in the first place. At least that earned me my 15 minutes: Quotable Quotes
One more time with feeling
"Guys maybe stop beating a dead horse. I already agreed twice that my statement was wrong, but I am happy to agree to it a couple more times if you insist." --Nino (coffeeOnTheBrain), James Hoffmann's $$$ grinder reviews


#10: Post by coffeeOnTheBrain »

I forgot...
Try April Coffee's YouTube channel for a change. Patrick Rolf is surely not shying away from unpopular opinions, speaking his mind about products, or direct attacks on "other people" (he doesn't name them, you will know who anyway).