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How James Hoffmann Found His Niche and Become the Coffee Expert on YouTube (2023)


If you’ve ever searched for a video about coffee, chances are you’ve seen James Hoffmann

While James has cemented his status as the go-to coffee expert on YouTube—with a community of close to two million subscribers on the platform—he didn’t start drinking the beverage himself until after he got into the bean business. 

“I started working in coffee before I started drinking coffee, which is kind of weird,” he says. “I was demonstrating little espresso machines in a nice department store in London. I had no idea what I was doing, but the more I read and discovered about coffee, the more interested I got. And it became a full-blown obsession pretty quickly.” 

This obsession led to James developing a multifaceted career within coffee that spanned winning the World Barista Championship, opening Square Mile Coffee Roasters, and acquiring a café called Prufrock Coffee. His biggest passion, however, is sharing what he’s learned through all these experiences with others. 

A worker walking beside a machine roasting coffee beans inside Square Mile Coffee Roasters.
Before James started on YouTube, he had extensive experience in coffee, from winning the World Barista Championship to running a roastery and café. Square Mile Coffee Roasters

James began sharing his coffee knowledge online through blogging and eventually found himself on YouTube.

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In this latest video podcast collaboration with Learn with Shopify and Shopify Masters, James shares his tips for creating content that resonates with a niche community.

1. Overcome the fear of failing publicly 

Starting anything new comes with a learning curve. For content creation, there’s the added pressure of having your learning process and failed attempts seen by the public. And for James, that was an important hurdle to overcome. 

“I hate failing publicly,” admits James. “But I had to. I think I just accept that that’s part of the process of making videos.” 

James Hoffmann in a blue dress shirt enjoying a cup of coffee at Prufrock Coffee in London.
James says that the YouTube algorithm works in beginners’ favor when learning and creating videos. James Hoffmann

The algorithm, though, can work in a beginner’s favor.

“The good thing about YouTube is, despite the fact that billions of people use it, YouTube won’t show your video to them unless it’s any good,” James says. “And so you can get into the habit of making and publishing and building a small audience and kind of going through that process of learning and developing what you want to do early without really that many people seeing it.”

2. Have an expertise and passion outside of content creation 

Even though James transitioned his career into being a YouTuber full time, he still stresses the importance of having an expertise and passion outside of video making. 

“I think spending time to develop expertise is really important,” he says. “I spent quite a long time trying to educate myself about coffee and also to practice sharing coffee before I started making content, and that definitely made that bit easier.” 

 James Hoffmann’s hands signing his latest book How to Make the Best Coffee at Home
James’ expertise and passion in coffee allowed him to work beyond YouTube, where he’s written books on the subject and provides useful content to a wider audience.  James Hoffmann

Developing his expertise and passion also allowed James to create content that was helpful to his community. 

“If it’s a passion, you’ll have a great time doing that, even if you never make a video about it ever,” says James. If you do wanna start making videos, those will be useful to a much wider audience of people.”

3. Build distance between personal and brand channels 

It takes a little bit of research to connect Square Mile Coffee Roasters and Prufrock Coffee to James. This is something he’s done deliberately. “I feel like, in principle, there’s a fundamental difference between a personal channel and a brand channel,” says James. “There are plenty of brand channels I watch and enjoy, but a personal channel makes a promise that you’re interacting with me, an individual. I’m trying to get you excited and interested in coffee [whereas] the purpose of a brand channel would be to sell you a product or to build a long-lasting relationship.” 

A white Square Mile Coffee Roasters cup backdropped by an espresso machine.
James has made a clear separation between his YouTube channel and the businesses he runs, to solely focus on educational coffee content. Square Mile Coffee Roasters

The separation of the businesses James works on from his YouTube channel has allowed him to establish trust in the coffee knowledge he shares. 

“If I’m looking like I’m here to build a relationship with you that’s just about education, but quietly trying to just sell you products, I don’t think that’s being honest, and I don’t think that helps you build a real, meaningful, lasting relationship with your audience that way,” he says.

These are just some of the tips James shares on how he’s turned his passion for coffee into a thriving channel and multiple businesses. 
To hear more about James’s career and business journey, listen to his full interview on Shopify Masters.


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