How to Find the Best Coffee in Portland, Oregon

Last Updated May 25, 2024

When you think of the Pacific Northwest you may think about coffee. Well, you may think of rainy gray days first, but that is one of the many reasons why Portlanders love their coffee. In Portland, the appreciation for coffee goes beyond a mere beverage and becomes a serious pursuit. The city has cultivated a coffee scene that is both diverse and exceptional, making it a daunting task to declare a single establishment as the definitive best. The sheer abundance of outstanding coffee options in Portland reflects the city’s commitment to quality, craftsmanship, and innovation.

Each coffee shop in Portland has its own distinctive character, brewing methods, and flavor profiles. From meticulously crafted espresso-based drinks to pour-over brews that showcase the nuanced flavors of single-origin beans, the city offers a vast array of choices to satisfy every coffee lover’s preferences. Exploring the coffee scene in Portland is akin to embarking on a flavorful journey, where each sip unveils a new and exciting experience.

Coffee Culture

Portland is home to numerous specialty coffee shops and roasters that focus on providing exceptional coffee experiences. These establishments often emphasize single-origin beans, unique brewing methods, and skilled baristas who are passionate about their craft.

It is more than just having a lot of great coffee shops. Portland boasts a thriving local coffee roasting scene. Many roasters take pride in sourcing their beans directly from farmers around the world and meticulously roasting them to highlight their distinct flavors. 

And while Starbucks hails from Seattle, most of the Pacific Northwest really values independent coffee shops. Portland has a thriving independent coffee shop scene. These cozy and unique establishments often serve as community hubs, offering a relaxed atmosphere for people to gather, work, or socialize. 

Portland hosts various coffee events and competitions throughout the year. In the past, the most notable has been the Specialty Coffee Association’s annual U.S. Coffee Championships, where baristas from around the country compete in categories like Barista, Brewers Cup, and Roaster. This and other events showcase the city’s passion for coffee and bring together coffee professionals and enthusiasts.

Overall, the coffee culture in Portland, Oregon is deeply rooted in a love for high-quality coffee, sustainability, and community. 

Coffee Shops and Roasters

What is the difference between a regular coffee shop and a coffee roaster? A coffee roaster is primarily involved in the roasting of coffee beans. Roasters select and source green coffee beans, roast them to bring out desired flavors and package them for distribution or sale. A coffee shop sells coffee. 

Here is a carefully curated list of some of Portland’s top coffee shops, each renowned for their exceptional coffee offerings, skilled baristas, and welcoming atmospheres. These shops are listed in alphabetical order and not in order of favorites; each on this list will provide a superb coffee experience. 

Barista

Barista has some of the best coffee you can get in Portland. With multiple locations across Portland, Barista is a popular choice for coffee enthusiasts. They curate a rotating selection of beans from renowned roasters around the country, allowing customers to experience a diverse range of flavors and profiles. According to Barista’s website, their first café opened in the Pearl District in 2009. There are locations also in downtown, Alberta, and Nob Hill, so you are able to get this great coffee all around town.  

Where to Buy: In person at the Pearl, Downtown, NE Portland (Alberta), and NW Portland (Nob Hill) locations, online, and through their subscription service

What to Order: Cappuccino or cortado

Roaster: Yes, but they mainly serve coffee from roasters all around the world.

Portlander Info: All of Barista’s locations offer a different slice of Portland. This is really an establishment where you want to check out each spot to see what your vibe is. 

Coava

Coava is known for its dedication to sustainability and sourcing unique coffees. Their flagship location is on Southeast Grand Avenue. You can read more about Coava and their beginnings on their website. According to the site, it all began with Matt Higgins in a North Portland garage in 2008. Matt dreamed of starting his own company. He wanted to roast and prepare coffees that would be not only be inviting for casual coffee drinkers but also exciting for professional baristas. Coava has three cafés in SE Portland. Each of the cafés has its own unique style. This is a wonderful place to get the immersive Portland coffee shop experience. 

Where to Buy: In person in SE Portland (Grand Avenue, Hawthorne, Main Street), online, and through their subscription service

What to Order: Cold brew or Americano

Roaster: Yes

Portlander Info: About a decade ago Jerry Seinfeld and Fred Armisen went to Coava for an episode of “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.”

Jim and Patty’s

Jim and Patty’s is old-school Portland. They started making coffee in the Pacific Northwest in the 1970s. However, Jim and Patty’s true claim to fame came in 1990 when they pioneered one of the earliest espresso drive-thrus in the country, which they named Motor Moka. By 1998, they decided to sell their shares in the business and venture into new endeavors. In November 2002, they made a comeback to the industry and launched Jim and Patty’s Coffee. Their vision was to create the finest beverages using top-quality beans and to offer freshly baked goods made entirely from scratch in-house. Above all, they wanted to foster an atmosphere where life wasn’t taken too seriously.

Sadly, Jim died in July 2023, but Patty and the legacy he helped create lives on. This is a must on your coffee tour to know where the coffee scene originated in Portland. 

Where to Buy: In person in NE Portland (Fremont), SW Portland (Forest Heights), Beaverton, Happy Valley, and online

What to Order: Friggin’ Fremont Latte (latte with honey, cinnamon, and vanilla) and Pig Newton (sausage wrapped in a biscuit) 

Roaster: No

Portlander Info: This place is iconic. They have a huge menu. If you want to see what the 90s tasted like, get the Espresso Shakes. This is a great option for breakfast as well. 

Nossa Familia Coffee

Nossa Familia Coffee started in 2004. Their website explains that they took a significant step in 2012 by establishing their roasting facility in the vibrant Pearl District. The following year, in 2013, they successfully launched an espresso bar in the same building, thanks to the support received through a Kickstarter campaign.

As of today, Nossa Familia has expanded their presence to include three café locations, in addition to their roastery. These cafés provide inviting spaces for customers to savor Nossa Familia’s exceptional coffee offerings. Alongside their retail ventures, Nossa Familia has also experienced remarkable growth in their wholesale coffee operation. They proudly supply their premium coffee to numerous local grocery stores, cafés, and restaurants, spreading their passion for high-quality coffee throughout the community. You can buy Nossa Familia at New Seasons (one of those local grocery stores). There are lots of different ways to enjoy this coffee.  Nossa Familia is a special place with amazing coffee. 

Where to Buy: In person in SE Portland (3rd Avenue and Division) and NW Portland (Lovejoy), online, through their subscription service, and in select grocery stores

What to Order: Cortado or Bee Sting Latte (honey and spice latte with GloryBee honey and a spice blend)

Roaster: Yes

Portlander Info: There are so many special things about their cafés and their drinks. However, they also have a charming little mug library. Take a mug, leave a mug. Adorable and a wonderful idea. 

Portland Coffee Roasters

Don’t sleep on the Portland Coffee Roasters. This coffee is available in lots of places around town. This coffee is one of the coffees you can grab at the airport (in fact, in two different terminals), and there is also a café in SE Portland. Plus you can get this coffee at the grocery store. 

As stated on their website, Portland Coffee Roasters established in 1996, has consistently prioritized sourcing their coffee directly from farmers. This approach has enabled them to forge sustainable relationships with both the farmers themselves and the communities they belong to. These connections form the very foundation of their business and drive their commitment to not only exceptional coffee, but also to the betterment of both people and the planet.

This coffee is complex and delicious. Each cup of their coffee offers a rich and multi-dimensional taste experience. From the moment you take your first sip, you’ll be greeted by a symphony of flavors that dance on your palate. While that may be a little much…it is totally true. 

Where to Buy: In person in SE Portland (SE Oak), NE Portland (the airport), online, and in select grocery stores

What to Order: Nitro cold brew 

Roaster: Yes

Portlander Info: If you are in Portland, grab a bag of the Steel blend which has a smooth, sweet toffee flavor. It is pretty inexpensive for a wonderful roast of coffee. 

Stumptown Coffee Roasters

Stumptown Coffee Roasters is one of Portland’s most well-known and influential coffee companies. This is a local shop done well. Stumptown was bought by Peet’s Coffee in 2015, but they are still a hometown hero. They have several locations throughout the city, including their original café on Southeast Division Street which opened in 1999. Known for their meticulous roasting process and dedication to quality, Stumptown offers a variety of single-origin coffees and signature blends.

Stumptown has spread throughout the country and even in Japan, and their products are readily available in even more places. They were an early adapter and innovator of cold brew coffee in nitro cans. Stumptown products and coffee are also available at a variety of grocery stores. Stumptown’s most famous coffee blend is called Hair Bender.

Where to Buy: In person in SE Portland (Division and Belmont), Downtown (SW 11th Avenue and SW Washington replaced the old Ace Hotel and 3rd Avenue cafe in April 2024), NE Portland (the airport), online, through their subscription service, and in select grocery stores. There are also in-person options in New York, Los Angeles, and Kyoto.

What to Order: Mocha or any of their cold brew products (and there are a TON of them)

Roaster: Yes

Portlander Info: All of Stumptown’s coffees are de facto made with oat milk. You can get whatever milk or milk alternative you want with no extra charge. And if you buy beans you get a discount on your drink. 

Upper Left Roasters

The Upper Left Roasters website shares their origin story. It began in the summer of 2015 when Katherine Harris founded Upper Left Roasters in the historic Ladd’s Addition neighborhood. Inspired by her upbringing as the daughter of Portland food and beverage experts, Katherine’s vision went beyond simply opening another café. Her goal was to establish a dynamic community hub, and Upper Left Roasters has successfully achieved that aim. 

This place epitomizes Portland. Upper Left offers small-batch roasts and a wide range of food. They work with local farmers to provide you with fresh, seasonal, and locally sourced menu options. And you can watch the roasters work while you wait for your meal. This is another good shop that just feels like Portland. 

Where to Buy: In person (SE Portland in Ladd’s Addition), online, and through their subscription service

What to Order: Latte and classic avocado toast 

Roaster: Yes, you can see it when you walk in!

Portlander Tip: This is a place where you want to linger and enjoy the space. It is a wonderful neighborhood café where you can people-watch or catch up with a friend. And word on the street is that kids get free milk steamers. 

Conclusion

Portland’s coffee scene is a vibrant and diverse community that thrives on quality, craftsmanship, and innovation. With an abundance of exceptional coffee shops and roasters, the city offers a multitude of options for coffee enthusiasts to explore. Each establishment has its own unique character, brewing methods, and flavor profiles, ensuring that there is something to satisfy every coffee lover’s preferences. The aesthetic varies greatly from shop to shop too. You can find old and new shops, minimalist or maximalist, and everything in between. Portland has such a unique vibe. There is something for everyone.

According to Home Grounds, the average amount spent on coffee in Portland annually is $1,118 per person, and there are 201 coffee shops per 100,000 people. The proof is in the numbers, Portlanders really love coffee and they do it well. 

Whether you’re a coffee aficionado or simply appreciate a good cup of joe, exploring Portland’s coffee scene is a delightful journey that promises to satisfy your taste buds and immerse you in the city’s unique coffee culture. So grab a cup from one of these exceptional coffee shops, sit back, and enjoy the complex and delicious flavors that Portland has to offer.

Interested in more tips for planning your visit to Portland? Check out our guide to the best outdoor activities in Portland.

Cafés Are Much More Than Coffee

What is the defining feature of a Madrid café? Trick question, they charm their admirers with their personality instead of their looks. Maybe it’s something about their facade, say a tranquil terrace or cozy work space, that draws people in for their initial cup. However, it’s the ambiance that drives people to sneak little visits in between obligations and stick around all afternoon.

Prior to living in Madrid, I knew that cafés would be a big part of my life. As a former university barista, cafés have always been a usual haunt of mine. Whether visiting the best café in town while traveling for my internship or finding an escape in Midtown Scholar’s labyrinth of books with an iced latte in hand, there’s a good chance I’m hiding in a café somewhere. Sometimes the campus squeezed my spirit just a little too tight after returning from my study abroad. That was when a visit was necessary.

Midtown Scholar was one of many little coffee gems in Harrisburg. Harrisburg is a small city half an hour outside my university. The city originally never captured my interest, that is, until the coffee cart for which I worked started roasting beans from its crown jewel, Little Amps. Now, when I  think about driving my little grey Ford Focus over the Susquehanna toward an afternoon at the coffee shops, it fills me with nostalgia.

Adapting to International Cafés

Ellen-Hietsch-drinking-coffee

My café travelings easily adapted to my life in Spain. After finding lodging and transport while traveling, my next question is always, “What is the best coffee shop in this city?” I will then dedicate a day to appreciating it as I would the Harrisburg classic: writing in my journal with an Americano by my side, as I listen for songs to add to my trip playlist. I have my fun elsewhere, of course, but the centerpiece each city offers for me is its café experience.

Yet, I never could have guessed that cafés would be so vital to my desire to make Madrid my home, rather than just another stop on the road. Madrid’s cafés are similar enough to those I was attached to in Harrisburg. This is especially so as specialty coffee from around the world has become more widespread. Think twice before calling them all carbon-copy hipster clones, however. There is a unique spirit to each Madrid café that I have not found anywhere else I’ve enjoyed a coffee.

While the traditional Madrid café will have familiar individual tables for visitors to hold court with their friends, there is also openness in how it’s laid out. There are some patterns: a large table for people to set up with their laptops for the day, a set of stools, or, as is the case in places like Hola Coffee, a staircase sprinkled with books and plants. In a twist on the cliché European outdoor seating that we all crave as the sun strikes down with spring’s coming, Master’s café (my favorite of the moment), has designed a central outdoor terrace decorated with old children’s toys and indoor furniture adapted for this brick-walled wonderland.

coffee in madrid cafés

What Makes Madrid Cafés Unique

Maybe these borderless spaces were first designed for the benefit of the worker, who comes to the café laptop in hand, ready to accomplish. I’ve certainly grown to work best at cafés since moving to Madrid. As a side effect of these open spaces, conversation flows when individuals are brought together by the convenience of space. Many of these workers aren’t so engulfed in their projects that they can’t share a conversation; it’s something that feels more normal in Spain’s outdoor social jungle than the United States’ habit of sticking to what — and who — you know.

On days that I’ve entered a café with a long “Mission List,” I’ve had meaningful moments with strangers. Interactions can range from smirks with the man next to me about the barista’s political conversation, to a lasting friendship that started when I asked a girl if her chapstick was Burt’s Bees.

night madrid café

The social scene: that is what truly prevents any Madrid café from being identical to another. I got hints of this on my first-ever walk around the city after arriving. The owner of a bookshop offered me a bit of the green tea she had just made, just because she felt like sharing it. It was such a surprise to me that I texted my family about it, wondering what made me so special.

drinking coffee cafés

Nothing, it turns out, but that was fine. This is simply what happens at Madrid cafés. Smiles alone are not a satisfactory enough welcome to newcomers; you wouldn’t greet your flatmate like that, would you? With repeated visits, however, the relationships formed at the café can grow into something greater.

Home Away From Home

Take my first Madrid stomping grounds, La Bicicleta. I was initially drawn in by the bike theme and enchanted by the lemon-infused cold brew. However, what got me back four times during my first week alone was their head chef. Among many a café where someone had started a conversation with me, his hangover cures and dos besos advice stood out. Eventually, Bici became a second home as I felt comfortable staying for hours on end multiple days in a row. I’d be greeted with an excited “ELLENNNNN” by baristas on staff. Waitresses simply asked “americano or ginger tea” once they had memorized my favorites. Sometimes, I’d be given a free coffee in exchange for letting a barista play my ukulele for the entire café. Amidst a few massive moves across Madrid over the past two years, Bici has remained consistent.

Cafés Are Much More Than Coffee

The Future of Cafés

Lately, I’ve been a little fearful as I’ve seen entire sections of cafés reserved for brunchers. The laptop crew has been relegated to certain corners in a few cafés that have part of my heart. I worry they will eventually become as regimented as the American ones. Although I still love them, they do not come with side dishes of warmth and friendship. Although I enjoy avocado as much as the next millennial, if these brunch specials mean having to sacrifice long afternoons laughing with spontaneously-made friends, I will pass, please and thank you. I like cooking enough to make some bomb egg dishes in my own apartment.

For now, I will always make time in my week for some café time. I am armed with anything that will help me enjoy a radically balanced life. I’m grateful for the confidence those early café-hopping days have given me. I’m the one smiling at strangers now. It’s helped me to pay forward the kindness that let Madrid capture my heart.

cafés sign filter coffee

by Ellen Hietsch