Coffeehouse Five-Fighting Portland Syndrome

For those of you who haven’t heard of it, Stockholm syndrome is a condition where prisoners start to feel affection for their captors. It gets its name from a robbery that took place in Stockholm, Sweden in 1973. Upon their release after being held inside a Stockholm bank for six days, the hostages publicly defended the robbers’ actions, having established some sort of emotional connection with them.

In the Portland version of the syndrome, the rain is analogous to the bank robbers. After a while, you get used to it and may even start to like it. The other day, I was actually glad it was raining as I made my way over to Coffeehouse Five. I needed some good coffee to get my mind back in order.


Located on North Killingsworth, not too far from the Red E Café, Coffeehouse Five is another “Portland-style” café. By this, I mean that it has many of the characteristics of the PDX model—a beat-up wood floor, local art on the wall and kind of a gritty (but not dirty) feel.

Unlike many PDX cafés, the cafe was warm inside. It was also humid enough that all of the windows had fogged up. As someone who is often too cold, I thought this was a nice change.

When I walked in, a tall bearded man greeted me from behind the bar. There was no line behind me, so we had plenty of time to discuss the espressos on grind. The choices surprised me—they had the Stereo blend from Heart, which I had mistakenly believed was only available for the holidays, and the Bella Vita blend from PT’s in Kansas City, something that I had not seen before in PDX. I opted for the Bella Vita.

Lots of brewing technology on the back wall

The espresso was balanced (no big hits on the tongue anywhere) and not as syrupy as Hair Bender or Black Cat. I thought it might have had a hint of cinnamon or cherries, but those tastes were fleeting, like the rustle of a dry leaf touched by the autumn breeze. The shot was not silky smooth, but it left a pleasant taste in my mouth.

Coffeehouse Five is just across the street from PCC Sylvania, so unsurprisingly, it was full of students glued to their laptops trying to look busy. One student next to me was lamenting to her friend about the 47 she had just received on a test. Ouch.

After writing for a while, I went back to order the Stereo Blend. I asked the barista—a different one this time—to tell me about it. He told me that it was supposed to be served on day nine (after roasting) and we were only on day eight, so they weren’t serving it yet.

I was disappointed that it wasn’t available, but appreciated the barista’s honesty. He could have made the sale anyway and I probably would not have noticed, but he didn’t. It showed respect for me as a customer and it showed respect for the coffee. This is the kind of coffee standard I have come to expect from PDX cafés.

All smiles

Coffeehouse Five changes its coffees often, so it’s a good place to go if you like to try out different roasters. The barista told me that they usually have Bella Vita from PT’s or Puddle Town from Cellar Door as the main espresso. On the guest grinder, they usually have something else. It might be a blend and it might be a single-origin, so prepare yourself to be surprised if you go (if you expect the unexpected, is it really unexpected?).

Whether you like the rain or hate the rain, when you need a place to get out of the rain, Coffeehouse Five provides you that place. It’s warm inside, has a variety of coffees and is a good place to go to look busy. 

Address: 740 N Killingsworth, Portland, Oregon 97217 (map)
Phone: 503-286-7125
Hours: Monday-Friday 6am-8pm
            Saturday-Sunday 7am-8pm
Coffee: PT’s, Cellar Door, others
Free Wi-Fi? Yes
Recommend it? For the unexpected