Joh. Johannson Kaffe

A landmark for the coffee industry

Norway’s leading coffee manufacturer has been working with Bühler over the past five years to create one of the world’s most environmentally sustainable coffee production plants. Built almost entirely of wood, Joh. Johannson Kaffe’s new facility in Vestby is not only a highly advanced coffee roastery, it’s an architectural icon of sustainable construction. Today that plant is reforming coffee production with an 85 percent cut in CO₂ emissions compared with conventional coffee production facilities. 


Norwegians are passionate about their coffee. It is the first thing you are offered upon entering a Norwegian’s home, it rounds off the evening meal and it is the first thing consumed in the morning. Coffee is woven into the fabric of life. It is ubiquitous in every workplace, while brewing a cup over a campfire is a ritualized part of any hike.

Customer_Johannson_Building_2 Customer_Johannson_Building_2 The Joh. Johannson tower is 37 meters high, and contains 40 silos for green coffee.

 Despite Norwegians normally drinking coffee at home, coffee houses also abound. Most streets in the capital, Oslo, harbor a coffee house in which to take refuge during the frigid winter months. The cold may be one reason Norway is only second to Finland when it comes to global per capita coffee consumption. 

To be the largest producer of coffee in such a passionate and discerning market takes dedication to quality and taste, and Joh. Johannson Kaffe produces 45 percent of the coffee sold in Norway. “Joh. Johannson is a family business. We have been doing grocery trading for over 150 years – since 1866. Today it is a wholesale and retail business, and most importantly, it is still a coffee business with a history of quality,” explains Johan Johannson, Chairman of Joh. Johannson Kaffe. The company roasts 12,000 metric tons or 50 million bags of coffee a year, producing two of Norway’s most renowned coffee brands, ALI Kaffe and Evergood, among others.

The second great passion in Norway is the environment. “Norwegians always have a really strong connection to nature,” says Bengt Ove Bitnes Hagen, Production Director at Joh. Johannson Kaffe. “We are so proud of our nature and so for us it is not a question of if we are going to live sustainably or not, it is how we are going to do it.” And they are setting a good example. Norway leads the world in electric car adoption with 95 percent of Norway’s power coming from hydropower, while the rest comes from renewables such as thermal and wind. 


Norway’s eco-friendly coffee roastery

So perhaps it should come as no surprise that back in 2016 senior managers at Joh. Johannson set themselves the goal of developing Norway’s most ecofriendly coffee roastery and building one of the world’s most advanced facilities for coffee production. To achieve such an ambition meant first building a plant that would meet the strictest environmental standards that could be maintained well into the future. The next stage meant developing innovative energy-saving technologies to produce the highest quality eco-friendly coffee, and they turned to Bühler to start discussions. 

Joh. Johannson is a family business. Today it is a wholesale and retail business, and most importantly, it is still a coffee business with a history of quality.

Johan Johannson, Chairman of Joh. Johannson Kaffe


The Norwegian premium manufacturer expected a consistently excellent flavor and the quality its customers expect, and the plant was also to achieve the lowest possible greenhouse gas emissions with maximum productivity. Joh. Johannson CEO Espen Gjerde admits their ambitions were “sky high” when it came to developing their plans and achieving their sustainability goals. “The main goal was for the market not to notice that we had opened a new roastery in terms of the taste and quality of the coffee we produce. We wanted to make a difference for the future of the environment. Here in Vestby we have built the foundation to reach our goals,” Gjerde explains.

The journey to achieve Joh. Johannson’s ambition spanned five years after signing the contract with Bühler in 2017. “I would say we are a demanding customer with a lot of ideas,” says Bitnes Hagen. “The Bühler team we worked with took on all our ideas and thoughts about quality, the environment, and how to manage energy, and they materialized them in our plant. This ability to think creatively and to solve our needs has been one of the vital things that made us decide on Bühler and Infinity Roast. The execution of the project itself was really good, and the cooperation as well.”

211011_Buhler_X_Johannson_00_Building_016 211011_Buhler_X_Johannson_00_Building_016 Ninety percent of the plant is constructed with solid wood, the rest with recycled low-carbon steel and concrete.
Dan_Osterberg Dan_Osterberg At the heart of the coffee processing plant and responsible for the extremely low-emission production is the Infinity Roast with its green coffee preheating unit.
We have installed a complex set of heat exchangers that recover the hot air going out of the coffee roasters and we store the heat that would otherwise have gone through the chimney as water in our energy central.

Dan Osterberg, Technical Director at Joh. Johannson Kaffe

Four years after signing the contract with Bühler in June 2017, the new facility was up and running. As the full-service provider, Bühler took charge of  the plant construction and supplied the entire processing technology: from green coffee intake to cleaning, blending, roasting, grinding, and plant automation. Set against the Norwegian landscape, the new plant boldly declares its environmental credentials. Situated outside the village of Vestby,  45 kilometers south of Oslo, the production facility is 90 percent made of wood with walls, staircases, ceilings, and floors all constructed from cross laminated timber. Where wood was not practical, such as in the foundations, low-carbon steel and concrete was used. Approaching the facility, the first thing you notice are the 1,280 solar panels integrated into striking wooden façades made from Norwegian ore-pine – the same cured wood used to construct the Norwegian stave churches that have lasted centuries. “We are so proud of it,” says Bitnes Hagen. “Every morning when I come to work and drive up to the plant to park the car, I feel proud inside. I’m happy to come here and I want to show it off to everyone.”


No compromise on quality

The headline figure for Joh. Johannson is that they have been able to cut their CO2 emissions by 85 percent with this new plant. How this was achieved took time and innovation. The priority for Norway’s premium coffee producer was that there could be no compromise on quality. Having total control of the roasting process, which is how a brand’s distinctive taste is achieved, had to be maintained. It was this core aspect of the production process that first attracted the Joh. Johannson team to Bühler and its solutions. 

“We could not compromise on the quality of the flavor because that is what we sell,” explains Bitnes Hagen. “It was important to find a partner who could tick all the boxes when it came to quality  assurance. Bühler brought in the roasting know - how and the level of expertise we were looking for when it came to handling coffee and the mills, but most important for us was that they could recreate our Evergood flavor on the InfinityRoast.”

It is Bühler’s InfinityRoast solution, with its auto-corrective control system capable of constantly modulating the energy supply to the roasting chamber, that ensures coffee can be roasted to the most exacting standards. “The flavor of coffee preferred by Scandinavians is a lightly roasted floral, very good, very aromatic coffee,” explains Bitnes Hagen. “To achieve this, we don’t roast the beans very hard, but we can also do it because we have good water and buy beans of the highest quality.”

With the quality assured, next came the technology needed to cut emissions. Roasting is energy intensive, often accounting for around 70 percent of  a coffee producer’s energy consumption.

Customer_Joh. Johannson_Dag Osterberg_091 Customer_Joh. Johannson_Dag Osterberg_091 Dan Osterberg examines the coffee quality. Although the roaster automatically sends samples to the lab, it’s always good to have the possibility to check the quality manually during roasting.
The Bühler team we worked with took on all our ideas and thoughts about quality, the environment, and how to manage energy and they materialized them in our plant.

BENGT OVE BITNES HAGEN, Production Director at Joh. Johannson Kaffe

Cutting energy doesn’t just increase sustainability but also improves profitability. Which is why Daniel Egy, Head of Business Unit Chocolate and Coffee at Bühler, believes that the technological advances made at the Vestby plant will be of interest to the whole industry. “Joh. Johannson Kaffe is the first plant of its kind, and is currently proving itself in operation. This is a beacon for all industrial coffee producers,” Egy explains. “In the roasting process alone, our solutions allow energy savings of about 50 percent, which translates directly into lower production costs.”


A virtuous cycle

At the heart of Norway’s most eco-friendly coffee roastery lies the concept of heat recovery and distribution. In a more conventional plant, excess heat is often vented. In the Joh. Johannson plant, surplus energy is perfected by using a central energy store. Excess heat from the roasting process is stored through the medium of water, which is heated up to 100 degrees Celsius and then sent to accumulator tanks in the energy central. 

“We have installed a complex set of heat exchangers that recover the hot air going out of the coffee roasters and we store the heat that would otherwise have gone through the chimney as water in our energy central,” explains Dan Osterberg, Technical Director at Joh. Johannson Kaffe. “This hot water can then be reused for preheating the green beans before we roast them. We also use it to heat up the building during the cold months.”

211011_Buhler_X_Johannson_03_Bengt_Hagen_079 211011_Buhler_X_Johannson_03_Bengt_Hagen_079 Batch scales for roasted coffee provide the opportunity for post-blending the coffee. With each coffee type roasted to its full potential, the coffee turns out great.


It’s not just energy efficiency that is cutting emissions, it is also the energy source. The solar panels on the southern, western, and eastern façades of the plant are a green energy resource. These are estimated to produce 230,000 kWh annually. The other sustainable energy source is a large, recycled tank sitting outside the plant that had previously been used in a hospital. This is where biogas, supplied from Greve in Tønsberg, is stored to fuel the roaster  burners. Produced from recycled food waste from households in eastern Norway and from manure from the farming region of Vestfold, the Tønsberg biogas compliments the solar panels in providing a totally green energy source for coffee production. 

Another virtuous element of the production process involves exhaust gases and a process called Regenerative Thermal Oxidation, which in effect makes the plant’s exhaust gases harmless by burning off all organic matter. “This new technology for cleaning our emissions is much more energy efficient than traditional processes,” Osterberg says.Production efficiency is also key to maximizing sustainability. Digitalization and automation have been key characteristics in the development of this most advanced coffee production facility. “This project illustrates that our automation and digitalization strategy is in line with the needs of the customer, and it also supports our sustainability strategy,” Egy explains.

211011_Buhler_X_Johannson_07_Site_144 211011_Buhler_X_Johannson_07_Site_144 Coffee cupping: Joachim Pietronigro “breaks the cup” and sniffs for off-odor and aromatic defects.
211011_Buhler_X_Johannson_06_Coffeetest_114 211011_Buhler_X_Johannson_06_Coffeetest_114 Even in a highly automated and digitally controlled coffee roasting plant, the human nose is of vital importance for quality assurance.

“We have put a lot of energy into the integration of our computer systems and automation systems for our machines,” explains Bitnes Hagen. “This means that with all our production planning in the ERP [Enterprise Resource Planning system], which then generates the manufacturing orders for the machine system, everything is basically done automatically from there and is monitored from our control room. We control everything from the machining to the roasting to the packaging from our control room.”


Enjoying a great brew with a good conscience

While sustainability and efficiency have been two key drivers in the production of the new Vestby plant, CEO Espen Gjerde believes building the plant has also been about adding value to his company’s brand that will pay dividends for many years to come. He explains that Norwegians, with their passion for their environment, want to know their coffee comes from the most sustainable production process possible. He is passionate about coffee and supporting the entire value chain. 

Norwegians always have a strong connection to nature. For us it is not a question of if we are going to live sustainably or not, it is how we are going to do it.

BENGT OVE BITNES HAGEN, Production Director at Joh. Johannson Kaffe

“Coffee is more than a product, it means so much to so many people around the world, from the farmers to the consumers. We currently have 45 percent of the Norwegian coffee market, which is huge, but if we want to grow, we are going to have to add value to our brand,” explains Gjerde. “Quality will always be the basis for our products, but if we can then add the environment and sustainability, we have an even stronger brand because consumers will value the environment and sustainability more and more in the future.” 

The new plant has provided a major marketing opportunity by combining all these elements. Their leading coffee brand, Evergood, is packaged with a statement in Norwegian that it comes from the most environmentally friendly roastery in Norway. “We want to make our brand even better, and we can achieve that with the Bühler system,” Gjerde says. 

 ESPEN GJERDE  ESPEN GJERDE Espen Gjerde, CEO of Joh. Johannson Kaffe
211011_Buhler_X_Johannson_06_Coffeetest_120 211011_Buhler_X_Johannson_06_Coffeetest_120 Joh. Johannson Kaffe produces mainly blended coffees. That means a lot of adjustments of recipes on the fly, and cupping of up to 150 cups per day.
Espen Gjerde Espen Gjerde Johan Johannson and Espen Gjerde know that many consumers want quality combined with sustainability in the brands they choose.
We want to make our brand even better, and we can achieve that with the Bühler system.

ESPEN GJERDE , CEO of Joh. Johannson Kaffe

But it’s not just the benefits to Joh. Johannson that excites those involved in the Vestby project. They believe it also heralds a moment of change in the evolution of coffee manufacturing. “Our key message for this new facility is that it is achievable, and we would like to share our knowledge so that someone else can reduce their CO2 as well,” explains Bitnes Hagen. “This is not just about competition. The bottom-line is about doing something good and that means we can help others to do it as well, so the whole world benefits.”


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