CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
FIELD OF THE INVENTION
This application claims priority from U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/683,366, filed on May 20, 2005, the entirety of which is expressly incorporated herein by reference.
- BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
The present invention relates to devices for heating and cooling beverages, and more specifically to a device that can be attached to a beverage container in order to heat or cool the beverage held in the container as it is dispensed for consumption.
With a large portion of consumable beverages being sold in transportable containers, such as bottles and cans, it is often desirable or necessary to vary the temperatures of beverages held within these types of containers to suit the preferences of the individuals drinking the beverages. Thus, often times beverages in these containers must be heated or cooled in order to be appropriate for consumption by an individual.
In many cases, the beverage must be dispensed from the beverage container into a separate container, enclosure or heating or cooling element in order to properly vary the temperature of the beverage for consumption. This creates an extra step in the consumption process for the beverage, that is often quite time consuming as well, and is therefore undesirable.
However, many of these beverage containers are designed such that both the beverage and the beverage container can be heated or cooled simultaneously. Thus, the entire container can be placed into a cooler or suitable heating apparatus to cool or warm the container and its contents. Nevertheless, when cooling beverages in these types of containers, such as a soda can, the time required to properly cool the beverage in the container can be quite long. Additionally, when heating a beverage in its container, due to the enclosed nature of the container, it is difficult to determine when the beverage has been sufficiently heated, such that most often the beverage is under heated, or is overheated, each of which can potentially ruin the beverage for consumption purposes.
To overcome these problems, additional developments have been made to the beverage containers themselves in which the container includes a temperature-varying element disposed directly within the container that can be utilized to quickly change the temperature of the beverage within the container to the desired temperature. Examples of devices of this type are disclosed in U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,178,753, 6,266,879 and 6,351,953, which are each herein incorporated expressly by reference in their entirety.
However, by varying the construction of the container to incorporate the temperature changing mechanism within the container, the cost for manufacturing the container goes up significantly, consequently greatly increasing the cost and complexity for the container and beverage held therein.
- SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
Therefore, it is desirable to develop an apparatus and method for varying the temperature of a beverage in a container that does not require the beverage to be dispensed from the container prior to consumption in order to be heated or cooled. Additionally, it is desirable that the apparatus and method do not require any significant changes to the structure of existing beverage containers such that the device can be utilized with numerous existing and commonplace beverage container configurations.
According to a first aspect of the present invention, a temperature changing device for a beverage container is provided that includes an outer sleeve member releasably attachable to a beverage container around the dispensing opening of the beverage container. The outer sleeve member is secured to and encloses an inner cartridge member that contains the beverage warming or cooling mechanism. The mechanism includes an activation mechanism positioned on the exterior of the inner cartridge member that extends into the inner cartridge member in order to selectively open a valve separating a pair of compartments within the inner cartridge member. When the valve is opened, chemical reagents held within the respective compartments are mixed to initiate an endothermic or exothermic reaction that is used in heating or cooling of the beverage. The inner cartridge member also includes a number of dispensing tubes extending from an inlet end of the inner member adjacent the dispensing opening in the beverage container to an outlet end adjacent the activation mechanism. The beverage to be dispensed from the container is directed through the tubes to be thermally contacted by the reagents reacting within the inner cartridge member. As the beverage flows through the tubes, the beverage is heated or cooled depending upon the reaction caused by the particular reactants utilized prior to being dispensed from the tubes at the outlet end for consumption by an individual at the desired temperature.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
Numerous other aspects, features and advantages of the present invention will be made apparent from the following detailed description taken together with the drawing figures.
The drawings illustrate the best mode currently contemplated of practicing the present invention.
In the drawings:
FIG. 1 is an exploded view of the heating or cooling device constructed according to the present invention;
FIG. 2 is a cross-sectional view illustrating the device of FIG. 1 secured to a beverage can; and
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
FIG. 3 is a cross-sectional view of a second embodiment of the device of FIG. 1 secured to a bottle.
With reference now to the drawing figures in which like reference numerals designate like parts throughout the disclosure, a heating or cooling device for a beverage container is indicated generally at 10 in FIG. 1. The device 10 includes an outer sleeve 12 that is releasably engaged with an inner heat exchange cartridge 14 positionable within the outer sleeve 12. Both the sleeve 12 and cartridge 14 are formed of suitable lightweight, semi-rigid and water-impervious materials, with plastic materials being especially preferred.
The sleeve 12 can be formed with any necessary, or desired shape. However, as shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, the outer sleeve 12 is preferably generally cylindrical in shape to conform to the shape of most can-like beverage containers and includes a lower end 16 and an upper end 18. The lower end 16 is formed with a container engagement member 20 that is capable of releasably, but securely engaging the sleeve 12 with a beverage container 22. While the engagement member 20 can be formed as any suitable mechanism, in the preferred embodiment shown in FIG. 2, the engagement member 20 takes the form of a radially inwardly extending flange 24 that is releasably engageable with the top 26 of a can 28. The flange 24 seats between a lid or rim 30 secured to the top 26 of the can 28 and the top 26 to securely hold the outer sleeve 12 on the can 28. Opposite the lower end 16, the upper end 18 includes a cartridge-engaging ring 32 that extends inwardly from the sleeve 12 to releasably hold the cartridge 14 within the sleeve 12. However, other suitable devices can be used in place of the ring 32, such as a locking tab (not shown) or other suitable locking mechanism. Further, the sleeve 12, when secured to the cartridge 14, defines an insulating space therebetween, in order to prevent the heat or cold generated in the cartridge 14 from easily passing from the cartridge 14 through the sleeve 12, to lessen the effectiveness of the cartridge 14, or potentially to cause the sleeve 12 to become uncomfortable to hold by an individual due to the sleeve 12 being warmed or cooled by the cartridge 14.
The inner cartridge 14 is formed to be complimentary in shape to the outer sleeve 12, and is preferably cylindrical in shape, having a cylindrical outer wall 34 that is enclosed on each end by a lower wall 36 and upper wall 38, respectively. The cartridge 14 also includes an inner wall 40 that extends across the outer wall 34 between the lower wall 36 and upper wall 38. The inner wall 40 divides the interior of the cartridge 14 into an upper compartment 42 and a lower compartment 44.
The upper wall 38 of the cartridge 14 is formed to be complimentary in shape to the cross section of the outer sleeve 12 and is dimensioned to be slightly larger in cross section than the outer sleeve 12. Therefore, when the cartridge 14 is positioned within the outer sleeve 12, the upper wall 38 extends over the outer periphery of the upper end 18 of the outer sleeve 12 in order to provide a seamless top surface to the device 10 and to prevent any materials from falling between the sleeve 12 and cartridge 14. Additionally, the cartridge 14 includes a securing ridge 46 or other suitable securing member disposed on the outer wall 34 of the cartridge 14 and spaced from the upper wall 38 that, in conjunction with the upper wall 38, engages the cartridge-engaging ring 32 on the sleeve 12 to releasably secure the cartridge 14 with respect to the outer sleeve 12.
The upper wall 38 also includes an activator, preferably formed as a button 48 that is positioned above the upper wall 38 and includes a shaft 49 extending downwardly through the upper wall 38 into the upper compartment 42. The button 48 and the attached shaft 49 are movable with respect to the upper wall 3, and the shaft 49 is sealingly engaged with the upper wall 38, such as by an O-ring (not shown) positioned in the upper wall 38 and through which the shaft 49 extends, to prevent any of the contents of the inner cartridge 14 from leaking out of the cartridge 14 around the shaft 49. The shaft 49 is positioned directly over a valve 50, preferably formed as a one-way valve, formed in the inner wall 40 that is selectively opened by the depressing of the button 48, which in turn causes the shaft 49 move into contact with and open the valve 50. This, in turn, allows a first solid or liquid reagent (not shown) held within the upper compartment 42 to flow through the valve 50 into the lower compartment 44 for intermixing with a second solid or liquid reagent (not shown) disposed within the lower compartment 44. The reagents are selected such that the mixing of the reagents initiates an endothermic or exothermic reaction in the lower compartment 44, with the result that the atmosphere within the lower compartment 44 is cooled or heated, as desired. The particular reagents selected for use in the device 10, as well as the amounts of these reagents can be chosen to provide an exact amount of heating or cooling to the beverage to be dispensed from the device 10. In this manner, the total heating or cooling of the beverage can be closely controlled to achieve the desired amount of heating or cooling to the beverage.
Additionally, when the button 48 is released, the button 48 and shaft 49 are moved upwardly away from the valve 50 using any suitable return mechanism, such as a spring (not shown) disposed around the shaft 49 between the button 48 and the upper wall 38, or the inherent resiliency of the material forming the valve 50, such that the valve 50 closes, preventing the now-mixed reagents from flowing back through the valve 50 from the lower compartment 44 into the upper compartment 42.
In order to thermally contact the beverage held within the container 22 with the reactants in the lower compartment 44, the cartridge 14 also includes a number of beverage tubes 52 positioned within the cartridge 14. Each of the tubes 52 extends through the cartridge 14 from a tube guide 54 extending outwardly from the lower wall 36 and engageable with a dispensing opening 56 in the lid 30 of the can 28, to an aperture 58 formed in the upper wall 38 and spaced from the button 48. The tubes 52, immediately upon exiting the guide 54, extend in a convolute, and preferably helical fashion within the lower compartment 44 to maximize the thermal contact of the tubes 52 and beverage flowing therein with the reactants creating the exothermic or endothermic reaction in the lower compartment 44. The tubes 52 can be formed of any suitable material that allows for sufficient heat exchange between the reactants in the lower compartment 44 and the beverage flowing through the tubes 52, such as aluminum, plastic, extruded nylon, or other suitable materials. Additionally, the tubes 52 are affixed to the cartridge 14 within both the guide 54 and the aperture 58 in a manner that provides a durable fluid-tight seal therebetween, such that the reactants in the cartridge 14 cannot exit the cartridge 14 through either the guide 54 or the aperture 58. Further, the point at which the tubes 52 pass through the inner wall 40 is also sealed around the tubes 52 to prevent the reactants from passing between the compartments 42 and 44 other than through the valve 50. Additionally, in order to prevent the leaking of any off the beverage dispensed from within the can 28 that may flow around the guide 54 from coming between the cartridge 14 and the outer sleeve 12, a sealing gasket 60 is positioned around the periphery of the lower wall 36 that is sealingly engaged with the lid 30 of the can 28 when the cartridge 14 is held on the can 28 by the sleeve 12. Further, in an embodiment where the sleeve 12 is not utilized, the lower end 36 can also include the engagement member 20 to engage the cartridge 14 directly with the container 22.
In conjunction with the particular types and amounts of the reagents selected to generate the desired exothermic or endothermic reaction, the length of the tubes 52 extending through the lower compartment 44 can be varied as desired to enable the beverage to be maintained within the tubes 52 in the lower compartment 44 in thermal contact with the reactants for a specified time to achieve the desired level of heating or cooling for the beverage prior to consumption. This can most easily be achieved by varying the number of loops formed in the preferred helical configuration for the portion of the tubes 52 that are disposed within the lower compartment 44.
After passing through the lower compartment 44, the tubes 52 extend in a generally vertical direction within the upper compartment 42 to provide a generally laminar flow of the beverage out of the aperture 58 for consumption by an individual. Additionally, within the lower compartment 44, the convolute configuration of the tubes 52 allows for a continuous flow of the beverage through the tubes 52 with a minimum of backpressure.
In a second embodiment of the device 10 of the present invention for use with a beverage container 22 that takes the form of a bottle 62, illustrated in FIG. 3, the container engagement member 20, instead of being formed of the flange 24 as in the previous embodiment, is formed as a threaded collar 64 that is releasably and sealingly engageable with a threaded neck 66 of the bottle 62. However, other than this modification to accommodate the structure of the bottle 62, and an optional modification to the size of the guide 54 to accommodate the larger opening in the neck 66 of the bottle 62, the device 10 is formed similarly to the device 10 utilized with the beverage can 28.
In operation, the device 10 is designed so that after a particular use where all of the beverage in a particular container 22 has been consumed, the cartridge 14 and the sleeve 12 can be removed from that particular container 22 and either used to modify the temperature of a beverage held in a separate container 22, or to enable the cartridge 14 to be removed from within the outer sleeve 12 and disposed of if the reactants in the lower compartment 44 no longer are producing a sufficient temperature change. When the cartridge 14 is to be disposed of, the cartridge 14 is pressed or otherwise urged out of the outer sleeve 12, thereby disengaging the ring 32 from between the upper wall 38 and ridge 46, such that the dispensed cartridge 14 can be discarded and a fresh cartridge 14 inserted within the sleeve 12 for continued use of the device 10. Additionally, in order to protect the materials within the cartridge 14 from contamination prior to use, removable protective covers (not shown), such as adhesively attached peelable covers or hard plastic caps, among others, can be positioned over one or both ends of the cartridge 14 until removal immediately prior to use of the cartridge 14.
Various alternatives are contemplated as being within the scope of the following claims particularly pointing out and distinctly claiming the subject matter regarded as the invention.