US 20060280841 A1
A cartridge for preparation of a drink comprises a chamber having a top end for allowing flow of water under pressure into the chamber, a side wall and a bottom end for allowing flow of drink out of the chamber, a supply of soluble solids in the chamber, a solubility promoter adapted to move downward and to conform to the side wall of the chamber during its downward movement within the chamber for facilitating the dissolution of the soluble solids, a flow promoter for facilitating the flow of the drink out of bottom end of the chamber, and a dryer adapted to produce a supply of gas upon contacting the water for drying the cartridge for mess-free disposal.
1. A cartridge for use in preparing a beverage with water under pressure from an apparatus comprising:
a preparation chamber having a top end for allowing the flow of water under pressure into said chamber, a side wall, and a bottom filter for allowing the flow of the resulting beverage out of said preparation chamber;
a predetermined supply of a first flavor-containing material within said preparation chamber, substantially all or most of said first flavor-containing material being capable of being dissolved or carried out of said preparation by the water from the apparatus;
a predetermined supply of a second flavor-containing material also within said preparation chamber, said second flavor-containing materials comprising an extractable part capable of being extracted out as flavor by the water from the apparatus to form a beverage and an insoluble part, said insoluble part being substantially larger than said extractable part; and
wherein said predetermined supply of said second flavor-containing material is adapted to facilitate the dissolution of said first flavor-containing material, said supply of said second flavor-containing material comprising an upper surface adjacent to said top end of said preparation chamber for receiving the water under pressure from the apparatus, a lower surface in contact with the upper surface of said supply of said first flavor-containing material, and numerous small openings formed between the particles of said second flavor-containing materials and located between said upper and lower surfaces of said supply of said second flavor-containing material for distributing water flow from said top end of said preparation chamber to said supply of said first flavor-containing material and minimizing the gelling or aggregation of said first flavor-containing material by water, thereby promoting the dissolution of said first flavor-containing material and forming a strong beverage that contains the extractable from said second flavor-containing material and at least most of said supply of said first flavor-containing material and issues out of said preparation chamber via said bottom filter.
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12. A cartridge as defined in claim II wherein said porous plate comprises filtration openings or pores approximately 0.1 to 1 mm in diameter or size to deter the formation of gel or slump above said porous plate when water reaches said first flavor-containing material.
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19. A cartridge for use in preparing a beverage with water under pressure from an apparatus comprising:
a preparation chamber having a top end for allowing the flow of water under pressure into said chamber, a side wall, and a bottom filter for allowing the flow of the resulting beverage out of said preparation chamber;
a predetermined supply of a flavor-containing material within said preparation chamber, substantially all or most of said flavor-containing material being capable of being dissolved or carried out of said preparation chamber by the pressurized water from the apparatus;
a solubility promoter comprising an upper surface adjacent to said top end of said preparation chamber for receiving water and a lower surface in close contact with the upper surface of said supply of said flavor-containing material, said promoter being substantially porous and having numerous small openings or pores located between said upper and lower surfaces of said promoter for distributing the water flow from said top end of said preparation chamber to the supply of said flavor-containing material, thereby minimizing the gelling or aggregation of said flavor-containing material and promoting the dissolution of said flavor-containing material to form a sufficiently strong beverage containing said flavor-containing material and issuing out of said preparation chamber via said bottom filter; and
wherein said lower surface of said solubility promoter is sufficiently large to cover substantially all the upper surface of said supply of said flavor-containing material to prevent any channeling of water flow and to cause substantially all the pressurized water from said apparatus to be distributed to said flavor-containing material by said numerous small openings of said promoter.
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This is a continuation-in-part application of application Ser. No. 09/748,495 filed Dec. 22, 2000, now issued as U.S. Pat. No. 6,740,345 and of application Ser. No. 10/190,399 filed Jul. 6, 2002, now issued as U.S. Pat. No. 6,777,007, and a continuation-in-part of application Ser. No. 10/338,151.
Drinks can be made by adding soluble solids such as cocoa, instant coffee, milk or creamer into hot water and by stirring the water. Such soluble solids can also be enclosed in filter pouches and drinks can made by delivering water through the pouches as taught by Seward et al in U.S. Pat. No. 4,886,674 and Kraft in EP0756844A1. Seward et al. taught a sachet containing a web material for supporting the soluble solids and a nozzle for injecting water into the sachet. Kraft taught a unitary cappuccino kit comprising an outer wall and an intermediate layer attached to the outer wall to define a coffee pouch to contain coffee grounds and creamer pouch to contain creamer.
A drawback with Seward et al's sachet and Kraft's cappuccino kit is that water tends to channel through without contacting some of the soluble solids in the sachet or pouch, causing some soluble solids to remain in the sachet or pouch after brewing and wasteful of the soluble solids. The amount of soluble solids remaining in the pouch or sachet after brewing became unacceptably large when certain types of soluble solids that are less soluble or tend to gel in water were used. A second drawback with Seward et al's sachet and Kraft's cappuccino kit is their complex structure and associated high manufacturing cost, which prevents them from being affordable by general public. A third drawback with Seward et al's sachet and Kraft's cappuccino kit is that the space occupied by the soluble solids prior to brewing tends to be filled with beverage after brewing, which beverage drips on countertop or kitchen floor to cause a mess when disposing the used sachet and kit. An additional drawback with Kraft's cappuccino kit is that the collapse of the creamer pouch after water introduction would cause deformation of the coffee pouch connected to the creamer pouch, which deformation can cause water leakage around the coffee pouch and therefore weak extraction of the coffee grounds. The present invention intends to provide a cartridge and method to resolve the above problems.
In accordance with the present invention, there is provided a cartridge and method for making drinks. The cartridge comprises a chamber having a top end for allowing flow of water under pressure into the chamber, a side wall and a bottom end for allowing flow of drink out of the chamber, a supply of soluble solids in the chamber, a solubility promoter in the chamber for facilitating the dissolution of the soluble solids, a flow promoter for facilitating the flow of the drink out of bottom end of the chamber, and a dryer for drying the cartridge for mess-free disposal. The solubility promoter comprises an upper surface in communication with the top end of the chamber, a lower surface in contact with the soluble solids, a peripheral wall conforming to the side wall of the chamber to prevent water from passing through the interface between the peripheral wall and the side wall, and numerous small openings for distributing the water from the top end of the chamber onto the soluble solids. The solubility promoter is adapted to move downward toward the bottom end of the chamber and to allow its peripheral wall to conform to the side wall of the chamber during its downward movement within the chamber as the soluble solids is being carried out of the chamber by the water as a drink. The dryer includes a predetermined amount of gas-generating solids in the chamber. The gas-generating materials is adapted to be stable prior to contacting the water from the drink apparatus and to chemically produce a volume of gas upon contacting the water. The generated gas pushes the residual water out of the chamber at the end of the drink making process, thereby drying the cartridge for mess-free disposal. The flow promoter comprises a bottom filter, a plurality of elongated cuts on the bottom filter, and a second filter above the bottom filter for restricting insoluble solids from passing through the plurality of cuts during making drink. The plurality of cuts are normally closed to prevent the soluble solids from leaking out of the chamber during transportation and storage of the cartridge, but become large openings during making the drink to prevent clogging of the bottom filter by gels or the like.
Another aspect of the invention includes a brew station for using the cartridges to prepare a drink. The brew station comprises a brew container having a chamber for receiving the cartridge and an outlet for the drink, a brew head having a seal member for sealing to the brew container and a water inlet connected to the drink apparatus, and a hydraulic press receivable in the chamber for facilitating the interaction between flavor-containing materials and water. The hydraulic press comprises a press plate having a bottom surface for compressing the flavor-containing materials and openings on the bottom surface for distributing water to the cartridge, and an expandable chamber having an upper end connected to the water inlet and a bottom end connected to the press plate. The expandable chamber is operative between an expanded position, in which the water is delivered into it via the water inlet and the water pressure causes it to expand, causing the press plate to move downward to compress the cartridge, and a retracted position, in which drink apparatus stops delivering water and allows the expandable chamber to shrink, causing the press plate to move away up and from the cartridge.
Another aspect of the invention includes a method of manufacturing the cartridge. The method comprises aligning a mold having a sufficiently deep molding chamber with an expandable piston, placing a bottom filter paper above the mold, pushing the paper into the deep molding chamber with the expandable piston, inflating the expandable piston in the molding chamber to cause the filter paper to adopt the shape of the molding chamber to form a sufficiently deep containing chamber, deflating the expandable piston for facilitating its removal out of the molding chamber, moving the expandable piston out of the molding chamber, filling a predetermined amount of flavor-containing materials into the sufficiently deep containing chamber, and sealing the containing chamber with a top filter paper. The manufacturing method further comprises a step of stabilizing the wrinkles or folds formed during the expanding step on the side wall of the bottom filter paper by heating the bottom filter. Adhesive coating or fibers may be incorporated on or in the bottom filter to further stabilize the folds or wrinkles.
It is an object of the present invention to provide a drink cartridge containing water-soluble solids and a mechanism for promoting the dissolution of the water-soluble solids in the cartridge.
It is a further object of the present invention to provide a drink cartridge having a dryer for making the cartridge drip-free after brewing the drink.
It is a further object of the present invention to provide a brew head for facilitating the extraction and/or dissolution of the flavor-containing materials in a drink cartridge.
It is a further object of the present invention to provide a method for manufacturing the drink cartridge.
These and other objectives and advantages of the present invention will become apparent from the following description of the preferred embodiments, taken together with the accompanying drawings.
The accompanying drawing illustrates diagramatically non-limitative embodiment of the invention, as follows:
A supply of a first flavor-containing materials 12 a is placed above filter 15 in chamber 11, and a supply of a second flavor-containing materials 12 b enclosed by filter 15 a is placed above the first flavor-containing materials 12 a in chamber 11. For a cartridge to make espresso drinks such as latte, cappuccino or mocha, the first materials 12 a is soluble materials such as milk powder or granules, creamer, chocolate, cocoa, sugar, proteins, fat, vitamins, or other appropriate soluble solids and the second materials 12 b is roasted coffee grounds. The coffee grounds 12 b is insoluble and has numerous small openings 87 formed between coffee particles or grounds. By allowing the grounds 12 b to move downward within the chamber 11 and to be sufficiently compliant to conform to inner surface of the chamber, the grounds 12 b is able to promote the dissolution of the water-soluble materials 12 a below it in the same chamber 11. For those types of water-soluble solids 12 a such as sugars that are very easy to dissolve in water, there is no need to promote their dissolution by the water. However, for certain types of water-soluble solids that are less soluble or tend to gel in water, it is critical to promote or facilitate their dissolution to achieve sufficient dissolution by the water. Otherwise too much of the soluble solids will remain in the chamber 11 of cartridge 10 after brewing, which not only causes great waste of the soluble solids but also causes the drink brewed to be weak and not tasting good. Examples of such soluble solids that are less soluble or tend to gel in water include beverage powders or granules that comprise milk, protein, diary product, cocoa, fat, and/or edible high molecular weight solids such as starch.
Because of its unique solubility promotion capability, the coffee grounds 12 b in this particular configuration is named as a solubility promoter 80 to distinguish it from conventional coffee grounds. The solubility promoter 80 has an upper surface 86, a lower surface 84, a peripheral wall 85 and the numerous small openings 87. The peripheral wall 85 of the solubility promoter 80 conforms to the side wall of the chamber 11 to prevent the water above upper surface 86 from passing through the interface between the peripheral wall 85 and the side wall of the chamber. As a result of locating the solubility promoter in the same chamber 11 as the soluble solids 12 a and having it not attached to the chamber, during brewing the solubility promoter moves freely toward the bottom of chamber 11 as the solids 12 a is being carried by water out of the filter 15. As a result of the peripheral wall 85 of the solubility promoter conforming to the inner surface of chamber 11 during its downward movement, the water preferably passes through the numerous openings 87 of the solubility promoter and becomes uniformly distributed onto solids 12 a rather than channels through the interface between the peripheral wall 85 and the inner surface of chamber 11. It is theorized that both the downward movement of the solubility promoter 80 within the chamber 11 and the conformation of peripheral wall 85 to the inner surface of the chamber 11 during brewing are critical to proper dissolution of the solids 12 a.
It is appreciated that the baking soda 117 can be replaced by other materials such as calcium carbonate or sodium carbonate that contain carbonate or bicarbonate anions. It is appreciated that the baking soda 117 and edible acidic solids 116 can also be replaced by other materials that can chemically react with each other upon introduction of water into the cartridge to produce a gas product such as carbon dioxide, nitrogen or oxygen. It is also appreciated that at least one of the gas generating materials 116 and 117 needs to be sufficiently soluble in water in order to enable them to produce the gas at sufficient speed to dry the cartridge 10 prior to the disposal of the used cartridge. It is also appreciated that the salt 117 and acidic solid materials 116 can be arranged as two layers over or next to each other or can even be mixed with each other. It is also appreciated that the dryer 110 can be used to dry a cartridge that contains only roasted coffee grounds or tea leaves to make the used cartridge drip-free for mess-free disposal of the used cartridge. It is further appreciated that the dryer 110 can be used to dry any cartridges that contain flavor-containing materials to be extracted and/or dissolved by water from a drink apparatus to make a drink.
The third filter 109 can be placed directly on the bottom filter 102 or permanently attached or sealed to the upper surface of the bottom filter to cover the cuts 119. The third filter 109 should have filtration openings that are sufficiently large to discourage formation or accumulation of gel or gel-like materials above it, but are sufficiently small to restrict coffee grounds 12 b from reaching the cuts 119 on the bottom filter 102. It was discovered, surprisingly, that even if the third filter 109 has filtration openings large enough to allow conventional coffee creamer powders to sieve through, the drink made from the cartridge 10 still have no significant amount of coffee fines or powders in it. To achieve a drink having little coffee powders or fines in it while minimizing gel formation, the filtration openings in the third filter 109 of the cartridge 10 is preferably approximately 0.1 mm to 0.7 mm in diameter or size, although it has been found that acceptable drink quality can be achieved with a third filter 109 that has larger or smaller filtration openings. It is appreciated that when the third filter 109 has substantially the same diameter as the bottom 108 of the top filter 101 to fit slidingly within the side wall 100, it can also located anywhere between the bottom filter 102 and the solubility promoter 80. For example, the third filter 10 can be located at the interface between the soluble solids 12 a and the solubility promoter 80. In this configuration, the third filter 10 moves freely downward with the solubility promoter 80 toward the bottom filter 102 as the soluble solids 12 a is being carried as solution, suspensions, gel and even slumps out of the cuts 119 by the water. Such a configuration also allows the third filter 10 to have finer filtration openings without causing gel formation since there is no soluble solids 12 a above the freely movable third filter 109.
With all the cartridges 10 described in FIGS. 1 to 8, it has been discovered that by making solubility promoter 80 so highly compressed that it can occupy nearly the whole space in chamber 11 after soluble solids 12 a is dissolved or carried out of the chamber, the cartridge 10 can be drip-free or nearly drip-free to allow mess-free disposal of the cartridge. Several porous materials including foam, elastic fibers, tea leaves, roasted coffee grounds and dried extracted coffee grounds were found to be able to be compressed to such a high degree to occupy the whole space in the chamber 11 after brewing even if the soluble solids 12 a occupies up to 70% of the volume of the chamber 11 before brewing. To achieve such high compression with particular materials such as roasted coffee grounds, the particular materials should not be too fine or powdery since powdery grounds can not enable such high degree of compression needed. It is appreciated that some water-absorbing materials such as gelatins and water-absorbing polymers can be made porous for use as the construction materials for the solubility promoter 80. It is also appreciated that a second soluble solids may be placed between the solubility promoter 80 and the soluble solids 12 a. It is also appreciated that each solubility promoter 80, flow promoter 82 and dryer 110 can work for cartridges of various configurations and shapes besides these shown in the embodiments of the present continuation-in-part application. For example, the cartridges can adopt a frustoconical, a pouch, a cake, or a pod shape. It is further appreciated that both hot and cold liquid such as water, milk, wine or fruit juice can be delivered through the cartridges 10 to make various special drinks. All such liquids are collectively called water both in the description and claims, that is, the term water can represent any liquid used to make a drink with a cartridge 10.
The hydraulic press 77 comprises a press plate 79 receivable in the chamber 149 of brew container 124, an expandable chamber 138 having an upper end 76 connected to the water inlet 137 and a bottom end 78 connected to the press plate, and a flow restriction valve 94 adapted to open the expandable chamber only when the pressure therein exceeds a predetermined value. Press plate 79 has a bottom surface for pressing against top filter 101 of cartridge 10 in brew container 124 to facilitate the interaction between the flavor-containing materials and water and a plurality of openings 79 for distributing the water to top filter 101. The expandable chamber 138 comprises an outer cylinder 133 having an upper rim 134 for sealing to the brew head to receive water from water inlet 137, an inner cylinder 130 slidingly received in the outer cylinder, and a seal gasket or ring 145 attached to the bottom end of the inner cylinder for sealing to the side wall of the chamber 149 of the brew container. The restriction valve 94 comprises a body 142 above the press plate 79 and attached to the inner cylinder 130, a valve chamber 95, a valve opening 96, a seal ball 97 below the valve opening, a spring 98 for pushing the seal ball upwards to seal the valve opening and a keeper 99 for keeping the spring 99 in the valve chamber. The spring 98 is selected to cause the ball 97 to move down from valve opening 96, thereby opening the valve, when the pressure in the expandable chamber 138 reaches above a predetermined value P1. A spring 132 has an upper end attached to the rim 134 of the outer cylinder and a lower end attached to the body 142 of restriction valve 94 for pulling inner cylinder 130 upwards into the outer cylinder 133 after the pressure in expandable chamber 138 is released.
The brew head 64 also comprises a drainage valve 136 having one end connected to a drainage outlet 135 of the expandable chamber 138 and another end to a water container such as the water reservoir for the drink apparatus. The drainage valve 136 can be any valve that can reach a closed position to close the drainage outlet 135 when the pressure in the expandable chamber 137 exceeds a predetermined value P2 and reach an open position to drain the water in the expandable chamber into the water container when the pressure in the expandable chamber decreases to a predetermined value P3. The predetermined value P3 is preferably larger than the predetermined value P1 of the restriction valve 94. A flexible drainage conduit 131 having an upper end connected to the drainage outlet 135 and a lower end located close to the press plate 79. The drainage conduit 131 is sufficiently long and compliant to allow its lower end to stay close to the press plate even after the inner cylinder 130 is fully pushed out of the outer cylinder 133 to prevent the air in the expandable chamber from drained out into the water container.
To make a drink with the brew station, one places a cartridge 10 into brew container 124 and seal the brew container to brew head 64. Water is introduced under pressure into expandable chamber 138 via inlet 137. The pressure pushes inner cylinder 130 and press plate 79 of the hydraulic press 77 downward to compress cartridge 10 in brew container, causes drainage valve 136 to close, and causes restriction valve 94 to open to allow water to reach cartridge 10. The water passes through solubility promoter 80 to soluble solids 12 a to dissolve the soluble solids to produce a drink. The solubility promoter moves downward within chamber 11 of the cartridge and conforms to the side wall 100 of the chamber during its downward movement within chamber 11 to facilitate the dissolution of soluble solids 12 a therein. The flow promoter 82 allows soluble solids 12 a to be carried by the water out of the chamber 11 in the forms of solutes, colloids, suspensions and/or even gels, thus preventing the clogging of the bottom filter of the cartridge and further facilitating the dissolution of soluble solids 12 a. The dryer 110 generate a volume of carbon dioxide gas upon contacting the water, which gas pushes the residual water out of the cartridge to make the cartridge drip-free. Meanwhile, the press plate 79 of the hydraulic press 77 move downward to squeeze cartridge 10, which further dries the cartridge. The drink from the cartridge is collected in collection chamber 122 and becomes injected as a high-speed drink jet into a pool of drink accumulated in chamber 120 of the holder and causes crema to be formed in the drink. The drink and crema is then discharged at spout 127 into a cup for consumption.
It is appreciated that the restriction valve 94 can be replaced by a sufficiently restrictive opening that can cause a sufficient pressure drop between the expandable chamber 138 and brew container 124. It is also appreciated that brew container 124 can have a filter at its bottom to allow it to receive a supply of loose roasted coffee grounds to make coffee or espresso. When loose coffee grounds used, the hydraulic press 77 of the brew head 64 will compress or tamp the coffee grounds to improve the extraction and squeeze the used wet coffee grounds to make it drip-free for mess-free disposal of the loose coffee grounds. This means that this simple hydraulic press 77 can be used as an automatic tamping device for tamping the loose roasted coffee grounds and a dryer for drying the wet used grounds existing coffee makers and espresso machines.
A bottom filter paper 102 is placed between the mold 171 and expandable piston 150 and is pushed into the sufficiently deep molding chamber 179 with the expandable piston (
During the steps of pushing bottom filter 102 into the sufficiently deep molding chamber 179 and of expanding piston 150, wrinkles or folds must be formed in the side wall 100 of the bottom filter to form the deep side wall 100 and chamber 11. If such wrinkles or folds become open, some water from the brew head 64 may leak or channel through them rather through the solubility promoter and soluble solids 12 a. This would cause a weak drink and is not desirable. It was found that such wrinkles or folds can be stabilized by heating the bottom filter paper. Such wrnkles or folds could be stabilized further by adding polymeric fibers such as polyethylene fibers and poly(ethylene vinyl acetate) fibers that become adhesive when heated into the filter paper during or after the filter paper manufacturing process. Such wrinkles or folds were also found to be further stabilized by applying a coating that becomes adhesive when heated to the filter paper. To prevent the bottom filter paper from sticking to the elastic former 158, the above adhesive polymeric fibers or coating is preferably located only on or near the outside surface of the bottom filter paper, i.e. the adhesive fibers or coating is asymmetrically distributed through the thickness of the paper. Heat may be applied to the bottom filter paper by hot air or by heating the mold 171 or the piston 150. A non-sticky coating such as a Teflon or silicone coating can be applied to the inner surface of the deep molding chamber 179 and to the outer surface of the elastic former to prevent the filter paper from sticking to the mold and piston.
The manufacturing process also comprises adding a predetermined amount of soluble solids 12 a and then a predetermined amount of roasted coffee grounds 12 b into the chamber 11 of the bottom filter 102 (
A top filter paper 101 is then placed between the mold 171 and a second expandable piston 160 and pushed into the chamber 11 of the bottom filter 102 until the filter paper 101 reaches the solubility promoter 80 (
The cartridge 10 of
Clearly, the modifications for the cartridge, its manufacturing process and the brew station can be combined into or removed from any of the exemplar embodiments of the invention. The scope of the invention is obviously not restricted to the embodiments described by way of examples and depicted in the drawings, there being numerous changes, modifications, additions, and applications thereof imaginable within the purview of the claims.