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Publication numberUS20060280841 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/499,274
Publication dateDec 14, 2006
Filing dateAug 5, 2006
Priority dateDec 22, 2000
Publication number11499274, 499274, US 2006/0280841 A1, US 2006/280841 A1, US 20060280841 A1, US 20060280841A1, US 2006280841 A1, US 2006280841A1, US-A1-20060280841, US-A1-2006280841, US2006/0280841A1, US2006/280841A1, US20060280841 A1, US20060280841A1, US2006280841 A1, US2006280841A1
InventorsEdward Cai
Original AssigneeCai Edward Z
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Drink cartridge and method of manufacturing the same
US 20060280841 A1
Abstract
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.
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Claims(23)
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.
2. A cartridge as defined in claim 1 wherein said lower surface of said supply of said second flavor-containing material is sufficiently large to cover substantially all the upper surface of said supply of said first flavor-containing material in said preparation chamber for facilitating the dissolution of said first flavor-containing material.
3. A cartridge as defined in claim 2 wherein said lower surface of said supply of said second flavor-containing material is dimensioned or shaped to move within said preparation chamber along with said upper surface of said supply of said first flavor-containing material as the water dissolves said first material, thereby maintaining said contact to said first flavor-containing material during the dissolution process.
4. A cartridge as defined in claim 3 wherein said lower surface of said supply of said second flavor-containing material is in direct contact with the upper surface of said supply of said first flavor-containing material.
5. A cartridge as defined in claim 2 wherein said supply of said first flavor-containing material comprises at least one of the creamer, fat, powdered milk, cocoa, sugar, protein, vitamin, and dairy product solids.
6. A cartridge as defined in claim 5 wherein said preparation chamber is comprised of one substantially cylindrical chamber in which said supply of said second flavor-containing material can move substantially freely into the lower part of said substantially cylindrical chamber originally occupied by said supply of said first flavor-containing material as said first flavor-containing material is being dissolved.
7. A cartridge as defined in claim 2 wherein said supply of said second flavor-containing material comprises roast coffee grounds.
8. A cartridge as defined in claim 7 wherein said roast coffee grounds is sufficiently compressed and said preparation chamber is so constructed that during the brewing of the beverage said supply of said roast coffee grounds expands mostly only in height.
9. A cartridge as defined in claim 7 wherein said supply of said roast coffee grounds is compressed sufficiently that it occupies substantially all said preparation chamber after the dissolution of said supply of said first flavor-containing materials in said chamber, thereby rendering said cartridge substantially drip-free for disposal after brewing.
10. A cartridge as defined in claim 7 wherein said supply of said roast coffee grounds is made sufficiently coarse to enable it to be sufficiently compressed that after the dissolution of said first flavor-containing material in said chamber said supply of said roast coffee grounds can occupy substantially all said preparation chamber, thereby rendering said cartridge substantially drip-free after brewing for disposal.
11. A cartridge as defined in claim 1 further comprising an elongated section on said bottom filter and a porous plate for covering or protecting said elongated section, said elongated section being sufficiently small or closed to prevent said first flavor-containing material from leaking out of said chamber before the pressurized water is introduced into said preparation chamber but becoming sufficiently expanded or open to allow said first flavor-containing material and the gels or even slumps formed of said first flavor-containing material to pass through after the pressurized water is introduced into said chamber, thereby preventing said bottom filter from being clogged and further improving the dissolution of said first flavor-containing material.
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.
13. A cartridge as defined in claim 1 wherein said supply of said second flavor-containing material further comprises a porous plate at the lower end of said second flavor-containing material, said porous plate being not attached to said preparation chamber and being capable of moving downward within said preparation chamber as said first flavor-containing material is dissolved by the water without causing substantially deformation of said preparation chamber.
14. A cartridge as defined in claim 1 further comprising a supply of gas-generating material capable of producing gas upon contact with water in said preparation chamber.
15. A cartridge as defined in claim 14 wherein said gas-generating material comprises a supply of edible acidic material and a supply of salt comprising at least one of a carbonate salt and bicarbonate salt.
16. A cartridge as defined in claim 14 wherein said gas-generating material comprises a first and a second solid compounds, at least one of said compounds being soluble in water to enable a chemical reaction between said first and second compounds to produce a gas.
17. A cartridge as defined in claim 1 further comprising a cartridge inlet connected to said preparation chamber for connecting said cartridge to the apparatus and a cartridge outlet attached to said chamber for collecting the beverage from said bottom filter and dispensing the beverage to a receptacle, wherein said cartridge inlet, preparation chamber and cartridge outlet are made of a single, integral piece without any seam in between, thereby reducing the chance of leaking when under pressure.
18. A cartridge as defined in claim 1 wherein said top end of said preparation chamber comprises a top filter, said top filter being sealed to said bottom filter to form said preparation chamber for enclosing said supplies of said first and second flavor-containing materials.
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.
20. A cartridge as defined in claim 19 wherein said flavor-containing material comprises at least one of the creamer, fat, powdered milk, cocoa, proteins, and dairy product solids.
21. A cartridge as defined in claim 19 further comprises an elongated section on said bottom filter and a porous plate for covering or protecting said elongated section, said elongated section being sufficiently small or closed before the pressurized water is introduced into said chamber to prevent said flavor-containing material from leaking out of said chamber but becoming sufficiently expanded or open to allow said flavor-containing material and the gel or even slump formed of said flavor-containing material to pass through after the pressurized water is introduced to prevent said bottom filter from being clogged, thereby further improving the dissolution of said first flavor-containing material.
22. A cartridge as defined in claim 21 wherein said porous plate comprises filtration openings or pores approximately 0.1 to 2 mm in diameter or size to deter the formation of gel or slump above said porous plate when water reaches said flavor-containing material.
23. A cartridge as defined in claim 19 wherein said promoter is substantially heavier than water for facilitating the dissolution of said supply of said flavor-containing material when water is introduced to said top end of said preparation chamber.
Description
CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

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.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

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.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

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.

DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWING

The accompanying drawing illustrates diagramatically non-limitative embodiment of the invention, as follows:

FIG. 1 is a sectional view of a cartridge containing soluble solids and a solubility promoter for the solids according to a first preferred embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 2 is a sectional view of a cartridge containing soluble solids and a solubility promoter for the solids according to a second preferred embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 3 is a sectional view of a cartridge containing soluble solids and a solubility promoter for the solids according to a third preferred embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 4 is a sectional view of a cartridge containing soluble solids and a solubility promoter for the solids according to a forth preferred embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 5 is a sectional view of a cartridge containing soluble solids and a solubility promoter for the solids according to a fifth preferred embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 6 is a sectional view of a cartridge containing soluble solids and a solubility promoter for the solids according to a sixth preferred embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 6 a is a bottom view of the cartridge of FIG. 6.

FIG. 7 is a sectional view of a cartridge containing soluble solids and a solubility promoter for the solids according to a seventh preferred embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 8 is a sectional view of a cartridge containing soluble solids and a solubility promoter for the solids according to an eighth preferred embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 9 is a partially sectional and partially schematic view of a brew station for using the cartridges of FIGS. 4 and 6-8 according to the present invention;

FIG. 10 is a section view of an alternative expandable chamber for the brew station of FIG. 9.

FIG. 11 shows a manufacturing process for making a cartridge according to the present invention.

FIG. 12 is a sectional view of a beverage cartridge containing a solubility promoter according to a ninth preferred embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 13 is a sectional view of a beverage cartridge containing a solubility promoter according to a tenth preferred embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 14 is a sectional view of a beverage cartridge containing a solubility promoter according to an eleventh preferred embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 14 is a sectional view of a beverage cartridge containing a solubility promoter according to a twelfth preferred embodiment of the invention;

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

FIG. 1 shows a drink cartridge 10 that is identical to that in the FIG. 3 of the parent application Ser. No. 09/748,495. The cartridge 10 comprises a cartridge inlet 29, a spherical chamber 11, a cartridge outlet 16, and a filter 15 and barrier film 19 attached to the bottom of the chamber 11 to cover the cartridge outlet. The cartridge inlet has a cylindrical body 22, a cylindrical opening 27 and a flange 24 for connection to a drink apparatus. The cartridge outlet has a collection chamber 17 for collecting the drink and an opening 18 for discharging the drink directly into a receptacle such as a carafe or cup. The cartridge inlet 29, chamber 11 and cartridge outlet 16 are made as a single, integral body without any seam to reduce the chance of leakage when the cartridge 10 is exposed to high pressure as well as to lower the cost. The chamber 11 is made rigid to function as a handle to allow the user to hold to mount the cartridge 10 to the drink apparatus. A valve 43 is fitted to the opening 27 to allow the water to enter the chamber while preventing reverse flow. The valve includes a body 52 having an opening, a elastomer disc 14 for closing the opening of the body 52 and a keeper 44 having openings 31 and a stem 53 with a enlarged end to keep the elastomer member 14 attached to the stem.

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.

FIG. 2 shows a modified cartridge 10 that is identical to that in the FIG. 4 of the parent application Ser. No. 09/748,495. The modified cartridge has a cylindrical chamber 11 and a plurality of fins or ribs 63 on the outer wall of the chamber for making the cartridge cooler to touch after brewing. Similar to that of FIG. 1, the solubility promoter 80 of FIG. 2 also has an upper surface 86, a lower surface 84, a peripheral wall 85 conforming to the inner surface of chamber 11, and numerous small openings 87. In FIG. 2, however, the solubility promoter is made of a plug of porous materials such as bonded or unbonded fibers, foam, cloth, dried used coffee grounds, finely ground stones, grains or sands 62. The porous materials should be sufficiently heavy to cause the solubility promoter to move downward to the bottom of the chamber 11, i.e. to sink, rather to float when water is introduced into the cartridge to dissolve away solids 12 a. Plug 62 is preferably sufficiently compressed to allow it to expand in height to cause its lower surface 84 to move downward toward the bottom end of the chamber 11 as the soluble solids 12 a is being carried out of the filter 15 by water. A barrier film 28 is attached to the cartridge inlet to seal the cylindrical opening 27 for preventing the transport of gaseous compounds such as oxygen, water, flavor or aroma through the cartridge inlet.

FIG. 3 shows a modified cartridge 10 that is identical to that in the FIG. 7 a of the parent application Ser. No. 09/748,495. This modified cartridge is substantially the same as that of FIG. 1 of the present continuation-in-part application except that in FIG. 3 the chamber 11 comprises a bottom chamber 11 a and top chamber 11 b sealed to each other at their respective fringes 49 a and 4 b and the cartridge inlet 29 comprises a round protruded chamber 119 and an opening 27 for connecting to a drink apparatus.

FIG. 4 shows a modified cartridge 10 that is similar to that in the FIG. 4 of the parent application Ser. No. 09/748,495 or to that in FIG. 2 of the present continuation-in-part application. The solubility promoter 80 is substantially identical to that of FIG. 2. The chamber 11 comprises a top filter 101, a bottom filter 102, and a seam 104 formed between the top and bottom filters for sealing the solubility promoter 80 and the soluble solids 12 a. The bottom filter 102 has a bottom 103, a substantially vertical side wall 100 and an open top end. The top filter 101 has a bottom 108, an open top end 27 for receiving water and a substantially vertical side wall 106. The vertical side wall 106 is adapted to fit into the open top end of bottom filter 102 and to seal to the upper part 105 of the side wall 100 of the bottom filter to form the vertical seam 104. The top and bottom filters are preferably filter papers for their lower cost and excellent ability in maintaining a predetermined shape, although certain other types of filter may also work under proper manufacturing method. It is appreciated that the top and bottom filters can be non-permeable to water prior to brewing and be provided with filtration openings during the brewing process. A cartridge holder having a bottom support and a side wall configured to form a seal automatically with the side wall 100 of the cartridge is required to make a drink with this modified cartridge. Such a holder has been disclosed in the parent application Ser. No. 10/190,399, and will also be described in FIG. 10 of the present continuation-in-part application. FIG. 5 shows a modified cartridge 10 that is substantially the same as that of FIG. 4 of the present continuation-in-part application except that this modified cartridge 10 further comprises a dryer 110 for drying the used cartridge for drip-free and mess-free disposal of the used cartridge and that the solubility promoter 80 comprises a plug of roasted coffee grounds 12 b. The dryer 110 comprises a predetermined amount of baking soda 117 and a predetermined amount of edible acidic solids 116 such as citric acid, ascorbic acid and oxalic acid enclosed in a pouch 129 made from water-permeable film or cloth. The baking soda 117 and edible acidic solids 116 were found to be sufficiently stable prior to the introduction of water into the cartridge, but they chemically reacted with each other after the introduction of water into the cartridge to produce a volume of carbon dioxide gas. The gas produced in cartridge is able to push residual water out of the cartridge at the end of the drink making process to dry the cartridge, thereby making the used cartridge drip-free for disposal. The plug of roasted coffee grounds 12 b is preferably sufficiently compressed to allow the plug to expand in height to cause the lower surface 84 to move downward toward the bottom end of chamber 11 as the soluble solids 12 a is being carried out of the filter 15 by water. It is most preferred to compress the plug of roasted coffee grounds 12 b so hard or highly that the coffee grounds can occupy the whole volume of chamber 11 after the soluble solids 12 a is dissolved during brewing. A cartridge with such high or hard compression for the plug of roasted coffee grounds 12 b was found to be drip-free after brewing, and was found to further facilitate the dissolution of the soluble solids 12 a in the cartridge. The roasted coffee grounds can be replaced by other particle-like materials such as tea leaves, grains and finely ground minerals or stones for non-coffee drinks.

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.

FIG. 6 shows a modified cartridge 10 that is substantially the same as that of FIG. 5 of the present continuation-in-part application except that this modified cartridge 10 further comprises a flow promoter 82 for facilitating the flow of the drink out of the chamber 11 of the cartridge, thereby facilitating the dissolution of solids 12 a, and that the dryer 110 does not require a pouch 129. The dryer 110 here is formed by adding baking soda 117 and edible acidic solids 116 into a cavity formed in the coffee grounds 12 b as two adjacent layers. The flow promoter 82 comprises a plurality of cuts 119 (FIGS. 6 and 6 a) formed on bottom filter 102 and a third filter 109 located on the bottom filter to cover the plurality of cuts. The cuts 119 is preferably about 0.5 mm to 10 mm in length, and are normally closed or sufficiently small in opening size to prevent the soluble solids 12 a from leaking out of the chamber 11 during transportation and storage of the cartridge. Due to the flexibility of the filter paper, these cuts become large openings to allow the solids 12 a to pass through both as a solution and as suspensions, colloids, slumps or/and gels when water is introduced under pressure into the cartridge. As a result, the cuts 109 prevent the clogging of the bottom filter 102 by the suspension, colloidal, gels or the like, thus facilitating the flow of the drink out of the cartridge. It is appreciated that the cuts 119 can be replaced by elongated openings sufficiently small to prevent the soluble solids 12 a from leaking out during transportation and storage of the cartridge. It was noted that without the cuts 119, the bottom filter 102, e.g. a paper filter, became clogged by the products of the interaction of the soluble solids 12 a with water. The clogging of the bottom filter occurs quickly and severely when the solids 12 a comprises milk, proteins, cocoa or other high molecular-weight materials that can form gels, slumps or the like when interacting with water.

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.

FIG. 7 shows a modified cartridge 10 that is substantially the same as that of FIG. 6 of the present continuation-in-part application except that in this modified cartridge, the top filter 101 is a flat disc having a peripheral edge 91 and the side wall 100 of the bottom filter 102 has a horizontal part 92 sealed to the peripheral edge 91 to form a horizontal seam 90. FIG. 8 shows a modified cartridge 10 that is also substantially the same as that of FIG. 6 of the present continuation-in-part application except that this modified cartridge does not contain a dryer 110 and the side wall 100 of the bottom filter 102 is slightly tapered.

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.

FIG. 9 shows a brew station similar to that of FIG. 15 of the parent application Ser. No. 10/190,399 for making drinks with cartridges 10 of FIGS. 4-8. The brew station comprises a brew head 64 having a water inlet 137 connected to a drink apparatus, a seal member 140 and a hydraulic press 77, a brew container 124 having a chamber 149 for receiving cartridge 10 and a rim 141 for forming a watertight seal with seal member 140, and a holder 128 having a chamber 120 for receiving the brew container and a dispensing spout 127 having an opening 125 for discharging the drink to a receptacle. The chamber 149 of the brew container has numerous protrusions 121 on its bottom for supporting the cartridge, a chamber 122 for collecting drink from the cartridge and an orifice 123 for converting the drink in the collection chamber into a high-speed drink jet. The drink jet injects into a pool of drink accumulated in chamber 120 of the holder and causes crema to be formed for the drink as taught by the applicant in U.S. Pat. No. 5,638,740 and Akkerman-Theunisse et al. in U.S. Pat. No. 6,119,582.

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.

FIG. 10 shows a simpler, lower cost alternative expandable chamber 138 a for the hydraulic press 77. The expandable chamber 138 a includes an elastic side wall 147 that is stretchable by the pressure of the water. The sealing ring 145 is formed around the elastic side wall 147. In operation, the elastic side wall 147 is stretched or elongated when the pressure in the expandable chamber 138 a increases and returns to its original or non-stretched state after the pressure is released.

FIG. 11 shows a manufacturing process that is similar to that was disclosed in FIG. 7 of the parent application Ser. No. 10/190,399 for manufacturing cartridges 10. The process comprises aligning an expandable piston 150 with a mold 171 that has a sufficiently deep molding chamber 179 and a removable bottom 172 (FIG. 11 a). The expandable piston comprises a rigid core 151 having a passage 152 for compressed air, an elastomer former 158 and a band locker 159 for sealing the former 158 to the core 151. The elastomer former has a chamber 154 for receiving compressed air from the passage 152, a bottom 155, a side wall 157 and a thinned section 156 between the bottom 155 and side wall 157 for facilitating the expansion of the elastomer former when compressed air is introduced into the chamber 154. It is appreciated that in production there will be numerous molding chambers 179 in the mold 171 and numerous pistons 150 for higher production outputs.

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 (FIG. 11 a). Since the piston in its deflated state is quite smaller than the molding chamber, the filter paper is readily pushed into the molding chamber without any risk of damaging the filter paper. Compressed air is then introduced into the chamber 154 via passage 152 to expand the elastomer former, which in turn pushes the filter paper towards the wall of the sufficiently deep molding chamber 179 and causes the filter paper to adopt the shape of the molding chamber (FIG. 11 b). The compressed air in the chamber 154 is then released to deflate or de-expand the expandable piston 150 in the deep molding chamber 179 for facilitating the removal of the piston out of the molding chamber (FIG. 11 c). The deflated piston is then moved out of the sufficiently deep molding chamber to give access to a formed bottom filter 102 that has a deep vertical side wall 100 and a chamber 11 (FIG. 11 c). The filter paper 102 can be a pre-cut disc that can be vacuum-picked up by the piston 150 or by another device or a continuous sheet from a roll that is to be cut at the mold 171. A plurality of openings 177 can be optionally formed in the mold for pulling vacuum to suck the formed bottom filter 102 onto the inner surface of the chamber 179 for preventing any deformation of the formed bottom filter during the deflation of the piston 150.

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 (FIG. 11 d). The coffee grounds 12 b is sufficiently compressed within the chamber 11 to form the solubility promoter 80 for the soluble solids 12 a. A cavity is formed on the solubility promoter 80 and a dryer 110 is formed by adding about 0.06 to 0.2 grams of a solid acid mixture of citric acid and ascorbic acid and about 0.06 to 0.2 grams of baking soda into the cavity. Although not shown in FIG. 11, a plurality of cuts 119 can be formed on the bottom 103 of the bottom filter by a cutting die and a third filter having large filtration openings (0.1 to 0.6 mm in diameter) can be attached to the bottom 103 to cover cuts 119 prior to adding soluble solids 12 a and coffee grounds 12 b into chamber 11.

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 (FIGS. 11 e and 11 f). The top filter paper 101 contains a heat-activable adhesive at least on its bottom surface for sealing to the bottom filter 102. The second expandable piston comprises a rigid core 161 having a passage 162 for compressed air, and an elastomer former 168 having a chamber 164 for compressed air from passage 122, a bottom 166, a side wall 164, a thin section 167 between bottom 166 and side wall 164 for facilitating the expansion of the elastomer former and a thick-walled upper end 163 for sealing the former 168 to the core 161. Compressed air is introduced into chamber 164 via passage 162 to expand the elastomer former 168, which in turn pushes the filter paper 101 towards the upper part 105 of the side wall 100 of the bottom filter paper to form a bottom 108 and vertical side wall 106 and in turn causes the side wall 106 to seal to the upper part 105 of the side wall 100 to form a vertical seam 104 (FIG. 11 f). The compressed air is then released to deflate or de-expand expandable piston 160 for facilitating later removal of the piston out of cartridge 10 (FIG. 11 g). The last step of the manufacturing includes removing the bottom plate 172 of the mold to open the bottom of the deep molding chamber 179 and moving the second expandable piston 160 downward to push the cartridge 10 out of the deep molding chamber 179 into a packaging container for the cartridge. The cartridge can also be pushed out of the deep molding chamber 179 by another device or blowing air to the top of the cartridge.

FIG. 12 is a simplified version of the cartridge shown in FIG. 7. This simplified cartridge 10 does not have a dryer 110. The dryer, as discussed above, helps drying the cartridge and does not help dissolving the soluble solids 12 a. Like the cartridge 10 of FIG. 7, this simplified cartridge uses a supply of roasted ground coffee beans 12 b as the solubility promoter 80 to enable the water from the brew head of a coffee machine to dissolve the soluble solids 12 a. The use of coffee grounds as a solubility promoter avoids the use of a foreign material for promoting the solubility of the soluble solids 12 a, thus not only saving cost but also preventing potential introduction of undesirable taste or flavor from such foreign material. In order for the coffee grounds 12 b to help the dissolution of the soluble solids 12 a by water in the cartridges of FIGS. 7 and 12, it is critical for the coffee grounds 12 b to be located above the soluble solids 12 a. It is equally critical for the coffee grounds 12 b to be free to move downward to maintain close contact with the soluble solids as the soluble solids 12 a is dissolved and carried away by the water.

FIG. 13 is a further simplified version for the cartridge shown in FIG. 7. This further simplified cartridge does not have the flow promoter 102 and dryer 110. The flow promoter 102 is intended to further improve the dissolution of the soluble solid 12 a in case that the soluble solids 12 a contain materials that very easy to gel or clog the filter 103. For many soluble solids 12 a, the cartridge 10 does not require the flow promoter 102.

FIG. 14 is a simplified version of the cartridge shown in FIG. 5. This simplified cartridge 10 does not have a dryer 110 either. The dryer, as discussed above, helps drying the cartridge and does not help dissolving the soluble solids 12 a. Like the cartridge 10 of FIG. 5, this simplified cartridge uses a supply of roasted ground coffee beans 12 b as the solubility promoter 80 to enable the water from the brew head of a coffee machine to dissolve the soluble solids 12 a. It is well known that coffee grounds has a first part comprising components that can be extracted into water or hot water to form the beverage and a second part comprising large molecules such as cellulose and other components that are insoluble in water. Normally, the first or the soluble part comprises less than 20% of the total mass and the second or the insoluble part comprises more than 80% of the total mass that constitute the backbones for the coffee grounds.

The cartridge 10 of FIG. 15 is an improved version of the cartridge 14. This improved cartridge has a movable filter 109 having numerous openings or pores 87 a in communicating with the numerous openings or pores 87 between coffee grounds. As discussed at the end of the description for the cartridge 10 of FIG. 6, the filter 109 is separate from the top and bottoms filters 101 and 102, and is thus able to move down to maintain close contact with the soluble solids 12 a as the soluble solids is dissolved or carried away by the water from the brew head of a pressure-brewing coffee machine. The pores 87 a in the filter 109 are thus considered the extension of the openings or pores between the roasted coffee grounds 12 b for distributing the water from the brew head to the soluble solids 12 a.

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.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US8656827 *Mar 18, 2010Feb 25, 2014Luigi Lavazza S.P.A.Capsule for the preparation of a beverage and capsule-holding unit for use therewith
US20090320692 *May 23, 2007Dec 31, 2009Nestec S.A.Coffee capsule with a deformable sealing element
US20110097450 *Oct 22, 2010Apr 28, 2011Kruger Gmbh & Co. KgPortion capsule and method for producing a portion capsule
US20120006205 *Mar 18, 2010Jan 12, 2012Luigi Lavazza S.P.A.Capsule for the preparation of a beverage and capsule-holding unit for use therewith
US20120070542 *Sep 14, 2011Mar 22, 2012Starbucks Corporation D/B/A Starbucks Coffee CompanyInstant beverage cartridges and methods
US20120183649 *Jan 18, 2012Jul 19, 2012Sarah Elizabeth BurkhalterChocolate Beverage
WO2013143039A1 *Jun 11, 2012Oct 3, 2013Chen XiuxingSpherical container allowing rapid extraction
Classifications
U.S. Classification426/77, 426/78, 426/79
International ClassificationB65D81/00, B65D85/804, A47J31/14, A47J31/06, A47J31/40, B65B29/02
Cooperative ClassificationA47J31/14, A47J31/407, B65D85/8043
European ClassificationA47J31/14, B65D85/804B