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Publication numberUS20090261129 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 12/414,199
Publication dateOct 22, 2009
Filing dateMar 30, 2009
Priority dateMar 9, 2007
Publication number12414199, 414199, US 2009/0261129 A1, US 2009/261129 A1, US 20090261129 A1, US 20090261129A1, US 2009261129 A1, US 2009261129A1, US-A1-20090261129, US-A1-2009261129, US2009/0261129A1, US2009/261129A1, US20090261129 A1, US20090261129A1, US2009261129 A1, US2009261129A1
InventorsMarc L. Vitantonio, William E. Rabbitt, John W. Nottingham, John R. Nottingham, John W. Spirk, Jr., Jay Tapper, John Replogle, Jeffrey M. Kalman, Jeffrey S. Taggart
Original AssigneeOn Tap Llc
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Beverage dispensing assembly
US 20090261129 A1
Abstract
A regulator which can be used with a beverage dispensing assembly is disclosed. The regulator includes a seal and a moveable valve stem that cooperates with the seal. A beverage dispenser is also disclosed.
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Claims(17)
1. A beverage dispenser comprising:
a housing configured to cooperate with an associated container holding a beverage that is to be dispensed;
a spout supported by the housing and configured to be in fluid communication with the associated container to dispense the beverage from the associated container;
a movable lever arm supported by the housing and configured to cooperate with the housing and the associated container for drawing the housing and the associated container together.
2. The dispenser of claim 1, wherein the lever arm is movable into an engaged operating position where the associated container is in fluid communication with the spout, when in the engaged operating position an outermost end of the lever arm is disposed inwardly from an outermost surface of the associated container.
3. The dispenser of claim 1, wherein the lever arm cooperates with a rotatable hub, the hub including a pin operatively connected with a retainer configured to engage the associated container to draw the housing and the associated container together.
4. The dispenser of claim 3, further comprising a pawl pivotally connected with the housing, wherein the hub includes ratchet teeth cooperating with the pawl.
5. The dispenser of claim 4, further comprising a stop member pivotally attached to the housing, wherein the hub includes a notch that cooperates with the stop member.
6. The dispenser of claim 3, further comprising a stop member pivotally attached to the housing, wherein the hub includes a notch that cooperates with the stop member.
7. The dispenser of claim 3, wherein the housing includes an opening and the hub includes a resilient tab having a protuberance at a distal end, the protuberance being received in the opening when the lever arm is moved into a position where the spout is in fluid communication with the associated container.
8. The dispenser of claim 1, wherein the housing is substantially rectangular and lever arm is movable between a first position and a second position along one side of the housing.
9. The dispenser of claim 1, wherein the lever arm is a component of a mechanism for drawing the housing and the associated container together, wherein the mechanism includes at least two means for precluding movement of the lever arm in a predetermined direction.
10. The dispenser of claim 1, wherein the lever arm is a component of a mechanism for drawing the housing and the associated container together, wherein the mechanism includes at least three means for precluding movement of the lever arm in a predetermined direction.
11. A beverage dispenser comprising:
a housing configured to cooperate with an associated container holding a beverage that is to be dispensed, the housing including a non-circular recess configured to receive a cap for the associated container, the recess being configured so that the cap engages the housing upon rotation of the container for removing the cap from the container.
12. A beverage dispenser comprising:
a housing configured to cooperate with an associated container holding a beverage that is to be dispensed;
a spout supported by the housing and configured to be in fluid communication with the associated container;
a movable handle mechanism supported by the housing and configured to cooperate with the housing and the associated container for drawing the housing and the associated container together; and
a moveable hook feature supported by the housing, the moveable hook feature engaging the movable handle mechanism, when in a first position the moveable hook feature precludes movement of the handle, when in a second position the moveable hook feature allows movement of the handle, when in a third position the moveable hook feature precludes movement of the handle.
13. The beverage dispenser of claim 12, wherein the moveable hook feature connects with a button that extends from the housing.
14. The beverage dispenser of claim 12, wherein the button is in a first operating position when the moveable hook feature is in the first position, wherein the button is in a second operating position when the moveable hook feature is in the second position, and wherein the button is in the first operating position when the moveable hook feature is in the third position.
15. A beverage dispenser comprising:
a housing configured to cooperate with an associated container holding a beverage that is to be dispensed;
a spout supported by the housing and configured to be in fluid communication with the associated container;
a regulator in fluid communication with an associated high pressure gas source and the associated container, wherein the regulator receives gas from the associated gas source and gas exiting the regulator flowing towards the associated gas source exits the regulator at a second pressure, which is lower than the first pressure, the regulator includes
a regulator body,
a piston received in the regulator body, the piston being moveable,
a cap threaded onto the regulator body,
a spring acting against the cap and the piston, the biasing force of the spring against the piston controlling the second pressure, and
an adjustment mechanism connected with the cap for adjusting the biasing force of the spring.
16. The beverage dispenser of claim 15, wherein the adjustment mechanism includes an overcap affixed to the cap for rotation therewith and a lever fixed to the cap.
17. The beverage dispenser of claim 16, further comprising a stop connected with the housing and cooperating with the lever for inhibiting movement of the lever past the stop.
Description

This application is a continuation-in-part of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 12/264,023, filed Nov. 3, 2008, which is a continuation-in-part of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 12/040,062, filed on Feb. 29, 2008, which is a continuation-in-part of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 12/014,875, filed Jan. 16, 2008, which is a continuation-in-part of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/684,326, filed Mar. 9, 2007, all of which are incorporated herein by reference. This application also claims the benefit of U.S. provisional patent application Ser. No. 61/088,776, filed Aug. 14, 2008, which is also incorporated by reference herein.

BACKGROUND

Draft, or draught, beer and carbonated fountain drinks are typically delivered under pressure and include gas, typically nitrogen or carbon dioxide depending on the type of beverage, dissolved in the beverage. These beverages are typically enjoyed at restaurants, bars and other establishments where it makes sense to invest in the devices, e.g. taps, refrigerators, lines, pressure sources and fountain dispensers, that are required to dispense the beverage. To enjoy these beverages at home, typically a consumer must purchase a small portion of the beverage packaged in a can or a bottle. Often times this smaller portion found in a can or bottle is not as enjoyable as its draft or fountain counterpart.

Attempts have been made to provide a beverage dispenser capable of delivering portions of draft beer or a carbonated fountain drink, e.g., soda, where the dispenser is suitable for home usage. Previous approaches include a pressurized gas source, e.g., cartridge, within the liquid containing vessel, typically a bottle or can. In these known devices the gas pressure regulator, which regulates the pressure of the gas that is delivered to the beverage, is found within the liquid containing vessel. This arrangement of components results in the disposal of the costly gas pressure regulator after the beverage in the vessel has been consumed.

Other previous approaches have required the consumer to purchase or incorporate a separate tap and pressurizing system for delivering the beverage. Other approaches, for delivering beer particularly, also include providing a relatively large can, in relation to a typical 12 ounce can which is found in the United States, but these large cans of beer must be consumed relatively quickly, i.e. in at least two days, or the beer would become flat and no longer fresh.

SUMMARY

In view of the above, disclosed is a beverage dispenser that can deliver desired portions of a pressurized beverage from a vessel containing multiple portions and allow the beverage to stay fresh for a longer period of time as compared to many known beverage containers and dispensers. In one embodiment, a beverage dispensing assembly that is capable of dispensing a beverage charged with a gas fits onto a shelf in a conventional household refrigerator. The beverage dispensing assembly comprises a sealed disposable container assembly that contains the beverage and a dispensing assembly that cooperates with the container assembly to unseal the container assembly and dispense portions of the beverage from the container assembly. The container assembly connects to the dispensing assembly in a manner to allow for disconnection of the container assembly from the dispensing assembly when the beverage has been dispensed from the container assembly and replacement of an empty or nearly empty container assembly with a new sealed container assembly.

A system for dispensing metered portions of a beverage charged with a gas includes a bottle assembly and a dispensing assembly. The bottle assembly includes a bottle and a cap assembly. The bottle includes a neck defining an outlet. The cap assembly includes a pressurized gas cartridge, a beverage valve and a gas valve. The cap is configured to attach onto the neck of the bottle to close the bottle. The pressurized gas cartridge is received in the cap. The beverage valve in the cap allows a desired portion of beverage to leave the bottle and the gas valve allows pressurized gas to enter the bottle. The dispensing assembly is configured to cooperate with the bottle assembly to dispense the beverage from the bottle. The dispensing assembly includes a housing, a spout, and a pressure regulator. The housing supports the bottle, the spout and the pressure regulator. The spout is in fluid communication with the beverage valve for dispensing fluid from the bottle. The pressure regulator is in fluid communication with the pressurized gas cartridge and the gas valve. The pressure regulator receives pressurized gas from the pressurized gas cartridge at a first pressure and delivers pressurized gas to the bottle through the gas valve at a second pressure.

A dispensing assembly for delivering a metered amount of beverage from an associated container that holds the beverage includes a housing, a spout, and a pressure regulator. The housing is configured to receive an associated sealed container storing a beverage. The housing is dimensioned so that the housing and the associated container that the housing is configured to receive fit into an associated conventional household refrigerator and onto a conventional refrigerator shelf. The spout connects to the housing. The spout includes an inlet for receiving beverage from the associated container and an outlet for dispensing beverage. The pressure regulator connects to the housing. The pressure regulator is configured to communicate with an associated pressurized gas cartridge and the associated container to receive pressurized gas from the associated gas cartridge at a first pressure and to deliver pressurized gas to the associated container at a second pressure that is lower than the first pressure.

A disposable container assembly for dispensing a portioned amount of fluid beverage includes a container and a cap. The container stores a beverage. The cap connects to the container for sealing the beverage in the container. The cap includes a cartridge receptacle disposed in the container when the cap is connected to the container.

A disposable container assembly for use with a dispensing assembly that dispenses beverage under pressure includes a sealed disposable bottle, a sealed pressurized gas cartridge, a first plug and a second plug. The sealed disposable bottle includes a gas inlet and a beverage outlet. The sealed pressurized gas cartridge is received in the bottle and arranged to be pierced by an associated dispensing assembly when the bottle is loaded into the associated dispensing assembly. The first plug blocks a passage in communication with the beverage outlet. The first plug precludes the egress of beverage from the bottle when in a closed position and allows the egress of beverage from the bottle when in an open position. The second plug blocks a passage in communication with the beverage outlet. The second plug precludes the egress of beverage from the bottle when in a closed position and allows the ingress of gas into the bottle when in the open position.

A disposable draft beverage refill bottle assembly for use with a dispenser includes a bottle, a cap, a first member, and a second member. The bottle contains a draft beverage. The cap connects to the bottle and contains the beverage in the bottle. The cap includes first and second passages for providing selective communication between inside the bottle and ambient. The first member is disposed in the first passage and has a first operating position that precludes the draft beverage from leaving the bottle and a second operating position that allows the draft beverage to leave the bottle. The second member is disposed in the second passage and has a first operating position that precludes the draft beverage from leaving the bottle and a second operating position that allows pressurized gas to enter the bottle.

A cap for a bottle containing a draft beverage includes a side wall, an end wall, a passage and a cartridge receptacle. The side wall has an inner surface that is generally axially symmetric with respect to a symmetrical axis. The end wall is disposed at or adjacent an end of the side wall. The passage is formed through the end wall generally aligned with the symmetrical axis. The cartridge receptacle is at least partially surrounded by the side wall.

A container assembly for holding a pressurized beverage to be dispensed using an associated dispenser includes a sealed container, a sealed gas cartridge, and a sealed passage. The sealed container stores the beverage under pressure. The sealed gas cartridge is disposed in the container. The sealed passage is arranged to be unsealed when the container is loaded into the associated dispenser and to be unsealed when the associated dispenser is in a dispense operating position.

A cap assembly for a bottle containing a beverage under pressure includes a cap, a gas cartridge, a first normally closed valve and a second normally closed valve. The cap includes a first passage and a second passage. The gas cartridge is received in the cap. The first normally closed valve is disposed in the first passage. The second normally closed valve is disposed in the second passage.

A system for dispensing servings of a beverage charged with a gas includes a sealed bottle and a dispenser. The sealed bottle contains a beverage charged with gas and includes a first sealed passage and a second sealed passage each in communication with inside of the bottle. The dispenser cooperates with the bottle to dispense the beverage from the bottle. The dispenser includes a housing, a spout, a pressure regulator, a first spike and a second spike. The housing receives the bottle. The spout is in fluid communication with the first passage for dispensing the beverage from the bottle. The pressure regulator is in fluid communication with the second passage for delivering pressurized gas to inside the bottle. The first spike unseals the first passage and the second spike unseals the second passage.

A container for beer comprises a bottle, a cap, a gas cartridge, a gas valve member, and a beer valve member. The cap connects with the bottle to close the bottle. The cap includes a gas cartridge receptacle, a gas inlet passage and a beer outlet passage. The gas cartridge is in the gas cartridge receptacle. The gas valve member is in the gas inlet passage and is displaceable from a closed position into an open position to allow gas to enter the bottle. The beer valve member is in the beer outlet passage and is displaceable from a closed position into an open position to allow beer to leave the bottle.

A dispenser includes a regulator, a housing, a high pressure gas inlet passage, a push rod, a low pressure gas outlet passage, a beverage outlet passage, a valve and a movable tap handle. The regulator is configured to receive gas at a first pressure and to deliver gas at a second, lower, pressure. The high pressure gas inlet passage is in the housing and is in communication with ambient when the dispenser is not connected with an associated container storing a beverage to be dispensed using the dispenser. The push rod is in or adjacent the gas inlet passage for displacing an associated piercing pin in an associated container cap for piercing an associated pressurized gas cartridge for delivering gas into the gas inlet passage. The low pressure gas outlet passage is downstream from the regulator for connecting with a low pressure gas inlet passage in the associated container cap for delivering low pressure gas into the associated container. The valve is associated with the beverage outlet passage for controlling flow of beverage through the beverage outlet passage. The movable tap handle operates the valve.

A beverage dispenser includes a dispenser housing, a spout connected to the housing, and a drip tray mounted to the housing below the spout. The drip tray is movable.

A beverage dispenser can include a housing, a spout, a movable handle mechanism, and an indicator. The housing is configured to cooperate with an associated container holding a beverage that is to be dispensed. The spout is supported by the housing and is configured to be in fluid communication with the container. The movable handle mechanism is also supported by the housing and configured to cooperate with the housing and the associated container for drawing the housing and the associated container together. The indicator is supported by the housing. The indicator has a first setting for indicating that the spout is connected with the associated container and a second setting for indicating that the spout is not connected with the associated container.

A beverage dispenser can also include a housing, a spout, a movable handle mechanism, and a retainer. The housing is configured to cooperate with an associated container holding a beverage that is to be dispensed. The spout is supported by the housing and configured to be in fluid communication with the associated container. The movable handle mechanism is also supported by the housing and configured to cooperate with the housing and the associated container for drawing the housing and the associated container together. The retainer is also supported by the housing and configured to engage the associated container for drawing the housing and the associated container together. The retainer is movable between a first position and a second position. When in the first position and the associated container is not engaged with the retainer, the retainer is positioned to preclude connection of the associated container with the retainer.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a beverage dispensing assembly.

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of a bottle assembly of the beverage dispensing assembly shown in FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is an exploded view of the bottle assembly shown in FIG. 2.

FIG. 4 is an exploded view of a dispensing assembly of the beverage dispensing assembly shown in FIG. 1.

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of a locking lever, an alignment bracket and a bottle retainer assembled together and removed from a frame of the dispensing assembly depicted in FIG. 4.

FIG. 6 is an exploded view of a regulator of the dispensing assembly that is shown in FIG. 4.

FIGS. 7-15 depict the steps involved in loading the bottle assembly into the dispensing assembly, dispensing beverage and removing the empty bottle assembly.

FIG. 7 is a cross-sectional view of the bottle assembly prior to insertion into the dispensing assembly.

FIG. 8 is a cross-sectional view of the bottle assembly connected to the dispensing assembly with a locking lever in an unlocked position.

FIG. 9 is a cross-sectional view of the beverage dispensing assembly with the handle in a locked position.

FIG. 10 is a cross-sectional view similar to FIG. 9, but showing different components of the beverage dispensing assembly in cross section.

FIG. 11 is a cross-sectional view similar to that shown in FIGS. 9 and 10 showing a spout of the beverage dispensing assembly in a locked position.

FIG. 12 is a view similar to FIG. 11, however, the spout is rotated into an open position.

FIG. 13 is a cross-sectional view similar to FIGS. 11 and 12, but a tap handle is rotated to a dispense position.

FIG. 14 is a cross-sectional view similar to FIG. 13, but taken to show different components of the beverage dispensing assembly in cross-section.

FIG. 15 is a cross-sectional view depicting the bottle assembly being removed from the dispensing assembly.

FIG. 16 is a perspective view of an alternative embodiment of a beverage dispensing assembly.

FIG. 17 is an exploded view of the assembly shown in FIG. 16.

FIG. 18 is a perspective view of an alternative embodiment of a beverage dispensing system.

FIG. 19 is an exploded view of the beverage dispensing system shown in FIG. 18.

FIG. 20 is a cross-sectional view of the beverage dispensing assembly shown in FIG. 18 taken along a longitudinal axis of the assembly.

FIG. 21 is a cross-sectional view taken parallel to the cross-sectional view shown in FIG. 20, but spaced radially therefrom.

FIG. 22 is a perspective view of the beverage dispensing assembly depicted in FIG. 18. The bottle assembly and the lower housing are not shown.

FIG. 23 is a perspective view of an alternative embodiment of a beverage dispensing system shown in an open position.

FIG. 24 is a front view of the beverage dispensing assembly shown in FIG. 23.

FIG. 25 is a perspective view of the beverage dispensing system shown in FIG. 23 in a closed position.

FIG. 26 shows a view of the internal components of the beverage dispensing assembly shown in FIG. 23.

FIG. 27 is an alternative view showing the internal components of the beverage dispensing assembly shown in FIG. 23.

FIGS. 28 a-28 d are schematic depictions of an alternative embodiment of a beverage dispensing system.

FIGS. 29 a-29 d are schematic depictions of an alternative embodiment of a beverage dispensing system.

FIG. 30 is a cross-sectional view of a beverage dispensing assembly showing a stage in the process of piercing of a gas cartridge.

FIG. 31 is a cross-sectional view of the beverage dispensing assembly showing a later stage in the process of piercing a gas cartridge.

FIG. 32 is a cross-sectional view of a container for use with a beverage dispensing system.

FIG. 33 is a cross-sectional view of a container for use with a beverage dispensing system, FIG. 33 shows the entire container in cross section.

FIG. 34 is a schematic cross-sectional view of a beverage dispenser and another embodiment of a container that cooperates with the dispenser.

FIG. 35 shows the dispenser and container of FIG. 34 where the dispenser is connected with the container in a first operating position where low pressure gas is being delivered into the container.

FIG. 36 shows the dispenser and container of FIG. 34 connected and in a third operating position where a beverage is being dispensed from the container.

FIG. 37 is a schematic cross-sectional view of a dispenser and another embodiment of a cap for a container.

FIG. 38 is a partial schematic cross-sectional view of the dispenser and cap shown in FIG. 37 in an operating position.

FIG. 39 is a perspective view of a beverage dispenser and a container containing a beverage that is being dispensed by the beverage dispenser.

FIG. 40 is a perspective view of the beverage dispenser dispensing a beverage into a glass where a drip tray of the beverage dispenser is moved from the position shown in FIG. 39.

FIG. 41 is a perspective view of the beverage dispenser and an exploded view of the drip tray for the beverage dispenser.

FIG. 42 is a perspective view of the beverage dispenser showing the drip tray detached from the beverage dispenser.

FIG. 43 is a perspective view of a drip tray assembly removed from a base of a housing for a beverage dispensing assembly.

FIG. 44 is a perspective view of the drip tray assembly.

FIG. 45 is an exploded view of the drip tray assembly shown in FIG. 44.

FIG. 46 is a lower perspective view of the base shown in FIG. 43 and a movable handle mechanism and an indicator supported by the base.

FIG. 47 is an upper perspective view of the base shown in FIG. 46 along with the movable handle mechanism and an indicator.

FIG. 48 is a rear perspective view of a lower housing, a retainer, and an alignment bracket for a beverage dispenser.

FIG. 49 is an upper perspective view of the assembly shown in FIG. 48.

FIG. 50 is a cross-sectional view taken through the retainer and alignment bracket shown in FIG. 48 and also through a slide and lever that cooperate with the alignment bracket.

FIG. 51 is an exploded view of a pressure adjustment mechanism, which allows for the adjustment of gas pressure that exits a beverage dispensing assembly.

FIG. 52 is a cross-sectional view of the pressure adjustment mechanism shown in FIG. 51.

FIG. 53 is a schematic depiction of a drip ejection device for a beverage dispensing assembly shown in a first operating state.

FIG. 54 is the drip ejection device of FIG. 53 shown in a second operating state.

FIG. 55 is a cross-sectional view of a portion of a regulator similar to the regulator shown in FIG. 6.

FIG. 56 is another embodiment of a seal for use with a regulator similar to the regulator shown in FIG. 6.

FIG. 57 is an upper perspective view of the base shown in FIG. 46 along with the movable handle mechanism, where the movable handle mechanism includes an additional cut-out as compared to that shown in FIG. 47. The handle mechanism is shown in a first position.

FIG. 58 is an upper perspective view of the base shown in FIG. 57 with the handle mechanism shown in a second position.

FIG. 59 is a cross-sectional view of a gas pressure regulator with an alternative embodiment of an adjustment mechanism.

FIG. 60 is a bottom plan view of an alternative embodiment of a beverage dispenser that includes a new mechanism for drawing a beverage container into the beverage dispenser. The mechanism is shown in a first operating position.

FIG. 61 is a bottom plan view similar to FIG. 60 showing the mechanism in a second operating position.

FIG. 62 is a top plan view of the mechanism for drawing the beverage container toward the beverage dispenser shown in a first operating position.

FIG. 63 is a top plan view of the mechanism shown in FIG. 62 with a portion of a rotatable hub removed to show more components or features of the mechanism.

FIG. 64 is a top plan view of the mechanism shown in FIG. 62 with the mechanism moving into an intermediate operating position.

FIG. 65 is a top plan view of the mechanism shown in FIG. 62 with the same portion removed as that shown in FIG. 63. The mechanism is shown in the second operating position.

FIG. 66 is another top plan view of the mechanism shown in FIG. 62 with more portions of the mechanism removed to show further internal components and features of the mechanism.

FIG. 67 is a top plan view of the dispenser shown in FIG. 60.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

A beverage dispensing assembly 10, per the embodiment depicted in FIG. 1, includes a bottle assembly 12 and a dispensing assembly 14. The dispensing assembly 10 as shown in FIG. 1 is dimensioned and configured so that it fits into a conventional household refrigerator. More particular to the embodiment depicted in FIG. 1, the beverage dispensing assembly 10 is configured to rest in a generally horizontal configuration, e.g., the axis of symmetry for the bottle of the assembly resides generally parallel to a plane of the refrigerator shelf upon which the beverage dispensing assembly 10 will rest. Moreover, the beverage dispensing assembly 10 that is depicted in FIG. 1 has a height that is limited in its greatest dimension so that the beverage dispensing assembly can fit onto a conventional household refrigerator shelf, typically, a middle shelf where an upper shelf resides above the shelf upon which the beverage dispensing assembly 10 resides. The length, or depth, of the assembly is also limited to less than about 40 cm so that the refrigerator door can close and seal. The beverage dispensing assembly 10 can have dimensions that are roughly equal to the dimensions of a 12 pack of beverage cans sold in a cardboard or paperboard box where the cans are stacked 6 by 2, which is more particularly described, for example, in U.S. Pat. No. 6,484,903.

Alternatively, the bottle assembly 12 and the dispensing assembly 14 can be configured in a manner to allow the beverage dispensing assembly 10 to reside in a generally vertical configuration, for example, where the beverage dispensing assembly may be received in a shelf found in a refrigerator door of a conventional household refrigerator. Other possible configurations also exist that are within the scope of the invention.

The beverage dispensing assembly 10 is useful in delivering metered portions of draft beer or fountain soda, both of which will be referred to as a draft beverage, without requiring the consumer to purchase a keg and tap assembly in the case of draft beer or a fountain dispenser and other equipment required to dispense fountain soda. The beverage dispensing assembly 10 provides a disposable, which is meant to include recyclable, bottle assembly where inexpensive components are disposed or recycled and the costlier components, e.g. a pressure regulator, is not thrown away. The assembly delivers a fresh tasting beverage each time over an extended period of time, e.g. at least about 21 days.

With reference to FIG. 2, the bottle assembly 12 includes a bottle 16 and a cap assembly 18. The bottle assembly 12 fits into the dispensing assembly 14 (FIG. 1) and is manufactured to be disposable or recyclable. A consumer purchases the beverage dispensing assembly 10 and dispenses the beverage. After the beverage is dispensed and consumed, the consumer removes the empty bottle assembly 12 from the dispensing assembly 14 and buys a replacement bottle assembly to fit into the dispensing assembly.

The bottle 16 as shown in the depicted embodiment is a blow molded axially symmetric bottle having an externally threaded neck 22 (FIG. 3). In the depicted embodiment, the bottle can be manufactured to have an internal volume of between about 1 liter and about 5 liters, and even larger if desired. The larger the internal volume allows a manufacturer to spread the cost associated with the cap assembly 18 over a larger amount of beverage, which drives down the unit cost of the beverage. Other materials for the bottle 16 can be used, but plastic is easily recyclable and the threaded neck 22, which could be modified so that it does not include threads, allows for easy removal of the cap assembly 18 when all the beverage has been dispensed. This allows for separation of the cap assembly 18 from the bottle 16 so that the dissimilar materials used in the cap assembly can be separated from the bottle. The diameter of the bottle 16 in the depicted embodiment is between about 7 cm and about 16 cm, which is typically less than the height of a shelf in a conventional household refrigerator. Where the beverage dispensing assembly 10 is configured to be placed into a door of a conventional household refrigerator, the diameter of the bottle 16 can be between about 13 cm and about 18 cm. The assembly 10 has a length measured along a central axis of about 33 cm to about 40 cm, which is less than the depth of the refrigerator compartment of a conventional household refrigerator so that the beverage dispensing assembly can sit on the shelf horizontally. In the depicted embodiment, the bottle 16 is clear and/or translucent to allow the consumer to see the beverage inside the bottle. If desired, the bottle can be opaque, especially where the bottle is made from a material other than plastic.

The cap assembly 18 covers the opening through which the bottle 16 is filled with beverage and retains the beverage in bottle 16 during shipment. In the depicted embodiment, the cap assembly includes openings for dispensing the beverage and providing pressurized gas to the beverage, which will be explained in more detail below. In alternative embodiments, the passages for dispensing the beverage and for providing pressurized gas to the bottle can be formed in the bottle—one non-limiting example being passages formed near and radially offset from the neck 22. With reference back to the embodiment depicted in FIG. 3, the cap assembly 18 generally includes a cap 24, a pressure source, and valve assemblies. These can also be located in the bottle, if desired.

The cap 24 threads on to the threaded neck 22 of the bottle 16. The cap 24 could connect to the bottle in other manners, e.g. a bayonet connection, a snap fit, or welding. With reference back to the embodiment of FIG. 3, the cap 24 includes a generally cylindrical side wall 26 having internal threads 28 (FIG. 8) formed on an inner surface for threadingly engaging the threaded neck 22. The cap 24 also includes two catches 32 that extend outwardly from the cylindrical side wall 26 of the cap 24. The catches 32 are generally U-shaped bars and the terminal portions attach to the cylindrical side wall 26 to define an opening to facilitate attaching the bottle assembly 12 to the dispensing assembly 14 in a manner that will be described in more detail below.

The catches 32 align with a chord that is offset from the diameter of a circular end wall 34 of the cap and intersects the diameter of an opening 42 that leads to a cartridge receptacle 38 (described below). The circular end wall 34 at an upper end of the cylindrical side wall 26, includes a valve seat recess 36 and, in the depicted embodiment, three openings, which will be described in more detail below. The cap 24 also includes a cartridge receptacle 38 that receives the pressure source for the beverage dispensing assembly 10. A cartridge receptacle opening 42, which is one of the three openings in the circular end wall 34, leads to a cavity that is defined by the cartridge receptacle. The cartridge receptacle 42 is offset from a rotational axis of the cap 24, i.e. the axis about which the cap 24 rotates to be screwed onto or removed from the threaded neck 22 of the bottle 16. The cartridge receptacle 38 is configured to receive a conventional 12 ounce CO2 cartridge 44. In other embodiments, the cartridge receptacle 38 can take other configurations to allow it to receive pressurized gas cartridges, for example, nitrogen cartridges or CO2 cartridges that have a different volume. The cartridge receptacle 38 is closed with the exception of the opening 42 in the circular end wall 36 so that the internal compartment of the cartridge receptacle is not in communication with the bottle 16 when the cap 24 is connected to the threaded neck 22.

The cap 24 also includes a beverage outlet passage 52 and a pressurized gas inlet passage 54, each of these passages being in communication with a separate opening, mentioned above, formed in the circular end wall 34. Each passage 52 and 54 extends through the cap 24 such that each passage is in communication with the internal volume of the bottle 16. Each passage 52 and 54 is sealed after the beverage manufacturer has filled the bottle 16 to transport the bottle from the manufacturer to the retailer. In one example, foil, or other sealing device such as rubber, plastic and the like, can act as a plug to block the passages 52 and 54 to prevent the egress of beverage from the bottle during shipment. In another example, valve assemblies, which will be described in more detail below, are used to seal the passages 52 and 54.

As mentioned above, the pressure source in the depicted embodiment is a conventional CO2 cartridge 44 that fits into the cartridge receptacle 38. The type of cartridge used in the depicted embodiment is pierced in a manner that will be described later. A locking clip 56 retains the cartridge 44 in the cartridge receptacle 38. The locking clip 56 in the depicted embodiment includes a central opening that receives the neck portion of the cartridge and a peripheral portion that engages the side wall of the cartridge receptacle. The cartridge 44 can be retained in other manners.

With continued reference to FIG. 3, the beverage outlet valve assembly includes a plug 60 and a biasing member, such as a spring 62, that biases the plug into a closed position. The plug 60 acts against a seal 64 that is retained by a seal retainer 66 that both fit into the valve seat recess 36 formed in the circular end wall 34 of the cap 24. The seal retainer 66 is welded to the cap 24 in the present embodiment. The spring 62 and the valve plug 60 are positioned inside the beverage outlet passage 52 and the spring 62 urges the plug 60 towards the seal 64. The seal 64 includes a first opening 68 that aligns with the beverage outlet passage 52. Similarly, the seal retainer includes a first opening 70 that aligns with the first opening 66 and the seal 64 and the beverage outlet passage 52 in the cap 24. These openings 68 and 70 and the beverage outlet passage 52 are blocked when the plug 60 is moved into the closed position. As most clearly seen in FIG. 8, the beverage outlet passage 52 is stepped to allow the spring 62 to seat in the outlet passage 52 and bias the plug 60 towards the seal 64 thus blocking the beverage outlet passage 52. If desired, the spring can be removed and the plug 60 can be biased by the pressurized beverage in the bottle 16.

In a similar fashion, as seen in FIG. 3 the pressurized gas valve assembly includes a plug 72 that is biased by a spring 74 towards the seal 64. The seal 64 includes a second opening 76 that aligns with the pressurized gas inlet passage 54. The seal retainer 66 also includes a second opening 78 that aligns with both the second opening 76 in the seal 64 and the pressurized gas inlet 54 that is formed in the cap 24. The plug 72 seals against the seal 64 to prevent the beverage and gas from leaving the bottle 16 through the pressurized gas inlet 54 until the plug 72 is moved away from the seal. As seen in FIG. 8, the gas inlet passage 54 is also stepped to provide a seat for the spring 74. If desired, the spring can be removed and the plug 72 can be biased by the internal pressure of the pressurized beverage in the bottle.

A hollow flexible dip tube 82 attaches to the cap 24 and is communication with the beverage outlet passage 52. A dip tube weight 84 attaches at a distal end of the dip tube. The dip tube 82 extends from the cap 24 a length that is slightly greater than the length of the bottle 16 that is found below the threaded neck 22. Accordingly, the dip tube 82, which is made from a flexible material, can have a slight curvature such that the dip tube resides at a lower most location in the bottle to allow for full evacuation of the bottle 16 as beverage is dispensed from the bottle. In the depicted embodiment, the dip tube weight 84 is a ring that receives the dip tube. The dip tube weight can take alternative configurations and attach to the dip tube in alternative manners.

As discussed above, the cap assembly 18 retains the draft beverage in the bottle during shipment and includes components that allow for the dispensing of metered portions of a pressurized and/or carbonated beverage from the bottle 16. Some or many of the components depicted in the cap assembly can be placed in the dispensing assembly, for example the valve assemblies and the CO2 cartridge. The usefulness of providing the valve assemblies in the cap 24, as opposed to putting these assemblies in the dispensing assembly 14, is if some beverage remains in the bottle 16, the bottle assembly 12 can still be removed from the dispensing assembly 14 because the plugs 60 and 72 are biased towards a closed position that prohibits the beverage and gas from leaving the bottle.

As discussed above, the dispensing assembly 14 receives the bottle assembly 12. The bottle assembly 12 is designed to be removed from the dispenser assembly 14 after the beverage has been dispensed, or earlier if desired, and replaced with a new bottle assembly. The dispenser assembly 14 includes more of the expensive components of the system and is designed to be reused with many different bottle assemblies.

With reference to FIG. 4, the dispensing assembly includes a housing, which in the depicted embodiment includes a base or lower housing 90, a lid or an upper housing 92, and a face plate or front housing 94. The housing portions 90, 92, and 94 attach to one another to form a generally cylindrical housing as seen in FIG. 1. The housing can take other configurations and can be made from a fewer or greater number of components. In the depicted embodiment the housing is made of a plastic material, but other materials can be used.

The lower housing is generally half-cylindrical and includes a curved base surface 96. A forward platform 98 begins at a location is axially spaced from a rear edge of the base housing (with respect to the front face 94) and extends towards the front edge of the base 90 to almost the front face 94 when the housing portions are connected to one another. The forward platform 98 is radially spaced from the base surface 96 and is also curved. A concave ramp 102 connects the inner base surface 96 to the forward platform 98. The ramp 102 has a curvature that is complementary to the curvature of the bottle 16 between its widest diameter portion and the threaded neck 22. As seen FIG. 8, for example, the portion of the bottle where its diameter progressively decreases towards the threaded neck 22 abuts against the ramp 102 when the bottle assembly 12 is fully inserted into the dispensing assembly 14.

The forward platform 98 is also separated from the inner base surface 96 by openings 104 (only one is visible in FIG. 4) on each side of the platform that is generally parallel to a central axis of the housing. The forward platform 98 also includes a central generally rectangular opening 106. Each of the openings 104 and 106 allows for components that allow for the mounting of the bottle assembly 12 into the dispensing assembly 14 to be accessible by the consumer. These components will be described in more detail below.

The base housing 90 also includes an integral base 108 extending downwardly that provides a planar support surface for the beverage dispensing assembly 10. The planar support surface is slightly inclined so that the rearward portion of the bottle 16 is lower than the forward portion of the bottle to allow the beverage to puddle towards the inlet of the dip tube 82 to promote full evacuation. Fastener openings 110 are provided in the base housing 90 for attaching the lid 92 to the base housing. The base housing 90 can attach to the lid in other conventional manners. Also, support posts 112 are formed in the base housing 90, the function of which will be described below.

The lid 92 is generally half-cylindrical in shape. It includes a plurality of fastener openings (not visible) that align with the fastener openings 110 in the base housing 90 to attach the lid to the base housing. When the lid 92 is attached to the base housing 90 the diameter of the housing is slightly larger than the maximum diameter of the bottle 16, see for example FIG. 7.

The face plate 94 is sandwiched between the base housing 90 and the lid 92. In the depicted embodiment, the face plate includes ridges 114 that are received in notches 116 formed in the base housing 90 and the lid 92 that fix the face plate in an axial direction. The face plate 94 also includes an external mounting extension 118 that extends outwardly from and is generally centrally located in the face plate. The mounting extension 118 has a generally upside-down U-shaped configuration and includes aligned pin openings 120 on each side of the U-shape. The face plate 94 also includes a generally centrally located boss 122 that defines a passage 124 through which components involved in beverage dispensing extend, which will be described in more detail below. Small posts 126 are positioned on opposite sides of the boss 122 and are generally aligned with one another. The face plate 94 also includes handles 128 extending outwardly from the face plate on opposite sides of the face plate and a plurality of fastener openings 130 that extend through the face plate.

The fastener openings 130 in the face plate 94 allow for the attachment of a frame cover 138 and a frame 140 against an inner surface of the face plate, as seen in FIG. 5. The frame 140 includes a plurality of fastener openings 142 that align with fastener openings 144 in the frame cover 138 and fastener openings 130 the face plate 94 to receive fasteners (not shown) for attaching the frame and frame cover to the face plate. The frame 140 includes additional fastener openings 146 that align with fastener openings 148 in the cover 138 to attach the two together. The frame cover 138 also includes openings 150 that receive support posts 112 to fix the cover and the frame 140 in the housing. The frame 140 provides a support for components of the dispenser assembly 14 that provide the connection between the bottle assembly 12 and the dispenser assembly 14.

A bottle retainer 152, an alignment bracket 154, and a locking lever 156 cooperate with the frame 140 to connect the bottle assembly 12 to the dispensing assembly 14. A pressure regulator 158, which will be described in more detail below, also cooperates with the frame 140, the bottle retainer 150, the alignment bracket 152 and the locking lever 154.

The bottle retainer 152 in the depicted embodiment includes a generally U-shaped member 162 with openings 160 formed at opposite ends. The openings 160 provide a means for attaching the bottle retainer 152 to the alignment bracket 154. Catches 164 extend from each end of the U-shaped member 162 near the openings 160 towards the alignment bracket 154. Ridges 166 extend from the outer side of the bottle retainer between the end of each catch 164 and each opening 160. Also, spring catches 168 are formed underneath each opening on the U-shaped member. A tab 170 extends downwardly from the center of the U-shaped member 162, which is the lower most portion of the bottle retainer 152 as depicted in FIG. 4. Springs 172 bias the bottle retainer in a rotational direction towards the bottle assembly 12.

The alignment bracket 154 in the depicted embodiment includes a circular section 174 and two appendages 176 extending from diametrically opposite sides of circular section 174 towards the bottle retainer 152 when finally assembled. A first pair of inwardly extending axle posts 178 extend towards each other from each distal end of each appendage 176. Each axle post 178 is received in a respective opening 160 of the bottle retainer 152. A second pair of axle posts 180 extend outwardly from each appendage 176 and are generally coaxial with the first axle posts 178.

The circular section 174 of the alignment bracket 154 is configured to receive the circular cap 24 that connects to the bottle 16. Outer ends of an upper portion of the circular section 174 form upper and lower alignment surfaces 182 and 184, respectively, extend inwardly from each appendage 176 and towards the bottle retainer 152 to define a channel 186 (FIG. 5) that receives the catches 32 formed in the cap. The lower alignment surfaces 184 do not extend along the central axis of the circular section 174 as great a distance as compared to the upper alignment surfaces 178 (see FIG. 5), which allows the catches 164 of the bottle retainer 152 to engage the catches 32 on the cap 24, in a manner that will be described in more detail below. The alignment bracket 154 also includes a lower downwardly extending ridge 188 aligned with a central axis of the circular section 170 that is received in linear notch 190 formed in the frame 140. Both the alignment bracket 154 and the bottle retainer 152 are configured to move linearly with respect to the frame 140 in a manner that will be described in more detail below.

The locking lever 156 is also generally U-shaped in configuration and includes openings 200 that receive respective mounting posts 180 of the alignment bracket 154. The locking lever 156 also includes outwardly protruding posts 202 that are received in vertical slots 204 (FIG. 5) formed in the frame 140. The posts 202 include a flattened section so that the posts 202 lock into a locked position or an unlocked position when a hand grip 204, which is disposed between two appendages 206 that include the openings 200 and the mounting posts 202, is moved from an unlocked position toward a locked position, which will be described in more detail below.

With reference to FIG. 4, the dispensing assembly 14 also includes a tap handle 220 and a spout 222 that each attach to the face plate 94 of the housing. The tap handle 220 is rotated with respect to the face plate 94 to dispense a metered portion of a pressurized beverage from the bottle 16 through the spout 222. The tap handle 220 attaches to the mounting extension 118 of the face plate 94 via a pin 224 that is received in openings 226 in the tap handle and in the openings 120 provided in the mounting extension 116 on the face plate 94. The spout 222 is formed to include hubs 230 that are received in receptacles 232 formed in the tap handle 220.

The tap handle 220 and the spout 222 cooperate with a hollow seal 232, a beverage valve actuator 234 and a spring 236 to dispense metered portions of a beverage from the bottle 16 in a manner that will be described in more detail below.

As discussed above, the beverage dispensing assembly 10 is capable of providing pressurized gas to the bottle 16 so that the contents of the bottle stay fresh over an extended period of time. The gas pressure also propels the beverage. The pressure regulator 158 that is shown above cooperates with the pressure source found in the cap assembly 18 to provide pressurized gas to the inside of the bottle. The pressure regulator 158 receives gas at a first pressure from the pressure source and delivers at a second pressure, which is lower than the first pressure, to the bottle 16.

With reference to FIG. 6, the regulator 156 includes a regulator body 250 that includes a first (horizontal) cylindrical opening 252 having a symmetrical axis extending along a first direction and a second (vertical) cylindrical opening 254 that is communication with the first cylindrical opening 252 and includes a symmetrical axis that is perpendicular to the symmetrical axis of the first cylindrical opening. A nipple 256 extends from the regulator body and includes a passage 258 that is in communication with the vertical passage 254 in the regulator body. The regulator body 250 also includes two rectangular openings 262 that are diametrically opposed from one another and disposed adjacent an upper end of the vertical opening 254.

The horizontal cylindrical opening 252 receives a piercing mechanism housing 270. The piercing mechanism housing 270 includes a generally horizontal cylindrical passage 272 that connects with a generally vertical cylindrical passage 274. The vertical passage 274 in the piercing mechanism housing 270 aligns with the vertical passage 254 of the regulator body 250 when the piercing housing mechanism 270 is received in the horizontal passage 252. In the depicted embodiment, internal threads are provided in the vertical passage 274 of the piercing mechanism housing 270.

The piercing mechanism housing 270 receives a filter 276, a piercing pin 278, and gasket 282 in the horizontal passage 272. The piercing pin 278 is hollow and includes a passage 284 extend through the piercing pin that communicates with a smaller horizontal passage 286 in the piercing mechanism housing 270 and a smaller vertical passage 288 in the piercing mechanism housing 274 (FIG. 14). The piercing pin 278 also includes a sharp edge that extends outwardly from the piercing mechanism housing 270 so as to pierce the pressurized gas cartridge 44 (FIG. 3) in a manner that will be described in more detail below.

The vertical passage 254 in the regulator body 250 receives a small spring 300, a valve pin 302, a valve seal 304, a plug 306, an O-ring 308, a piston 312, a piston seal 314, a larger spring 316 and a cap 318. With reference to FIG. 14, the spring 300 is received in the smaller vertical passage 288 of the piercing mechanism housing 270. A lower portion of the valve pin 302 is also received in the vertical opening 288. The valve seal 304 includes an opening for receiving the valve pin, as does the plug 306. The plug 306 includes a threaded portion that is threaded into the larger vertical opening 274 of the piercing mechanism housing 270. An O-ring 308 surrounds the plug 306 and contacts a circular side wall of the regulator body 250.

The cap 318 includes a pair of resilient tabs 322 that snap into the rectangular openings 262 of the regulator body 250. The larger spring 316 biases the piston 312 downwardly in the piston seal contacts an outer surface of the piston 312 and an inner surface of the regulator body 250.

Pressurized gas (under high pressure—about 850 psig) exits the cartridge 44 through the passage 284 and into the smaller horizontal passage 286 of the piercing mechanism housing 270. The spring 300 biases the valve stem 302 against the seal 304 closing the vertical passage through the plug 306. Lower pressure (PL), which is equal to the pressure of the beverage in the bottle 16 (about 16 psig, but can be anywhere between about 5 psig to about 35 psig) is in a chamber defined above the O-ring 308. After some of the beverage has been dispensed (or at the initial charge), the pressure above the O-ring 308 drops below PL. The upper spring 316 then biases the piston 312 which presses down on the valve stem 302 unseating the valve stem from the seal 304. Gas then moves through the passage in the plug 306 and out the nipple 256 until PL is again reached above the O-ring 308, which moves the piston 312 against the spring 316. A hose 324 (depicted schematically in FIG. 4), attaches to a corresponding nipple 326 formed in the frame 140 having an internal passage 328 (FIG. 9) to deliver pressure at or about PL to the bottle. A rearwardly extending hollow cartridge spike 332 extends from the frame 140 and is received in the gas inlet passage 54 to provide pressurized gas to the internal volume of the bottle 16. The rearwardly extending hollow spike 332 also defines a portion of the passage 328 that is defined by the nipple 326 on the frame 140. A check valve 334 (depicted schematically in FIG. 4) is provided in the circuit between the pressure regulator 156 and the internal volume of the bottle 16. The check valve 334 prevents the beverage from flowing into the regulator when the pressure just downstream of the outlet of the nipple 256 on the regulator 158 is in equilibrium with the pressure inside the bottle 16. The check valve 334 is configured to open when there is about 2 psi to about 3 psi pressure differential across the check valve. In the depicted embodiment the check valve is a duck bill type check valve with the bill being disposed towards the bottle 16 in the circuit.

The operational sequence of the beverage dispensing assembly 10 will be described in more detail with reference to FIGS. 7-15. With reference to FIG. 7, the bottle assembly 12 is advanced into the dispenser assembly 14 by the consumer. With reference to FIG. 8, as the bottle assembly 12 is advanced towards the front plate 94 of the dispenser housing, the bottle retainer 152 rotates counter clockwise under spring pressure until the bottle assembly is fully advanced. The bottle retainer 152 then rotates back clockwise so that the catches 164 on the bottle retainer cooperate with the catches 32 on the cap 24 to retain the cap 24 and thus the bottle assembly 12. The locking lever 156 is shown in the unlocked position in FIG. 8.

With reference to FIG. 9, the locking lever 156 is advanced from the unlocked position to a locked position. The cartridge spike 332 advances into the gas inlet passage 54 formed in the cap 24 and opens the corresponding gas valve assembly by displacing the gas valve plug 72 from the seal 76. Accordingly, pressurized gas from the CO2 cartridge 44 can enter the internal volume of the bottle 16.

With reference to FIG. 10, which shows the same operational state as that shown in FIG. 9, when the locking lever 156 is moved from the unlocked position (shown in FIG. 8) to the locked position, the pointed edge 284 of the piercing pin 278 punctures the cartridge 44, thus providing communication between the cartridge 44 and the inside of the bottle 16. As also seen in FIG. 10, the beverage valve actuator 234, which is hollow and includes a passage 360 is inserted into the beverage outlet passage 52; however, the beverage outlet valve assembly is still in the closed position. The beverage valve actuator 234 also acts as a spike to unseal the beverage outlet passage 52.

FIG. 11 shows the same state as FIGS. 8 and 9 while showing the spout 222 in a locked position. With the spout in the locked position, the tap handle 220 can not be rotated until the spout 222 is rotated outward (i.e. counterclockwise). Rotating the spout 222 outward aligns the pins 126 (also seen in FIG. 4) with channels 362 formed in the spout 222, thereby allowing the tap handle 220 to push the spout 222 towards the bottle cap 24.

With reference to FIG. 12, the spout 222 has been rotated outward resulting in alignment of the beverage passageways. The passageway 360 defined in the beverage valve actuator 234 aligns with a beverage inlet 364 that is communication with a beverage passageway 366 and a beverage outlet 368 all formed in the spout 222. With reference to FIG. 13, the tap handle 220 is rotated clockwise to the dispense position resulting in the translation of the spout 222 and the beverage valve actuator 234 (FIG. 12) towards the bottle cap 24. The beverage valve assembly disposed in the cap is opened allowing beverage to flow under pressure from the bottle 16 to the spout 222. As shown in FIG. 13, the channel 362 in the spout 222 aligns with the pins 126 that extend outwardly from the face plate 94. With reference to FIG. 12, the beverage valve actuator 234 is translated towards the bottle cap 24 such that the plug 60 is moved away from the seal 64 opening the valve assembly allowing beverage to flow from inside the dip tube 82 through the beverage outlet passage 52 into the passage 360 formed in the beverage valve actuator 234 and into the beverage inlet 364 through the passage 366 and out the beverage outlet 368 of the spout 222.

With reference to FIG. 15, when the contents of the bottle 16 have been fully dispensed or if a consumer simply wishes to remove the bottle assembly 12 from the dispenser assembly 14, the locking lever 156 is moved back into the unlocked position and the bottle retainer 152 is rotated counter clockwise by the consumer depressing the tab 170 so that the bottle assembly 12 can be removed from the dispenser assembly.

FIGS. 1-15 depict only one example of a beverage dispensing assembly with great particularity. Alternative embodiments were discussed throughout the description. The invention is not limited to simply the embodiment discussed above. For example, the beverage dispensing assembly 410 is shown in FIGS. 16 and 17. The beverage dispenser assembly includes a housing having a rear box-shaped portion 412 and cover 414. As seen in FIG. 17, the housing encloses a bottle for 416, a dispenser mechanism for 18, and a spacer 422. The bottle 416 can be a blow molded bottle similar to the one described above. The dispenser mechanism 412 includes a pressure source such as a cartridge similar to the cartridge 44 described above. A rotatable lock assembly 424 can be provided on the dispenser mechanism to prevent accidental dispensing of the product and to prevent dispensing of the product during shipment. A tap handle 426 and a spout 428 that are similar to those described above can also be provided with a dispenser mechanism for 418.

To dispense the beverage, the locking mechanism 424 is rotated which allows the bottle 416 to drop onto the dispenser mechanism which results in a seal that caps the bottle to be broken and a seal on the pressure cartridge to also be broken. This would result by gravity because of the weight of the beverage being contained in the bottle 416. The tap handle 426 can actuate a valve to allow for selective dispensing of beverage through the spout 428.

Another embodiment of a beverage dispensing assembly 510, also referred to as a beverage dispensing system, is depicted in FIG. 18. In this embodiment, the beverage dispensing assembly 510 includes a bottle assembly 512, which is very similar to the bottle assembly 12 depicted in FIG. 2, and a dispensing assembly, which is also somewhat similar to the dispensing assembly 14 depicted in FIGS. 1-15. The dispensing system 510 that is shown in FIG. 18 is also dimensioned and configured to fit into a conventional household refrigerator similar to the dispensing assembly that has been described above. The dimensions of the beverage dispensing assembly 510 shown in FIG. 18 can be the same as those that have been described for the beverages dispensing assembly 10 described with reference to FIGS. 1-15.

With reference to FIG. 19, the bottle assembly 512 includes a bottle 516 and a cap assembly 518. The bottle assembly 512 fits into the dispensing assembly 514 in much the same manner as the bottle assembly 12 fits into the dispensing assembly 14 that has been described above with reference to FIGS. 1-15. A consumer purchases the beverage dispensing assembly 510 and dispenses the beverage. After the beverage is dispensed and/or consumed, the consumer removes the empty bottle assembly 512 from the dispensing assembly 514 and buys a replacement bottle assembly to fit into the dispensing assembly.

The bottle 516 is the same as the bottle 16 that has been described above. A lower support 520 can receive a lower end of the bottle 516 and to provide further structural integrity to the bottle as well as provide a flat support surface.

The cap assembly 518 covers the opening through which the bottle 516 is filled with a beverage and retains the beverage in the bottle during shipment. The cap assembly 518 includes openings for dispensing the beverage and providing pressurized gas to the beverage.

The cap assembly 518 generally includes a cap 524, a pressure source 528 (FIG. 20), and valve assemblies. The pressure source and the valve assemblies can also be located in the bottle, as opposed to in the cap assembly, if desired.

As seen in FIGS. 20 and 21, the cap 524 threads onto a threaded neck 522 of the bottle 516. The cap 524 can connect to the bottle in other manners, e.g. a bayonet connection, a snap fit or welding. The cap 524 includes a generally cylindrical side wall 526 having internal threads formed on an inner surface for threadingly engaging the threaded neck 522. With reference back to FIG. 19, the cap 524 also includes two catches 532 that extend outwardly from the cylindrical side wall 526 of the cap 524. The catches 532 are generally U-shaped bars having terminal portions that attach to the cylindrical side wall 526 to define an opening to facilitate attaching the bottle assembly 512 to the dispensing assembly 514.

The catches 532 are similar to the catches 32 that have been described above in that they align with a chord that is offset from the diameter of a circular end wall 534 of the cap and intersect the diameter of an opening 542 that leads to a cartridge receptacle 538. The cap 524 also includes the cartridge receptacle 538 that receives the pressure source 528 for the beverage dispensing assembly 510. The cartridge receptacle opening 542, which is one of three openings in the circular end wall 534, leads to a cavity that is defined by the cartridge receptacle. The cartridge receptacle 538 is offset from a rotational axis of the cap 524. The cartridge receptacle 538, similar to the cartridge receptacle 38 that has been described above, is configured to receive a conventional twelve ounce CO2 cartridge, which serves as a pressure source. The cartridge receptacle 538 is closed with the exception of the opening 542 in the circular end wall 536 so that the internal compartment of the cartridge receptacle is not in communication with the bottle 516 when the cap 524 is connected to the threaded neck 522.

With reference back to FIG. 19, the cap 524 also includes a beverage outlet passage 552 and a pressurized gas inlet passage 554, similar to the passages formed in the cap 24 that has been described above. Each of these passages 552 and 554 is in communication with a separate opening formed in the circular end wall 534. Each passage 552 and 554 extends through the cap 524 such that each passage is in communication with the internal volume of the bottle 516, in a similar manner to the passages 52 and 54 that have been described above. Moreover, each passage can be sealed using foil or another sealing device such as rubber, plastic and the like to block the passages 552 and 554 to prevent the egress of beverage from the bottle during shipment. The foil, or other sealing device, can be referred to as a plug since it blocks the passage. The valve assemblies that are used to block the passages 552 and 554 as depicted in FIGS. 20 and 21 are the same as the valve assemblies that have been described to seal the passages 52 and 54, described above. With reference to FIG. 20, the beverage outlet valve assembly includes a plug 560 and a biasing member 562 that biases the plug into a closed position. The plug 560 acts against a seal 564 that is retained by a seal retainer 566. The seal retainer 566 can be welded to the cap 524. The spring 562 and the valve plug 560 are positioned inside the beverage outlet passage 552 and the spring 562 urges the plug 560 towards the seal 564. If desired, the spring can be removed and the plug 560 can be biased by the pressurized beverage in the bottle 516.

As seen in FIG. 21, the pressurized gas valve assembly includes a plug 572 that is biased by a spring 574 towards the seal 564. If desired, a separate seal can be provided for the pressurized gas valve assembly and the beverage valve assembly. The plug 572 seals against the seal 564 to prevent the beverage and gas from leaving the bottle 516 through the pressurized gas inlet 554 until the plug 572 is moved away from the seal. As seen in FIG. 21, the gas inlet passage 554 is also stepped to provide a seat for the spring 574. The spring can be removed and the plug 572 can be biased by the internal pressure of the pressurized beverage in the bottle; however, if pressure is lost inside the bottle the valve assembly may not seal. The gas valve assembly can also be replaced by foil or a similar device that acts as a plug.

A hollow dip tube 582 extends into the bottle 516 and is in communication with the beverage outlet passage 552. The beverage outlet passage 552 can bend downwardly at about a thirty degree angle from horizontal so that the dip tube 582 extends towards the rear lower end of the bottle 516 when the bottle is situated horizontally. A support 584 can attach to the cartridge receptacle 536 to provide some rigidity to the distal end of the beverage outlet passage 552. The dip tube 582 can be made from a flexible material similar to the dip tube 82 that has been described above.

The dispensing assembly 514 receives the bottle assembly 512. The bottle assembly 512 is designed to be removed from the dispenser assembly 514 after the beverage has been dispensed from the bottle, or earlier if desired, and replaced with a new bottle assembly. The dispenser assembly 514 includes more of the expensive components of the beverage dispensing system and is designed to be reused with many different bottle assemblies.

With reference to FIG. 19, the dispensing assembly 514 includes a housing, which in the depicted embodiment includes a lower housing 590, an upper housing 592, a face plate 594, and a base 596. The housing can take other configurations and can be made from a fewer or greater number of components. The housing that is depicted in FIG. 19 is made of plastic, but can be made of other materials.

The lower housing 590 is generally half-cylindrical, similar to the lower housing 90 described above. The lower housing 590 includes a central recess 600 that extends from a forward end of the lower housing rearwardly and leads into a larger rectangular recess 602 that is disposed at a rearward end of an upper platform 604 of the lower housing 590. A central slot 606 extends through the upper platform 604 in the central recess 600 and the rearward rectangular recess 602 from adjacent a rearward edge of the upper platform 604 and terminates before reaching the forward edge of the upper platform. The central slot 606 is axially aligned with the central axis of the housing. The lower housing 590 also includes outer axial slots 608 that are spaced from the central slot 606.

The upper housing 592 is generally half-cylindrical in shape so that when it is connected to the lower housing 590 a generally cylindrical housing is formed. The upper housing 592 attaches to the lower housing 590 in much the same manner as the upper housing 92 attaches to the lower housing 90 in the dispenser assembly that was described above. Accordingly, further description of how the two components attach to one another is not provided. The upper housing 592 includes radial recesses 614 that are similar to radial recesses 612 in the lower housing 590 for attaching the face plate 594 to the lower housing and the upper housing. The upper housing 592 also includes a recess 616 where a user can insert his hands when dispensing beverage from the dispensing assembly as well as when loading a new bottle assembly 512 into the dispenser assembly 514. The finger recess 616 is disposed on the upper surface of the upper housing 592.

The face plate 594 is generally circular. The face plate includes small ribs 620 that fit into the axial slots 608 and 612 formed in the lower housing 590 and the upper housing 592, respectively. Handles 622 are also provided on opposite sides of a diameter of the circular face plate 594. The handles 622 are similar to the handles described with reference to the face plate 594 above. The face plate 594 also includes a central opening 624. Rectangular openings 628 are positioned above the central opening 624 and are equidistantly spaced from the central opening 624. Fastener openings 632 are also found on the face plate. The face plate 594 also includes an extension 634 that is disposed below the central opening 624 and is bisected by a diameter that runs through the central opening. The extension 534 is similar to a flange having a L-shape that is projected downwardly. A rectangular opening 636 is disposed beneath the extension 634.

The base 596 is generally a box-shaped component having forward and rearward side walls 640 that are formed to have a saddle shape for receiving the lower housing. A circular opening 642 is formed in a lower wall of the base 596.

With reference to FIG. 19, a frame 652, a connector 654, a bottle retainer 656, an alignment bracket 658, a slide 662, a lever 664 (visible in FIGS. 21 and 22), and a knob 666 all cooperate with one another to attach the bottle assembly 512 to the dispenser assembly 514 so that a beverage can be dispensed. The knob 666 acts as a movable handle component that is operably connected to the bottle assembly to draw the bottle assembly toward the gas spike and the beverage spike.

As seen in FIG. 21, a frame cover 668 is sandwiched between the face plate 594 and the frame 652 in a similar manner as in the embodiment described above. The frame 652 attaches to the face plate 594 and provides a structure to allow the moving components of the dispenser assembly to bring the bottle assembly 512 into engagement with the pressure source and the dispensing system of the beverage dispensing assembly. With reference to FIG. 19, the frame 652 includes a curved recess 672 that receives a pressure regulator 674 (that is very similar to the pressure regulator 158 described above and therefore further description will not be provided). The frame also includes a nipple 676 to allow for the connection of a hose 678 (shown in phantom) that is in communication with the pressure regulator 674 to allow for high pressure gas that enters the pressure regulator 674 to be released into the internal compartment of the bottle 516 at a lower pressure after traveling through the pressure regulator. The frame 652 also includes vertical slots 682 on opposite sides of the frame, which is similar to the frame that has been described above with reference to FIGS. 1-15. The frame 652 also includes a lower tongue 684 (FIGS. 20 and 22) that extends from a lower end of the frame. The tongue 684 extends through the lower rectangular opening 636 formed in the face plate 594 and cooperates with the extension 634 formed on the face plate in a manner that will be described in more detail below.

The connector 654 is a generally U-shaped member. The connector 654 includes outwardly protruding posts 690 that are received in the vertical slots 682 of the frame 652. L-shaped cam arms 692 depend downwardly from where the outwardly protruding posts are found on the connector. The connector 654 also includes openings 694 at the top of each cam arm.

The bottle retainer 656 is also a generally U-shaped component. As opposed to the connector 654, the U-shaped bottle retainer 656 extends so that the U-shaped portion extends downwardly. Loops 700 are formed at opposite terminal ends of the bottle retainer 656. Hooks 702 are spaced rearwardly with respect to the loops 700 (per the orientation where the face plate 594 is the front of the assembly). The loop 700 provide a means for attaching the bottle retainer 656 to the alignment bracket 658. Ridges 704 extend from the outer side of the bottle retainer between the end of each hook 702 and the corresponding loop 700. With reference to FIG. 22, a spring pin 706 is formed along an axis of symmetry of the U-shaped bottle retainer. The spring pin 706 receives a compression spring (not shown) that biases the bottle retainer 656 into an open position with respect to the alignment bracket 658. In the depicted embodiment, the bottle retainer 656 is biased towards the face plate 594 and away from the alignment bracket 658. The connector can be biased open in other manners, e.g. a torsion spring.

As seen in FIGS. 19 and 22, the alignment bracket 658 is a generally cylindrical component having a generally circular opening that leads into offset slots 714. The alignment bracket 658 is very similar in configuration with the alignment bracket 154 that is described with reference to FIGS. 1-15. The slots 714 are configured to receive the handles 532 of the cap assembly 518 when the bottle assembly 512 is inserted into the dispenser assembly 514. The alignment bracket 658 also includes a pair of outwardly protruding posts 716 that are received in the openings 694 of the connector 654 for attaching the connector 654 to the alignment bracket 658. The alignment bracket also includes inwardly protruding posts 718 that are received in the loops 700 of the bottle retainer 656.

With reference to FIG. 22, the slide 662 includes a transverse notch 724 that is elongated in a direction that is transverse to the direction of travel of the slide 662. The transverse notch 724 allows the knob 666 to cooperate with the remainder of the components so that when the knob is rotated the pressure regulator 674 comes into fluid communication with the internal compartment of the bottle 516. With reference back to FIG. 19, the slide 662 also includes openings 726 that are configured to receive the cam arms 692 of the connector 654.

When the dispenser assembly 514 is assembled, the slide 662 is disposed below the lower housing 590 and the cam arms 692 of the connector 654 extend through the outer axial slots 608 formed in the lower housing thus connecting the connector 654 to the slide 662. The slide 662 moves in an axial direction in response to rotation of the knob 666.

With reference to FIG. 22, the lever 664 includes an integrally formed axle 730 that rests in an appropriate recess formed in the lower housing 590. The lever 664 includes a chamfered rear contact surface 732 that is contacted by the slide 662 when the slide moves transversely towards the lever. The lever 664 also includes a rib 734 that extends downwardly from the lever and is aligned with the axis in which the slide moves.

The knob 666 is generally circular in configuration. The knob includes two recesses 736 to define a handle 738 that is easily gripped by a user of the device. A pin 740 extends upwardly from an inner surface of the knob 666.

Rotation of the knob 666 results in the pin 740 and a bushing 742 (received on pin 740) moving from an outer end of the notch 724, with respect to a central axis of the dispenser assembly, towards an inner end of the notch. This results in the slide 662 moving transversely towards the face plate 594. The slide 662 contacts the lever 664, which presses against the bottle retainer 656 rotating the bottle retainer so that the biasing force of the spring 708 is overcome and the hooks 702 engage the catches 532 of the cap assembly 518. Further movement of the slide 662 results in the over center cam arms 692 riding over the appropriately shaped openings 726 far enough so that an over-center type latch is formed between the connector 654 and the slide 662.

With reference back to FIG. 19, the dispensing assembly 514 also includes a tap handle 750 and a spout 752 that each attach to the face plate 594 of the housing. The tap handle 750 is rotated with respect to the face plate 594 to dispense a metered portion of a pressurized beverage, or other liquid, from the bottle 516 through the spout 752. The tap handle 750 includes an integrally formed axle 754 at a lower end and a contact surface 756 disposed at an upper end. The contact surface 756 can be depressed so that the tap handle 750 rotates about the integral axis 754 to dispense beverage. The integral axis 754 is captured by the extension 634 on the face 594 plate and the tongue 684 of the frame 652, as more clearly seen in FIG. 20. The tap handle 750 also includes rearwardly extending barbs 758 that are received in the rectangular openings 628 to limit movement of the contact surface 756 of the tap handle away from the face plate 594. More clearly seen in FIG. 22, the tap handle 750 also includes recesses 762 formed on a rear surface of legs 764 that are interconnected by the integral axis 754. The recesses 762 cooperate with the spout 752 in a manner that will be described in more detail below.

With continued reference to FIG. 19, the spout 752 includes shoulders 770 having a rounded surface that allows the spout 752 to be trapped between the recesses 762 formed on a rear surface of the tap handle 750 and the face plate 594. A central hollow fitting 772 extends rearwardly from the shoulder 770 and is in fluid communication with a hollow outlet passage 774 (FIG. 20) that extends forwardly from the shoulder. As more clearly seen in FIG. 22, the spout 752 also includes a locking finger 776 that is received in the crescent-shaped opening 626 formed in the face plate 594. As can be seen in FIG. 19, the crescent-shaped opening 626 includes a wider opening adjacent the three o'clock position with respect to the central opening 624. Accordingly, the spout 752 can be rotated counterclockwise so that the locking finger 776 no longer engages a rear surface of the face plate 594 so that the spout can be removed from the assembly and cleaned. Alternatively, the spout 752 can include a resilient locking finger 776 having a bump at a distal end. The spout can be inserted into an opening, similar to the crescent-shaped opening 626 without having to rotate the spout. In this embodiment the distal bump can ride over the face plate 594 when inserted into the opening and engage the face plate to remain in place.

A rigid tube 778 fits onto the hollow fitting 776 and extends into the dispensing assembly and into the frame 652 (see FIG. 20). A spring 782 biases the rigid tube 778, the spout 752, and thus the tap handle 750 away from the face plate 594. With reference to FIG. 20, to dispense a beverage a user presses against the contact surface 756 which results in the tap handle 750 rotating towards the face plate 594 about the integral axle 754. This rotational movement results in the rigid tube 778 pressing against the beverage valve assembly thus opening the outlet passage to allow beverage to flow from an internal compartment of the bottle 516 out the outlet passage 774 of the spout. The rigid tube 778, which also acts as a beverage outlet passage, has a notch 780 formed in an upper distal section. When the tap handle 750 is at the rest position, the notch 780 moves away from the seal 564 and ambient pressure can enter the rigid tube 778 to flush out the tube after dispensing.

As discussed above the beverage that is dispensed is pressurized. The pressure regulator 674 receives pressurized gas from the cartridge 528 received in the cartridge receptacle 538 at a higher pressure and delivers pressurized gas at a lower pressure to the internal compartment of the bottle 516.

With reference to FIG. 20, when the knob 666 is rotated thus bringing the bottle assembly 512 towards the dispenser assembly 514, the gas cartridge in the cartridge receptacle 538 is also pierced in much the same manner as the embodiment described above. In the depicted embodiment, a seal can be provided and shipped with the bottle assembly 512 that is pierced by the piercing pin of the pressure regulator 674. High pressure gas exits the gas cartridge and enters the pressure regulator 674 and is dispensed through the outlet nipple 676 traveling through the hose 678 and into a passage formed in the frame 652. The pressurized gas enters the bottle 516 to propel the beverage from the bottle (when the beverage valve assembly is open) as well as to maintain the desired carbonation in the bottle after some of the contents of the bottle have been dispensed.

With reference to FIG. 23, an alternative embodiment of a beverage dispenser system 810 is disclosed. The system 810 includes a bottle assembly 812, which is similar to the bottle assembly 12 described with reference to FIGS. 1-15 and therefore further description will not be provided, and a dispenser assembly 814.

The dispenser assembly 814 includes a housing made up of a rear housing section 816, a base 818, a front door 822 and a lid 824. The rear housing section 816 connects to the base 818. The front door 822 and the lid 824 both pivot with respect to the stationary rear housing section 816 and the base 818. A platform 826 connects to the front door 822 and rotates therewith. The platform 826 supports the bottle assembly 812 during loading of the bottle assembly into the dispenser assembly 814. The base 818 can be formed to include a recess covered by a drip tray 828.

FIGS. 23 and 24 depict the door 822 and the lid 824 in an open position. When these components are in the open position, the bottle assembly 812 can be loaded into and removed from the dispenser assembly 814. As most clearly seen in FIG. 24, when the door 822 is moved into the open position, the door does not advance beyond the plane of the sidewalls when opened. In other words, the door 822 pivots about a horizontal axis in contrast to the door swinging in a vertical axis towards one of the sides of the stationary rear housing 816. Such a configuration facilitates the loading and unloading of the bottle assembly 812 into the dispenser assembly 814 while limiting the amount of spaced required when one is attempting to load or unload a bottle assembly 812 from the dispenser assembly 814. If the door were to rotate about a vertical axis, clearance would need to be provided to the sides of the stationary housing section 816. By having the front door 822 pivot about a horizontal axis, the path traversed by the front door is much the same path that is traversed when one places a glass on the drip tray 828 to dispense a beverage from the system 810. This path will be typically left open on the countertop or table that supports the assembly 810. Moreover, the configuration shown in FIGS. 23-25 does not require repositioning of the dispensing system 810 in order to load or unload a bottle assembly 812 from the beverage dispenser assembly 814.

The lid 824 also rotates about a horizontal axis. By having the lid 824 rotate about a horizontal axis and the front door 822 rotate about a horizontal axis, the distance that the lid must travel with respect to the rear housing is limited to provide the required clearance for removing the bottle assembly 812 from the dispenser assembly 814. Accordingly, the dispenser system 812 can be conveniently located on a countertop underneath wall mounted cabinets and the bottle assembly 812 can be loaded into the dispenser assembly 814 while the dispenser system 810 remains underneath the wall mounted cabinets. Similarly, when the lid 824 is in the open position, the lid does not advance beyond the plane defined by the sidewalls of the stationary section 816.

With reference to FIG. 26, some of the internal components of the beverage dispensing system shown in FIG. 23 are disclosed. The system includes a frame 830 that attaches to the rear housing section 816 at an upper end thereof. The frame 830 cantilevers forward from the rear housing section 816. The frame includes a U-shaped slot 832 that receives the cap of the bottle assembly 812. Vertical guides 834 extend upwardly from the frame.

A piercing block 840 is received on the vertical guides 834 so that the pierce block can move up and down on the vertical guides. The piercing block 840 includes a beverage passage and a gas passage, which are not visible in the figures. The gas passage is in fluid communication with a pressure regulator 842, which is similar to the pressure regulators described above in that it receives pressurized gas from a gas cartridge in the bottle assembly 812 of a first pressure and delivers pressurized gas to the internal compartment of the bottle assembly at a lower pressure. The gas passage inlet may include a valve that is normally closed and is opened when the pierce block 840 is brought towards the bottle assembly 812 to in the bottle assembly.

A lower linkage set 844 is pivotally connected to the frame 832 at a pin 846. Each linkage of the lower linkage set 844 also includes a slot (not visible) that receives a pin 848 that connects the linkage set 844 to the piercing block 840. Each linkage of the lower linkage set 844 connects to a respective linkage of an upper linkage set 852 at a pin 854. An upper end of each linkage of the upper linkage set 852 includes an opening 856 that allows this linkage set to pivotally attach to the lid 824 (FIG. 23). The lid 824 also attaches to the rear housing section 816 via a pin (not visible) that is received in an opening 858 formed in the rear housing section 816. As the lid 824 is rotated from the open position towards the closed position the linkage sets 852 and 844 cooperate with the frame 830 to move the piercing block 840 towards the bottle assembly 812. The piercing block 840 includes a piercing pin (similar to the piercing pin described above) that pierces the gas cartridge in the bottle assembly 812. The piercing block 840 also includes spikes that pierce the gas valve assembly and the beverage valve assembly, respectively. A biased lid lock 862 can cooperate with the lid 824 to retain the lid in a closed position. In this embodiment, it is the lid 824 that acts as a movable handle component that is operably connected to the beverage spike and the gas spike to move each spike towards the bottle assembly.

The beverage dispensing system 810 can also include a chilling device 870 that can be used to chill the contents of the bottle assembly. In the depicted embodiment, the chilling device 870 is a Peltier device, but other refrigeration type devices including ones that use compressors can also be used. A fan 872 attaches to the rear housing section 816. An aluminum back panel 876 connects to the chilling device 870 so that the contents of the bottle 812 can be cooled. The front door 822 can be made from an insulated material such as an insulating plastic.

With reference back to FIG. 23, the dispensing system 810 includes a tap handle 880 and a spout 882. As seen when comparing FIG. 23 to 25, the tap handle 880 and the spout 882 can rotate from an unlocked position (shown in FIG. 23) to a locked position (shown in FIG. 25). The spout 822 includes a beverage outlet passage 884 that is in fluid communication with the beverage passage found in the piercing block 840 so that when the tap handle 880 is rotated towards a dispense position, which can either be by pulling or pushing, this actuates the beverage valve actuator in the bottle assembly to open to allow fluid to be dispensed from the system. The beverage passage in the sliding piercing block 840 and the outlet passage 884 of the spout 882 can be connected via a hose or via a direct connection. Similarly, the pressure regulator 842 can also be in fluid communication with the internal compartment of the bottle assembly 812 through a hose or through a direct connection in the piercing block 840.

The embodiment depicted in FIGS. 1-15 and 18-22 depict the bottle assembly being brought towards the gas spike and the beverage spike through the movement of a movable handle component (e.g. handle 156 and knob 666). The embodiment depicted in FIGS. 23-27 depict the gas spike and the beverage spike being brought towards the bottle assembly through the movement of a movable handle component (e.g. lid 824 and/or tap handle 880). The embodiments depicted in FIGS. 1-15 and 18-22 can be modified to move the spikes toward the bottle assembly through the operation of a movable component in a similar manner to the embodiment shown in FIGS. 23-27.

With reference to FIGS. 28 a-d, an alternative embodiment of a beverage dispensing system is schematically depicted. In the embodiment shown in FIGS. 28 a-d, a bottle assembly 1012 (similar to bottle assembly 12) cooperates with a dispenser 1014. The bottle assembly 1012 includes a bottle 1016 and a cap 1018 that closes an internal compartment 1022 of the bottle. A one-way check valve 1024 is disposed in the cap 1018 and is in communication with a dip tube 1026 that extends into the internal compartment 1022.

In the embodiment depicted, the dispenser 1014 includes a housing 1030 that defines a vessel receptacle 1032. A dual-purpose gas and beverage spike 1034 is disposed in the vessel receptacle 1032. A plunger 1036, or similar actuator, is also disposed in the vessel receptacle 1032. The gas/beverage spike 1034 is in fluid communication with a two-way two-position valve 1038 biased into an initial position by a spring 1040. The plunger 1036 mechanically operates a two-position valve 1042 that is in communication with the two-way two-position valve 1038 separated by a one-way check valve 1044 that checks fluid from flowing from the two-way two-position valve 1038 toward the two-position valve 1042. A pressure regulator 1046 (similar to the pressure regulators described above) is also in communication with the valves 1038 and 1042 as well as a pressure source 1048, which in the depicted embodiment is a gas cartridge similar to the gas cartridges described above. The gas cartridge 1048 is received in a cartridge receptacle 1052 that includes a piercing mechanism similar to the piercing mechanisms described above. Different than the embodiments described above, the gas cartridge 1048 is not received in the bottle 1016. The two-position valve 1042 is biased toward a blocked position by a spring 1050.

With reference to FIG. 28 b, the bottle assembly 1012 is brought towards the dispensing assembly 1014, or vice versa, which results in the plunger 1034 actuating the two-way valve 1042 to position it to an open state. The gas/beverage spike 1034 opens the one-way check valve 1024. Pressurized beverage in the internal compartment 1022 is precluded from escaping past the check valve 1044.

With reference to FIG. 28 c, the gas cartridge 1048 is loaded into the cartridge receptacle 1052 to supply pressurized gas to the internal compartment 1022. The cartridge 1048 is pierced when loaded into the receptacle 1052.

With reference to FIG. 28 d, the two-way two-position valve 1038 is moved into its second position so that beverage is dispensed into a dispensing vessel 1054. The pressurized gas from the pressure source 1048 is enough to propel the beverage out of the internal compartment 1022 and through the lines to an outlet 1056. When the two-way two-position valve 1038 moves back to a biased initial position, the pressure source 1048 recharges the pressure in the internal compartment 1022 of the bottle 1016 to the pressure at which the pressure regulator 1046 delivers pressure, which is approximately 15 psig.

With reference to FIGS. 29 a-d, an alternative embodiment of a beverage dispensing system is shown. In this embodiment, a bottle assembly 1112 cooperates with a dispensing assembly 1114. In this embodiment, the bottle assembly includes a bottle 1116 closed by a cap 1118 that closes off an internal compartment 1122. The cap includes a first check valve 1124 and a second check valve 1126. A dip tube 1128 is also disposed in the internal compartment 1122 and is in communication with the first check valve 1124.

The dispensing assembly 1114 includes a housing 1130 that defines a vessel receptacle 1132. A gas port (spike) 1134 and a beverage port (spike) 1136 are disposed in the receptacle 1132. A plunger 1138 is also disposed in the vessel receptacle 1132. A normally closed two-position valve 1042 is operated by the plunger 1138 and is biased into a closed position by a spring 1144. A pressure regulator 1146 is in fluid communication with the valve 1142 and a cartridge receptacle 1148. The gas check valve 1126 in the cap 1118 and the valve 1142 are also in fluid communication.

With reference to FIG. 29 b, when the bottle assembly 1112 is moved towards the dispensing assembly 1114, or vice versa, the beverage port (spike) 1136 opens the first check valve 1124.

With reference to FIG. 29 c, when the cartridge 1152 is loaded into the cartridge receptacle 1148, the cartridge is pierced and pressurized gas is delivered to the pressure regulator 1146 and into the internal compartment 1112 of the bottle 1116 through the two position valve 1144 and the check valves 1154 and 1126.

With reference to FIG. 29 d, the beverage check valve 1124 is opened to dispense beverage out an outlet 1156 and into a vessel 1158.

In lieu of providing a one-way check valve and operating the one-way check valve as shown in FIG. 29 d, an on/off spigot can be provided and the beverage port 1136 can be a spike that opens the check valve 1124 when the bottle assembly 1112 is inserted into the dispensing assembly 1114, or vice versa.

FIGS. 30 and 31 disclose an alternative embodiment of the beverage dispensing assembly where the seal between the pressurized gas source and the pressure regulator becomes a disposable component. This can better maintain the seal between the pressurized gas source and the pressure regulator as compared to placing the seal in the pressure regulator and re-using the seal over and over. Where the seal is found in the pressure regulator, the seal can deform over time, which can result in leakage between the pressurized gas source and the pressure regulator. This is undesirable.

FIG. 30 depicts a beverage assembly having the same components and configuration as the beverage assembly described with reference to FIGS. 18-22, except for the cap assembly 1202 and the pressure regulator 1204. The cap assembly 1202 threads onto the bottle similar to the cap assembly 18 described above. The cap assembly includes a gas cartridge receptacle 1204 that receives a gas cartridge 1206. The gas cartridge 1206 can be brought towards the pressure regulator 1204 in any of the manners described above, e.g. through movement of a handle 156 described above or through movement of a knob 666 which is similar to the knob shown in FIG. 19. The manner in which the gas cylinder 1206 is brought towards the pressure regulator 1204 is more particularly described above. Alternatively, the pressure regulator 1204 could be brought towards the gas cylinder 1206.

In the embodiment depicted in FIGS. 30 and 31, a gas cylinder cap 1220 threads onto the gas cylinder 1206. An axial passage 1222 extends through the gas cylinder cap 1220. A pin 1224 is received in the passage 1222 and has a pointed end that punctures the cylinder and a flat head that provides a contact surface for a spike 1226 to contact the head. A cover 1228 receives an end of the gas cylinder cap 1220 and includes an opening 1230 having an O-ring seal 1232 disposed therein. A stem 1234 of the spike 1226 can fit through the opening 1230 and the O-ring seal 1232. Another O-ring seal 1236 fits around the gas cylinder cap 1220 and extends radially outwardly from the radial outer surface of the cover 1228 and the gas cylinder cap 1220. A filter 1238 is positioned downstream from the spike 1226 inside a passage 1242 formed in the pressure regulator 1204. The remainder of the pressure regulator is similar to the pressure regulators described above.

With reference to FIG. 31, when the gas cylinder 1206 is brought towards the pressure regulator 1204, or vice versa, the stem 1234 of the spike 1226 fits into the opening 1230 of the cover 1228 to displace the pin 1224 to puncture the cylinder 1206. The seals 1232 and 1236 prevent leakage. These seals are disposed when the container is removed. Pressurized gas passes from the gas cylinder 1206 through the opening 1222 around the pin 1224. Gas passes through an axial opening 1250 in the spike 1226 and into the pressure regulator 1204.

With reference to FIG. 32, a gas cylinder 1306 having a threadless cartridge tip is shown. An O-ring gasket 1308 is disposed between the threadless cartridge tip of the gas cylinder 1306 and a gas cylinder cap 1320. The remainder of the components shown in the embodiment shown in FIG. 32 are the same as the components shown in FIGS. 30 and 31, except what is described below, and therefore for the sake of brevity, further description has not been provided. If desired, a face seal can be provided between the end of the tip of the cartridge and the surface in the gas cylinder cap around the gas outlet passage.

FIG. 32 also discloses a dip tube diverter 1330 that receives a dip tube 1332 similar to the dip tubes described above. The dip tube diverter includes a fin 1334 that contacts and extends from the gas cartridge receptacle 1336. The dip tube diverter 1334 also includes a tubular portion 1338 that includes a passage 1342 that receives the dip tube 1332. As more clearly seen in FIG. 33, the dip tube diverter 1330 imposes a desired bend upon the dip tube 1332. The design shown in FIGS. 32 and 33 also results in one less sealed interface as compared to the design shown in FIGS. 30 and 31. This design also provides a gentle, smooth directional change by virtue of a gradual bend formed in the passage 1342 of the tubular portion 1338 of the dip tube diverter 1330. The remainder of the components for the container and cap assembly shown in FIGS. 32 and 33 are the same or very similar to those described above; therefore, for the sake of brevity further description has not been provided.

With reference to FIG. 34, an alternative embodiment of a beverage dispensing system is schematically depicted. FIG. 34 shows a container 1412 cooperating with a dispenser 1414. The container 1412 includes a bottle 1416 and a cap 1418 that encloses an internal compartment 1422 of the bottle.

The cap 1418 includes a cylindrical side wall 1424 having internal threads 1426. A circular end wall 1428 is located at an upper end of the cylindrical side wall 1424. The cap 1418 also includes a cartridge receptacle 1432 and a beverage and gas valve receptacle 1434. The cartridge receptacle 1432 is configured to receive a conventional twelve ounce CO2 cartridge 1436 and terminates at a cartridge receptacle opening 1438. The beverage and gas valve receptacle 1434 is formed having a base wall 1442, which is circular in the depicted embodiment, an inner cylindrical wall 1444 that extends upwardly from the base 1442 and an outer cylindrical wall 1446, which is coaxial with the inner cylindrical wall 1444 and also extends upwardly from the base 1442. The beverage and gas valve receptacle 1434 terminates at the circular end wall 1428 of the cap 1418 at a beverage/gas valve opening 1448. A nipple 1452 depends downwardly from the base 1442 and is connected with a passage (beverage or beer outlet passage) 1454 defined by the inner cylindrical wall 1444. A dip tube 1456 attaches to the nipple 1452 and is connected with the passage 1454 defined by the inner cylindrical wall 1444. A dip tube 1456 attaches to the nipple 1452 and extends downwardly into the bottle 1416. An outer annular passage (low pressure gas inlet passage) 1458 is defined between the inner cylindrical wall 1444 and the outer cylindrical wall 1446 so that the outer annular passage 1458 can be isolated from the inner passage 1454. Openings 1462, which can be slots, are formed in the outer cylindrical wall 1446 to allow for a connection between the outer annular passage 1458 and the internal compartment 1422 of the bottle 1416. This will be described in more detail below.

A cartridge cap assembly 1470 connects onto a tip of the pressurized gas cartridge 1436. The cartridge cap assembly includes a cartridge cap 1472 having a cavity 1474 that receives the tip of the pressurized gas cartridge 1436. An O-ring seal 1476 fits around the tip of the pressurized gas cartridge 1436 to seal the cavity 1474 from the internal compartment 1422 of the bottle 1416. The gas cartridge cap 1472 includes a gas outlet passage 1478 that extends from an uppermost surface of the cap 1472 into the receptacle 1474. The gas outlet passage 1478 is stepped having a lower section having a larger diameter than an upper section. A piercing pin 1482 is received in the gas outlet passage 1478. The pin 1482 includes a shoulder 1484 that extends outwardly from a shank. The shoulder 1484 cooperates with the stepped gas outlet passage 1478 so that the pin is retained within the gas outlet passage if the container 1412 is removed from the dispenser 1414. A seal 1486 is disposed above the shoulder 1484 (per the orientation shown in FIG. 34) and a spring 1488 is disposed below the shoulder, and both the seal 1486 and the spring 1488 surround the pin. The spring 1488 acts against the tip of the gas cartridge 1436 and biases the pin 1482 away from the gas cartridge to seal the upper section (smaller diameter) of the gas outlet passage 1478 with respect to the receptacle 1474. This allows the container 1416 to be removed from the dispenser 1414 and the pressurized gas in the pressurized gas cartridge 1436 is precluded from emptying into the atmosphere because of the seal 1486.

A retainer 1492 connects to an uppermost end of the cap 1472 and includes an opening 1494 that is aligned with and connected with the gas outlet passage 1478. A seal 1496 is disposed below the retainer 1492 around the cap 1472.

The dispenser 1414 includes a dispenser housing 1500 that connects with the cap 1418 to dispense the beverage from the internal compartment 1422 of the bottle 1416. The dispenser 1414 can be similar to the dispensers described above, e.g. dispensing assembly 14. The dispenser 1414 includes many components similar to those described with regard to the dispensers above, therefore a detailed description of each of the components in the dispenser 1414 is not provided.

A high pressure gas inlet passage 1502 is found in the housing 1500. The high pressure gas inlet passage 1502 is in communication with ambient when the dispenser 1414 is not connected with the container 1416. The high pressured gas inlet passage is also connected with a regulator 1504, which can be similar to the regulator 158 that has been described above. A push rod 1506 is located in the gas inlet passage 1502 (the push rod could also be located adjacent the gas inlet passage). The push rod 1506 displaces the pin 1482 to pierce the pressurize gas cartridge 1436 to deliver high pressure gas to the regulator 1504 via the high pressure gas inlet passage 1502. A low pressure gas outlet passage 1508 is downstream from and connected to the regulator 1504. The low pressure gas outlet passage 1508 connects with the low pressure gas inlet passage, which is the outer annular passage 1458 found in the beverage and gas valve receptacle 1434 formed in the cap 1424. The regulator 1504 is configured to receive gas at a first pressure and to deliver gas at a second, lower, pressure to the internal compartment 1422 of the bottle 1416. The low pressure gas outlet passage 1508 connects to a movable valve actuator 1512 that is operated by a tap handle (not shown in FIG. 34) similar to the tap handle 200, which has been described above. The low pressure gas outlet passage 1508 connects to a nipple 1514 formed in the valve actuator 1512.

A beverage outlet passage 1516 is also found in the housing 1500 and connects with the movable valve actuator 1512. The beverage outlet passage 1516 also connects with a beverage spike 1518 formed as a part of the valve actuator 1512. The movable valve actuator 1512 has a seal 1522 that surrounds the movable valve actuator. The movable valve actuator 1512 is received in the beverage and gas valve receptacle 1434 and the seal 1522 seals against an internal surface of the outer cylindrical wall 1446. FIG. 34 depicts the dispenser 1414 not yet connected to the container 1412. Different than the embodiments described above, the gas inlet passage 1458 is coaxial with the beverage outlet passage 1454.

With reference to FIG. 35, the container 1412 and the dispenser 1414 are now connected with one another; either the container 1412 has been brought towards the dispenser 1414 or the dispenser has been brought toward the container, or both have moved in relation to one another. In this state, the push rod 1506 has contacted the pin 1482 so that the gas cartridge 1436 is now pierced. Accordingly, high pressure gas exits the pressurized gas cartridge 1436 and is traveling towards the regulator 1504. The valve actuator 1512 displaces a valve member 1530 that resides in the outer annular chamber 1458, which also acts as a low pressure gas inlet passage. A spring 1532 urges the valve member 1530 upwardly (per the orientation shown in FIG. 35) where it is retained by a retainer 1534. The valve member 1530 carries an inner seal 1536 that contacts the inner cylindrical wall 1444 and an outer seal 1538 that contacts the outer annular wall 1462. In the state shown in FIG. 35, the outer seal 1538 is moved, due to contact by the valve actuator 1512, into the area of the outer annular wall 1446 that includes the slot 1462. Accordingly, low pressure gas from the regulator 1504 flows through the low pressure gas outlet passage 1508 in the dispenser 1414 and into the outer annular passage 1458, which acts as a gas inlet passage, through the slots 1462 and into the internal compartment 1422 of the bottle 1416. The inner seal 1536 and an upper seal 1542, which is between the circular end wall 1428 of the cap 1424 and the annular upper edge of the bottle 1416, isolates the pressurized gas within the internal compartment 1422 of the bottle 1416.

With reference to FIG. 36, the valve actuator 1512 is further displaced into the beverage and gas valve receptacle 1434 to displace a beverage valve member 1542 away from a seal 1544 disposed underneath the retainer 1534. The beverage valve member 1542 is located inside the inner passage 1454, which also acts as a beverage outlet, and is biased by a spring 1546 toward the seal 1544. With the beverage valve member 1542 displaced away from the seal 1544 by movement of the valve actuator 1512, which is controlled by the tap handle (not shown), the beverage is displaced through the dip tube 1456 and out the beverage outlet passageway 1516. Releasing the tap handle (not shown—similar to tap handle 200) returns the system to the state shown in FIG. 35.

With reference to FIG. 37, another alternative embodiment of a beverage dispensing system is schematically depicted. FIG. 37 shows a portion of a dispenser 1614 cooperating with a cap 1618 which can be connected to a bottle (not shown—similar to bottle 1416 in FIG. 34) to enclose an internal compartment of the bottle. The cap 1618 includes a cylindrical side wall 1624 having internal threads 1626. A circular end wall 1628 is located at an upper end (per the orientation shown in FIG. 37) of the cylindrical side wall 1624. The cap 1618 also includes a cartridge receptacle 1632 that is configured to receive a conventional CO2 cartridge 1636 and terminates at a cartridge receptacle opening 1638. The gas cartridge receptacle 1632 is coaxial with a beverage and gas valve receptacle 1634.

The beverage and gas valve receptacle 1634 is formed having a lower base wall 1642, which is circular in the depicted embodiment. An inner wall 1644, which is cylindrical in the depicted embodiment, extends upwardly from the base wall 1634. The inner wall 1644 divides the beverage and gas valve receptacle 1634 into a beverage chamber 1646 and a gas chamber 1648. The cap 1618 is also formed to have a notch 1652 formed in the beverage chamber and a notch 1654 formed in the gas chamber. The cap also includes a nipple 1656 that depends from the base wall 1634 and is connected to the beverage chamber 1652. A dip tube 1658 connects to the nipple. An opening 1662 is formed through the base wall 1634 and is connected to the gas chamber 1648.

A cartridge cap assembly 1670 connects onto a tip of the pressurized gas cartridge 1636. The cartridge cap assembly 1670 includes a cartridge cap 1672 having a cavity 1674 that receives the tip of the pressurized gas cartridge 1636. An O-ring seal 1676 fits around the tip of the pressurized gas cartridge 1636 to seal the cavity 1674 from the internal compartment of the bottle that is attached to the cap 1618. The gas cartridge cap 1672 includes a gas outlet passage 1678 that extends from an uppermost surface of the cap into the receptacle 1674. A piercing pin 1682 is received in the gas outlet passage 1678 and can be retained in the manner as described above with reference to FIGS. 34-36. A seal 1696 is disposed around the cap 1672 to seal the cap against a surface of the dispenser 1614 when the cap is moved towards the dispenser, or vice versa.

The dispenser 1614 includes a dispenser housing 1700 (depicted schematically) that connects with the cap 1618 to dispense the beverage from the internal compartment of the bottle (not shown) that is closed by the cap. The dispenser 1614 can be similar to the dispensers described above, e.g. the dispensing assembly 14. The dispenser 1614 includes many components similar to those described above with regard to the dispensers above. Therefore a detailed description of each of the components in the dispenser is not provided.

A high pressure gas inlet passage 1702 is found in the housing. The high pressure gas inlet passage 1702 is in communication with ambient when the dispenser 1614 is not connected with the container or the cap 1618. The high pressure gas inlet passage is also connected with a regulator 1704, which can be similar to the regulator 158 that has been described above. A push rod 1706 is located in the gas inlet passage 1702 (the push rod can also be located adjacent the gas inlet passage). The push rod 1706 displaces the pin 1682 to pierce the pressurized gas cartridge 1636 to deliver high pressure gas to the regulator 1704 via the high pressure gas inlet passage 1702. A low pressure gas outlet passage 1708 is downstream from and connected to the regulator 1704. The low pressure gas outlet passage 1708 connects with the low pressure gas inlet passage, which has been referred to above as the gas chamber 1648. The regulator 1704 is configured to receive gas at a first pressure and to deliver gas at a second, lower, pressure to the internal compartment of the bottle that is closed by the cap 1618. The low pressure gas outlet 1708 connects to a movable valve actuator 1712 that is operated by a tap handle (not shown in FIG. 37, but similar to the tap handle 200 described above). The low pressure gas outlet passage 1708 connects to a nipple 1714 formed in the valve actuator 1712. The nipple 1714 connects to an inner annular chamber 1716. The movable valve actuator 1712 also defines an outer annular chamber 1718 that is isolated from the inner annular chamber 1716 by an internal wall 1722. A nipple 1724 extends upwardly from the movable actuator 1712 and is connected with the outer annular chamber 1718 and also with a beverage outlet passage 1726. The movable valve actuator includes an external O-ring seal 1728 and an internal O-ring seal 1732.

With reference to FIG. 38, the container having the cap 1618 attached thereto and the dispenser 1614 are now connected with one another; either the cap 1618 has been brought towards the dispenser 1614 or the dispenser has been brought toward the cap, or both have moved in relation to one another. In this state, the push rod 1706 has contacted the pin 1682 so that the gas cartridge 1636 is now pierced. Accordingly, high pressure gas exits the pressurized gas cartridge 1636 and travels towards the regulator 1704. The movable valve actuator 1712 displaces a valve member 1750 that resides in the beverage and gas valve receptacle 1634. As more clearly seen in FIG. 37, a spring 1752 urges the valve member 1730 upwardly (per the orientation shown in FIG. 37).

The valve member includes a number of seals for isolating the chambers of the movable valve actuator 1712 and the cap 1618. Per the orientation shown in FIG. 37, an upper seal 1754 acts against an outer wall of the gas chamber 1716 of the movable valve actuator 1712 and the inner O-ring 1732 on the movable valve actuator 1712 acts against the inner annular surface of the gas chamber 1648 in the cap 1618 to isolate the low pressure gas from ambient. A lower outer O-ring seal 1756 acts against an outer wall of the beverage chamber 1646 in the cap 1618 and an intermediate O-ring seal 1758 acts against the cylindrical inner wall 1644 in the beverage chamber 1646 to isolate the beverage chamber when in the non-dispense state (FIG. 37). An inner O-ring seal 1762 acts against an inner surface of the gas chamber 1648 and with the intermediate seal 1758 isolates the gas chamber 1648 when the cap 1618 is not attached to the dispenser. With reference to FIG. 38, with the valve actuator 1712 pressed against the valve member 1750, the lower inner annular seal 1762 falls into the notch 1654 formed in the gas chamber 1648 which allows lower pressure gas from the regulator 1704 to enter into the internal compartment of the bottle closed by the cap 1618. The outer annular seal 1756 falls into the notch 1652 in the beverage chamber 1646 which allows beverage to exit the internal compartment of the bottle closed by the cap. In this embodiment, the gas cartridge receptacle 1632 is coaxial with the gas chamber 1648 and the beverage chamber 1646. Another way of stating this is that the gas inlet passage is coaxial with the beverage (beer) outlet passage and the gas cartridge receptacle is coaxial with the gas inlet passage and the beverage (beer) outlet passage. This allows the cap to be oriented in any orientation when being inserted into the dispenser and does not require an indexing means to align the cap with the dispenser, as compared to the embodiments described above.

With reference to FIG. 39, the dispenser 14 and the container 12 are the same as those shown in FIG. 1 except for the addition of a drip tray 1814. Since the dispenser 14 and the container 12 are fully described above, therefore further description of these devices is not provided herein.

With reference to FIG. 39, the drip tray 1814 is useful in catching droplets or drips of beer, or another beverage, that collect in an outlet passage of the spout 222 of the dispenser. These drips collect because of the surface tension of the liquid, particularly beer or another beverage, that is being dispensed. These droplets or drips of beverage can exit the outlet passage of the spout a few seconds after the tap handle 200 is no longer being actuated. Since the operator of the dispenser 12 would typically remove his glass from underneath the spout during this time, these drips will fall on anything that is beneath the spout. The drip tray 1814 is provided to catch these drips. Because of the novel orientation of the dispenser 14 and that the dispenser is configured to fit horizontally on a household refrigerator shelf, this makes it difficult to locate a drip tray far beneath the spout where drip trays are typically located to provide access for a glass underneath the spout.

This can become apparent with reference to FIG. 40 where if the drip tray 1814 were not moveable, the orientation of the glass G into which the beer is being dispensed would have to be more nearly horizontal as compared to the nearly vertical orientation shown in FIG. 40. A nearly horizontal orientation, obviously, will not work where it is desired to fill up a full glass of beer. In view of this, the drip tray 1814 is moveable between a first position, which is shown in FIG. 39, and a second position, which is shown in FIG. 40. When the drip tray 1814 is in the first position, the drip tray is positioned below the spout 222 to capture fluid drips falling vertically from the spout. When the drip tray is in the first position, the drip tray is positioned to prohibit, for example, a pint glass, a 12 ounce glass or 7 ounce glass, into which the beverage is being dispensed from being at least substantially filled by receiving beverage from the spout. If the drip tray 1814 was not movable, then the glass G would have to be in the nearly horizontal orientation that has been described above. When in the second position (FIG. 40), however, the drip tray 1814 is positioned to allow a pint glass, or the other glasses mentioned above, to be filled, or nearly filled, by receiving beverage from the spout.

In the illustrated embodiment, the drip tray 1814 pivots about a horizontal axis between a first position and a second position. Translational movement, as well as pivotable movement within a plane, is also contemplated. As seen in FIG. 40, the drip tray can pivot less than 90 degrees from horizontal when in the second position.

With reference to FIG. 41, the drip tray 1814 includes a base 1830 that defines a well 1832 that collects the drips of beverage falling from the spout 1816. Arms 1834 extend from the portion of the base 1830 that defines the well 1832 towards a dispenser housing 90 for connecting the drip tray 14 to the dispenser housing. The base 1830 includes a chamfered front edge 1838 that is tapered in such a manner that when one approaches the spout with a glass, the chamfer of the front edge 1838 results in the drip tray 1814 being urged downwardly from substantially horizontal to provide the operator of the dispenser access to the spout 222 for filling the glass G. In the illustrated embodiment, the chamfered front edge is, beginning at an upper edge, chamfered downwardly and away from the dispenser housing. The front edge of the base 1830 can also have an arcuate shape that approximates the curve of a typical glass that holds beer or other beverage to provide an indication to the user of where to place the glass so that the drip tray pivots or moves as required to provide access to the spout. A spring 1840, which can be replaced by a or include a known dampening mechanism, can urge the drip tray 1814 from the second position (FIG. 40) toward the first position (FIG. 39).

Desirably, the volume of the well 1832 is at least about 30 ml and less than about 150 ml. Typically it is desirable to provide the volume of the well to be able to accommodate the drips from the average number of pours (servings) that are to be served from the container 12 (FIG. 1) until the container is empty. This is based on approximately 2 to 3 drips per pour or serving.

In the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 41, the drip tray also includes a sponge 1842 received in the well 1832. The sponge 1842 can include antimicrobial material as well as a deodorizer, such as charcoal. The volume of the open voids of the sponge 1842 is at least about 15 ml and can be less than about 150 ml. The total volume of the sponge (solid and void space) is slightly less than the total volume of the well and the sponge is shaped to have a configuration similar to that of the well. The sponge 1842 can absorb the beverage that drips onto the drip tray and retain the beverage within the confines of the well when the drip tray 1814 is rotated downwardly, such as that shown in FIG. 40, as well as when the dispenser 14 is rotated 90 degrees so that the rear end of the container 12 shown in FIG. 1 rests on its surface, e.g., a counter top, when the dispenser is removed from the container.

The drip tray 1814 also includes a tray cover 1844. In the embodiment depicted FIGS. 39-42, the drip tray cover 1844 includes a plurality of slots 1846 through which the drips fall onto the sponge 1842, of if the sponge is not provided, into the well 1832. The tray cover 1844 has a peripheral configuration similar to that of the well 1832 so that the tray cover covers the well. A tray cover receptacle can be provided around the periphery of the well 1832 so that the tray cover 1844 is flush with the uppermost surface of the base 1830. The tray cover 1844 connects with the base 1830 in a manner so that the tray cover 1846 does not detach and fall from the base when in the second position (FIG. 40). For example, a ledge can be formed in the base 1830 and the cover 1844 can fit under the ledge.

With reference to FIG. 42, the drip tray 1814 is releasably connected to the dispenser housing 90 such that the drip tray can be removed from and attached to the dispenser housing without the use of hand tools. For example, axles (not visible) can be formed at the end of each arm 1834 that are received in sockets (not visible) formed on the dispenser housing to allow for pivotal movement about the axles. A similar connection can be made where the axles are formed on the dispenser housing and the sockets are formed on the arms 1834. The drip tray 1814 can attach to the dispenser housing in other conventional manners.

With reference to FIG. 43, a base 1900, which is similar to the base 596 described above, is shown detached from a drip tray assembly 1902. Accordingly, the drip tray assembly 1902 can be used with the dispensers that have been described above to capture any drips that fall out of the spout of the aforementioned dispensers. With reference to FIG. 45, the drip tray assembly 1902 generally includes a drip tray housing 1904, a drip tray 1906, a grate 1908, a carrier arm 1912 a spring 1914, and a spring cover 1916. In the embodiment illustrated in FIGS. 43-44, the drip tray 1906 is useful in catching droplets or drips of beverage that collect in an outlet passage of a spout of a beverage dispenser, such as those that have been described above.

The drip tray housing 1904 is generally box-shaped having an open top and a generally circular opening 1918 formed in a lower surface. The generally circular opening 1918 provides access to a movable handle mechanism, which will be described in more detail below, but is similar to the knob 666 described above. The circular opening 1918 formed in a lower surface of the box-shaped housing 1920 is bounded at its rear (rear being away from the spout of the dispenser) by a substantially semi-circular ledge 1924 that extends upwardly from and generally normal to the lower surface of the housing 1920. Detents 1926 extend inwardly from upper edges of the box-shaped housing 1920 and provide a latching mechanism for connecting the drip tray assembly 1902 to the base 1900 (FIG. 43). An axle post 1928 is provided within the box-shaped housing near a forward edge thereof. The axle post 1928 provides an annular surface and is received inside a circular opening 1932 formed in the carrier arm 1912. The axle post 1928 defines a vertical axis about which the carrier arm 1912 and the drip tray 1906 pivot. The box-shaped housing 1904 also includes an elongate slot 1934 through which the drip tray 1906 and the carrier arm 1912 move.

The carrier arm 1912 connects to the box-shaped housing 1904 by receiving the axle post 1928 in the circular opening 1932. A forward edge of the carrier arm 1912 extends forwardly and outwardly from the elongate notch 1934. The carrier arm 1912 also includes notches 1936 formed in a forward edge of the carrier arm. The drip tray 1906 includes a rearwardly extending edge 1938 and protuberances 1942 (shown in phantom in FIG. 45) extend downwardly from the ledge 1938. The protuberances 1942 are received in the notches 1936 formed in the carrier arm 1912 for connecting the drip tray 1906 to the carrier arm 1912. The drip tray 1906 also includes a well 1944 for storing any drops that fall onto the grate 1908 that covers the drip tray.

The grate 1908 includes a plurality of slots 1946. A portion of each slot 1946 of the grate 1908 is covered on a rear edge to contain liquid when the dispenser is in a vertical orientation, for example, when a new bottle or container is being loaded into the dispenser housing, which has been described above.

The spring 1914 acts against the box-shaped housing 1904 and the carrier arm 1912 to urge the carrier arm 1912 into a first position (shown in FIG. 44). The drip tray 1906 and the carrier arm 1912 are movable into a second position where the drip tray moves through the elongate slot 1934 into the box-shaped housing 1904 by imposing a horizontal force (e.g. in the direction of arrow H) against the drip tray 1906. Accordingly, the drip tray 1906 can move out of the way to allow a glass to be disposed beneath the spout so that the glass can be filled with a beverage. When the glass is removed and the force is no longer being applied against the drip tray 1906, the spring 1914 biases the carrier arm 1912 toward the first position whereby the carrier arm rotates about a vertical axis that is concentric with the axle post 1928. The carrier arm 1912 includes a distal extension 1948 that catches against the box-shaped housing to retain the carrier arm so that the drip tray is maintained in the first position (shown in FIG. 44).

With reference to FIG. 46, the base 1900, which is also shown in FIG. 43, is shown with an indicator 2000 having a first setting for indicating that the spout, e.g. spout 752 in FIG. 19, of the dispenser, e.g. dispenser assembly 514 in FIG. 18, is connected with the container, e.g. container 512 in FIG. 19, and a second setting for indicating that the spout is not connected with the container. The base 1900 is similar to the base 596 described above. A movable handle mechanism, which in the embodiment depicted in FIG. 46 is a knob 2002 similar to the knob 666 described above, is supported by the base 1900 and configured to cooperate with the housing of the dispenser assembly that receives the container, such as the bottle 512 (FIG. 19) described above for drawing the housing e.g., lower housing 590 and upper housing 592, and the bottle together. The knob 2002 is generally circular in configuration and includes two recesses 2004 to define a handle 2006 that is easily gripped by a user of the dispenser. With reference to FIG. 47, the knob 2002 includes an integrally formed pin 2008, similar to the pin 740 described above, that extends upwardly from an inner surface of the knob. The pin 2008 acts the same as the pin 740 described above, and therefore further description thereof is not provided.

In the embodiment depicted in FIGS. 46 and 47, the indicator 2000 is supported by the housing. More particular to the embodiment disclosed in FIGS. 46 and 47, the indicator comprises an arm 2010 having a hook feature 2012 (FIG. 47) and a button feature 2014 (FIG. 46). The arm 2010 also includes an opening 2016 generally midway between the hook feature 2012 and the button feature 2014 that is received on an axle 2018 formed in the base 1900. The axle 2018 is cylindrical and defines a vertical axis about which the arm 2010 pivots. A spring 2022 biases the arm 2010 so that the button feature 2014 (FIG. 46) is urged outwardly through an opening 2024 formed in the base 1900. The rotating knob 2002 also includes a cam surface 2026. The arm 2010 is operably connected with the knob 2002 via the cam surface 2026.

As explained above, the knob 2002 is rotated to bring the housing of the dispenser and the bottle towards one another. When the knob 2002 is turned to the full engaged position, i.e., where the bottle is pierced and ready for dispensing the beverage, the hook feature 2012 catches the end of the semicircular cam surface 2026 and the torsion spring 2022 biases the button feature 2014 through the opening 2024 to extend from outside of the base 1900. This provides the user of the dispenser an indication that the bottle is properly connected and ready for dispensing. Moreover, in this position the spout of the dispenser is fluidly connected with the bottle and ready for dispensing.

The indicator 2000 can also be replaced by an indicator light that changes color or illuminates to indicate a change in state. For example a power source and circuitry could be provided so that when the bottle is properly connected with the dispenser so that a beverage can be dispensed, the light can illuminate green. When a bottle is not connected, or not properly connected, the light may not illuminate or a red light may illuminate. Other types of indicators can also be provided.

To remove the bottle from the dispenser, the operator presses the button feature 2014, thus moving the hook feature away from the cam surface 2026. With the hook feature 2012 away from the cam surface 2026, the knob 2002 can be rotated to move the bottle away from the dispenser housing.

A ratchet mechanism (not shown) can also be provided to preclude reverse rotation of the knob 2002 once the cartridge in the container has been pierced. The button feature 2014 can be operably connected to the pawl of the ratchet so that when the button is depressed (similar to the orientation shown in FIG. 46) the pawl is removed away from the ratchets which allows reverse rotation of the knob.

FIG. 48 discloses another manner in which the bottle assembly, e.g. the container 512 in FIG. 19, can attach to the dispenser assembly, e.g. an assembly similar in configuration to the dispenser assembly shown in FIG. 19. FIG. 48 shows a rear view (the front of the dispenser assembly being where the spout is located) of a lower housing 2050, which is very similar in configuration to the lower housing 590 shown and described in FIG. 19, a retainer 2052, which is similar to the retainer 654 shown in FIG. 19 and described above, and an alignment bracket 2054, which is similar to the alignment bracket 658 shown and described above.

The differences between the alignment bracket 2054 and the alignment bracket 658 and the retainer 654 and the retainer 2052 will be described in more detail seeing that the similarities are apparent in the figure. The alignment bracket 2054 includes downwardly depending hook features 2056 on opposite sides. One end of a coil spring 2058 attaches to each hook feature. The coil spring 2058 is shown removed from the hook feature 2056 for clarity purposes. With reference to FIG. 49, the retainer 2052 also includes a hook feature 2062. The opposite end of each coil spring 2058 connects with the hook feature 2062 on the retainer. The spring 2058 biases the retainer 2052 so that it pivots toward a direction where claws 2064 extend up into slots 2066 of the alignment bracket 2054. The slots 2066 are configured to receive the handles 532 (FIG. 19) of the cap assembly 518 (FIG. 19) of the bottle assembly when the bottle assembly is inserted into the dispenser assembly. With reference to FIG. 49, when the bottle assembly is inserted in the direction of arrow A the chamfered front edges of the hooks 2064 allow the retainer 2052 to pivot so that the handles 532 (FIG. 19) of the cap assembly for the bottle ride over the hooks and then retain the cap by engaging the handles.

To disengage the bottle from the alignment bracket and the bottle retainer, the lower housing 2050 includes ribs 2070. The retainer includes contact surfaces 2072 (one on each side) that contact the ribs 2070 when the bottle is pulled in the direction of arrow B (FIG. 48), which results in the retainer 2052 pivoting in a manner to release the claws from the handles 532 (FIG. 19).

To inhibit connection of the bottle to the dispensing assembly when the knob, for example knob 666 in FIG. 19 or knob 2002 in FIG. 46, is in the unclamped position, a lever 2080 (FIG. 50) can cooperate with a slide 2082 (similar to slide 662 shown in FIG. 19) and a spring 2084. The lever 2080 is in a similar position as the lever 664 shown more clearly in FIG. 22. When the knob is in the unclamped position, the slide 2082 is moved in the direction of arrow C in FIG. 50 and the spring 2084 biases the distal end of the lever 2080 so that it no longer engages a lower end 2086 of the retainer 2052. Accordingly, when the knob 2002 is in the unclamped position a bottle can be inserted into the alignment bracket and the retainer can be engaged by the retainer. However, when the knob is in the clamped position the slide 2082 is in the position shown in FIG. 50 and the distal end of the lever 2080 engages the lower end 2086 of the retainer 2052. In this position, the retainer 2052 cannot pivot which precludes the insertion of the bottle because the handles 532 (FIG. 19) cannot ride over the claws 2064, since the claws do not move. Because of this configuration, if one were to attempt to remove the bottle after it has been in its fully engaged position, this movement would be prohibited by the lever 2080 engaging the lower end 2086 of the retainer. The operator would move the knob to the unclamped position, which would result in the spring 2084 biasing the distal end of the lever 2080 away from a lower end 2086 of the retainer 2052. With the slide 2082 away from the distal end of the lever 2080, when the bottle is pulled out of the dispensing assembly the ribs 2070 can contact the contact surfaces 2072 of the retainer 2052 thus allowing the retainer to pivot so that the claws 2064 no longer engage the handles 532 (FIG. 19) of the cap assembly.

To inhibit damage to the bottle, e.g. the bottle 512 in FIG. 19, and to the dispensing assembly, the knob

FIG. 51 and FIG. 52 depict a pressure adjustment mechanism. The pressure adjustment mechanism is useful to compensate for differences in altitude above sea level. The regulator (for example the regulator 158 in FIG. 5) includes a piston that is biased by atmospheric pressure. Accordingly, differences in atmospheric pressure can result in different forces being exerted on the piston, which can result in different pressures of gas being ejected from the regulator. The mechanism shown in FIGS. 51 and 52 can compensate for these differences.

The pressure adjustment mechanism includes a screw cap 3000 that includes a threaded bore 3002. The screw cap 3002 threads onto a regulator housing 3004, which can be similar to the regulator housing 250 shown in FIG. 6. Similar to the regulator shown in FIG. 6, a piston 3006 (FIG. 52) is disposed in the regulator housing 3004 and is biased on its top projected area by atmospheric pressure. A spring 3008 also acts against the piston 3006. A translational member 3012 acts against the spring 3008 on an opposite end of the spring as the end that acts against the piston 3006. The translational member 3012 includes a spring seat 3014 that provides a locating feature for the spring. The spring seat 3014 depends downwardly from a base 3016, which is circular in the depicted embodiment. A cam 3018 extends upwardly from the base 3016. The translational member 3012 also includes a cavity 3022 and outwardly extending wings 3024. The wings 3024 are received in longitudinal notches 3026 formed in the regulator housing 3004. With reference to FIG. 52, by rotating the screw cap 3000 and threading it onto the regulator housing 3004, the biasing force of the spring 3008 against the piston 3006 can be adjusted. This can be set at the factory to result in a desired gas pressure being delivered from the regulator.

The pressure adjustment mechanism also includes a rotating member 3030 that includes an upper keyed extension 3032 and a downwardly depending cam 3034. The rotating member 3030 connects with a knob 3036 that is accessible from an outer surface of the dispenser housing 3038. The knob includes a non-circular cavity 3042 (FIG. 52) that receives the keyed extension 3032 of the rotating member 3030 so that rotation of the knob 3036 results in rotation of the rotating member 3030. The knob 3036 also includes an arm 3044 and a fastener opening 3046 for receiving a fastener 3048 to further connect the knob 3036 to the rotating member 3030. A cap 3052 can cover the fastener 3048.

To adjust the pressure of gas being dispensed from the regulator, the knob 3036 is rotated which in turn rotates the rotating member 3030. The cam 3034 on the rotating member 3030 contacts the cam 3018 on the translating member 3012, which can displace the translating member and compress the spring 3008 to provide a greater force on the piston 3006.

FIGS. 53 and 54 depict a drip ejection device that can be used with a beverage dispenser such as those described above. FIGS. 53 and 54 schematically depict a spout 3060, which can be similar to the spout 752 shown in FIG. 19. The spout 3060 provides an outlet passage for the beverage and includes in this embodiment a hollow connector 3062 near its outlet. Tubing 3064 connects at one end to the connector 3062 and at an opposite end to an end cap 3066. A one-way check valve 3068 can be connected with the end cap 3066, which only allows air or another gas to enter into the tubing 3064 flowing towards the spout 3060. The end cap 3066 is connected to a positive pressure device, which in the depicted embodiment is a bellows 3072. The bellows 3072 is acted upon by a rigid arm 3074 in the following manner.

FIG. 53 depicts a tap handle 3076 (similar to tap handle 750 in FIG. 19) depressed, which allows for fluid to enter into the spout 3060 to be dispensed. In this state, the bellows 3072 is expanded. FIG. 54 depicts the tap handle as being released, which stops the fluid from flowing through the spout 3060. Droplets may accumulate in the spout, but are expelled by air that has entered the bellows 3072 via a rear one-way check valve 3078 and traveling through the forward check valve 3072 and into the tubing 3064, through the connector 3062 and out the spout 3060. Accordingly, any drips that may have accumulated in the spout 3060 can be expelled into the glass before the glass has been removed by the operator of the device.

FIG. 55 depicts a cross-sectional view of an alternative embodiment of a portion of a regulator similar to the regulator 158 depicted in FIG. 5 (shown in exploded view in FIG. 6). FIG. 55 depicts an alternative seal 1802, which fits into the regulator in the same location as where the seal 304 fits into the regulator 158 and serves a similar function. FIG. 55 also depicts an alternative valve stem 1804, which fits into the regulator in the same location as where the valve stem 302 fits into the regulator 158 and serves a similar function. As with the regulator 158 depicted in FIG. 5, the regulator (only a portion of which is shown in FIG. 55) includes a plug 1806, which is the same as or very similar to the plug 306 shown in FIG. 6. The plug 1806 includes a passageway 1808 through which gas, e.g. CO2 and/or nitrogen, can travel. As with the regulator 158 depicted in FIG. 5, the regulator in FIG. 55 also includes a housing 1812, which is the same as or very similar to the piercing mechanism housing 270, shown in FIG. 6. The housing 1812 includes a bore 1814 through which gas, e.g. CO2 and/or nitrogen, can travel. The plug 1806 threads into the housing 1812 within a regulator body (not shown), which is similar to the regulator body 250 shown in FIG. 6. High pressure gas from a gas cartridge, e.g. the cartridge 44 shown in FIG. 3, enters the bore 1814 and low pressure gas exits the regulator prior to being introduced into a container which contains a beverage. This has been described above in much detail, therefore further explanation is not provided.

In the embodiment depicted in FIG. 55, the seal 1802 includes an annular rigid component 1820 and a flexible material 1822 secured to the rigid component and at least partially defining a passage 1824 through the seal. The valve stem 1804 seats against the seal 1802 to block the passage of gas through the passage 1824 of the seal.

The annular rigid component 1820 can be made of a rigid material such as a hard plastic or metal. The material that the rigid component is made of can have a Shore D hardness of at least about 50. The annular rigid component 1820 can have a planar annular upper surface 1826, a planar annular lower surface 1828, and a cylindrical outer surface 1832 extending between the upper surface and the lower surface. The rigid component 1820 can also include a tapered upper surface 1834, a tapered lower surface 1836, and an inner cylindrical surface 1838 extending between the tapered upper surface and the tapered lower surface. The inner cylindrical surface 1838 defines a circular opening 1842.

The flexible material 1822 can be made from a flexible material, e.g. EPDM rubber. The flexible material can have a Shore A hardness of about 75. The flexible material 1822 attaches to the rigid component 1820. The flexible material 1822 can be overmolded onto the rigid component 1820. The flexible material 1822 can attach to the rigid component in other manners, e.g. an adhesive.

The flexible material 1822 includes a seating surface 1850 for the valve stem 1804 to seat against to block flow of gas through the passage 1824. In the embodiment depicted in FIG. 55, the seating surface 1850 is flared or conical. The seating surface 1850 extends between a cylindrical inner surface 1852, which at least partially defines the passage 1824 through the seal 1802, and an annular lower surface 1856. The flexible material 1822 also includes an upper flared surface 1858 that extends between the cylindrical inner surface 1852 and an upper annular surface 1862. The flexible material 1822 also includes a cylindrical outer surface 1864 that extends between the upper annular surface 1862 and the lower annular surface 1856. In the depicted embodiment, the flexible material 1822 covers only a portion of the upper surface 1826 of the rigid component 1822 and only a portion of the lower surface 1828 of the rigid component. The flexible material, in the embodiment depicted in FIG. 55, entirely covers the tapered upper surface 1834, the tapered lower surface 1836, and the inner cylindrical surface 1838.

The seating surface 1850 of the flexible material is disposed at the angle α with respect to an axis 1870 in which the valve stem 1804 travels. The tapered lower surface 1836 of the rigid component 1820 is also disposed at an angle α with respect to the axis 1870 in which the valve stem 1804 travels. The tapered upper surface 1834 of the rigid component 1820 is also disposed at the angle α with respect to an axis 1870 in which the valve stem 1804 travels. The upper flared surface 1858 of the flexible material 1822 is also disposed at the angle α with respect to the axis 1870.

The valve stem 1804 is received in the passage 1824 of the seal 1802, the passageway 1808 of the plug 1806, and the bore 1814 of the housing 1812. The valve stem 1804 is moveable between an open position and a closed position. When in the closed position the valve stem 1804 precludes gas from passing through the passage 1824 of the seal 1802. To block flow of gas through the passage 1824, the valve stem 1804 includes a flared portion 1872 connected with a lower end of a cylindrical pin 1874. The flared portion 1872 is generally conical. A cylindrical protuberance 1874 extends from a base surface 1876 of the flared portion 1872 and is coaxial with the pin 1874. A spring 1878, similar to the spring 300 in FIG. 6, receives the protuberance 1874 and acts against the base surface 1876 to bias the valve stem 1804 upward into the closed position.

The flared portion 1872 of the valve stem 1804 defines a flared or conical surface 1882 that seats against the seating surface 1850 when the valve stem is in the closed position. The conical surface 1882 of the flared portion 1872 of the valve stem 1804 is also disposed at the angle α with respect to the axis 1870 in which the valve stem 1804 travels. Through the use of a conical surface acting against another conical surface, large fluid flow can travel through the passage 1824 even with a short valve stem stroke. The conical surfaces also accommodate for surface imperfections in that the valve seating is made over a larger surface area so that if any imperfections are found in either surface (seating surface 1850 or conical surface 1882), the areas adjacent the imperfections can form the desired seal.

As mentioned above, a portion, which will be referred to as an extension 1884, of the rigid component 1822 extends radially outward from the outer cylindrical surface 1864 of the flexible material 1822. This extension 1884 is sandwiched between the plug 1806 and the housing 1812. More particular to the design depicted in FIG. 55, the plug 1806 includes a plug counterbore 1886 extending upwardly into the plug and communicating with the passageway 1808 in the plug. The plug counterbore 1886 is defined by a side surface 1888, which is cylindrical in the depicted embodiment, and an annular plug counterbore base surface 1892. The plug counterbore 1886 is coaxial with the passageway 1808 in the depicted embodiment. Likewise, in the design depicted in FIG. 55, the housing 1812 includes a housing counterbore 1894 extending downwardly into the housing and communicating with the bore 1814 in the housing. The housing counterbore 1894 is defined by a side surface 1896, which is cylindrical in the depicted embodiment, and an annular housing counterbore base surface 1898. The housing counterbore 1894 is coaxial with the bore 1814 in the housing 1814. The flexible material 1822 of the seal is sandwiched between the plug counterbore base surface 1892 and the housing counterbore base surface 1898. More particularly, the flexible material 1822 is compressed by the plug counterbore base surface 1892 and the housing counterbore base surface 1898. The upper annular surface 1862 of the flexible material 1822 seals against the plug counterbore base surface 1892 and the lower annular surface 1856 of the flexible material seals against the housing counterbore base surface 1898. This precludes high pressure gas from going around the seal 1802 (as opposed to through the passage 1824) when the valve stem 1804 is in the closed position.

The extension 1884, which is sandwiched between the plug 1806 and the housing 1812, can operate as an assembly indexing feature. The rigid component 1822 of the seal can have a height h, measured parallel to the axis 1870. This height h can be sized such that when the plug 1806 is screwed into the housing 1812 a lowermost base surface 2102 of the plug 1806 contacts the upper surface 1826 of the rigid component 1820 and an uppermost surface 2104 of the housing 1812 contacts the lower surface 1828 of the rigid component. When the aforementioned surfaces are in contact the flexible material 1822 forms the desired seals with the plug counterbore base surface 1892 and the housing counterbore base surface 1898.

As mentioned above, the inner cylindrical surface 1842 of the rigid component 1820 can define an opening 1842. The diameter of this opening 1842 can be smaller than the largest diameter of the tapered portion 1872 of the valve stem 1804. This allows the valve stem 1804 to be retained by the rigid component 1820 as compared to the flexible material 1822.

FIG. 56 depicts a cross-sectional view of an alternative embodiment of a seal 2302, which can be used instead of the seal 1802 described in FIG. 55. In the embodiment depicted in FIG. 56, the seal 2302 includes an annular rigid component 2320 and a flexible material 2322 secured to the rigid component and at least partially defining a passage 2324 through the seal. The valve stem 1804 (FIG. 55) can seat against the seal 2302 to block the passage of gas through the passage 2324 of the seal.

The annular rigid component 2320 can be made of a rigid material such as a hard plastic or metal. The material that the rigid component is made of can have a Shore D hardness of at least about 50. The annular rigid component 2320 can have a planar annular upper surface 2326, a planar annular lower surface 2328, and a cylindrical outer surface 2332 extending between the upper surface and the lower surface. The rigid component 2320 can also include a tapered lower surface 2336, and an inner cylindrical surface 2338 extending between the upper surface 2326 and the tapered lower surface. The inner cylindrical surface 2338 defines a circular opening 2342.

The flexible material 2322 can be made from a flexible material, e.g. EPDM rubber. The flexible material can have a Shore A hardness of about 75. The flexible material 2322 attaches to the rigid component 2320. The flexible material 2322 can be overmolded onto the rigid component 2320. The flexible material 2322 can attach to the rigid component in other manners, e.g. an adhesive.

The flexible material 2322 includes a seating surface 2350 for the valve stem 1804 (FIG. 55) to seat against to block flow of gas through the passage 2324. In the embodiment depicted in FIG. 56, the seating surface 2350 is flared or conical. The seating surface 2350 extends between a cylindrical inner surface 2352, which at least partially defines the passage 2324 through the seal 2302, and an annular lower surface 2356. The flexible material an upper surface 2362, which is found on each side (inner and outer) of the rigid component 2320. The flexible material 2322 also includes a cylindrical outer surface 2364 that extends between the upper annular surface 2362 and the lower annular surface 2356. In the depicted embodiment of FIG. 56, the flexible material 2322 covers only a portion of the inner surface 2352 of the rigid component 1822 and only a portion of the outer surface 2332 of the rigid component. The flexible material, in the embodiment depicted in FIG. 56, entirely covers the tapered lower surface 2336 and the lower surface 2328 of the rigid component 2320.

The seating surface 2350 of the flexible material is disposed at the angle α with respect to the axis 1870 (FIG. 55) in which the valve stem 1804 (FIG. 55) travels. The tapered lower surface 2336 of the rigid component 2320 is also disposed at an angle α with respect to the axis 1870 in which the valve stem 1804 travels.

With reference to FIGS. 55 and 56, for the seal 2302 depicted in FIG. 56, the seal is sandwiched between the plug counterbore base surface 1892 (FIG. 55) and the housing counterbore base surface 1898 (FIG. 55). The lower annular surface 2356 of the flexible material 2322 seals against the housing counterbore base surface 1898. This precludes high pressure gas from going around the seal 1802 (as opposed to through the passage 1824) when the valve stem 1804 is in the closed position.

FIG. 57 depicts the assembly shown in FIG. 47, except for that the cam surface 2026 on the knob 2002 includes a notch 2028. The assembly shown in FIG. 57 is similar in all other aspects to the assembly shown in FIG. 47. As shown in FIG. 57, when the knob 2002 is rotated to where the bottle is engaged with the dispenser and ready to dispense a beverage, the hook feature 2012 catches the end of the semicircular cam surface 2026 so that rotation of the knob in the clockwise direction (per the orientation in FIG. 57) is precluded. As such, the operator pushes the button feature 2014, which pivots the hook feature 2012 away from the end of the cam surface so that clockwise rotation of the knob 2002 is now allowed. With the hook feature 2012 away from the end of the cam surface 2026, the bottle can be removed from the dispenser by rotating the knob in the clockwise direction.

The notch 2028 in the cam surface 2026 allows the hook feature 2012 to extend into the notch so that rotation of the knob 2002 is precluded when the hook feature 2012 is in the notch. The position shown in FIG. 58 can be referred to as the “loading” position where the components of the dispenser are arranged so that the bottle can be attached with the dispenser. By not allowing rotation of the handle from this “loading” position, the components that engage the bottle, e.g. the hooks 2064 shown in FIG. 50, can be appropriately located to receive the bottle.

FIGS. 57 and 58 also depict additional cam surfaces 2030 that engage the slide, for example the slide 2082 shown in FIG. 50, to stabilize the slide. The hook feature can operate in three positions. In a first position (see, for example, FIG. 57) the moveable hook feature 2014 precludes movement of the knob handle 2002. In a second position (for example in between the position shown in FIG. 57 and FIG. 58) the moveable hook feature 2014 allows movement of the knob handle 2002. In a third position (see, for example, FIG. 58) the moveable hook feature 2014 precludes movement of the knob handle 2002. The button feature 2012 can operate in a first operating position (extended from the housing 1900) and a second operating position (generally flush with the housing 1900). When the button feature 2012 is in a first operating position, the moveable hook feature is in the first position. When the button feature 2012 is in the second operating position, the moveable hook feature 2014 is in the second position. When the button feature 2012 is again in the first operating position, the moveable hook feature 2014 is in the third position.

With reference to FIG. 59, a portion of a regulator 2400, which is similar in configuration to the regulators described above, can include an overcap 2402 and a lever 2404 connected to the overcap. The remaining components of the regulator are the same, or very similar to, the regulators described above. As with some of the embodiments of regulators described above, the regulator includes a cap 2406 that threads onto a regulator body 2408. A spring 2412 acts against the cap 2406 and a piston 2414 biasing the piston downwards. The components of the regulator 2400 other than the overcap 2402 and the lever 2404 have been described in detail above, therefore further explanation is not provided.

The biasing force exerted by the spring 2412 on the piston 2414 can control the pressure at which gas exits the regulator 2400. Accordingly, the further that the cap 2406 is threaded onto the regulator body 2408 the more pressure is exerted on the piston 2414 by the spring 2412. The overcap 2402 can be fixed to the cap 2406 so that rotation of the overcap results in rotation of the cap. The lever 2404 can be fixed to the overcap 2402 so that rotation of the lever about an axis 2416 can result in rotation of the overcap 2402, and thus rotation of the cap 2406. Accordingly, adjustment of the pressure that gas exits the regulator 2400 can be adjusted by moving the lever 2404. At least one stop 2418 can connect with the dispenser housing (not shown in FIG. 59) to preclude further movement of the lever 2404.

The pressure at which gas exits the regulator is a function of the pressure exerted by the spring 2412 on the piston 2414 and atmospheric pressure. As just one example, the cap 2406 can be threaded onto the regulator body 2408 at the factory to allow for gas at a desired pressure to exit the regulator 2400 when the regulator is at a certain elevation, e.g. sea level. If the beverage dispenser were used at another location, e.g. a few thousand feet or meters above sea level, the lever 2404 can be moved to change the biasing force of the spring 2412 on the piston 2414 to accommodate for the change in elevation.

With reference to FIGS. 60 and 67, a beverage dispenser 3200, which can be very similar to the beverage dispensers described in more detail above, includes a housing 3202 configured to cooperate with an associated container (such as container 12 shown in FIG. 1) holding a beverage that is to be dispensed via the beverage dispenser. As seen in FIG. 67, a spout 3204 is supported by the housing 3202 and is configured to be in fluid communication with the container. When the container is properly connected with the beverage dispenser, beverage from the container can be dispensed through the spout. The beverage dispenser 3200 differs from those described above in that it includes a different type of mechanism for drawing the housing 3202 of the beverage dispenser and the beverage container together.

With reference to FIG. 62, the mechanism 3206 for drawing the housing 3202 and the associated container together includes a lever arm 3208 that is movable between at least two operating positions. The lever arm 3208 is movable into an engaged operating position where the container (for example container 12 in FIG. 1) is in fluid communication with the spout (for example the spout 3204 shown in FIG. 67 or other spouts described above where the mechanism 3206 is incorporated into the above-described beverage dispensers). When in the engaged operating position (see FIG. 61) an outermost end 3212 of the lever arm 3208 is disposed inwardly from an outermost surface of the container (see FIG. 1) that is received by the beverage dispenser 3200. This precludes accidental contact with the lever 3208 to inhibit accidental disengagement of the container from the dispenser.

The mechanism 3206 for drawing the housing 3202 and the container together is housed in a substantially rectangular housing 3214, which can also include a housing for a pivoting drip tray 3216, which has been described in more detail above, and is connected to the aforementioned housing 3202. The housings 3202 and 3214 may be referred to below as a housing for the beverage dispenser.

The housing 3214 can be made as two separate components and similar to the housing shown in FIG. 43. As seen when comparing FIG. 60 to FIG. 61, the lever arm 3208 is movable between a first position (FIG. 60) and a second position (FIG. 61) along one side of the housing 3214. This facilitates attachment of the beverage dispenser 3200 to the container in that an operator need only depress the lever 3208 in a general direction as designated by arrow 3220, which is generally parallel to the side of the housing that the lever moves along. The lever 3208 is pivotally attached to the housing 3214, but an operator can still depress the lever 3208 is the general direction of arrow 3220 to draw the housing 3202 toward the container.

With reference to FIG. 62, the mechanism 3206 for drawing the housing 3202 and the associated container together also includes a rotatable hub 3222. The lever arm 3208 cooperates with and is operatively connected to the rotatable hub 3222. Movement of the lever arm 3208 results in rotational movement of the rotatable hub 3202. The rotatable hub 3222 includes an integrally formed pin 3224, similar to the pin 740 described above, that extends upwardly from an inner surface of the hub. The pin 3224 acts the same as the pin 740 described above, and therefore further description thereof is not provided.

The mechanism 3206 for drawing the housing 3202 and the container together also includes three mechanisms for precluding rotation of the hub 3222. The mechanism 3206 includes a stop member 3230 pivotally attached to the housing 3214. The hub 3222 includes a notch 3232 that cooperates with the stop member 3230 for precluding counterclockwise (per the orientation shown in FIG. 62) movement of the hub 3222 when the lever arm 3208 is in the first operating position (shown in FIG. 62). With the pin 3224 shown in the position in FIG. 62, the container retaining mechanisms (e.g. retainer 2052 described above) are positioned to properly receive the cap of the container so that the cap is properly engaged with the beverage dispenser 3200 for proper unsealing of the dispenser. The stop member 3230 cooperating with the notch 3232 in the hub 3222 prevents movement of the retainer 2052 (FIG. 48) and other mechanisms that engage the cap assembly of the container if the cap assembly and the retaining mechanisms are not properly aligned.

With reference to FIG. 63, the housing 3202 will typically be slid over an upright bottle and pressed downwardly toward the bottle, whereby the wings 32 on the cap assembly 24 (FIG. 3) will begin to engage mechanisms within the housing, for example the retainer 2052 (FIG. 49), which will result in rotational movement of the hub 3222. Due to this rotational movement, the stop member 3230 can begin moving out of the notch 3232 (see FIG. 64) and into a circumferential channel 3234, which will allow for counterclockwise movement of the rotatable hub 3222. The distal edge of the stop member 3230 is biased in a clockwise direction with respect to an axle 3236 about which the stop member pivots. A free end 3278 having a hook-like configuration of the stop member 3230 connects with a spring (not shown) to bias the stop member. Accordingly, when the lever 3208 and the rotatable hub 3222 are returned to the first operating position (see FIG. 62) the distal end of the stop member 3230 can then engage the notch 3232 formed in the rotatable hub.

As discussed above, the mechanism 3206 for drawing the housing 3202 and the associated container together also includes another mechanism that prevents rotation of the rotatable hub 3222. A pawl 3250 connects with the housing 3214. The hub 3222 includes a ratchet 3252 having teeth that cooperate with the pawl 3250 to preclude rotational movement of the rotatable hub 3222 in the clockwise direction. The pawl 3250 and ratchet 3252 are useful in preclude an operator from attempting to disengage the beverage dispenser 3200 from the container after the seal in the container has been broken, especially the gas cartridge seal. The ratchet 3252 is disposed on an outer circumferential surface of the rotatable hub 3222 and extends a circumferential length long enough to allow the lever 3208 to travel from the first operating position (shown in FIGS. 60 and 62) to the second operating position (shown in FIG. 61). The pawl 3250 is biased in a counterclockwise position (per the orientation shown in FIG. 62) about an axle 3254 about which the pawl rotates. With reference to FIG. 63, the pawl 3250 also includes a leg 3256 defining a cam surface 3258. Posts 3262 and 3264 disposed at opposite ends of the ratchet 3252 (posts 3264 is spaced a distance from where the ratchet teeth end). When the lever arm 3208 is in the first operating position (see FIG. 63) the upper (per the orientation shown in FIG. 63) post 3262 engages a straight surface 3266 of the leg 3256 of the pawl, thus pivoting the pawl away from the rack 3252. With reference to FIG. 65, with the lever 3208 shown in the second operating position, which is the operating position where the container has been spiked and the internal compartment of the container is in fluid communication with the spout 3204 (FIG. 67), the lower (trailing) post 3264 engages the cam surface 3258 and also pivots the pawl away from the rack.

The mechanism 3206 includes another means for preventing unwanted movement of the lever arm 3208 from the second operating position (see FIG. 65) toward the first operating position (see FIG. 63). The rotatable hub 3222 can include a third stop mechanism. With reference to FIG. 66, a resilient finger 3280 is formed in the rotatable hub 3222 and separated from the rotatable hub by cutouts 3282. With reference back to FIG. 60, the housing 3214 includes a circular opening 3284. With reference back to FIG. 66, the finger 3280 includes a distal protuberance 3286. With the lever arm 3208 shown in the engaged position, where the beverage dispenser 3200 has pierced the beverage container and the beverage is in fluid communication with the spout, the distal protuberance 3286 extends through the opening 3284 (see FIG. 61). Accordingly, to move the lever arm 3208 from the second operating position (FIG. 61) toward the first operating position (FIG. 60), an operator depresses the protuberance 3286 so that it no longer engages the housing 3214 around the opening 3284. Accordingly, one can remove the dispenser 3200 from the beverage container.

With reference to FIG. 67, the housing 3202 is shown including a recess 3290. The recess is noncircular in configuration and is configured to engage the cap assembly (for example the cap assembly 24 shown in FIG. 3). The recess includes wings 3292 that are configured to engage the wings 32 (FIG. 3) of the cap assembly 24. When the beverage container has been depleted, an operator can remove the beverage container from the dispenser 3200 and insert the cap assembly 24 into the recess 3290 aligning the wings 32 with the wings 3292 of the recess. The bottle 16 (FIG. 3) can then be rotated thus removing the cap assembly from the bottle, which can facilitate recycling.

Beverage dispensing assemblies and systems have been described with reference to particular embodiments. Many modifications and alterations will occur to those after reading the detailed description. The invention is not limited to only those embodiments that are disclosed above. Instead, the invention is broadly defined by the appended claims and the equivalents thereof.

Patent Citations
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Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US20130214011 *Oct 28, 2011Aug 22, 2013Stijn VandekerckhoveDispensing appliance provided with a removable dispensing cartridge
US20130221034 *Oct 28, 2011Aug 29, 2013Stijn VandekerckhoveDispensing Appliance Provided with a Hinged Hood
US20130233878 *May 27, 2011Sep 12, 2013Heineken Supply Chain B.V.Dispensing unit and method for dispensing a liquid under pressure
US20130233895 *May 27, 2011Sep 12, 2013Heineken Supply Chain B.V.Method and apparatus for dispensing beverages, especially carbonated beverages
US20140272052 *May 30, 2012Sep 18, 2014Sparkling Drink Systems Innovation Center International Sas (Sds-Ic International)Carbonation device
EP2447208A1 *Oct 29, 2010May 2, 2012AB InBev NVDispensing appliance provided with a hinged hood
WO2012056018A1 *Oct 28, 2011May 3, 2012Ab Inbev NvDispensing appliance provided with a hinged hood
Classifications
U.S. Classification222/394, 222/399
International ClassificationB65D83/00
Cooperative ClassificationB67D1/0804, B67D1/0891, B67D1/0857, B67D1/1466, B67D2210/00036, B67D2001/0089, B67D1/0801, B67D1/0418, B67D1/0082, B67D2001/0824
European ClassificationB67D1/08A4, B67D1/08K2, B67D1/14B6B, B67D1/00H8B, B67D1/04B2, B67D1/08D
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Jul 6, 2009ASAssignment
Owner name: ON TAP LLC, OHIO
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:VITANTONIO, MARC L.;RABBITT, WILLIAM E.;NOTTINGHAM, JOHNW.;AND OTHERS;REEL/FRAME:022916/0617;SIGNING DATES FROM 20090403 TO 20090406