&
Europäisches Patentamt
(19)
European Patent Office
Office européen des brevets
(11)
EP 1 676 509 A1
EUROPEAN PATENT APPLICATION
(12)
(43) Date of publication:
(51) Int Cl.:
A47J 31/52 (2006.01)
05.07.2006 Bulletin 2006/27
A47J 31/44 (2006.01)
(21) Application number: 04031014.6
(22) Date of filing: 30.12.2004
(84) Designated Contracting States:
(72) Inventor: Doglioni Majer, Luca
AT BE BG CH CY CZ DE DK EE ES FI FR GB GR
HU IE IS IT LI LT LU MC NL PL PT RO SE SI SK TR
Designated Extension States:
AL BA HR LV MK YU
(71) Applicant: Rhea Vendors S.p.A.
22010 Carate Urio (Como) (IT)
(74) Representative: Valentini, Giuliano
Marietti Gislon e Trupiano S.r.l.
Via Larga 16
20122 Milano (IT)
22100 Como (IT)
(54)
Process and apparatus for controlling the preparation of brewed beverages
data and/or threshold parameters, stored in the controller’s memory associated with the brewing system, to determine whether a correction to the parameters should
be made, and means (8,9,24) of altering at least one of
the relevant brewing parameters, when required to bring
said real time parameter in line with said recorded parameter to obtain consistent high quality of the dispensed
beverage.
EP 1 676 509 A1
(57)
A dispensing apparatus for hot beverages is provided with means (4,5) to filter hot pressurised water
through ground edible ingredients such as coffee, tea or
herbal remedies in a chamber, means (17,18,20) of monitoring real-time data concerning brewing parameters; a
controlling unit (16) comprising means of storing data,
means of comparing the real-time data to a set of stored
Printed by Jouve, 75001 PARIS (FR)
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Description
[0001] The present invention relates to a process and
an apparatus for controlling the preparation of brewed
beverages. More particularly, the present invention concerns a brewing process and apparatus, including an
electronic controller, conceived to control the process of
making freshly-brewed hot beverages obtained by filtering with hot, pressurised water from ground or minced
edible products such as tea, coffee, herbal remedies and
the like.
[0002] This invention is aimed for use in fully automatic
hot beverage dispensing machines for homes, offices or
so called food-service -or HoReCa- sites. The invention
apparatus can also be used to dispense hot beverages
from soluble products, i.e. the so-called instant drinks.
[0003] The culture of hot beverages, such as mate in
Argentina, tea in the United Kingdom, China or Japan,
coffee in Turkey or herbal remedies, is still strongly indebted to human preparation so that is a generally accepted claim that man beats the machine when best quality is the discriminating factor.
[0004] Fully automatic beverage dispensing machines, particularly the ones brewing hot drinks from
ground fresh ingredients, are not yet recognised for an
outstanding quality of their drinks, a peculiar situation
that is rarely observed in the field of professional equipment for food preparation such as pasta-making machines, where nobody would challenge the supremacy
and quality consistency of professional equipment.
[0005] Machines for brewing hot beverage prepared
from fresh products such as tea or coffee are not yet
associated with the best quality, with real Italian espresso
coffee a distant first in a ranking that would rate beverages accordingly the ratio between users preferring manual preparation and users preferring an automatic execution.
[0006] In fact, International competitions for "the best
espresso" test every year outstanding "Baristas" using
simple semi-automatic espresso machines, not -more
simply- skilled coffee roasters tuning and pushing buttons
of fully automatic dispensing machines. It is also known
that coffee roasters, especially espresso coffee roasters,
have often opted for semi-automatic equipment rather
than a fully automatic one, for coffee sampling and sales
demo, due to the higher quality obtained using manual
or semi-manual equipment.
[0007] It is reasonable to notice that some criteria composing the general judgement following which a mancontrolled espresso making procedure is by far preferable to a machine-controlled one -as much as statements
that one coffee is better than another- are often based
on subjective perceptions.
[0008] It is nevertheless known that a good barista
should start his day looking at the weather outside before
preparing to adjust the grinder’s blade for another day of
work, or his day will deliver average if not poor quality
work.
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[0009] Also the "barista wrist" i.e. the ability to press
the "correct" powdered coffee quantity to the "right" tightness, or -more technically- apparent density, allows him
to dispense a regularly flowing cup of espresso in the
"correct" amount of time. The barista amends the grinding
and compacting steps, when necessary, according to the
results.
[0010] Automatic machines, on the contrary, seem to
be unable to flexibly adapt to the conditions of operation
they’re faced with.
[0011] Using state of the art technology, in fact, does
not ensure that the tuning of all concurring variables cup
after cup, with a trial and error process similar to the one
of a good "barista", is performed with the right monitoring
and variation of the concurring variables, in a fashion
necessarily leading to deliver -for instance- an outstanding "ristretto".
[0012] The lack of really adaptative methods, based
on evaluation of historical as well as real-time data and
subsequent immediate correction of the brewing parameters to brew a higher quality, freshly brewed hot beverage is the problem the Applicant has considered for solution.
[0013] Espresso making has been defined in a clear
way and steps to prepare a manual espresso have been
described in several publications.
[0014] These are: ensuring temperature of all components involved in the dispensing of the beverage is correct; weighing the exact amount of ground roasted coffee
(e.g. 6,5 grams) from a type or blend suitable for espresso; coffee grinding adjusted to obtain the suitable particle
size, making sure that the climatic conditions, especially
relative humidity, do not change ideal grinding size, so
as to have a correct brewing time (e.g. 25" for 40cc.) is
regularly achieved; compacting the coffee inside the
brewing chamber, usually attached to a handle, with the
aim to achieve the right brewing time via the correct drag
through the coffee cake.
[0015] It must be reminded that apparent density of
the coffee cake and granulometry affect the brewing time:
the finer the ground coffee, ceteris paribus, the longer
the brewing time; the tighter the compacting, ceteris paribus, the longer the brewing time. Conversely, a wrong
mix of pressure and grinding might result in brewing time
identical to the one of a "good" coffee, still resulting in a
poorer quality drink.
[0016] There are many patents directed to using the
above concept for improving coffee quality.
[0017] EP0554650 to Cavazzuti and Annibali illustrates the importance of the size of the grinding in determining the quality of a coffee. In this patent, moreover,
an ideal size of roasted coffee grind for espresso coffee
is considered to be between 195 and 240 micron, although - further into the description- a wider range of
granule sizes (from 25 to 395 microns) "for at least 80%
of the total weight" is indicated. It is now accepted standard that the ground coffee’s coarseness or thinness must
be chosen within a range of available sizes of average
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particle sizes depending on the type of drink that the "barista" -or the fully automatic dispensing machine- is required to dispense. Usually thin grinding is associated
with the preparation of a frothy espresso, coarse grinding
with a frothless, perculated longer coffee drink.
[0018] Due to the effects of humidity over the average
size of coffee particles, tuning of the grinder must be
adapted to weather changes, but so will ultimately happen to the tampering and metering of the amount, as well.
As usually in semi-automatic machines the metered
amount of coffee is usually controlled by a separate grinder: the "barista" can then adjust the right quantity depending on how the coffee "swells up" depending on the
weather conditions and coffee blends. Instead, tampering and grinder’s adjustment are performed even more
instinctively by the trained barista.
[0019] To date, automatic beverage dispensing machines for restaurants and bars or for offices or homes
have not answered completely to the need of replacing
the "barista skills" with automatic, self-learning routines.
[0020] In the practical use of fully automatic freshlybrewed beverage dispensing machines it is indeed possible that the average size of coffee particles, obtained
with a pre-determined setting on the grinder, result too
fine or too thick due to the fact that the coffee being milled
has absorbed a different amount of humidity in the air, in
comparison with the humidity present in the coffee when
the grinder blades’ pre-set was adjusted. Also, in some
instances, other erratic factors come into play in determining the brewing time and, ultimately, the flow-rate.
[0021] Moreover, in a dispensing machine using prefilled capsules containing ground coffee, the capsules
cannot undergo any further grinding of the coffee therein
contained.
[0022] In FR2477001 to Grossi, the brewer includes a
mechanical system to have the grinder to modify the average particle size of the coffee. The magnitude of such
modification is based upon the discrepancy between the
brewing time effectively needed to dispense one espresso coffee and a standard brewing time (fixed at thirty
seconds), considered to be the ideal brewing time.
[0023] This consideration has led some Prior Art to use
the flow-rate of coffee, to establish whether the average
particle size of the coffee should be altered or not.
[0024] US4767632 to Meier develops these ideas as
well as a thoughtful study of the variables conjugated to
obtain a "good coffee", including coffee quantity, compacting pressure on the coffee, length of the displacement of the piston closing the brewing chamber and distance between the blades of the grinder.
[0025] This invention follows two basic assumptions:
it endorses the concept of "abnormal coffees" being coffees brewed out of standard quantitative parameters due
to different reasons, as detected by monitoring namely
brewing time or displacement length of the closing piston.
Moreover, it accepts the production of a few "abnormal
coffees" as one given, acceptable fact of automatic coffee
brewing. Correction only is carried out several dispensing
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cycles after the experienced abnormal coffee.
[0026] The above solutions, however, are not sufficient
because several other factors, not only changes in ambient conditions, may affect the apparent density of coffee powder and ultimately the correct dispensing of a
coffee.
[0027] In some recurring instances it is possible that
deposits of ground coffee on the coffee chute placed
above the brewing chamber start to build up, until they
are suddenly discharged by casual vibration of the chute,
this random process substantially altering the quantity of
coffee present in the brewing chamber. Variable quantities of coffee in the brewing chamber may also be due
to lack of precise measuring devices: such is the case
when the grinder is operated for a pre-set amount of time,
without volumetric chamber to meter the exact volume
of coffee or other systems for weight control of the coffee
powder. Volumetric chambers, incidentally, may also dispense different amounts of ground coffee when delivering similar volumes of coffee having different particle
size. Also wear and tear of the grinder’s blades and associated means for grinding and metering the coffee create different conditions within the brewing chamber due
to unconsistent conditions in the average size of grinds
and of the volume of coffee poured into the chamber.
[0028] Some Prior Art has tried to solve the handicaps
created by varying or varied volume of coffee in the brewing chamber introducing systems that try to compensate
these differences in real-time, that is immediately during
the brewing operation.
[0029] EP1306040 to Mestek describes a closing piston in the brewing chamber using a "compensation
spring": this is a known concept using a simple, un-expensive mechanically resilient mean to alter temporarily
the internal volume of the brewing chamber. Such a solution works with relatively small differences and relies
on the physical properties of the spring. The response to
increased pressure within the brewing chamber is certainly not an adaptative answer to conditions dictated by
other considerations such as the type of coffee to be dispensed or desired extraction yield.
[0030] EP0486434 to Torma describes a similar device, allowing the possibility to adapt the brewing chamber’s volume to "individual steps" of the brewing cycle:
nonetheless, this invention relies on a spring with predetermined and unchangeable characteristics which
make the adaptations - when possible- calibrated upon
one and one only adjustment criterium.
[0031] These techniques do not address the problems
related of type of coffee being dispensed, the volume of
grounds used, or the choice of preferred extraction yields
or again other considerations suggested by market preferences or cost-saving.
[0032] Still there is the necessity of a brewing process
that can automatically compensate for the many changes
of the product or the dispensing conditions in order to
have a constant pre-set good coffee quality.
[0033] It is an aim of the invention to solve the above
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problems and provide a brewing apparatus and method
to maximize the quality and the extraction yield of hot
beverages obtained from ground fresh ingredients filtered in a brewing chamber with appropriate means for
providing a source of hot water under pressure.
[0034] One further aim of this invention is to illustrate
a brewing system that not only adapts to changed conditions within certain pre-set thresholds, but that pro-actively adjusts its settings depending on the type of brewed
beverage chosen by the user by monitoring the brewing
conditions as transmitted by the brewing system’s sensors during the brewing cycle.
[0035] One further aim of the present invention is to
reduce the splashing of coffee usually associated to a
fixed beverage outlet spout’s height of beverage dispensing machine utilizing beverage containers bearing different rim heights.
[0036] Said aims are achieved by means of the present
invention, that relates to a process of controlling the brewing of hot beverages according to claim 1.
[0037] The present invention also relates to a beverage dispensing apparatus according to claim 7.
[0038] The present invention provides a process and
an apparatus to control, monitor and adjust the brewing
process according to one or more parameters that can
be set in the controller’s memory of the brewing system.
[0039] The invention process compares at least one
of the data monitored by the same controller during the
brewing step with at least one previously stored data and,
as effect of such comparison, directs and controls
through appropriate means the best real-time adaptation
of the current brewing cycle towards ideal brewing conditions.
[0040] In other words, the present invention monitors
and changes, if necessary, the brewing process parameters during the brewing phase of the dispensing cycle,
accordingly to a number of parameters that can be set
in the controller’s memory of the brewing system.
[0041] According to one aspect, the present invention
is also considering for optimal brewing conditions the preset average coffee particle size and correcting possible
deviations using the brewing units adjustment or a selfregulating grinder to change the distance of the blades
accordingly to monitored data concerning the relative air
humidity and air temperature as indicated by the sensors
means available in the proximity of the grinder and ultimately achieving more consistent beverage quality.
[0042] According to a further aspect, the present invention provides means to control the level of liquid in
the spent cake of edible ingredient and the size of such
spent cake, for instance made of coffee grounds, in a
phase immediately after the completion of the beverage
brewing phase and before the disposal of this cake in the
container for coffee waste disposal, usually placed inside
the dispenser apparatus’s frame cabinet or in its vicinity.
These wet residues are in fact likely to develop molds
and bacteria growth, also depending on the level of water
present in them, and their size is relevant in the frequent
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case of limited space available in the dispensing apparatus frame.
[0043] According to a preferred aspect of the invention,
the real-time data detected are the incoming hot water
or the dispensed beverage flow rates, and the relative
air humidity and the parameter to be altered is selected
from the hot water or the beverage flow rate or their combination.
[0044] According to a further aspect of the invention,
the beverage flow rate is altered by modifying the brewing
chamber volume; to this purpose, the apparatus comprises one or two pistons for the brewing chamber in order
to modify the volume of said chamber.
[0045] According to another preferred aspect of the
invention, the beverage flow rate is altered by controlling
the flow rate of the hot water entering the brewing chamber.
[0046] According to another aspect, the hot water flow
rate is controlled by changing the water pump speed or
by using a valve means that deviates part of the flow or
limits the same.
[0047] More generally, the means of modifying the
beverage flow rate are selected from at least one of:
means of modifying said brewing chamber volume;
means of modifying the grinding parameter of the coffee;
means of modifying the flow rate of hot water entering
the said brewing chamber and possibly means of controlling the output of beverage from the brewing chamber.
[0048] The latter means can be implemented by a
valve means on the outlet duct for the beverage, said
valve operation being controlled by the controller in a
real-time feed-back system.
[0049] According to a further preferred aspect said
aims are achieved by setting parameters for a programmed sequence of the operations required to complete the beverage brewing cycle and, monitoring both
historical data and real-time data obtained through appropriate sensor means, to alter the pressure in the brewing chamber, possibly also the average size of the particles, and ultimately the flow-rate in order to approximate
the dispensing path as defined by a range of ideal dispensing curves relating flow-rate with time, pressure and
liquid volume for each stored beverage sequence.
[0050] In particular, controlling the compression of the
powdered ingredient, the flow-rate of the beverage and
the sequence of brewing steps operated is carried out
through the use of one or two motors operating independently the one or two pistons sealing the brewing unit, at
least one flow-rate detector and valve means placed in
fluid connection to the brewing chamber, hot water feeding means and beverage outlet means, liquid waste discharge means and a controller board connecting the different components.
[0051] Besides the previously mentioned advantages,
the invention apparatus can also be easily used for dispensing instant drinks from soluble products. The control
of the flow rate of the beverage as above disclosed is
also advantageous when a soluble product is dispensed.
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[0052] The invention will now be further disclosed with
reference to the enclosed non-limiting drawings, where
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fig. 1 is a lateral view of an apparatus according to
the invention at the end of a dispensing step,
fig. 2 is a top view of the apparatus according to fig. 1,
fig. 3 is a sectional view of the apparatus of fig. 1,
fig. 4 is a sectional view of the apparatus with the
two pistons aligned before reaching the brewing position,
fig. 5 is a sectional view similar to fig. 4, with the
pistons in the brewing position,
fig. 6 is a sectional view similar to fig. 5, where the
brewing chamber is larger and in a different position,
and
fig. 7 is a scheme of a water circuit for controlling the
water flow rate.
The brewing apparatus 1 according to the present
invention is comprising a preferably cylindrical brewing chamber 2, made of metal such as stainless steel
or brass, or teflon coated material or plastics, with
at least one side 3 that can be open for discharging
the spent material from which the beverage was
brewed.
Two brewing pistons 4, 5 are provided at opposed
ends of the chamber 2 to hermetically seal it when
in use. At least one piston (5 in the shown embodiment) is displaceable from an open position in which
piston 5 is outside the chamber (see fig. 2) to remove
the brewed material, to a closed, brewing position.
Means to control the maximum displacement of each
of said pistons so that the minimum volume inside
the chamber is not less than a preset value are also
provided; generally, such value is 5-6 cc.
Two filters 6, 7, are mounted facing each other on
the top area of each of the pistons 4 and 5. The filters
are provided in a known way with a plurality of holes,
preferably having regular sizes and diameters within
the range of 0.15 to 1 mm and positioned to have
the best use of the coffee cake.
The pistons 4 and 5 are operated by two independent
motors 9 and 8, respectively, to which the pistons
are connected with means adapted to move the two
pistons axially respective to the brewing chamber.
The motors, preferably with direct current supply, are
connected to worm screws 8A and 9A that are acting
on blocks 10 and 11 to move them upwards or downwards. Blocks 10 and 11 are connected to pistons 4
and 5, respectively, so that both pistons can be
moved in both forward and backward directions, independently from the other piston or other components associated to the brewing unit.
The motors 8 and 9 can independently invert the
sense of their rotation, and are activated by a microprocessor-equipped electronic controlling board,
which includes a power-board suitable to drive the
two motors independently and monitor, by means of
the impedence or other signal, the load applied
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against it. This parameter is used to determine the
pressure opposed by the ground ingredient compressed in the brewing chamber to said pistons. Both
motors can be equipped of means to detect the displacement length of the associated piston.
One of the pistons, piston 4 in the shown embodiment, is provided with a port 12 or similar means of
feeding a pressurised, hot water from a source not
shown to the brewing chamber 2. Beverage outlet
means 13 for discharging the brewed liquid into the
user’s beverage container are associated to the piston 5, opposing piston 4 where hot water inlet means
12 are positioned. Outlet means 13 shown in figures
1-6 comprise a rigid duct to which a further, fiexibie,
duct is connected.
With reference now to fig. 7, the apparatus according
to the invention comprises a pump 14, to create the
required pressure for the brewing process, in fluid
connection with the water inlet 12 of the brewing
chamber 2 and connected to a water source such
as a water reservoir 15. The preferred flow-rate is at
least 1 to 5 cl./sec, usually 1-2 cl/sec for espresso
coffee, and the pressure of the hydraulic circuit is
within a range from 0.1 MPa and 2.0 MPa, and preferably within the range of 0.5 to 1.8 MPa.
Pressurised water leaving pump 14 is heated at temperatures ranging from 75 to 110 degrees Celsius,
preferably between 80 and 100° Celsius using a
pressurised water heating device 19 such as a boilertank or flash-heater supplied by water reservoir 15
(or water mains). Temperature control means 20 are
also provided, associated with the water conduits,
brewing chamber 2 or beverage conduits; means 20
are adapted to transfer real-time information concerning the temperature of at least one of the component amongst the heated components of the circuit other than the water heating device to a controller
board 16.
The scheme of fig. 7 also shows metering means 17
to detect the flow of the dispensed beverage or, alternatively, means 18 for detecting the flow rate of
the water fed to brewing chamber 2. Both these
means, as well as the other sensors means of the
invention apparatus, are connected to controller
board 16 via circuitry or via trasponders.
These flow-metering devices can be easily sourced
by the skilled in the art but it is preferably suggested
to use a device bearing a scanning unit allowing to
control differences in the flow at least as low as 0,2
ml/sec; additionally a flow-meter detector, a weight
sensor, a flow detector or other methods to verify the
out-going flow-rate, can be placed in the beverage
outlet means to monitor effective real-time output of
the dispensing apparatus.
According to the invention, controller board 16 has
digital memory means and means apt to transfer and
download from external sources settings concerning
the different phases typical of the brewing process,
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this controller board being logically or electrically
connected to all electrically operated components
comprised in the brewing system and being preferably equipped with a micro-controller having at least
28K Ram memory and a 5Ghz clock.
Digital software is integrated in the controller board,
or is provided in logic connection to board 16. The
software is developed to control and direct the several means, sequencing them in proper order, aimed
at controlling the different steps of the brewing cycle.
The parameters of the brewing sequence are stored
for each individual drink available to the user in the
controller’s memory.
The parameters of the brewing sequence can be altered in a remote location, using a PC with dedicated
software. New settings can then be loaded onto the
controller’s memory using a flash-Eprom, an electronic tag, a transponder or other system of remote
transfer of electronic files. Some, preferably simpler,
parameter settings may be rendered available for
modification to the users of the dispensing appliance
by using the means for forwarding an input command
to the controller, or through other devices such as a
hand-held, wire or wire-less terminal to be used at
the machine’s site. Current active settings are stored
in the controller’s memory and can be retrieved for
remote control. The controller may use any of the
systems available to the skilled in the art to retrieve
and re-load these data, such as GPRS, a modem
connection for Internet access to a central databank, contact-less memories, a hand-held terminal,
flash-eproms or other suitable means of transfer of
the digital information. The operational software, typically included in the controller’s board, allows to preselect different degrees of sensitivity for the adjustment process.
At least one storage container 21 for coffee beans
and a grinder 22 attached to it or, alternatively, a
container for fresh ground edible product such as
coffee or tea, or with means adapted to provide a
metered amount of coffee grounds to the brewing
chamber are provided in a way known per se in the
art. In addition, a container for instant soluble ingredients can be provided.
The metering means to control the amount of coffee
dispensed in the brewing chamber can be volumetric
or time-based, using an inference table, for instance
listing time of operation of the grinders and expected
volumes of coffee depending on average particle
size of the coffee. The storage container 21 is provided with sensor means 23 to detect the air relative
humidity and temperature in proximity of the coffee
container or within it. Sensor 23 and grinder 22 are
connected with board 16 to provide and receive information.
The apparatus according to the invention also comprises metering means (not shown) to monitor the
exact length of displacement of each piston, for in-
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stance detecting it by inference, using encoderequipped or step-by-step motors or electro-mechanical systems, or coupling electronic sensors, using
systems available to the skilled in the art such as
Hall-effect sensors or others, to the respective motor
shafts of the two motors controlling the brewing pistons or to parts of said pistons, in the latter case to
detect even without inference the actual positions of
the two, distinct pistons.
The apparatus is further provided with means for forwarding an input command recognised as valid input
command by the controller, this input command being used to deliver instructions to the controller concerning the type of beverage requested by the machine’s user, for example a customer or the bar-tender. The input method may include a keyboard, for
instance of a numerical or alphanumerical type, a
simple membrane panel using pictograms or interactive panel, such as a touch-screen LCD, or any
other common physical interfaces for sending a
brewing or dispensing instruction to a machine. The
chosen option can be sent also via a tag or transponder directly to a tag scanner or tag reader in the
proximity of the apparatus and digitally connected to
the controller board. Alternatively the input commencing the brewing cycle can be provided to the
controller by any signal, for instance generated by
the insertion of a coin or other validation of credit,
recognised as acceptable input signal by the machine controller.
The above means comprise known means to forward
to the user of the apparatus information concerning
the status of the machine, such as LED indicators,
an LCD or plasma screen, a vacuum-fluorescent display, as well as means to forward digitally the information to a remote location, physically separated
from said apparatus.
According to the invention, the preferred parameter
to be controlled and possibly altered is the flow rate
of the hot water fed to the brewing chamber 2 or of
the hot beverage leaving the brewing chamber. Contrary to the know art, alterations of the brewing/solubilizing parameters are based on detection of current parameters. As mentioned, the alterations or
adjustments of the brewing parameters can involve
the adjustments of flow rate of the hot water fed to
the chamber, pressure of the hot water, volume of
the chamber, size (e.g. average particle size) of the
ground material for brewing, absorption rate of the
motors controlling the pistons or the pressure of the
outgoing beverage liquid or the diameter of the orifices creating the total free passage in the filter
placed on (before) the outlet.
It is preferred to control, i.e. to alter, the flow rate of
the hot water, or the chamber volume rather than
reducing the beverage flow rate with a valve on the
beverage outlet. It is in fact easier and cleaner to
change these parameters than altering directly the
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hot beverage flow rate: a valve means positioned
downstream the brewing chamber (or solubilizing
chamber) is inevitably contacted with the beverage,
with the relevant problems of cross-contamination
with different beverages, building up of deposits,
bacteria contamination and similar problems.
It was found that when the flow rate of the incoming
hot water is controlled to maintain constant the
amount of coffee brewed per unit time, i.e. to maintain a dispensing time within the range of 10 to 30
seconds and preferably from 15 to 25 seconds, most
of the other parameter variations can be automatically taken into considerations and corrected.
In other words, according to the invention,
the hot beverage or hot water flow rate is detected:
this is the real-time data of a brewing process to be
monitored;
the detected real-time flow rate data is compared
with the stored data concerning hot beverage flow
rate, the stored flow rate can be different for different
ground edible ingredients;
if a correction has to be carried out, the flow rate of
the hot beverage is corrected by altering the volume
of the brewing chamber or by altering the flow rate
of the hot water fed to the brewing chamber.
[0053] Contrary to the known art, with this solution
there are no mechanical means to control the flow of hot
beverage between the brewing chamber and the beverage delivering means, i.e. the outlet from which the beverage is delivered into a cup: any alteration of the brewing
parameters is carried out in the brewing chamber or upstream the same.
[0054] In an embodiment of the invention, in order to
adjust or alter the hot water inlet flow rate, the following
procedure is followed.
[0055] As soon as a pressure is established in the
brewing chamber and the coffee cake is progressively
penetrated by water and coffee is dispensed, the flowrate indicated by the metering device, at least one of
which is in fluid connection with the brewing chamber’s
water inlet means, is used as a feedback signal to alter
brewing parameters, after a programmable delay.
[0056] In case of no flow-rate indication after the programmable delay, the dispensing apparatus is set into
an out of order condition and appropriate interface displays such information for the machine users.
[0057] Assuming a positive flow-rate reading after a
programmable delay, as monitored by at least a flow-rate
indicator placed before the brewing-chamber and in fluid
connection to the same, the controller compares the
reading to the comparable value of the ideal dispensing
curve associated with the specific beverage being dispensed.
[0058] If there is a discrepancy between the two data,
in a first embodiment, at least one of the piston’s displacement length is changed as a consequence of the
feedback, so that the volume of brewing chamber 2 is
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altered and the flow rate is maintained as close as possible to the pre-set dispensing curve. The minimum displacement step controllable by the controller should not
vary the internal volume of the chamber for volumes higher than 0,5 cc. preferably 0,3 cc.
[0059] In a second, different embodiment, the water
inlet means are adapted to reduce the incoming flow of
water into the brewing chamber.
[0060] This can be carried out e.g. by using a pump
having variable speed, such as a vibration type pump
used to dispense pressurised water into the brewing
chamber, and changing the frequency of power supply
to said pump. Alternatively, when the sensor 18 provides
controller 16 with the information that the flow rate of the
incoming water should be reduced, valve 24 is operated
to send a portion of the flow of water to a circuit including
plenum chamber 25 and connected to reservoir 15, or to
the pump or to a discharge means. The skilled person
will encounter no difficulty to use the above or different
known methods to achieve such task.
[0061] As mentioned and below exemplified, further
data can be detected and further parameters can be adjusted or altered besides the hot beverage flow rate. The
following sequence of operative steps for the chosen beverage - for instance an "espresso" coffee - is depicting a
full use of all the parameters and real-time data.
[0062] The operating of the dispensing apparatus
starts when the machine’s user forwards an input command to the controller. Firstly the correct tuning of the
grinding level is to be checked. Sensors 23 located near
the grinder 22 or coffee container 21 detect the current
value of relative humidity, and optionally also of temperature, in the air. The controller 16 includes software that
allow to store data concerning historic comparable data,
as monitored by said sensors at intervals of time that are
programmable by the manufacturer of the apparatus.
[0063] The controller’s software can use several methods to evaluate the available data, both current and historic, for instance adding each series of said historic data
or parts of them, thus calculating statistically meaningful
data, such as arithmetic or compounded means. As compounding criteria is preferred the time-lag between monitoring time and time of brewing, so that the readings of
the last twenty-four hours, preferably of the last one to
nine hours should bear more weight.
[0064] The controller’s software preferably includes
means to establish a trend, for example comparing current readings to the comparable data readings in different
intervals of time, such as for instance during the last one
to twenty-four hours, conveniently stored in the memory.
[0065] Contrary to available systems, in the present
invention comparison of previously recorded data to current readings is used to establish a preferred criteria to
influence the adjustment of the grinder’s blades, so that
the user of the apparatus can opt to maintain frequent
variations based on real-time data or, more traditionally,
a slower pace of trimming the blades’ distance, for instance for less stringent quality standards.
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[0066] The motor of the grinder blades, provided with
means to detect the current distance of the blades or
alternatively to measure the length of the displacement
of the motor controlling the blades, for instance from a
full closed position to the current position, is activated
when a fluctuation higher than a pre-determined threshold is detected, accordingly to the pre-set parameters.
The preselected dose of coffee (e.g. set at 6.5 grams in
the controller), having a pre-determined average particle
size accordingly to the monitored relative air humidity
and trend values as well as to the type of selected beverage, is dispensed in the brewing chamber 2.
[0067] After grinding the coffee beans, the brewing
step is carried out.
[0068] In general, four distinct steps are provided for
in the brewing cycle according to the invention and the
brewing system includes sensors apt to provide to the
controller board information concerning the hot beverage
flow rate, the hot water flow rate, the length of the displacement of the one or two pistons and the power absorption of the motors connected to them, the temperature of means apt to transfer heat to the brewing chamber.
As previously mentioned, all the sensors are connected
either via hard-wiring or with trasponder-type connection
to the controller board 16, which is also receiving information concerning the setting of the coffee grinder’s
blades feeding the brewing chamber and beverage type
required by the user, thereby selecting a group of preset parameters during that specific brewing cycle.
[0069] The brewing cycle starts when, the brewing
chamber having been filled with the metered amount of
coffee, closing piston 5 is moved from an open, filling
position to a closed, brewing position (fig. 5).
[0070] In this initial phase, at least one of the motors
8, 9 connected to the pistons reaches a pre-set, programmable absorption level set as a threshold parameter in
the controller’s memory, for immediate disconnection of
the motor drive once the pre-set level is reached.
[0071] The set absorption level does not depend only
on the amount of coffee, but for instance from programming data instructing closing the brewing piston or pistons with a pre-determined amount of coffee inside the
chamber. Said pre-determined amount of coffee can be
stored as historic data coupled with the absorption reading to establish a correlation to be used for statistical
information and preventive maintenance information.
[0072] The coffee cake is now compressed from the
irregular shape determined by the means used to convey
it to the brewing chamber, for instance a pyramidal shape,
into a cylindrical shape, with a compression level that is
dependant from said pre-set threshold parameter.
[0073] When the piston has reached the programmed
displacement length and thereby water inlet means have
been placed over but not in contact with the compressed
coffee cake, a programmable amount of water can be
sprayed over the coffee cake. It is preferable to use a
pump 14 with means adapted to control the flow of the
pump, so that this spraying step can be performed with
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a reduced flow-rate, possibly at least 45% lower than the
one usually used in the brewing phase.
[0074] This so called "pre-wetting" step, performed in
order to pre-wet, when needed and with a programmable
quantity of pressurised hot water from the water inlet
means, the coffee cake, minimising the negative effects
in terms of beverage quality and extraction yield that preferential routes in the coffee cake tend to create.
[0075] After the pre-set amount of water has been dispensed over the coffee cake, the brewing unit pauses for
a pre-set amount of time, inferior to twenty seconds, preferably between one and ten seconds.
[0076] Alternatively, the beverage outlet can be temporarily closed to create a pressure increase to obtain a
similar pre-wetting step, without a pause.
[0077] The whole pre-wetting step can be omitted, especially if long coffees are to be dispensed, so to emphasize the different nature -for instance- of a so called "regular coffee" drink of 300 ml from a traditional espresso
coffee, where pre-wetting is most used and higher extraction yields are usually preferred.
[0078] When beverages based on minced leaf tea,
mate or herbal remedies are to be dispensed, longer
throws of pre-wetting water and longer pauses before
the commencement of the real brewing phase, are implemented to maximize quality of extraction.
[0079] Similarly, if soluble drinks are to be used in the
chamber, pre-wetting water can be used to maximize the
dissolution in the liquid of the soluble ingredient.
[0080] The second step starts when the controller activates the means associated at least to one of the two
brewing pistons so that the brewing chamber is brought
to a closed, airtight, brewing position.
[0081] Motors 8 and 9, in one embodiment, are subsequently deactivated so that the two pistons are held in
a preprogrammed position, depending on the type of beverage to be dispensed, expressed in terms of length of
displacement or, preferably, power absorption of each of
the two motors commanding the pistons.
[0082] In a different embodiment, motors are adapted
with means that allow said motors to remain activated
during the compression of the coffee cake, until they
reach a threshold level in terms of absorption, and subsequently during the proper brewing phase, so that the
absorption of at least one of the motors can be used as
feedback criteria.
[0083] Data concerning displacement length and power absorption, or data expressing the relation between
the two, as well as their frequency, are stored in controller
16 memory for defining dynamic threshold values, associated with trend information aimed at monitoring progressive wear and tear of the means involved in the brewing step allowing preventive maintenance information to
be down-loaded from the controller’s memory.
[0084] Brewing with pressurised means is usually performed in two distinct ways: either from top to bottom of
the cake, or from bottom towards the top. In the embodiment shown in the figures, the brewing is performed in
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the latter way, although the other method is equally usable.
[0085] Both embodiments solve one problem associated with users utilising a beverage dispensing machine
with beverage containers of different shapes and -particularly- heights, such as porcelaine mugs, espresso
cups, coffee cups, small jugs and similar.
[0086] Typically these containers can be adapted to fit
into the dispensing area of the dispensing apparatus, but
their rim heights commonly vary between 4 and 30 cm,
most frequently between 6 and 20 cm.
[0087] To solve this problem a coffee outlet spout substantially coherent with the associated piston and its beverage outlet means is used, whereby the programmed
displacement lengths of both pistons during the dispensing phase allow the outlet spout, accordingly to the preset beverage preparation required, to move to one of a
number of pre-set positions. The outlet spout can thus
be displaced right above the rims of cups having different
rim heights from the bottom, such as a cappuccino cup
or an espresso cup or a mug, or alternatively the outlet
spout can access different outlet means adapted for instance to dispense one or two coffees at a time.
[0088] The controller, depending on pre-set parameters, can execute brewing cycles having for each piston
different displacements lengths in order to maintain, for
the chosen type of beverage, the correct pressure of the
coffee cake whilst minimising the distance between container’s rim and the flow of prepared beverage pouring
from the outlet spout, or also to allow the outlet spout to
access an alternative beverage outlet path, for instance
to divert the outlet to two different dispensing outlets.
[0089] Because the pistons can both be moved, raising
or lowering the outlet spout’s height, with reference to
the beverage container’s rim, the latter can thus be controlled independently on the amount of coffee used or to
the type of coffee desired, to match the container used
in the receptacle area. The height of the beverage outlet
spout depends on the pre-set type of beverage or beverage container required by the user, that is following
pre-set parameters in the controller’s memory.
[0090] In the drawings embodiment, the brewing unit
can move the beverage outlet means height in a defined
range, in this case between 10 cm for single brewing
cycles and 7 cm for double brewing cycles.
[0091] As soon as the pistons have completed their
programmed displacement paths, the hot water inlet
means, starts dispensing hot water into the brewing
chamber via the filter positioned on the piston equipped
with water inlet means. The hot water inlet means are in
fluid connection to the pump, at least to one three-way
valve or preferably to two separate valves to separately
manage incoming hot water and residual liquid coffee
waste and to the flow-rate metering device.
[0092] The flow rate control of this step is carried out
as previously discussed, i.e. by altering the pump speed,
reducing the flow rate through a valve or altering the
chamber volume.
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[0093] Ultimately, when the pre-set volume of water
has been completely dispensed into the brewing chamber and from this to the final container, the controller initiates the sequence aimed at discharging the used coffee
grounds.
[0094] Firstly, at least one of the pistons is moved, by
the appropriate transmission means, from the presently
final, closed, brewing position to a position defined by a
displacement length longer than the one of the said final,
closed, brewing position. Several displacement length
are stored in the controller’s memory and can be used
following pre-defined matching criteria to different types
of coffee beverage being dispensed or amount of liquids
allowed in the waste used coffee grounds.
[0095] This compressing movement is made in order
to increase the pressure existing in the brewing chamber,
so that a lesser residual amount of liquid is maintained
inside the coffee cake due to the higher pressure thus
achieved. As soon as the displacement length value is
reached, the controller opens a water conduit (not shown)
to discharge the residual amount of coffee and water
present in the supplying pipe, the coffee cake and brewing chamber.
[0096] This can be alternatively done with two separate
valves, each of them controlling separately the water inlet
to the brewing chamber and the purge conduit aimed at
discharging the liquid remaining at the end of the brewing
cycle inside the brewing chamber, coffee cake and water
conduits, or alternatively with one three-way valve,
whereby preferably the former embodiment, bearing two
separate valves, allows to include separate controls to
the inlet and to the outlet means so that the brewing cycle
can displace in time the closing of the water inlet and the
opening of the discharge means for the used, waste liquid
residues.
[0097] It is useful to notice that all mentioned parameters are recorded in the controller’s memory for statistical purposes and can be at any time retrieved and adjusted by means available to the skilled in the art, as
mentioned.
Claims
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1.
A process of controlling the brewing of beverages
from a brewing apparatus comprising a brewing
chamber (2) provided with means to filter hot pressurised water through ground edible ingredients
such as coffee, tea or herbal remedies and a controlling unit (16) comprising means of storing data,
characterised in comprising the following steps:
a) monitoring of real-time data concerning brewing parameters,
b) comparing said real-time data to a set of historic data and/or threshold parameters, stored
in the controller’s memory associated with the
brewing system, to determine whether a correc-
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tion to the parameters should be made and
c) altering at least one of said relevant brewing
parameters, when required to bring said real
time parameter in line with said recorded parameter.
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A process according to claim 1 wherein the real-time
parameter is the hot beverage flow rate and the altered brewing parameter is the flow rate of hot water
fed to the brewing chamber.
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A process according to claim 1 wherein the real-time
parameter is the hot beverage flow rate and the altered brewing parameter is the displacement length
of at least one of the two pistons (4,5) sealing the
chamber (2).
A process according to claim 1 wherein the brewing
parameter is the absorption rate of at least one of
the motors (8,9) controlling the brewing pistons.
rate of at least one of the motors operating said brewing pistons.
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A process according to claim 1 where the brewing
parameter is the average particle size of the coffee
or edible powder.
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6.
A process according to claim 1 where the real-time
data is the relative air humidity and said parameter
to be altered is selected from the product particle
size and the hot water flow rate or their combination.
7.
A dispensing apparatus (1) for dispensing beverages from a brewing chamber (2) provided with means
(4-7) to filter hot pressurised water through ground
edible ingredients such as coffee, tea or herbal remedies, characterised in comprising means
(17,18,20) of monitoring real-time data concerning
brewing parameters; a controlling unit (16) comprising means of storing data, means of comparing said
real-time data to a set of stored data and/or threshold
parameters, stored in the controller’s memory associated with the brewing system, to determine whether a correction to the parameters should be made,
and means of altering at least one of said relevant
brewing parameters, when required to bring said real
time parameter in line with said recorded parameter.
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8.
9.
An apparatus according to claim 7, further comprising at least two pistons (4,5) for said brewing chamber (2), at least one of said pistons being operated
by motors (8,9).
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11. An apparatus according to any claim 7 to 10, wherein
said means of altering brewing parameters are
means of modifying the flow rate of said hot water
and/or hot beverage.
12. An apparatus according to claim 11, wherein said
means of modifying the beverage flow rate are selected from at least one of:
means of modifying said brewing chamber volume;
means of modifying (24) the flow rate of hot water entering the said brewing chamber.
13. An apparatus according to claim 12, wherein said
means of modifying the flow rate of hot water entering
the said brewing chamber comprise a variable speed
water pump and wherein said water flow rate sensor
means (18) are connected to means of changing the
water pump speed.
14. An apparatus according to claim 12, wherein said
means of modifying the flow rate of hot water entering
the said brewing chamber comprise a feed-back circuit branched from the water circuit to feed water to
said brewing chamber, said feed back circuit including a valve (24), a plenum chamber (25) and a duct
(27) connecting said plenum with said water circuit.
15. An apparatus according to any claim 7 to 11, wherein
said means of altering brewing parameters further
comprise means (22) of modifying the grinding parameters of the product.
16. An apparatus according to any claim 7 to 14, comprising a software program implementing a process
according to any claim 1 to 6.
17. An apparatus according to any claim 7 to 16, comprising a software program that records all data concerning the process.
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18. An apparatus according to any claim 7 to 17, comprising a software program that allows retrieval of all
data concerning the process.
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An apparatus according to claim 7 or 8, wherein said
monitoring means are selected from water (18)
and/or beverage (17) flow rate sensors.
19. The use of a brewing chamber provided with two
pistons and two motors to operate said pistons for
varying the chamber volume and the value of the
flow rate of the beverage exiting said brewing chamber.
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10. An apparatus according to claim 9 wherein said monitoring means comprise at least one of: sensors of
relative air humidity (23); sensors of the absorption
20. The use of a brewing chamber provided with two
pistons and two motors to operate said pistons for
varying the height of the beverage dispensing means
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according to the dimensions of the container for the
dispensed beverage.
21. The use of an apparatus according to any claim 7 to
18 for dispensing hot beverages from soluble products.
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