(19)
(11)EP 2 664 259 A1

(12)EUROPEAN PATENT APPLICATION

(43)Date of publication:
20.11.2013 Bulletin 2013/47

(21)Application number: 13004031.4

(22)Date of filing:  25.06.2012
(51)Int. Cl.: 
A47J 31/42  (2006.01)
(84)Designated Contracting States:
AL AT BE BG CH CY CZ DE DK EE ES FI FR GB GR HR HU IE IS IT LI LT LU LV MC MK MT NL NO PL PT RO RS SE SI SK SM TR
Designated Extension States:
BA ME

(30)Priority: 13.09.2011 US 201113231021

(62)Application number of the earlier application in accordance with Art. 76 EPC:
12831265.9 / 2640234

(71)Applicant: Conair Corporation
Stamford, CT 06902 (US)

(72)Inventors:
  • Lai, Kin Man
    Hong Kong (CN)
  • Fung, Kam Fai
    Hong Kong (CN)
  • Schnabel, Barbara Lynn
    Chappaqua, New York 10514 (US)
  • Orent, Jill Frances Kreutzer
    Westport, CT 06880 (US)

(74)Representative: Müller-Boré & Partner Patentanwälte 
Grafinger Straße 2
81671 München
81671 München (DE)

 
Remarks:
This application was filed on 13-08-2013 as a divisional application to the application mentioned under INID code 62.
 


(54)Brewed beverage appliance and system


(57) The invention refers to a brewed beverage appliance, comprising a reservoir for housing a liquid, a grinding mechanism, a grinding platform having a grinding cavity, wherein said grinding platform is moving from a first grinding position in which said grinding mechanism is not disposed within said grinding cavity, to a second grinding position in which said grinding mechanism is disposed within said grinding cavity. The brewed beverage appliance according to the invention further comprises a control circuit for selectively causing said grinding mechanism to operate when in said second grinding position and a pump, wherein said pump is selectively pumping said liquid from said reservoir to said grinding cavity after said grinding mechanism has operated within said grinding cavity. The invention further relates to a system of said brewed beverage appliance.




Description

TECHNICAL FIELD



[0001] The present invention relates to brewed beverage appliances and, more particularly, to a brewed beverage appliance adapted to brew coffee from a pre-packaged, disposable container and filter combination.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION



[0002] Various known coffee making appliances involve adding of coffee beans in one of various forms (i.e., ground or unground) to a container that is part of a machine in which heated water is delivered to the container and passes therethrough. The container typically includes a filtering mechanism so that heated water exiting the container is in the form of brewed coffee. Certain appliances require pre-ground coffee beans to be added in the form of "grounds." Other appliances are designed to accept whole coffee beans into a hopper or opening and include mechanisms that grind the beans into a ground form and then complete the brewing process. It is sometimes preferred to keep whole beans on hand for making coffee so that the coffee may be ground immediately prior to brewing, as this is believed to produce the freshest tasting coffee beverage. Yet other appliances required use of pods or pre-packaged coffee grounds in a serving-sized filter container to be inserted into the appliance. In such instances, the pre-packaged pods or containers are limited to being filled with ground coffee. Certain pre-packaged containers require placement into a separate filter mechanism in the appliance, while others have built-in filtering mechanisms.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION



[0003] It is an object of the present invention to provide a beverage making appliance and related method that include the benefits of brewing coffee from whole beans that are ground immediately before brewing and that are contained in a convenient, disposable, single-serving package.

[0004] These and other objects are achieved by the present invention.

[0005] A coffee making appliance in accordance with the present invention is directed to an appliance, a specialized pre-packaged coffee container and filter, and a related method of brewing coffee using the same. The container comprises a cup-shaped base having a large opening at the top, a circumferential sidewall, and a floor with grooves to direct fluid flow to an opening at the bottom. A paper filter is located on the floor of the cup and on top of the paper filter is a screen. Both the paper filter and the screen are circular and sized to fit across the entire surface area of the floor. A plurality of roasted, whole coffee beans are positioned on top of the screen and the cup is sealed with a lid of foil so that the beans are contained therein. The appliance has mechanisms such that when the cup is positioned in a compartment within the appliance and the appliance is activated, a blade assembly punctures the foil and enters the cup, and then grinds the beans while they are still in the cup. Next, heated water is delivered to the cup and passes through the grounds, causing brewed coffee to emit from the opening in the bottom of the cup and into a container. The size of the cup and the amount of heated liquid delivered will result in the size of the coffee serving, such as a single cup or a pre-selected size that is greater.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS



[0006] 

FIG. 1 is an exploded view of a whole coffee bean pre-packaged filter cup according to the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a perspective top view of the whole coffee bean pre-packaged filter cup of FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is a perspective bottom view of the whole coffee bean pre-packaged filter cup of FIG. 1.

FIG. 4 is a top plan view of the whole coffee bean pre-packaged filter cup of FIG. 1.

FIG. 5 is a bottom plan view of the whole coffee bean pre-packaged filter cup of FIG. 1.

FIG. 6 is a side elevational view of the whole coffee bean pre-packaged filter cup of FIG. 1.

FIG. 7 is a side cross-sectional view of the whole coffee bean pre-packaged filter cup of FIG. 1 taken along line A-A of FIG. 6.

FIG. 8 is an exploded view of a whole coffee bean pre-packaged filter cup according to another embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 9 is a perspective right side view of a coffee appliance according to the present invention.

FIG. 10 is a perspective left side view of the coffee appliance of FIG. 9.

FIG. 11 is a left side elevational view of the coffee appliance of FIG. 9.

FIG. 12 is a front elevational view of the coffee appliance of FIG. 9.

FIG. 13 is a right side elevational view of the coffee appliance of FIG. 9.

FIG. 14 is a rear elevational view of the coffee appliance of FIG. 9.

FIG. 15 is a top plan view of the coffee appliance of FIG. 9.

FIG. 16 is a bottom plan view of the coffee appliance of FIG. 9.

FIG. 17 is a perspective view of the coffee appliance of FIG. 9 illustrating a ready mode thereof.

FIG. 18 is a perspective view of the coffee appliance of FIG. 9 illustrating the loading of the whole coffee bean pre-packaged filter cup of FIG. 1.

FIG. 19 is a perspective view of the coffee appliance of FIG. 9 illustrating the whole coffee bean pre-packaged filter cup of FIG. 1 in a loading tray.

FIG. 20 is a perspective view of the coffee appliance of FIG. 9 in a loaded state.

FIG. 21 is a perspective view of the coffee appliance of FIG. 9 in a brew-ready state.

FIG. 22 is a perspective view of the coffee appliance of FIG. 9 during brewing / operation.

FIG. 23 is a perspective view of the coffee appliance of FIG. 9 subsequent to brewing a cup of coffee.

FIG. 24 is a perspective view of the coffee appliance of FIG 9 illustrating the removal of a spent pre-packaged filter cup subsequent to brewing.

FIG. 25A is a schematic view of the whole coffee bean pre-packaged filter cup of FIG. 1 illustrating water flowing through during a brewing mode.

FIG. 25B is a bottom plan view of a shower head for distributing heated water to the whole coffee bean pre-packaged filter cup of FIG. 1 in accordance with the present invention.

FIG. 26 is a first, side cross-sectional view of the coffee appliance of FIG. 9 in a first mode.

FIG. 27 is a second, side cross-sectional view of the coffee appliance of FIG. 9 in a first mode.

FIG. 28 is a first, side cross-sectional view of the coffee appliance of FIG. 9 shown in a second mode.

FIG. 29 is a second, side cross-sectional view of the coffee appliance of FIG. 9 shown in a second mode.

FIG. 30 is a detail schematic view of a grinding motor and grinding blade assembly of the coffee appliance of FIG. 9.

FIG. 31 a cross-sectional, schematic view of the coffee appliance of FIG. 9 in a mode of operation.

FIG. 32 a cross-sectional, schematic view of the coffee appliance of FIG. 9 in another mode of operation.

FIG. 33 a cross-sectional, schematic view of the coffee appliance of FIG. 9 in another mode of operation.

FIG. 34 is an enlarged, detail view of a filter cup lifting mechanism and grinding motor of the coffee appliance of FIG. 9.

FIG. 35 is an enlarged, cross-sectional, schematic view of the coffee appliance of FIG. 9 in a mode of operation.

FIG. 36 is an enlarged, cross-sectional, schematic view of the coffee appliance of FIG. 9 in another mode of operation.

FIG. 37 is an enlarged, cross-sectional, schematic view of the coffee appliance of FIG. 9 in a mode of operation.

FIG. 38 is a perspective view of a grinding blade assembly for use with the coffee appliance of FIG. 9, in accordance with the present invention.

FIG. 39 is a top plan view of the grinding blade assembly of FIG. 38

FIG. 40 is a left side elevational view of the grinding blade assembly of FIG. 38.

FIG. 41 is a front elevational view of the grinding blade assembly of FIG. 38.

FIG. 42 is a right side elevational view of the grinding blade assembly of FIG. 38.

FIG. 43 is a side cross-sectional view of grinding blade assembly of FIG. 38, taken along line A-A of FIG. 41.

FIG. 44 is a schematic view of a blade assembly and the whole coffee bean pre-packaged filter cup of FIG. 1 shown in a first position.

FIG. 45 is a schematic view of a blade assembly and the whole coffee bean pre-packaged filter cup of FIG. 1 shown in a second position.

FIG. 46 is a schematic view of a blade assembly and the whole coffee bean pre-packaged filter cup of FIG. 1 shown in a third position.

FIG. 47 is a schematic view of a blade assembly and the whole coffee bean pre-packaged filter cup of FIG. 1 shown in a fourth position.

FIG. 48 is an enlarged schematic view of the coffee appliance of FIG. 1 in a grinding mode.

FIG. 49 is a cross-sectional view of the coffee appliance of FIG. 1 in a grinding mode, taken along line B-B of FIG. 48.

FIG. 50 is an enlarged schematic view of the coffee appliance of FIG. 1 subsequent to grinding coffee beans.

FIG. 51 is an enlarged schematic view of the grinding blade of the coffee appliance of FIG. 1 grinding a coffee bean according to the present invention.

FIG. 52 is a perspective front view of an alternative grinding blade assembly for use with the coffee appliance of FIG. 9, in accordance with another embodiment present invention.

FIG. 53 is a perspective rear view of the alternative grinding blade assembly of FIG. 52.

FIG. 54 is a top plan view of the alternative grinding blade assembly of FIG. 52.

FIG. 55 is a left side elevational view of the alternative grinding blade assembly of FIG. 52.

FIG. 56 is a front elevational view of the grinding blade assembly of FIG. 52.

FIG. 57 is a right side elevational view of the grinding blade assembly of FIG. 52.

FIG. 58 is a schematic, cross-sectional view of the coffee appliance of FIG. 9 illustrating a flow of water from a reservoir through the pre-packaged filter cup of FIG. 1.

FIG. 59 is a schematic, cross-sectional view of the coffee appliance of FIG. 9 illustrating a cleaning mode.

FIG. 60 is a perspective view of a water reservoir of the coffee appliance according to the present invention.

FIG. 61 is a bottom plan view of a portion of the coffee appliance of FIG. 9

FIG. 62 is a perspective view of a tray for receiving the whole coffee bean pre-packaged filter cup of FIG. 1.

FIG. 63 is a side, cross-sectional view of the tray of FIG. 62.

FIG. 64 is a bottom plan view of the tray of FIG. 62. view of a tray component of an appliance according to the present invention.

FIG. 65 is a perspective view of a coffee appliance having a slidable drip tray according to the present invention.

FIG. 66 is a cross-sectional view of the coffee appliance of FIG. 65 showing the slidable drip tray in an extended position.

FIG. 67 is a cross-sectional view of the coffee appliance of FIG. 65 showing the slidable drip tray in a retracted position.

FIG. 68 is a schematic view of a coffee appliance according to another embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 69 is a schematic view of a coffee appliance in accordance with another embodiment of the present invention, illustrating a grinding motor in a first position.

FIG. 70 is a schematic view of the coffee appliance of FIG. 69 illustrating the grinding motor in a second position.


DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS



[0007] Referring to FIGS. 1 - 7, a filter cup 10 for use with an appliance according to the present invention includes a cup 12, a paper/fabric filter 14, a plastic screen 16 and a foil cover 18. The filter 14 prevents coffee grounds and/or other sediment from exiting the cup 12 during brewing but permits passage of liquid. The cover 18 may be formed from aluminum or other material known in the art, and is preferably heat-sealed or otherwise releasably affixed to the top rim of the cup 10. A plurality of whole coffee beans 20 are enclosed in the space between the foil cover 18 and the plastic screen 16. While FIG. 1 shows coffee beans housed in the filter cup 10, other types of food and substances, such as tea and the like, may be used in similar fashion to that described herein, without departing from the broader aspects of the present invention.

[0008] As further shown in FIG. 1, the cup 12 has an opening 22 at the top thereof, a circumferential sidewall 24 and a floor 26. As best shown in FIGS. 2-7, the floor 26 has a plurality of grooves or channels 28 that direct a flow of fluid to a circular depression or recess 30 having one or more apertures 32. Importantly, the recess 30 is the lowest portion of the cup 10 such that brewed coffee collects in the recess 30 and exits the cup through the apertures 32, as discussed hereinafter. FIG. 7 illustrates the cup 10 in an assembled state and containing coffee beans 20. As shown therein, the paper filter 14 is positioned on the floor 26 of the cup 12. The plastic screen 16 is positioned on top of the paper filter 14 and protects the paper filter 14 from abrasion caused by a grinding blade and/or coffee grounds. Both the paper filter 14 and the screen 16 are circular and sized to be closely received by the circumferential sidewall 24 of the cup at the bottom thereof. As best shown in FIG. 7, the screen 16 may be resilient and resistant to bending such that the screen 16 provides a flat surface in the cup 12 on top of which coffee bean 20 may rest. Importantly, the screen 16 prevents the coffee beans 20 from falling to the floor 26 of the cup 12 (which may be out of reach of a grinding blade) to facilitate optimal grinding by the grinding blade, as discussed in detail hereinafter. As discussed above, the foil cover 18 seals the filter 14, screen 16 and coffee beans 20 inside the cup 12.

[0009] The cup 10 may be stored and transported in a separate sealed package or wrapper for additional freshness and protection, and the apertures 32 in the floor 26 may be covered with, for example, an adhesive label (not shown). In the preferred embodiment, the filter cup 10 is a pre-packaged, single-use, disposable component. Thus, it is sealed by the foil cover 18 in an air-tight manner to preserve freshness and flavor and to protect the coffee beans 20 from moisture and contamination. As discussed above, the filter cup 10 may be sealed by the foil cover 18 and an adhesive label, or may be packaged in a wrapper with or without the adhesive label. In an alternative embodiment, it is contemplated that the filter cup 10 may instead be a reusable cup that is re-filled for each use. In an embodiment, the floor 26 of the cup may be formed without apertures 32. In this embodiment, the floor of the cup 26 may be pierced by a needle upon insertion into a coffee appliance to provide an exit for the flow of brewed coffee.

[0010] Referring now to FIG. 8, an alternative construction of a filter cup 50 is shown. As shown therein, the cup 50 is substantially similar in shape and construction as the cup 10, however, a metal mesh filter 52 may be utilized in place of the paper/fabric filter 14 and the protective plastic screen 16. In this embodiment, the metal mesh filter 52 is fine enough such that it prevents coffee grounds from exiting the cup 10 and also provides a level of abrasion resistance. While it is disclosed that the filter 34 may be formed from a metal mesh, other materials substantially resistant to abrasion from the grinding blade and/or coffee grounds may also be utilized without departing from the broader aspects of the present invention.

[0011] Referring to FIGS. 9-24, an appliance 100 according to an embodiment of the present invention is shown. The appliance 100 is intended to be used in combination with the filter cup 10, disclosed above, in order to brew a coffee or other beverage. As shown therein, the appliance 100 is generally rectangular in shape and comprises a base 102 and a drip tray housing 104 slidably receiving a drip tray 106 having a slotted or grated top surface 108. The surface 108 of the tray 106 is adapted to have a container, such as a coffee mug 109, placed upon it to receive brewed coffee as it is produced by and emitted from the appliance 100. As will be readily appreciated, the slotted surface 108 permits liquid that may be spilled from the cup 109 or that miss the cup 109 during operation to pass through the surface 108 and collect in the drip tray 106, for easy cleanup.

[0012] A housing 110 is located above, and supported by, the base 102 and slidably receives a grinding platform such as a filter cup housing/tray 112 for securing and positing the filter cup 10 during use. A handle 114 is pivotally mounted to the housing 110 for operation, as described below. As further shown in FIGS. 9 and 10, a water reservoir 116 is attached to, supported by, and otherwise forms a part of the housing 17. In an embodiment, the water reservoir 116 may be removably or permanently mounted to the housing 110. The housing 110 also includes a control panel 118 for controlling operational features of the appliance, as discussed hereinafter. As best shown in FIG. 9, the base 102 includes a recess on one side there for slidably receiving a discard tank 120 for receiving water from a cleaning operation of the appliance 100 (described below) and discarded filter cups 10 after use. In an alternative embodiment, the tray 112 may be pivotally received by the housing 110 and movable between a first position in which the housing/tray 112 is received within the housing, and a second position in which the tray 112 is pivoted away from the housing and towards a user to facilitate the installation of a filter cup 10. In an embodiment, the tray 112 is removable from the housing 110 for cleaning.

[0013] Operation of the appliance 100 will now be described with specific reference to FIGS. 17-24. First, the water reservoir 116 is filled with water. A user then selects the desired coffee settings from the control panel 118. Settings may include selectable options such as coffee strength and serving size, timer setting, automatic brew, etc. The handle 114 is then moved upwardly in the direction of arrow A, as shown in FIG. 17, in order to unlock the tray 112 from its seated and retained position within the housing 110. The tray 112 slides out from the appliance 100 in the direction of arrow B to the position shown in FIG. 18, under force of a spring 154. In this position, the tray 112 is ready for a filter cup 10 to be placed into the receiving bracket 124 in the tray 112.

[0014] After the cup 10 is inserted into the tray 112, the tray 112 is now ready to be pushed back into the appliance 100 in the direction of arrow C, as shown in FIG. 19. In particular, the tray 112 is pushed manually back into the appliance 100 so that it is received by the housing 110 in locked position, as shown in FIG. 20. The handle 114 is then lowered in the direction of arrow D in order to automatically initiate the grinding and brewing processes.

[0015] Referring to FIG. 21, as noted above, the grinding process starts automatically after the handle 114 is lowered. In the process, the coffee beans 20 in the filter cup 10 are ground by a grinding blade 126 that is received within the cup 10 so that the beans 20 are turned into coffee grounds 128. After grinding is completed, heated water is delivered into the cup 10 from a water outlet described hereinafter. As represented by the arrow 130 in FIG. 22, coffee is emitted from the bottom of the tray 112, which has an opening to enable such emission, into the coffee mug 109 positioned beneath the tray 112.

[0016] After the brewing process is complete, the handle 114 is raised from the position shown in FIG. 23 in the direction of arrow E to the position shown in FIG. 24. Again, movement of the handle 114 to its upper position unlocks the tray 112 so that it slides out of the housing 110 appliance 100, permitting the user to manually remove the used filter cup 10 from the tray 112. The cup 110 may then be discarded into the discard tank 120. The filled mug 109 of coffee may be removed from the drip tray 106 before or after this step.

[0017] In an embodiment, while the tray 112 is in the out position, as shown in FIG. 24, a blade cleaning operation automatically begins. In the blade cleaning operation water is emitted from the water outlet 132. Because the cup 10 has been removed, the blade is surrounded by space thereby enabling the flowing water to rinse it clean. In an embodiment, the blade may rotate during application of water to facilitate cleaning. Since the tray 112 is in the out position, the water will not drain out of the bottom of the cup 10 and tray 112, as it does in the brewing mode. Instead, the water is diverted because it falls into the rear end 134 of the tray 112 into a collection pan 136, as is shown in FIG. 59. The water exits from the collection pan 136 of the tray 112 via a discard tube 138 and falls into the discard tank 120.

[0018] In an alternative embodiment, a cup containing a cleaning liquid such as water may be utilized to clean the blade 166 either periodically or after each use. In this embodiment, a cleaning cup is inserted into the receptacle 124 and the appliance 100 is actuated by pulling the handle 114 downward. The appliance 100 may then run a normal brewing cycle. Alternatively, a button on the control panel 118 may be depressed to run a cleaning cycle. The cleaning cycle may be specifically configured, e.g., water temperature, run time, blade rotation speed, to optimize blade cleaning and sterilization. In alternative embodiments, the cleaning cup may contain a cleaning solution or a slurry of cleaning ingredients. The cleaning ingredients may be liquid or dry and may take the form of granules, powder, etc.

[0019] In yet another embodiment, a cleaning operation may including running a brewing cycle without actually inserting a filter cup 10. In this embodiment, the handle 114 may be moved downward to begin the cycle such that heated water is passed over the stationary or rotating blade 166 to clean the blade. Alternatively, a button on the control panel 118 may be depressed to initiate the cleaning cycle.

[0020] FIGS. 62 and 63 illustrate the tray 112 and the collection pan 136. FIG. 64 illustrates the bottom view of the tray 112 and shows the openings 32 of the cup 10 as viewed through an opening 140 in the bottom of the tray 112 that permits brewed coffee to flow out.

[0021] FIG. 25A schematically illustrates how ground coffee 128, which is ground from whole coffee beans 20 in a procedure described below, is infused with heated water to produce coffee. The ground coffee 128 is located in the cup 10 and heated water is introduced from above through a water outlet 132 as indicated by the arrow 142. The heated water flows through the ground coffee 128 in the cup 10 and exits from the apertures 32 in the bottom of the cup 10 as shown by arrow 144.

[0022] FIGS. 26 and 27 illustrate certain internal components of the appliance 100. As shown therein, the water reservoir 116 is filled with water. The tray 112 is withdrawn to permit placement of a cup 10 into a receiving bracket 124 in the tray 112, as shown in FIGS. 18 and 19. The tray 112 is then pushed back into the appliance to the position shown in FIG. 20. The handle 113 is then moved downwardly, as shown in FIGS. 21 and 22. Such movement of the handle 114 causes the cup 10 to be raised upwardly for grinding of the coffee beans 20 in the cup 10, as described below. The appliance 100 includes a heater 146 and pump 148 to heat water from the reservoir 116 and route it through a supply conduit to perform a brewing operation as described with reference to FIG. 25A. As shown in FIGS. 26-29, a grinder motor 150 is positioned in the housing 110 of the appliance 100 to carry out grinding of the coffee beans 20 in a manner described below. A hot water tube 152 carries heated water from the heater 146 to the water outlet 132 located above the tray 112.

[0023] As best shown in FIGS. 27 and 29, lifting mechanism 156 is activated by the handle 114 in order to cause movement of the cup 10 between a lowered position and a raised position. The mechanism 156 includes a linkage arm 158, a pin 160 operatively attached to the receiving bracket 124 of the tray 112 and associated slot 162, and a plate 164 in which the slot 162 is located. In operation, upon moving the handle 114 in the downwards direction, pin 160 follows the path of the slot 162 and causes the cup 10 and the receiving bracket 124 to be lifted upwards into the grinding blade. Guideposts 161 are received in bore holes 163 of the receiving bracket to ensure proper orientation and alignment of the cup 10 with the grinding blade. Lowering of the cup 10 follows the reverse process.

[0024] Referring to FIG. 30, the appliance 100 includes a grinding blade 166 attached to and driven by a rotary output shaft 168 associated with the grinder motor 150. When the handle 112 is moved to the lower position as shown in FIG. 28, the cup 10 is raised so that the blade 166 engages and pierces through the foil cover 18 and enters the cup 10 and comes into contact with the coffee beans 20. The cup loading/raising mechanism 156, which is activated by the handle 114, moves the cup 10 between this raised position for grinding, and a lowered position. The spring 154 is a user assist spring, which biases the tray 112 outwards from the housing 110 when then handle 114 is raised, in order to insert a cup 10.

[0025] As shown in FIG. 31, movement of the handle 114 to the raised position unlocks the tray 112 so it slides out under force of the spring 154 in cooperation with a plate 165 (which serves as a anchoring object for the spring to work off of) in order to allow placement of a cup 10 into the receiving bracket 124 of the tray 112. A user then places a cup 10 into the tray 112 as shown in FIG. 32. The tray 112 must be manually pushed back into the closed position as shown in FIG. 33 until it locks in place by the tray lock 170 shown in FIG. 34.

[0026] FIGS. 35-37 illustrate the piercing and grinding sequence in accordance with the present invention. As shown in FIG. 35, the filter cup 10 is raised upwardly toward the blade 166, in the direction of arrow F when the handle 114 is lowered. FIG. 36 illustrates the position of the cup 10 when it is fully raised. In that position, a seal ring 172, such as an O-ring, engages a top rim of the cup 10 so that when the brewing process occurs the cup 10 may be pressurized. FIG. 37 illustrates the lowered position of the cup 10 after grinding and brewing occur and the handle 114 is raised. Importantly, the seal ring 172 seals the top of the cup 10 so that the cup may be pressurized. In the preferred embodiment, the cup is pressurized in excess of 200 kilopascals (2 bars) during brewing, although other pressures may be employed without departing from the broader aspects of the present invention.

[0027] Various views of the grinding blade 166 for grinding the whole coffee beans are shown in FIGS. 38-43. As shown therein, the blade 166 has a V-shaped configuration. Importantly, the blade 166 has insert cutting edges 174 so that the foil cover 18 of the cup 10 can be pierced when the cup 10 is raised upon downwards movement of the handle 114. The top of the blade also includes upward facing extract cutting edges 176 for cutting through the foil cover 18 when the cup 10 is lowered away from the blade subsequent to brewing, upon upwards movement of the handle 114. Each leg of the "V" is also formed with an opposed recess 178 and raised ridge 180 to facilitate grinding of the coffee beans 20, as described hereinafter. The blade 166 also includes a collar 182 for connection to the output shaft 168 of the grinding motor 150. In such an embodiment, the blade 166 may be removable for replacement and/or more thorough cleaning. In an alternative embodiment, the blade 166 is integrally formed or otherwise fixedly secured to the output shaft 168 of the motor 150. As will be readily appreciated, the slim profile of the blade 166 puts cuts a slot a minimal width in the foil cover 18 to prevent coffee grounds 128 from being thrown out of the cup 10 during grinding. In addition, the shape and configuration of the blade 166 facilitates cleaning.

[0028] FIG. 44 illustrates the cup 10 being raised toward the blade 166 and FIG. 45 illustrates the blade 166, by way of the insert cutting edges 174, piercing the foil cover 18 of the cup 10. In both FIGS. 44 and 45 the coffee beans 20 in the cup 10 are not yet ground. After grinding, the beans 20 have been transformed into ground coffee 128. Brewing occurs, as described above, and the cup 10 is then lowered as shown in FIGS. 46 and 47 such that the extract cutting edges 176 of the blade 166 again pierce the foil cover 18, if necessary, to facilitate removal of the cup 10 from the blade 166.

[0029] Referring now to FIGS. 48-50, the actual grinding process is illustrated. Upon actuation of the grinding motor 150, the grinding blade 166 rotates at a high frequency sufficient to grind the coffee beans 20 in the filter cup 20 to transform the coffee beans 20 from whole beans, as shown in FIG. 48, to grinds, as shown in FIG. 60. In particular, the blade 166 is rotated in a direction (see FIG. 49) that causes the ridge 180 on the blade 166 to strike / impact the coffee beans 20 to cause them to split. Over time, numerous impacts from the blade itself, and most importantly, by the ridges 180, gradually reduce the size of the coffee beans to fine grounds sufficient for brewing. In an embodiment, the blade 166 may continue to rotate at a predetermined frequency during the brewing process, i.e., during the time during which hot water is passed through the cup 12. The frequency of rotation during brewing may be the same as, or different from, the frequency utilized to grind the coffee beans 20. In other embodiments, the blade 166 may be utilized to stir drink ingredients during brewing, such as to facilitate dissolution of drink ingredients into the water passing through the cup 10 (e.g., when utilizing iced tea drink ingredients in place of whole coffee beans). As will be readily appreciated, stirring the drink ingredients/coffee beans within the cup 10 while brewing may produce a better tasting beverage. In particular, stirring during brewing may improve the contact between the coffee grounds 128 and the hot water, which may improve coffee quality and / or concentration.

[0030] In an alternative embodiment, the filter cup 10 may be retracted from the grinding blade 166 prior to distributing heated water to the cup 10. As will be readily appreciated, this ensures that the grinding blade 166 only touches the coffee when it is dry (i.e., when it grinds the coffee beans 20 prior to brewing). Accordingly, grounds coffee is not as susceptible to sticking to the blade 166 as it would be if the blade 166 and ground coffee 128 were present together in a wet environment and, as such, keeps the blade substantially free of coffee grounds without having to clean the blade.

[0031] FIGS. 52-57 illustrate an alternative configuration for a grinding blade 184 that may be utilized with the appliance 100. As shown therein, the blade has a V-shaped configuration and has a piercing edge 186 for piercing the foil cover 18 of the cup 10. The blade 184 also has two horizontally extending flanges 188, 190 to facilitate grinding of the coffee beans 20 and two upward edges 192, 194 for again cutting through the foil 18 when the cup 10 is lowered away from the blade 184. As with the blade 166 of the preferred embodiment, the blade 184 may be releasably attached to the output shaft 168 of the grinding motor 150, or it may be integrally formed or otherwise permanently affixed thereto.

[0032] The path of water used in the process of the present invention is illustrated in FIG. 58. First, the reservoir 116 is filled with water. In an embodiment, the reservoir 116 may be releasably received on the housing 110 such that a user can remove the reservoir 116 to fill it with water and then place it on the housing 110. As will be readily appreciated, such a configuration may be easier than bring a water source to the reservoir itself. The reservoir 116 may have a removable lid 194 as shown in FIG. 60 to facilitate filling with water. A water outlet 196, best shown in FIGS. 17-24, permits water to flow from the reservoir 116 under the force of gravity. The outlet 196 may be equipped with a valve 198 of a type commonly known to those skilled in the art, wherein the valve my be electronically activated and controlled by means of a conventional controller from an open position to a closed position, and vice versa. During brewing, water exits the reservoir 116 through the outlet 196 and travels through a first tube 200 until it readies the pump 148. The pump 148 pumps the water through the heater 146 in order to heat the water to a desired, predetermined temperature. The water passes from the heater 146 through the hot water supply tube 152 to the water outlet 132.

[0033] In an embodiment, at the end of the brewing process, the flow of water will be shut off prior than the heater such that steam will be generated to push or blow out excess liquid remaining in the cup 10. As will be readily appreciated, this steam blast ensures that the last few drops of coffee do not remain in the cup 10 and prevents dripping.

[0034] As shown in FIG. 25B, in an embodiment, the water outlet 132 is a shower head in the form of an annular tube or ring 208 having a plurality of apertures 210 formed therein for distributing heated water. Heated water emitted from the apertures 210 of the shower head 132 is used both for brewing coffee and for rinsing the blade 166 in the cleaning operation. During brewing the heated water leaving the water outlet/ shower head 132 enters the cup 10 which, at this point in the process, contains ground coffee 128. The water, now brewed coffee, exits the cup 10 through the apertures 32 in the floor 26 of the cup 10. As it exits the cup through the apertures 32, it travels down through an exit conduit in the tray 112 before emitting through the tray exit 202. In an embodiment, the tray may include a flow softening member 204 directly below the apertures 32 of the filter cup 10. The flow softening member retards the direct flow of brewed coffee into the coffee mug 109 so that the brewed coffee doesn't gush out and splash a user or create a mess. After leaving the exit 202, the water, which has now become brewed coffee, falls into the coffee mug 109. The volume of liquid selected, corresponding to the serving size, is pre-selected using the controls 118, and the pump 148 and water outlet 196 are accordingly controlled to permit flow of only the selected amount before shutting off flow.

[0035] FIGS. 65-67 illustrate an alternative configuration of the drip tray 106 in accordance with another embodiment of the present invention. As shown therein, the drip tray is moveable between a first position, as shown in FIG. 66, in which the tray 106 is positioned below the brewed coffee exit 202, and a second position, as shown in FIG. 7, in which the drip tray 106 is housed within the base 102 of the appliance 100. With the drip tray 106 in the position shown in FIG. 67, taller cups/mugs 206 may be accommodated.

[0036] FIG. 68 illustrates a coffee appliance 300 having an alternative configuration in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention. As shown therein, instead of the cup 10 being installed vertically and the grinding blade 166, brew shower head 132 and motor 150 being in a vertical position above the cup 10, these elements are oriented horizontally. In particular, as shown therein, the filter cup 10 is installed in a horizontal orientation within the housing 110. In addition, the grinding motor 150, shower head 132 and blade 166 are positioned to the side of the cup 10 in a horizontal position. In this embodiment, the appliance 300 includes a conduit 302 in communication with the bottom of the cup 10 such that brewed coffee exits the cup and is routed through the conduit 302 to the outlet 202 for distribution into a user's cup 109.

[0037] FIGS. 69 and 70 illustrate a coffee appliance 400 according to yet another embodiment of the present invention. The coffee appliance 400 is similar in configuration to that of the appliance 100 disclosed above, with a few notable differences. As shown therein, instead of the motor 150, blade 166 and shower head 132 being stationary and the cup 10 being lifted into engagement with the blade 166, in this embodiment, the brew shower head 132, motor 150 and blade 166 are configured to move towards and away from a stationary cup 10. FIG. 69 illustrates a first position of the motor 150, blade 166 and brew head 132 above the stationary filter cup 10. The motor 150, blade 166 and brew head 132 are moveable in the vertical direction to a second position, shown in FIG. 70, in which the blade is disposed within the cup 10. The vertical movement of the motor 150, blade 166 and shower head 132 may be effectuated by utilizing mechanical action or electrical actuators. The coffee appliance 400 according to this embodiment may be characterized as having an active brew assembly (motor 150, grinding blade 166 and shower head 132) and a passive filter cup 10, as opposed to an active filter cup 10 and passive brew assembly.

[0038] While the preferred embodiment contemplates the grinding and brewing of coffee from whole coffee beans, the present invention is not intended to be limited in this regard. In particular, it is contemplated that the present invention apparatus and method are not limited to cups containing whole bean coffee, per se, and the invention may be used with cups containing ground coffee, partially ground coffee, tea leaves, ground tea, or drink mix ingredients. In addition, the appliance according to the embodiments of the present invention can make/brew beverages from any ingredients contained within the filter cup, and is not limited to brewing coffee from whole coffee beans.

[0039] Although this invention has been shown and described with respect to the detailed embodiments thereof, it will be understood by those of skill in the art that various changes may be made and equivalents may be substituted for elements thereof without departing from the scope of the invention. In addition, modifications may be made to adapt a particular situation or material to the teachings of the invention without departing from the essential scope thereof. Therefore, it is intended that the invention not be limited to the particular embodiments disclosed in the above detailed description, but that the invention will include all embodiments falling within the scope of this disclosure.

[0040] The invention further refers to the following items:
  1. 1. A pre-packaged, single serve beverage container, said container comprising:

    a cup-shaped body having a floor, a circumferential sidewall, and a top opening;

    a filter element positioned above the floor;

    at least one aperture formed in said floor;

    a plurality of drink ingredients positioned adjacent said filter element within said body; and

    a cover affixed to the cup body and covering said top opening to contain said drink ingredients within said container.

  2. 2. The container of item 1, wherein:

    said drink ingredients are whole coffee beans.

  3. 3. The container of item 1, wherein:

    said cover is formed from metallic foil.

  4. 4. The container of item 2, wherein:

    said filter element is made of paper.

  5. 5. The container of item 2, further comprising:

    a screen positioned over said filter element and beneath said whole coffee beans.

  6. 6. The container of item 5, wherein:

    said screen is plastic.

  7. 7. The container of item 1, further comprising:

    a plurality of grooves formed in said floor of said container for directing a flow of liquid in said container to said at least one aperture in said floor.

  8. 8. A brewed beverage appliance, comprising:

    a reservoir for housing a liquid;

    a grinding mechanism;

    a grinding platform having a grinding cavity, said grinding platform moving from a first grinding position in which said grinding mechanism is not disposed within said grinding cavity, to a second grinding position in which said grinding mechanism is disposed within said grinding cavity;

    a control circuit for selectively causing said grinding mechanism to operate when in said second grinding position; and

    a pump, said pump selectively pumping said liquid from said reservoir to said grinding cavity after said grinding mechanism has operated within said grinding cavity.

  9. 9. The brewed beverage appliance of item 8, further comprising:

    a handle pivotally mounted on said appliance and mechanically associated with said grinding platform such that movement of said handle causes movement of said grinding platform between said first grinding position and said second grinding position.

  10. 10. The brewed beverage appliance of item 8, wherein:

    said grinding platform is slidably received in said brewed beverage appliance and is configurable between a first position in which said grinding platform is extended from said brewed beverage appliance to allow for loading of a container of whole coffee beans, and a second position in which said grinding platform is positioned substantially within said brewed beverage appliance.

  11. 11. The brewed beverage appliance of item 8, further comprising:

    a heater to heat said liquid from said reservoir; and

    a water delivery mechanism to deliver said heated liquid to said grinding platform.

  12. 12. The brewed beverage appliance of item 8, wherein:

    said grinding mechanism includes a blade and an electric motor operatively connected to said blade;

    wherein actuation of said motor causes said blade to rotate about an axis to grind at least one beverage ingredient within said grinding platform.

  13. 13. The coffee appliance of item 8, wherein:

    said reservoir is removable from said coffee appliance.

  14. 14. The coffee appliance of item 8, wherein:

    said reservoir includes a removable lid.

  15. 15. A brewed beverage system, comprising:

    a housing having a liquid reservoir;

    a grinding mechanism arranged within said housing;

    a sealed beverage container containing a beverage ingredient having particles of a first size;

    a grinding platform having a grinding cavity, said grinding platform being selectively moved in and out of said housing and said cavity being configured to releasably accommodate said sealed beverage container;

    a moving means for selectively moving said grinding platform from a first grinding position to a second grinding position when said sealed beverage container is in said grinding cavity, wherein when in said first grinding position said grinding mechanism is not disposed within said sealed beverage container, and when in said second grinding position said grinding mechanism is disposed within said sealed beverage container;

    a control circuit for selectively causing said grinding mechanism to operate when in said second grinding position, said grinding mechanism acting on said beverage ingredient to reduce said particles from said first size to a second size, said second size being smaller than said first size; and

    a pump, said pump selectively pumping a liquid from said liquid reservoir to said sealed beverage container, said sealed beverage container including an exit aperture to permit said liquid to exit said sealed beverage container.

  16. 16. The brewed beverage appliance of item 15, wherein:

    said beverage ingredient is a plurality of whole coffee beans.

  17. 17. The brewed beverage appliance of item 15, wherein:

    said grinding platform is slidably received in said brewed beverage appliance and is slidable between a first position in which said grinding platform is extended from said brewed beverage appliance to allow for loading of said container, and a second position in which said grinding platform is positioned substantially within said brewed beverage appliance.

  18. 18. The brewed beverage appliance of item 15, further comprising:

    a handle pivotally mounted on said appliance and mechanically associated with said grinding platform such that movement of said handle causes movement of said grinding platform between said first grinding position and said second grinding position.

  19. 19. The brewed beverage appliance of item 15, further comprising:

    a heater to heat said liquid from said reservoir; and

    a water delivery mechanism to deliver said heated liquid to said beverage container.

  20. 20. The brewed beverage appliance of item 15, wherein:

    said grinding mechanism includes a blade and an electric motor operatively connected to said blade;

    wherein actuation of said motor causes said blade to rotate about an axis to grind at least one beverage ingredient within said container.

  21. 21. The brewed beverage appliance of item 15, wherein:

    said container comprises a cup-shaped body having a floor, a circumferential wall, and a top opening; a filter element positioned above the floor; at least one aperture formed in the floor; said beverage ingredient being positioned adjacent the filter element; and a cover that covers the top of the opening and contains the whole coffee beans in said container.

  22. 22. The brewed beverage appliance of item 15, wherein:

    said reservoir is removable from said brewed beverage appliance.

  23. 23. A beverage appliance, comprising:

    a housing, said housing including a liquid reservoir;

    a receptacle in said housing dimensioned to receive a container containing at least one drink ingredient having particles of a first size; and

    a mechanism for transforming said particles of said drink ingredient from said first size to a second size within said container, said second size being smaller than said first size.

  24. 24. The beverage appliance of item 23, wherein:

    said particles of at least one drink ingredient are whole coffee beans.

  25. 25. The beverage appliance of item 23, wherein:

    said mechanism is a grinding blade rotatable driven by a motor.

  26. 26. The beverage appliance of item 25, wherein:

    said grinding blade is substantially V-shaped and includes a bottom sharpened edge, a top sharpened edge and at least one protrusion on a side thereof, said at least one protrusion impacting said particles upon rotation of said grinding blade.

  27. 27. The beverage appliance of item 23, wherein:

    said receptacle is slidably received by said housing and is movable between a first position in which the tray is extended from said housing to allow for insertion of said container, and a second position in which said receptacle is positioned within said housing.

  28. 28. The beverage appliance of item 23, further comprising;
    a pump for receiving liquid from said liquid reservoir and directing it to said container; and
    a heater for heating said liquid.
  29. 29. The beverage appliance of item 23, further comprising:

    a control panel for controlling at least one operation of said beverage appliance.

  30. 30. The beverage appliance of item 23, further comprising:

    a handle pivotally mounted on said appliance and mechanically associated with said receptacle such that movement of said handle causes movement of said tray between a first position and said second position.

  31. 31. The beverage appliance of item 30, wherein:

    movement of said handle causes movement of said receptacle between a raised position and a lower position.

  32. 32. A method of brewing a beverage, said method comprising the steps of:

    providing a beverage appliance configured to receive a container containing at least one drink ingredient having particles of a first size;

    grinding said particles of said at least one drink ingredient within said container from said first size to a second size, said second size being smaller than said first size; and

    delivering heated liquid to said container to produce a brewed beverage.

  33. 33. The method of brewing a beverage according to item 32, wherein:

    said at least one drink ingredient is a plurality of whole coffee beans.

  34. 34. The method of brewing a beverage according to item 32, wherein:

    said beverage appliance includes a liquid reservoir.

  35. 35. The method of brewing a beverage according to item 34, further comprising the step of:

    heating liquid from said liquid reservoir.

  36. 36. The method of brewing a beverage according to item 32, further comprising the step of:

    distributing said brewed beverage from said appliance to a brewed beverage receptacle received on a base of said beverage appliance.

  37. 37. The method of brewing a beverage according to item 32, wherein:

    said beverage appliance includes a tray configured to receive said container.

  38. 38. The method of brewing a beverage according to item 37, further comprising the step of:

    placing said container in said tray; and

    moving said container towards said grinding mechanism to cause a blade of said grinding mechanism to penetrate into said container.

  39. 39. The method according to item 34, wherein:

    said reservoir is removable from said base.

  40. 40. The method according to item 39, wherein:

    said reservoir includes a lid removable mounted thereto.

  41. 41. The method according to item 38, further comprising the steps of:

    extending said tray from said coffee appliance;

    closing said tray such that said tray is received in said coffee appliance after said step of placing said container of whole coffee beans in said tray.

  42. 42. The method according to item 32, further comprising the step of:

    actuating a button on a control panel to control at least one operation of said coffee appliance.

  43. 43. The method according to item 32, further comprising the step of:

    moving a handle mounted on said coffee machine and mechanically associated with said tray to cause movement of said tray between an extended position and a closed position.

  44. 44. The method according to item 32, wherein:

    said container comprises a cup-shaped body having a floor, a circumferential wall, and a top opening; a filter element positioned above the floor; at least one opening in the floor;

    a plurality of whole coffee beans positioned on the filter element; and a thin material covering that covers the top of the opening and contains the coffee beans in the cup.

  45. 45. The method according to item 32, further comprising the step of:

    stirring said ground coffee beans while said heated liquid is delivered into said container.

  46. 46. A method of brewing coffee, said method comprising the steps of:

    providing a container containing whole coffee beans;

    transforming said whole coffee beans into coffee grounds within said container; and

    passing heated water through said container to brew said coffee.

  47. 47. The method of brewing coffee according to item 46, further comprising the step of:

    inserting said container into a receptacle of a coffee appliance; and

    piercing a cover of said container with a grinding blade.

  48. 48. The method of brewing coffee according to item 47, further comprising the step of:

    removing said grinding blade from said container; and

    cleaning said grinding blade with a stream of heated water.

  49. 49. The method of brewing coffee according to item 47, further comprising the step of:

    stirring said coffee grounds while passing said heated water through said container.




Claims

1. A brewed beverage appliance, comprising:

a reservoir for housing a liquid;

a grinding mechanism;

a grinding platform having a grinding cavity, said grinding platform moving from a first grinding position in which said grinding mechanism is not disposed within said grinding cavity, to a second grinding position in which said grinding mechanism is disposed within said grinding cavity;

a control circuit for selectively causing said grinding mechanism to operate when in said second grinding position; and

a pump, said pump selectively pumping said liquid from said reservoir to said grinding cavity after said grinding mechanism has operated within said grinding cavity.


 
2. The brewed beverage appliance of claim 1, further comprising:

a handle pivotally mounted on said appliance and mechanically associated with said grinding platform such that movement of said handle causes movement of said grinding platform between said first grinding position and said second grinding position.


 
3. The brewed beverage appliance of claim 1, wherein:

said grinding platform is slidably received in said brewed beverage appliance and is configurable between a first position in which said grinding platform is extended from said brewed beverage appliance to allow for loading of a container of whole coffee beans, and a second position in which said grinding platform is positioned substantially within said brewed beverage appliance.


 
4. The brewed beverage appliance of claim 1, further comprising:

a heater to heat said liquid from said reservoir; and

a water delivery mechanism to deliver said heated liquid to said grinding platform.


 
5. The brewed beverage appliance of claim 1, wherein:

said grinding mechanism includes a blade and an electric motor operatively connected to said blade;

wherein actuation of said motor causes said blade to rotate about an axis to grind at least one beverage ingredient within said grinding platform.


 
6. The brewed beverage appliance of claim 1, wherein:

said reservoir is removable from said coffee appliance.


 
7. The brewed beverage appliance of claim 1, wherein:

said reservoir includes a removable lid.


 
8. A brewed beverage system, comprising:

a housing having a liquid reservoir;

a grinding mechanism arranged within said housing;

a sealed beverage container containing a beverage ingredient having particles of a first size;

a grinding platform having a grinding cavity, said grinding platform being selectively moved in and out of said housing and said cavity being configured to releasably accommodate said sealed beverage container;

a moving means for selectively moving said grinding platform from a first grinding position to a second grinding position when said sealed beverage container is in said grinding cavity, wherein when in said first grinding position said grinding mechanism is not disposed within said sealed beverage container, and when in said second grinding position said grinding mechanism is disposed within said sealed beverage container;

a control circuit for selectively causing said grinding mechanism to operate when in said second grinding position, said grinding mechanism acting on said beverage ingredient to reduce said particles from said first size to a second size, said second size being smaller than said first size; and

a pump, said pump selectively pumping a liquid from said liquid reservoir to said sealed beverage container, said sealed beverage container including an exit aperture to permit said liquid to exit said sealed beverage container.


 
9. The brewed beverage system of claim 8, wherein:

said beverage ingredient is a plurality of whole coffee beans.


 
10. The brewed beverage system of claim 8, wherein:

said grinding platform is slidably received in said brewed beverage appliance and is slidable between a first position in which said grinding platform is extended from said brewed beverage appliance to allow for loading of said container, and a second position in which said grinding platform is positioned substantially within said brewed beverage appliance.


 
11. The brewed beverage system of claim 8, further comprising:

a handle pivotally mounted on said appliance and mechanically associated with said grinding platform such that movement of said handle causes movement of said grinding platform between said first grinding position and said second grinding position.


 
12. The brewed beverage system of claim 8, further comprising:

a heater to heat said liquid from said reservoir; and

a water delivery mechanism to deliver said heated liquid to said beverage container.


 
13. The brewed beverage system of claim 8, wherein:

said grinding mechanism includes a blade and an electric motor operatively connected to said blade;

wherein actuation of said motor causes said blade to rotate about an axis to grind at least one beverage ingredient within said container.


 
14. The brewed beverage system of claim 8, wherein:

said container comprises a cup-shaped body having a floor, a circumferential wall, and a top opening; a filter element positioned above the floor; at least one aperture formed in the floor; said beverage ingredient being positioned adjacent the filter element; and a cover that covers the top of the opening and contains the whole coffee beans in said container.


 
15. The brewed beverage system of claim 8, wherein:

said reservoir is removable from said brewed beverage appliance.


 




Drawing