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Title:
BEVERAGE DISTRIBUTION APPARATUS AND METHOD FOR BEVERAGE DISTRIBUTION USING SAME
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2019/169485
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
The present disclosure concerns a beverage distribution apparatus including: a water treatment system purifying the water from a water source to produce treated water; a water heating mechanism heating a portion of treated water circulating in a closed heated water circuit to produce heated treated water; a water cooling mechanism cooling a portion of treated water circulating in a closed cooled water circuit to produce cooled treated water; a mixing assembly fluidly connected to the closed cooled water circuit, the closed heated water circuit, and additive sources, and a beverage outlet, the mixing assembly mixing a quantity of cooled treated water, a quantity of heated treated water and a quantity of additive to produce a quantity of water-based beverage dispensed by a nozzle. A method for performing beverage distribution is also provided.

Inventors:
GAGNON, Francis (673 av. des Jésuites, Québec, Québec G1S 0B6, G1S 0B6, CA)
LEMIEUX, Jean-René (372 rue des Sizerins, Lévis, Québec G7A 0A6, G7A 0A6, CA)
NADEAU, Michel (3309 Avenue Mallet, Québec, Québec G1C 3S6, G1C 3S6, CA)
Application Number:
CA2019/050263
Publication Date:
September 12, 2019
Filing Date:
March 05, 2019
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
GROUPE OPUIT INC. (1 rue Léon-Harmel, Québec, Québec G1N 4L2, G1N 4L2, CA)
International Classes:
B67D1/00; A23L2/00; C02F1/00; C02F1/02; C02F1/32; C02F1/68; C02F96/08
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
ROBIC LLP (630 René-Lévesque Boulevard West, 20th FloorMontréal, Québec H3B 1S6, H3B 1S6, CA)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS:

1 . A beverage distribution apparatus fluidly connectable to a water source and distributing a water-based beverage including at least one additive, the beverage distribution apparatus comprising:

a water treatment system purifying water received from the water source and producing treated water;

a water heating mechanism heating a portion of treated water and producing heated treated water;

a water cooling mechanism cooling a portion of treated water and producing cooled treated water;

at least one additive source comprising one of the at least one additive; a mixing assembly mixing a quantity of cooled treated water, a quantity of heated treated water and a quantity of the at least one additive to produce a quantity of water-based beverage, the mixing assembly comprising:

a cooled water inlet and a heated water inlet fluidly connected respectively to the closed cooled water circuit and the closed heated water circuit;

at least one additive inlet fluidly connected to one of the at least one additive source, and

a beverage outlet;

a nozzle in fluid communication with the beverage outlet of the mixing assembly to dispense the quantity of water-based beverage.

2. The beverage distribution apparatus according to claim 1 , wherein the heated treated water is circulated in closed heated water circuit and the cooled treated water is circulated in a closed cooled water circuit.

3. The beverage distribution apparatus according to claim 1 or 2, wherein the mixing assembly comprises: a water mixer comprising the cooled water inlet and the heated water inlet and mixing the quantity of cooled treated water and the quantity of heated treated water to produce a quantity of base beverage water; and an additive mixing tube comprising at least one of the at least one additive inlet, the beverage outlet and a base water inlet in fluid communication with the water mixer, the additive mixing tube being configured to mix the quantity of base beverage water with at least a subset of the at least one additive to produce the quantity of water-based beverage.

4. The beverage distribution apparatus according to claim 3, wherein the additive mixing tube comprises an additive mixing chamber having a substantially square shaped profile, with the base water inlet thereof having a substantially rounded profile.

5. The beverage distribution apparatus according to claim 1 or 2, wherein the mixing assembly comprises: an additive mixing tube comprising at least one of the at least one additive inlet and one of the cooled water inlet and heated water inlet, the additive mixing tube being configured to mix one of the quantity of cooled treated water and heated treated water with at least a subset of the at least one additive to produce a quantity of intermediate water-based beverage; and

a water mixer comprising the other of the cooled water inlet and heated water inlet, the beverage outlet and an intermediate beverage inlet in fluid communication with the additive mixing tube, the water mixer mixing the quantity of intermediate water-based beverage with the other of the quantity of cooled treated water and heated treated water to produce the quantity of water-based beverage.

6. The beverage distribution apparatus according to claim 5, wherein the additive mixing tube comprises an additive mixing chamber having a substantially square shaped profile, with the one of the cooled water inlet and heated water inlet having a substantially rounded profile.

7. The beverage distribution apparatus according to any one of claims 1 to 6, wherein the water treatment system includes at least one of a mechanical filtration device and a UV disinfection device.

8. The beverage distribution apparatus according to claim 7, wherein the mechanical filtration device comprises a water filtering cartridge.

9. The beverage distribution apparatus according to claim 7 or 8, wherein the UV disinfection device includes: a first UV disinfection unit continuously disinfecting the cooled treated water circulating in the closed cooled water circuit, and

a second UV disinfection unit continuously disinfecting the heated treated water circulating in the closed heated water circuit.

10. The beverage distribution apparatus according to any one of claims 7 to

9, wherein the UV disinfection device is downstream of the mechanical filtration device.

1 1. The beverage distribution apparatus according to any one of claims 1 to

10, further comprising a beverage additive compartment having an inner storage chamber containing at least a subset of the at least one additive sources, wherein the closed cooled water circuit includes an additive cooling section extending proximal to the inner storage chamber to provide cooling thereof.

12. The beverage distribution apparatus according to claim 1 1 , further comprising an additive case defining at least partially the beverage additive compartment, the additive cooling section extending inside at least a portion of the additive case.

13. The beverage distribution apparatus according to claim 12, wherein the additive case comprises a wall having spaced-apart inner and external surfaces, the additive cooling section extending at least partially between the inner and external surfaces of the wall.

14. The beverage distribution apparatus according to any one of claims 1 to 13, further comprising a controller configured to control at least one of a temperature of the closed heated water circuit, a temperature of the closed cooled water circuit, a flow of the closed heated water circuit, a flow of the closed cooled water circuit, the quantity of cooled treated water, the quantity of heated treated water, the quantity of the at least one additives and the quantity of water-based beverage.

15. The beverage distribution apparatus according to claim 14, further comprising a user interface allowing interaction between a user and the controller.

16. The beverage distribution apparatus according to claim 14 or 15, wherein the mixing assembly comprises at least one water flow control valve mounted to at least one of the cooled water inlet and the heated water inlet, the controller cooperating with the at least one water flow control valve to control the corresponding quantity of cooled treated water and heated treated water.

17. The beverage distribution apparatus according to any one of claims 14 to

16, wherein the mixing assembly further comprises at least one additive control valve mounted to the at least one additive inlet, the controller cooperating with the at least one additive control valve to control the quantity of the corresponding at least one additive.

18. The beverage distribution apparatus according to any one of claims 14 to

17, further comprising a temperature validation unit cooperating with the controller to control at least one of the quantity of cooled treated water and the quantity of heated treated water.

19. The beverage distribution apparatus according to claim 18, wherein the temperature validation unit is configured to. monitor a temperature of the water- based beverage.

20. The beverage distribution apparatus according to any one of claims 1 to 19, further comprising: an overflow collection container collecting a liquid overflow, and an overflow heating system selectively heating the liquid accumulated in the overflow collection container, to cause evaporation of a portion of the liquid accumulated in the overflow collection container.

21. A method for performing beverage distribution, the method comprising the steps of:

receiving water from a water source;

purifying the water received from the water source, to produce treated water;

heating a portion of treated water to produce heated treated water, the heated treated water being circulated in a closed heated water circuit; cooling a portion of treated water to generate cooled treated water, the cooled treated water being circulated in a closed cooled water circuit; mixing a quantity of cooled treated water, a quantity of heated treated water and a quantity of at least one additive to produce a quantity of water-based beverage; and

dispensing the water-based beverage.

22. The method according to claim 21 , wherein the step of mixing the quantity of cooled treated water, the quantity of heated treated water and the quantity of at least one additive comprises:

mixing the quantity of cooled treated water and the quantity of heated treated water to produce a quantity of base beverage water; and mixing the quantity of base beverage water with the quantity of at least one additive to produce the quantity of water-based beverage.

23. The method according to claim 21 , wherein the step of mixing the quantity of cooled treated water, the quantity of heated treated water and the quantity of at least one additive comprises:

mixing one of the quantities of cooled treated water and heated treated water with the at least one additive to produce a quantity of intermediate water-based beverage; and mixing the quantity of intermediate water-based beverage with the other of the quantities of cooled treated water and heated treated water to produce the quantity of water-based beverage.

24. The method according to any one of claims 21 to 23, wherein the step of purifying the water received from the water source includes at least one of performing mechanical filtration and performing UV disinfection.

25. The method according to claim 24, wherein the step of performing UV disinfection comprises continually disinfecting water circulating in at least one of the closed heated water circuit and the closed cooled water circuit.

26. The method according to claim 24 or 25, wherein the step of performing mechanical filtration is performed prior to the step of performing UV disinfection.

27. The method according to any one of claims 21 to 26, further comprising the step of cooling a beverage additive compartment containing at least partially the at least one additive.

28. The method according to claim 27, wherein the step of cooling the beverage additive compartment circulating a portion of the cooled treated water, in proximity of the beverage additive compartment to perform cooling thereof.

29. The method according to any one of claims 21 to 28, further comprising collecting a liquid overflow in an overflow collection container, and selectively heating the liquid collected in the overflow collection container to produce an evaporation of at least a portion thereof.

30. The method according to any one of claims 21 to 29, further comprising the step of controlling at least one of a temperature of the closed heated water circuit, a temperature of the closed cooled water circuit, a flow of the closed heated water circuit, a flow of the closed cooled water circuit, the quantity of cooled treated water, the quantity of heated treated water, the quantity of the at least one additives and the quantity of water-based beverage.

31. The method according to claim 30, further comprising the step of validating a temperature of the water-based beverage and adjusting the temperature thereof if the temperature of the water-based beverage is not within an acceptable range of a user selected temperature.

32. The method according to claim 22, wherein the method further comprises the step of validating a temperature of the base beverage water and adjusting the temperature thereof if the temperature of the base beverage water is not within an acceptable range of a user selected temperature.

33. The method according to claim 23, wherein the method further comprises the step of validating a temperature of the intermediate water-based beverage and adjusting the temperature thereof if the temperature of the intermediate water-based beverage is not within an acceptable range close to a selected temperature.

Description:
BEVERAGE DISTRIBUTION APPARATUS AND METHOD FOR

BEVERAGE DISTRIBUTION USING SAME

TECHNICAL FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0001] The present invention relates to the field of automated water-based beverage distribution. More particularly, it relates to an apparatus for performing automated water-based beverage distribution and to a method for performing automated distribution of a water-based beverage using the same.

BACKGROUND

[0002] Water fountains are commonly found in public places to dispense water to users. Such fountains are usually connected to the public water distribution network (i.e. the public aqueduct network) and dispense water flowing from such network, without further filtration and without adding additives to the water, i.e. the water provided to the user is the same as the water circulating in the public water distribution network.

[0003] Automated beverage distributors are also known to autonomously dispense different types of water-based beverages to users (i.e. dispense beverages containing water and different additives), without requiring human intervention to supply the beverage to a user. Such beverage distributors are also commonly found in public places. Known automated beverage distributors however tend to suffer from several drawbacks. For example and without being limitative, the drawbacks can relate to the quality and/or purity of the water used in the making of the beverage, to the nature of the additives used for making the beverage, to the method or components used for the conservation of the additive, to the requirement of connecting the beverage distributor to a discharge outlet for spilled or overflowing quantities of beverage, or the like.

[0004] In view of the above, there is a need for an improved beverage distribution apparatus and method of operation for same which would be able to overcome or at least minimize some of the above-discussed prior art concerns. SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0005] In accordance with a general aspect, there is provided a beverage distribution apparatus fluidly connectable to a water source and distributing a water-based beverage including at least one additive. The beverage distribution apparatus comprises a water treatment system purifying water received from the water source and producing treated water; a water heating mechanism heating a portion of treated water and producing heated treated water; a water cooling mechanism cooling a portion of treated water and producing cooled treated water; at least one additive source comprising one of the at least one additive; a mixing assembly mixing a quantity of cooled treated water, a quantity of heated treated water and a quantity of the at least one additive to produce a quantity of water-based beverage, the mixing assembly comprising: a cooled water inlet and a heated water inlet fluidly connected respectively to the closed cooled water circuit and the closed heated water circuit; at least one additive inlet fluidly connected to one of the at least one additive source, and a beverage outlet. The beverage distribution apparatus further comprises a nozzle in fluid communication with the beverage outlet of the mixing assembly to dispense the quantity of water-based beverage.

[0006] In accordance with another general aspect, there is provided a beverage distribution apparatus receiving water from a water source and distributing a water- based beverage including at least one additive. The beverage distribution apparatus comprises: a water treatment system purifying the water from the water source to produce treated water; a heating system heating a portion of treated water circulating in a closed heated water circuit to produce heated treated water; a cooling system cooling a portion of treated water circulating in a closed cooled water circuit to produce cooled treated water; a water mixer mixing a quantity of cooled treated water and a quantity of heated treated water; an additive mixing tube having a water inlet, at least one additive inlet and a beverage outlet, the additive mixing tube being configured to mix a quantity of water with the at least one additive therein to produce the beverage; a nozzle in fluid communication with the additive mixing tube to dispense the beverage. [0007] In an embodiment, the heated treated water is circulated in closed heated water circuit and the cooled treated water is circulated in a closed cooled water circuit.

[0008] In an embodiment, the mixing assembly comprises a water mixer comprising the cooled water inlet and the heated water inlet and mixing the quantity of cooled treated water and the quantity of heated treated water to produce a quantity of base beverage water; and an additive mixing tube comprising at least one of the at least one additive inlet, the beverage outlet and a base water inlet in fluid communication with the water mixer, the additive mixing tube being configured to mix the quantity of base beverage water with at least a subset of the at least one additive to produce the quantity of water-based beverage.

[0009] In an embodiment, the additive mixing tube comprises an additive mixing chamber having a substantially square shaped profile, with the base water inlet thereof having a substantially rounded profile.

[0010] In an embodiment the mixing assembly comprises an additive mixing tube comprising at least one of the at least one additive inlet and one of the cooled water inlet and heated water inlet, the additive mixing tube being configured to mix one of the quantity of cooled treated water and heated treated water with at least a subset of the at least one additive to produce a quantity of intermediate water-based beverage; and a water mixer comprising the other of the cooled water inlet and heated water inlet, the beverage outlet and an intermediate beverage inlet in fluid communication with the additive mixing tube, the water mixer mixing the quantity of intermediate water-based beverage with the other of the quantity of cooled treated water and heated treated water to produce the quantity of water-based beverage.

[0011] In an embodiment, the additive mixing tube comprises an additive mixing chamber having a substantially square shaped profile, with the one of the cooled water inlet and heated water inlet having a substantially rounded profile.

[0012] In an embodiment, the water treatment system includes at least one of a mechanical filtration device and a UV disinfection device. [0013] In an embodiment, the mechanical filtration device comprises a water filtering cartridge.

[0014] In an embodiment, the UV disinfection device includes a first UV disinfection unit continuously disinfecting the cooled treated water circulating in the closed cooled water circuit, and a second UV disinfection unit continuously disinfecting the heated treated water circulating in the closed heated water circuit.

[0015] In an embodiment, the UV disinfection device is downstream of the mechanical filtration device.

[0016] In an embodiment, the beverage distribution apparatus further comprises a beverage additive compartment having an inner storage chamber containing at least a subset of the at least one additive sources, wherein the closed cooled water circuit includes an additive cooling section extending proximal to the inner storage chamber to provide cooling thereof.

[0017] In an embodiment, the beverage distribution apparatus further comprises an additive case defining at least partially the beverage additive compartment, the additive cooling section extending inside at least a portion of the additive case.

[0018] In an embodiment, the additive case comprises a wall having spaced-apart inner and external surfaces, the additive cooling section extending at least partially between the inner and external surfaces of the wall.

[0019] In an embodiment, the beverage distribution apparatus further comprises a controller configured to control at least one of a temperature of the closed heated water circuit, a temperature of the closed cooled water circuit, a flow of the closed heated water circuit, a flow of the closed cooled water circuit, the quantity of cooled treated water, the quantity of heated treated water, the quantity of the at least one additives and the quantity of water-based beverage.

[0020] In an embodiment, the beverage distribution apparatus further comprises a user interface allowing interaction between a user and the controller. [0021] In an embodiment, the mixing assembly comprises at least one water flow control valve mounted to at least one of the cooled water inlet and the heated water inlet, the controller cooperating with the at least one water flow control valve to control the corresponding quantity of cooled treated water and heated treated water.

[0022] In an embodiment, the mixing assembly further comprises at least one additive control valve mounted to the at least one additive inlet, the controller cooperating with the at least one additive control valve to control the quantity of the corresponding at least one additive.

[0023] In an embodiment, the beverage distribution apparatus further comprises a temperature validation unit cooperating with the controller to control at least one of the quantity of cooled treated water and the quantity of heated treated water.

[0024] In an embodiment, the temperature validation unit is configured to. monitor a temperature of the water-based beverage.

[0025] In an embodiment, the beverage distribution apparatus further comprises an overflow collection container collecting a liquid overflow, and an overflow heating system selectively heating the liquid accumulated in the overflow collection container, to cause evaporation of a portion of the liquid accumulated in the overflow collection container

[0026] In an embodiment, the water treatment system includes a combination of a mechanical filtration device and a UV disinfection device.

[0027] In an embodiment, the UV disinfection device includes a first UV disinfection unit continuously disinfecting the cooled treated water circulating in the closed cooled water circuit and a second UV disinfection unit continuously disinfecting the heated treated water circulating in the closed heated water circuit.

[0028] In an embodiment, the apparatus further comprises a beverage additive compartment having an inner storage chamber and the closed cooled water circuit includes an additive cooling section extending proximal to the inner storage chamber of the cooled beverage additive compartment, to provide cooling thereof. [0029] In an embodiment, the apparatus further comprises an overflow collection container collecting a liquid overflow. The apparatus also comprises an overflow heating system selectively heating the liquid accumulated in the overflow collection container, to cause evaporation of a portion of the liquid accumulated in the overflow collection container.

[0030] In an embodiment, the additive mixing tube has a substantially square shaped profile, the water inlet thereof having a substantially rounded profile.

[0031] In accordance with another general aspect, there is provided a method for performing beverage distribution. The method comprises the steps of receiving water from a water source; purifying the water received from the water source, to produce treated water; heating a portion of treated water to produce heated treated water, the heated treated water being circulated in a closed heated water circuit; cooling a portion of treated water to generate cooled treated water, the cooled treated water being circulated in a closed cooled water circuit; mixing a quantity of cooled treated water, a quantity of heated treated water and a quantity of at least one additive to produce a quantity of water-based beverage; and dispensing the water-based beverage.

[0032] In accordance with another general aspect, there is also provided a method for performing beverage distribution. The method comprises the steps of: receiving water from a water source; purifying the water received from the water source to produce treated water; heating a portion of treated water to produce heated treated water, the heated treated water being circulated in a closed heated water circuit; cooling a portion of treated water to generate cooled treated water, the cooled treated water being circulated in a closed cooled water circuit; mixing a quantity of cooled treated water and a quantity of heated treated water to produce a quantity of base beverage water at a desired temperature; mixing at least one of the cooled treated water, the heated treated water and the base beverage water with at least one additive to prepare a water-based beverage; and dispensing the water-based beverage in a container.

[0033] In an embodiment, the step of mixing the quantity of cooled treated water, the quantity of heated treated water and the quantity of at least one additive comprises mixing the quantity of cooled treated water and the quantity of heated treated water to produce a quantity of base beverage water; and mixing the quantity of base beverage water with the quantity of at least one additive to produce the quantity of water-based beverage.

[0034] In an embodiment, the step of mixing the quantity of cooled treated water, the quantity of heated treated water and the quantity of at least one additive comprises mixing one of the quantities of cooled treated water and heated treated water with the at least one additive to produce a quantity of intermediate water-based beverage; and mixing the quantity of intermediate water-based beverage with the other of the quantities of cooled treated water and heated treated water to produce the quantity of water-based beverage.

[0035] In an embodiment, the step of purifying the water received from the water source includes at least one of performing mechanical filtration and performing UV disinfection.

[0036] In an embodiment, the step of performing UV disinfection comprises continually disinfecting water circulating in at least one of the closed heated water circuit and the closed cooled water circuit.

[0037] In an embodiment, the step of performing mechanical filtration is performed prior to the step of performing UV disinfection.

[0038] In an embodiment, the method further comprises the step of cooling a beverage additive compartment containing at least partially the at least one additive.

[0039] In an embodiment, the step of cooling the beverage additive compartment circulating a portion of the cooled treated water, in proximity of the beverage additive compartment to perform cooling thereof.

[0040] In an embodiment, the method further comprises collecting a liquid overflow in an overflow collection container, and selectively heating the liquid collected in the overflow collection container to produce an evaporation of at least a portion thereof. [0041] In an embodiment, the method further comprises the step of controlling at least one of a temperature of the closed heated water circuit, a temperature of the closed cooled water circuit, a flow of the closed heated water circuit, a flow of the closed cooled water circuit, the quantity of cooled treated water, the quantity of heated treated water, the quantity of the at least one additives and the quantity of water-based beverage.

[0042] In an embodiment, the method further comprises the step of validating a temperature of the water-based beverage and adjusting the temperature thereof if the temperature of the water-based beverage is not within an acceptable range of a user selected temperature.

[0043] In an embodiment, the method further comprises the step of validating a temperature of the base beverage water and adjusting the temperature thereof if the temperature of the base beverage water is not within an acceptable range of a user selected temperature.

[0044] In an embodiment, the method further comprises the step of validating a temperature of the intermediate water-based beverage and adjusting the temperature thereof if the temperature of the intermediate water-based beverage is not within an acceptable range close to a selected temperature.

[0045] In an embodiment, the step of purifying the water received from the water source includes performing mechanical filtration and UV disinfection thereof.

[0046] In an embodiment, the step of performing UV disinfection comprises continually disinfecting water circulating in one of the closed heated water circuit and the closed cooled water circuit.

[0047] In an embodiment, the method further comprises the step of controlling a temperature of a cooled beverage additive compartment, using the cooled treated water.

[0048] In an embodiment, the method further comprises the step of validating a temperature of the base beverage water and adjusting the temperature thereof if the validation is indicative that the temperature is not the selected temperature. [0049] In an embodiment, the method further comprises collecting a liquid overflow in an overflow collection container and selectively heating the liquid collected in the overflow collection container to produce an evaporation of at least a portion thereof.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0050] Other objects, advantages and features will become more apparent upon reading the following non-restrictive description of embodiments thereof, given for the purpose of exemplification only, with reference to the accompanying drawings in which:

[0051] Figure 1 is an isometric schematic representation of a beverage distribution apparatus, in accordance with an embodiment and shown with pivotable panels of a beverage preparation section and an overflow collection section in a closed configuration.

[0052] Figure 2 is an isometric schematic representation of the beverage distribution apparatus of Figure 1 , shown with the pivotable panels of the beverage preparation section, the overflow collection section and a pivotable panel of a beverage additive compartment in an open configuration.

[0053] Figure 3 is an isometric view of the beverage distribution apparatus of Figure 1 , shown with the pivotable panels of the beverage preparation section and the beverage additive compartment in an open configuration.

[0054] Figure 3a is an enlarged view of the beverage section of the beverage distribution apparatus of Figure 3.

[0055] Figure 4 is an enlarged view of an inner side of the pivotable panel of the beverage section of the beverage distribution apparatus of Figure 3.

[0056] Figure 4a is an enlarged view of a section of the inner side of the pivotable panel of the beverage section of the beverage distribution apparatus of Figure 3.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0057] In the following description, the same numerical references refer to similar elements. The embodiments, geometrical configurations, materials mentioned and/or dimensions shown in the figures or described in the present description are embodiments only, given solely for exemplification purposes.

[0058] Moreover, although the embodiments of the beverage distribution apparatus and corresponding parts thereof consist of certain geometrical configurations as explained and illustrated herein, not all of these components and geometries are essential and thus should not be taken in their restrictive sense. It is to be understood, as also apparent to a person skilled in the art, that other suitable components and cooperation thereinbetween, as well as other suitable geometrical configurations, may be used for the beverage distribution apparatus, as will be briefly explained herein and as can be easily inferred herefrom by a person skilled in the art. Moreover, it will be appreciated that positional descriptions such as“above”, “below”,“left”,“right” and the like should, unless otherwise indicated, be taken in the context of the figures and should not be considered limiting. Moreover, although the associated method of operation of the beverage distribution apparatus includes steps as explained and illustrated herein, not all of these steps are essential and thus should not be taken in their restrictive sense that It will be appreciated that the steps of the method described herein may be performed in the described order, or in any suitable order.

[0059] Referring generally to Figure 1 , in accordance with one embodiment, there is provided a beverage distribution apparatus 10. In the embodiment shown, the beverage distribution apparatus 10 is an apparatus which can be installed in a public place such as a school, an airport, a mall or any other public building and includes a beverage preparation section 12, a beverage dispensing section 14 and an overflow collection section 16. The beverage distribution apparatus 10 includes an outer protective case 18 protecting inner components of each section. The outer protective case 18 is made of rigid and shock resistant material such as, for example and without being limitative, metal, hard plastic or the like, and covers the inner components of the apparatus 10, to prevent tempering therewith. In the embodiment shown, the outer protective case 18 includes a beverage preparation section pivotable panel 12a, pivotable between a closed configuration (see Figure 1) where the panel 12a prevents access to the internal components of the beverage preparation section 12 and an open configuration (see Figures 2 to 4a) where the panel 12a is opened to allow access to the internal components of this section of the apparatus 10. In the embodiment shown, the beverage preparation section panel 12a is pivotable about a substantially vertical axis. Similarly, in the embodiment shown, the outer protective case 18 also includes an overflow collection section pivotable panel 16a, pivotable between a closed configuration (see Figure 1) where the panel 16a prevents access to the internal components of the overflow collection section 16 and an open configuration (see Figure 2) where the panel 16a is opened to allow access to the internal components of this section of the apparatus 10. In the embodiment shown, the overflow collection section panel 16a is pivotable about a substantially vertical axis, for instance parallel with the pivoting axis of the beverage preparation section panel 12a. In an embodiment, the pivotable panels 12a, 16a can be locked in the closed configuration, when required, to prevent undesired tempering by user with the inner components of the apparatus 10.

[0060] In an embodiment, the apparatus 10 further includes a user interface 1 10 allowing interaction between the apparatus 10 and the user using the apparatus 10. For example and without being limitative, in an embodiment, the user interface can be a touch screen allowing user input relating to, for example and without being limitative, selection of the beverage to be dispensed, customization of the beverage to be dispensed (e.g. selection of the additives, temperature of the beverage, quantity of beverage to be dispensed, etc.) and/or proceed to payment of the beverage by the user. In an alternative embodiment, the user interface can be a sensor sensing a unique user identifier (e.g. a unique QR code, a unique bar code, a RFID tag, etc.), to access a user account (for example stored on a computer connected thereto via a network) containing user selection relative to the beverage and payment credentials. One skilled in the art will understand that, in other alternative embodiments, other types of user interfaces for allowing interaction of the user with the apparatus can also be provided. For instance and without being limitative, the user interface 110 is located at a lower portion of the beverage preparation section panel 12a, but it is appreciated that the location of the user interface 1 10 can vary from the embodiment shown. The apparatus 10 can further comprise a screen 1 12 configured to display videos and/or pictures, for instance corresponding to the different beverages provided by the beverage distribution apparatus 10. The screen 1 12 can further comprise an additional touch screen portion, increasing the interactions of the user with the apparatus.

[0061] In the embodiment shown, the beverage dispensing section 14 includes a container support surface 15 for supporting a container (not shown) provided by a user to receive the beverage from the apparatus 10. For instance, the beverage dispensing section 14 is arranged, considered along a vertical direction, between the beverage preparation section 12 and the overflow collection section 16. As will be described in more details below, the beverage is dispensed by a nozzle 80 extending outwardly (i.e. with regards to an inner cavity defined by the outer protective case 18) from the beverage preparation section 12, and from which the beverage flows into the container (not shown) provided by the user. For example and without being limitative, in an embodiment, the container (not shown) is a glass, a cup, a bottle or the like, provided by the user to receive the beverage therein for subsequent consumption by the user.

[0062] The container support surface 15 also includes a liquid pervious section 15a, allowing liquid to flow through the container support surface 15 and towards the overflow collection section 16 of the apparatus 10, for collection thereof. For example and without being limitative, in an embodiment, the liquid pervious section 15a is a section of the container support surface 15 including a lattice made of rigid material such as metal, hard plastic or the like.

[0063] As will be described in more details below, the beverage distribution apparatus 10 is connected to a water source (not shown) providing water thereto. For example and without being limitative, in an embodiment the beverage distribution apparatus 10 can be connected to the public aqueduct network (not shown), which provides the water source to the apparatus 10. As will once again be described in more details below, the beverage distribution apparatus 10 is configured to provide treatment of the water from the water source, adjust the temperature of the water to a user selected temperature and prepare a water-based beverage using the treated and temperature adjusted water. In an embodiment, the beverage is prepared by mixing additives such as, gas (such as carbon dioxide), sweetener, natural fruit flavor, vitamin supplement, or the like to the treated and temperature adjusted water, according to user specified preferences. In other words, it is understood that the term “additive” can designate any material (in a solid, gaseous or liquid phase) that can be mixed with water so as to prepare a water-based beverage. In view of the above, in an embodiment, the beverage distribution apparatus 10 allows the distribution of healthy beverage solution, comprising for instance, enhanced water, which can be flat or sparkling, to users, in public places, therefore promoting a healthy lifestyle.

[0064] In an embodiment, the apparatus 10 includes a water pump (not shown) pumping water from the water source and operative to maintain a constant pressure within the internal water circuits of the apparatus 10, for example to allow the water- based beverage to be supplied at an acceptable (or within a predetermined range of acceptable) flowrate. In an embodiment, the water pump can also be operative to send a failure signal to the apparatus (or a controller thereof, as will be described in more details below) if water from the water source is insufficient to provide the desired pressure within the internal water circuits, for example in the case of a failure of the aqueduct to which the apparatus 10 is connected.

[0065] Referring to Figures 2 to 3a, the beverage distribution apparatus 10 includes a water treatment system 20 configured to provide purification of the water received by the apparatus 10 from the water source (not shown) (i.e. operative to remove or reduce the concentration of undesirable chemicals, biological contaminants, suspended solids, gases or the like, therefrom) and therefore providing treated water. In the embodiment shown, the water treatment system 20 includes a combination of a mechanical filtration device 22 and a UV disinfection device 24, but one skilled in the art will understand that, in an alternative embodiment (not shown), the water treatment system 20 could include only one of the mechanical filtration device 22 or the UV disinfection device 24. Alternatively, other types of treatment of the water could also be provided to provide the desired purification thereof. Amongst others, such purification from the water treatment system 20 helps reducing the chlorine taste and/or odor that can commonly be found in water from public aqueduct network and therefore provide substantially clear and fresh water as primary ingredient for the beverage prepared using the beverage distribution apparatus 10. [0066] In the embodiment shown, the mechanical filtration device 22 includes a water filtering cartridge 23 using carbon filtering technology, such as for example and without being limitative an Everpure ® filtering cartridge from Pentair™. The mechanical filtration device 22 provides initial mechanical filtration of the water before it is circulated in the apparatus 10. One skilled in the art will understand that, in alternative embodiments (not shown), a different mechanical filtration device 22 than the above-described filtering cartridge 23 could be used.

[0067] In the embodiment and as will be described in more details below, downstream of the mechanical filtration device 22, the mechanically filtered water circulates in one of a closed heated water circuit 32 and a closed cooled water circuit 42. In the embodiment shown, the UV disinfection device 24 includes a UV disinfection unit 25 for each one of the closed heated water circuit 32 and the closed cooled water circuit 42. Each UV disinfection unit 25 continually performs UV disinfection of the water flowing in the corresponding one of the closed heated water circuit 32 and the closed cooled water circuit 42, thereby providing constant disinfection of the water circulating therein and preventing an increase in the concentration of undesirable chemicals, biological contaminants, suspended solids, gases or the like in the water during its circulation in the closed heated water circuit 32 or the closed cooled water circuit 42.

[0068] It will be understood that, in order to allow water flow to the mechanical filtration device 22 from the water source (not shown) and from the mechanical filtration device 22 to the closed heated water circuit 32 and the closed cooled water circuit 42, tubing is provided therebetween for the water to flow therein.

[0069] In the embodiment shown, the beverage distribution apparatus 10 further includes a water temperature control system 40 including a water heating mechanism 120 and a water cooling mechanism 44, respectively configured to heat a portion of the treated water (i.e. water having been treated by the mechanical filtration device 22 of the water treatment system 20 and being constantly treated by the UV disinfection device 24 of the water treatment system 20) and to cool a portion of the treated water. As mentioned above, in an embodiment, the heated portion of the treated water circulates in a closed heated water circuit 32 and the cooled portion of the treated water circulates in a closed cooled water circuit 42. Each one of the closed heated water circuit 32 and the closed cooled water circuit 42 is made of pipes (or tubing) defining a loop, for the water to continuously flow therein, in a closed loop configuration. In the embodiment shown, the pipes of the closed heated water circuit 32 and the closed cooled water circuit 42 are shown, with insulation covering the pipes, to prevent heat exchange and helping to maintain the water at a desired temperature in each one of the closed heated water circuit 32 and the closed cooled water circuit 42. One skilled in the art will however understand that, in alternative embodiments (not shown), the heated portion of the treated water could be maintained in heated water tank (not shown) operating as the closed heated water circuit 32 and the cooled portion of the treated water could be maintained in a cooled water tank (not shown) operating as the cooled water circuit 42.

[0070] In the embodiment shown, the water heating mechanism 120, heats the water circulating in the closed heated water circuit 32 into which the portion of the heated treated water flows and is kept at a desired heated temperature. For example and without being limitative, in an embodiment, the water heating mechanism 120 uses heat generated in the high pressure section of the compressor used to perform cooling of the portion of cooled treated water (as will be described in more details below), to heat water flowing through a portion of pipe of the closed heated water circuit 32. Hence, the portion of the heated treated water flowing through the closed heated water circuit 32, is kept at a desired heated temperature. For example and without being limitative, in an embodiment, the heated treated water is maintained at a temperature of between about 40°C and about 60°C. More particularly, in an embodiment, the heated treated water is maintained at a temperature of about 50°C. One skilled in the art will understand that, in an alternative embodiment (not shown), the water heating mechanism 120 could include a different assembly than the embodiment shown for heating the water circulating in the closed heated water circuit 32 and/or could maintain the water at a temperature different than the above- described temperatures. For example and without being limitative, in an embodiment, the water heating mechanism 120 could include a heating band (not shown) mounted around a portion of pipe of the closed heated water circuit 32 made of material having a good thermal conductivity. [0071] The water temperature control system 40 also includes a water cooling mechanism 44 cooling the water circulating in the closed cooled water circuit 42 into which the portion of the cooled treated water flows and is kept at a desired cooled temperature. For example and without being limitative, in an embodiment, the water cooling mechanism 44 includes a compressor having a low pressure section with a Freon cooling system (not shown) where Freon (or other cooling agent) circulates in a pipe section located inside the pipe of the closed cooled water circuit 42 and extending along at least a portion thereof, in order to cool the water circulating along this section of the closed cooled water circuit 42. For example and without being limitative, in an embodiment, the cooled treated water is maintained at a temperature of between about 1°C and about 10°C. More particularly, in an embodiment, the cooled treated water is maintained at a temperature of about 5°C. One skilled in the art will understand that, in an alternative embodiment (not shown), the water cooling mechanism 44 could include a different assembly than the above-described embodiment for cooling the water circulating in the closed cooled water circuit 42 and/or could maintain the water at a temperature different than the above-described temperatures.

[0072] In the embodiment shown, the beverage distribution apparatus 10 further includes a cooled beverage additive compartment 50, in which additives 52 requiring to be kept at a cooled temperature (i.e. additives required to be kept refrigerated in order to extend their conservation time) are stored. For example and without being limitative, such additives 52 can include natural ingredients, such as, natural fruit flavor that can be added to the water in the preparation of the beverage, as will be described in more details below. The cooled beverage additive compartment 50 is defined by an additive case 54 (or case 54) and which defines a sealable inner storage chamber 56 in which the additives can be stored. For example and without being limitative, in an embodiment, the temperature inside the inner storage chamber 56 is maintained at between about 1°C and about 10°C. More particularly, in an embodiment, the temperature inside the inner storage chamber 56 is maintained at about 5°C.

[0073] In the embodiment shown, the additive case 54 includes a pivotable panel 58, configurable between a closed configuration (not shown) where the panel 58 closes and seals the inner storage chamber 56 and an open configuration (see Figures 2 to 3a) where the panel 58 is pivoted to allow access to the inner storage chamber 56. In an embodiment, the additive case 54 has a wall with an external surface 54a made of insulating material (i.e. material having a low thermal conductivity and offering an insulation of at least 1 R-value for inch) such as, for example and without being limitative polyurethane, polystyrene or the like. The wall of the case 54 also has an inner surface 54b spaced apart from the external surface 54a and defining a hollow space therebetween. The inner surface 54b can be made of thermally conductive material (i.e. material which allow heat transfer and does not provide insulation of the inner storage chamber 56).

[0074] In the embodiment shown, the cooled beverage additive compartment 50 is contained within a beverage preparation chamber of the beverage preparation section 12, so that the beverage preparation section pivotable panel 12a and the panel 58 have to successively be configured in the open configuration to access the inner storage chamber 56 of the cooled beverage additive compartment 50. In the embodiment shown, the panel 58 is pivotable about a substantially vertical direction (i.e. about an axis substantially parallel to the axis about which the beverage preparation section pivotable panel 12a is pivotable). In the embodiment shown, the pivot axis of the panel 58 is located at a side of the outer protective case 18 opposed to a side of the outer protective case 18 to which the beverage preparation section pivotable panel 16a is pivotably mounted. In other words, in the embodiment shown and as represented in Fig. 3, the panel 58 of the cooled beverage additive compartment 50 and the beverage preparation section pivotable panel 12a are openable upon pivoting about opposed directions. One skilled in the art will however understand that, in alternative embodiments (not shown), the panel 58 of the cooled beverage additive compartment 50 and the beverage preparation section pivotable panel 12a could pivot differently that in the embodiment shown (i.e. could pivot according to different pivot axis and/or pivot in different direction).

[0075] In the embodiment shown, the temperature of the cooled beverage additive compartment 50 (i.e. the temperature inside the inner storage chamber 56 of the cooled beverage additive compartment 50) is controlled using the cooled treated water (i.e. the water cooled by the above described water cooling mechanism 44 and flowing in the closed cooled water circuit 42). In other words, the inner storage chamber 56 of the cooled beverage additive compartment 50 is cooled using the cooled treated water flowing in the closed cooled water circuit 42 of the water temperature control system 40. Hence, the closed cooled water circuit 42 includes an additive cooling section 42a extending proximal to the inner storage chamber 56 of the cooled beverage additive compartment 50, to provide cooling thereof. In more details, in the embodiment shown, the closed cooled water circuit 42 includes an additive cooling section 42a extending inside at least a portion of the case 54 defining the inner storage chamber 56 of the cooled beverage additive compartment 50, to provide cooling thereof. Even more particularly, in the embodiment shown, a section 42a of the closed cooled water circuit 42 extends between the external surface 54a and the inner surface 54b of the case 54, in order to cool the inner storage chamber 56 of the cooled beverage additive compartment 50.

[0076] One skilled in the art will understand that, in an alternative embodiment (not shown), the temperature inside the inner storage chamber 56 of the cooled beverage additive compartment 50 could be controlled using the cooled treated water cooled by the above described water cooling mechanism 44 in a system different than that of the embodiment shown. For example and without being limitative, in an embodiment (not shown), the additive cooling section (not shown) of the closed cooled water circuit 42 could rather include a coil made of high thermal conductivity material and extending inside the inner storage chamber 56 of the cooled beverage additive compartment 50, for cooling thereof, or other cooling system where the cooled treated water cooled by the above described water cooling mechanism 44 is used as cooling agent. Moreover, in another alternative embodiment, the temperature inside the inner storage chamber 56 of the cooled beverage additive compartment 50 could be controlled using an independent cooling system (i.e. using a cooling system distinct from the water cooling mechanism 44 of the apparatus 10 and therefore using its own cooling fluid).

[0077] Referring to Figures 2 to 4a, in an embodiment, the beverage distribution apparatus 10 further includes a mixing assembly 130 comprising a water mixer 60 and an additive mixing tube 70. In the embodiment shown, the water mixer 60 is configured to mix a quantity of heated treated water from the closed heated water circuit 32 and a quantity of cooled treated water from the closed cooled water circuit 42, in order to provide a quantity of base beverage water at a desired temperature (i.e. water to be used as the base ingredient of the beverage). For example and without being limitative, in an embodiment, the beverage distribution apparatus 10 can offer to the user the possibility of selecting from a choice of cold temperature, warm temperature or hot temperature for the beverage, with the cold temperature being about 10 °C, warm temperature being about 22 °C and hot temperature being about 30°C. Of course, one skilled in the art will understand that, in alternative embodiments, other temperature selections could be offered by the beverage distribution apparatus 10, i.e. the cold temperature, warm temperature or hot temperature could correspond to different temperatures and/or the user could directly select the exact desired temperature of the beverage, with the water mixer 60 mixing a quantity of heated treated water from the closed heated water circuit 32 and a quantity of cooled water from the closed cooled water circuit 42 in order to provide a quantity of base beverage water, at the user selected temperature, as the base ingredient of the beverage. It could also be conceived a beverage distribution apparatus comprising more than two closed treated water circuits, and a mixing assembly 130 that would be configured to mix more than two distinct closed water circuits.

[0078] In an embodiment, the water mixer 60 includes a water mixer controller of a controller 140 in communication with a heated water flow control valve 62 mounted to a heated water inlet 62a and a cooled water flow control valve 64 mounted to a cooled water inlet 64a. The heated water flow control valve 62 controls the flow of heated water from the closed heated water circuit 32, while the cooled water flow control valve 64 controls the flow of cooled water from the closed cooled water circuit 42. For instance and without being limitative, at least one of the heated water flow control valve 62 and the cooled water flow control valve 64 is electronically driven so that a corresponding accurate quantity of the heated treated water and cooled treated water is mixed by the water mixer 60. Hence, the water mixer controller of the controller 140 can selectively control the flow of treated heated water and the flow of cooled treated water to reach a predetermined water temperature. For example and without being limitative, in an embodiment, the predetermined water temperature can be selected by a user, in accordance with the personal preferences of the user.

[0079] In an embodiment, as will be described in more details below, the beverage distribution apparatus 10 further includes a temperature validation unit 68 (or temperature validation controller) downstream of the water mixer 60, and monitoring the temperature of the base beverage water (or the beverage) to validate that the base beverage water used for the beverage is at the predetermined water temperature. The temperature validation unit 68 is also in communication with the water mixer controller of the controller 140. Hence, in the event where the validation unit 68 detects that the temperature of the base beverage water is not the predetermined temperature (or is not within an interval of acceptable temperature for the predetermined water temperature), the water mixer controller can adjust the flow of heated water and/or cooled water, to ensure that the beverage is dispensed to the user at the predetermined temperature (or within the interval of acceptable temperature).

[0080] To mix the base beverage water (i.e. the mixture of heated treated water from the closed heated water circuit 32 and cooled treated water from the closed cooled water circuit 42) and the desired additive to prepare the beverage, in the embodiment shown, the additive mixing tube 70 of the mixing assembly 130 is configured to mix the base beverage water with at least one of the desired additives. The additive mixing tube 70 includes a mixing chamber 73, a base water inlet 72, at least one additive inlet 74 and a beverage outlet 76. In the embodiment shown, the base water inlet 72 is in fluid communication with the water mixer 60 and is located at one end of the mixing chamber 73 of the tube 70 and allows a quantity of the base beverage water (at the desired temperature) to flow from the water mixer 60 into the mixing chamber 73 of the additive mixing tube 70. The beverage outlet 76 is located at the end of the tube 70 opposed to the water inlet 72 and allows a quantity of the water-based beverage (i.e. the base beverage water mixed with the additive(s)) to flow from the additive mixing tube 70. The at least one additive inlet 74 is located along a periphery of the additive mixing tube 70, along the length thereof (i.e. between the base water inlet 72 and the beverage outlet 76) and each of the additive inlets 74 allows the flow of a corresponding additive into the base beverage water flowing into the additive mixing tube 70, to prepare the beverage. It is thus understood that the mixing assembly 130 comprises the cooled water inlet 62a and the heated water inlet 64a fluidly connected respectively to the closed cooled water circuit 42 and the closed heated water circuit 32, the additive inlets 74 fluidly connected to additive sources comprising the additives 52, and the beverage outlet 76. The mixing assembly 130 is thus configured to mix a quantity of cooled treated water, a quantity of heated treated water and a quantity of the additives 52 to produce a quantity of water-based beverage. In the embodiment shown, the additive mixing tube 70 is located downstream of the water mixer 60. In an embodiment, at least one additive inlet 74, such as an additive inlet 74 connected to a carbon dioxide cartridge (not shown), for adding carbon dioxide to the water-based beverage, can be positioned downstream of the additive mixing tube 70.

[0081] One skilled in the art will understand that, in an alternative embodiment (not shown), the additive mixing tube 70 could be positioned to receive one of the heated water from the closed heated water circuit 32 or the cooled water from the closed cooled water circuit 42 at the water inlet 72. In such an embodiment, the additive mixing tube 70 would be configured to mix the corresponding one of the heated water from the closed heated water circuit 32 or the cooled water from the closed cooled water circuit 42 with the additive(s) flowing through the at least one additive inlet 74 located along a periphery of the additive mixing tube 70 (i.e. between the water inlet 72 and the beverage outlet 76 of the mixing assembly 130), so as to produce a quantity of intermediate water-based beverage. In such an embodiment, the water mixer 60 would be located downstream of the additive mixing tube 70 and would subsequently mix a quantity of heated treated water from the closed heated water circuit 32 and cooled treated water from the closed cooled water circuit 42 (with one of the heated treated water and cooled treated water having additives(s) mix therein i.e. with the quantity of intermediate water-based beverage produced by the additive mixing tube 70), in order to provide a quantity of beverage at a desired temperature. In this alternate embodiment, it is understood that the water mixer 60 can be in fluid communication with the nozzle 80. Moreover, the additive mixing tube 70 comprises one of the cooled water inlet 62a and the heated water inlet64a fluidly connected respectively to the closed cooled water circuit 42 and the closed heated water circuit 32 and the additive inlets 74, whereas the water mixer 60 comprises the other of the cooled water inlet 62a and the heated water inlet64a fluidly connected respectively to the closed cooled water circuit 42 and the closed heated water circuit 32.

[0082] In the embodiment shown, the mixing chamber 73 of the additive mixing tube 70 has a substantially square shaped profile, with the base water inlet 72 (or the conduit connected to the base water inlet 72) and the beverage outlet 76 (or the conduit connected to the water outlet 76 and fluidly connected to the nozzle 80) having a substantially rounded profile. The square shaped profile of the mixing chamber 73 of the additive mixing tube 70 results in the liquid flowing therethrough swirling along the mixing chamber 73 of the additive mixing tube 70, thereby providing an increased blending of the additive with the water, inside the mixing chamber 73 of the additive mixing tube 70. One skilled in the art will understand that, in an alternative embodiment, the mixing chamber 73 of the additive mixing tube 70 could also have a polygonal shape profile, other than the square shaped profile of the embodiment shown.

[0083] In the above-disclosed alternate embodiment in which the water mixer 60 is located downstream of the additive mixing tube 70 and mixes the intermediate water- based beverage with one of the cooled treated water and heater treated water to produce the water-based beverage, the mixing chamber 73 of the additive mixing tube 70 might have a substantially square shaped profile, with the water inlet fluidly connected to the other of the closed cooled water circuit 42 and the closed heated water circuit 32 having a substantially rounded profile. The square shaped profile of the mixing chamber 73 of the additive mixing tube 70 results in the liquid flowing therethrough swirling along the mixing chamber 73 of the additive mixing tube 70, thereby providing an increased blending of the additive with the water, inside the mixing chamber 73 of the additive mixing tube 70. One skilled in the art will understand that, in an alternative embodiment, the mixing chamber 73 of the additive mixing tube 70 could also have a polygonal shape profile, other than the square shaped profile of the embodiment shown [0084] The beverage distribution apparatus 10 also includes the above-mentioned nozzle 80 from which the beverage can flow into a container (not shown) placed in the beverage dispensing section 14 of the apparatus 10 by a user. Hence, the nozzle 80 dispenses the beverage to the user. In the embodiment shown, the above described temperature validation unit 68 is positioned directly upstream from the nozzle 80 (i.e. between the beverage outlet 76 of the additive mixing tube 70 and the nozzle 80), however one skilled in the art will understand that, in an alternative embodiment, the temperature validation unit 68 could be positioned at a different position, such as, for example and without being limitative, upstream of the additive mixing tube 70 to measure and validate a temperature of the base beverage water (i.e. between the water mixer 60 and the additive mixing tube 70, in the embodiment in which the water mixer 60 is upstream of the additive mixing tube 70), or downstream of the additive mixing tube 70 to measure and validate a temperature of the intermediate water-based beverage (i.e. between the additive mixing tube 70 and the water mixer 60, in the embodiment in which the water mixer 60 is downstream of the additive mixing tube 70).

[0085] Once again it will be understood that, in order to allow the water to flow between the closed heated water circuit 32 and the closed cooled water circuit 42, the water mixer 60, the additive mixing tube 70 and the nozzle 80, tubing (or pipes) are provided therebetween. Hence, the closed heated water circuit 32, the closed cooled water circuit 42, the water mixer 60, the additive mixing tube 70 and the nozzle 80 are in fluid communication with one another. Similarly, tubing is provided to connect the sources of additives (the containers containing the additives) to the additive mixing tube 70. Additive control valves 75 are also provided to control the flow of each additive into the additive mixing tube 70, according to the specific beverage to be dispensed to the user.

[0086] In an embodiment, the above-mentioned controller 140 (comprising for instance and without being limitative an electronic control system) is configured to coordinate the operation of the components of the apparatus 10. For example and without being limitative, the controller 140 can include controllers (including the water mixer controller (not shown)) for controlling and coordinating the flow of heated treated water, cooled treated water and additives between the different portions and/or components of the apparatus 10 (e.g. the flow of water from the water source, the flow of heated treated water in the closed heated water circuit 32 and the flow of cooled treated water in the closed cooled water circuit 42, the flow of heated water and cooled water in the water mixer 60, the flow of base beverage water and additive(s) in the additive mixing tube 70 and/or the dispensing of the beverage through the nozzle, the dispensing of the beverage through the nozzle, etc.). The controller 140 could also control the heating provided by the water heating system and/or control the cooling provided by the water cooling system, etc. In the embodiment shown, the controller 140 is configured to control at least one of a temperature of the closed heated water circuit, a temperature of the closed cooled water circuit, the flow of the closed heated water circuit, the flow of the closed cooled water circuit, the quantity of cooled treated water, the quantity of heated treated water, the quantity of the additives received by the mixing assembly 130 and the quantity of water-based beverage produced by the mixing assembly 130.

[0087] In an embodiment, the overflow collection section 16 includes an overflow collection container 90 positioned to receive therein liquids flowing through the liquid pervious section 15a of the container support surface 15. In the embodiment shown, the overflow container 90 is a closed container, without an outlet for the collected liquid to be drained therefrom. Such a configuration allows the apparatus 10 to be installed in any building and any sections thereof, without requiring connection of the overflow collection container 90 with a drain of the building in which it is installed.

[0088] Hence, any liquid flowing through the liquid pervious section 15a of the container support surface 15 is collected in the overflow collection container 90, with the liquids accumulating therein. In order to prevent the accumulation of too much liquid in the overflow collection container 90, which would result in an overflow of liquid therefrom, in an embodiment, the apparatus 10 includes an overflow heating system (not shown) selectively heating the liquid accumulated in the overflow collection container 90, in order to cause evaporation of a portion of the liquid and therefore reduce the quantity of liquid in the overflow collection container 90. For example and without being limitative, in an embodiment, the apparatus 10 includes a sensor (not shown) sensing the quantity of liquid in the overflow collection container 90 and activating the overflow heating system (not shown) when a quantity of liquid in the overflow collection container 90 reaches a predetermined threshold.

[0089] The beverage distribution according to an embodiment having been described above, a method of operation of the apparatus (i.e. a method for performing beverage distribution using the apparatus), in accordance with an embodiment, will now be described in more details below.

[0090] The method includes the initial step of receiving water from a water source and a subsequent step of purifying the water received by the apparatus from the water source (i.e. removing or reducing the concentration of undesirable chemicals, biological contaminants, suspended solids, gases or the like, therefrom). In an embodiment, the step of purifying the water received by the apparatus from the water source includes performing mechanical filtration and UV disinfection thereof, but one skilled in the art will understand that, in an alternative embodiment only one of mechanical filtration and UV disinfection could be performed. Alternatively, other types of treatment of the water could also be provided to provide the desired water purification step thereof.

[0091] In an embodiment, the method further includes the step of heating a portion of the treated water and cooling a portion of the treated water. As described above, the heated portion of the treated water is circulated in a closed heated water circuit and the cooled portion of the treated water is circulated in a closed cooled water circuit.

[0092] In an embodiment, the UV disinfection step includes continually disinfecting water circulating in one of the closed heated water circuit and the closed cooled water circuit.

[0093] In an embodiment, the method further includes the step of controlling a temperature of the cooled beverage additive compartment of the apparatus, where at least a portion of the additives are stored, using the cooled treated water (i.e. the water cooled by the above described water cooling system) flowing in the closed cooled water circuit 42. In other words, in an embodiment, the method includes the step of circulating the cooled treated water around (or partially within, in another possible embodiment) the inner storage chamber of the beverage additive compartment, in order to cool the inner storage chamber of the beverage additive compartment, using the cooled treated water as cooling agent.

[0094] In an embodiment, the method further includes the step of mixing a quantity of cooled treated water, a quantity of heated treated water and a quantity of at least one additives to produce a quantity of water-based beverage. In an embodiment, the step of mixing the quantity of cooled treated water, the quantity of heated treated water and the quantity of at least one additives comprises mixing the quantity of cooled treated water and the quantity of heated treated water to produce a quantity of base beverage water at a desired temperature; and mixing the quantity of base beverage water with the quantity of at least one additives to produce the quantity of water-based beverage. It is thus understood that the temperature of the base beverage water is greater than or equal to a temperature of the cooled treated water, and is equal to or smaller than a temperature of the heated treated water. In other words, the base beverage water is the base ingredient of the subsequently prepared beverage (the subsequently prepared mixture of water and additives). The method thus further includes the step of mixing the base beverage water with at least one additive to prepare a water-based beverage. In another embodiment, the step of mixing the quantity of cooled treated water, the quantity of heated treated water and the quantity of at least one additives comprises mixing one of the quantities of cooled treated water and heated treated water with the at least one additives to produce a quantity of intermediate water-based beverage; and mixing the quantity of intermediate water-based beverage with the other of the quantities of cooled treated water and heated treated water to produce the quantity of water-based beverage at a desired temperature.

[0095] In an embodiment, the method further comprises the step of controlling at least one of a temperature of the closed heated water circuit, a temperature of the closed cooled water circuit, a flow of the closed heated water circuit, a flow of the closed cooled water circuit, the quantity of cooled treated water, the quantity of heated treated water, the quantity of the at least one additives and the quantity of water-based beverage. [0096] In an embodiment, the method can include the step of validating the temperature of at least one of the base beverage water, the water-based beverage and the intermediate water-based beverage and adjusting the corresponding temperature (for instance by adjusting the ratio of cooled treated water and heated treated water) if the validation is indicative that the temperature of the at least one of the base beverage water, the water-based beverage and the intermediate water- based beverage is not the selected temperature (or within an acceptable range close to the selected temperature).

[0097] The method further includes the step of dispensing the water-based beverage to the user.

[0098] As described above, one skilled in the art will understand that, in an alternative embodiment, the at least one additive can be mixed with one of the cooled treated water and the heated treated water, prior to the quantity of cooled treated water and heated treated water being mixed to one another.

[0099] In an embodiment, the method further includes collecting a liquid overflow (i.e. liquid overflowing from the container provided by the user and dripping though the liquid pervious section of the container support surface or simply liquid poured through the liquid pervious section of the container support surface, for instance in case where no container would be provided on the container support surface) in an overflow collection container, and selectively heating the liquid collected in the overflow collection container to generate evaporation of at least a portion thereof.

[00100] Several alternative embodiments and examples have been described and illustrated herein. The embodiments of the invention described above are intended to be exemplary only. A person of ordinary skill in the art would appreciate the features of the individual embodiments, and the possible combinations and variations of the components. A person of ordinary skill in the art would further appreciate that any of the embodiments could be provided in any combination with the other embodiments disclosed herein. It is understood that the invention could be embodied in other specific forms without departing from the central characteristics thereof. The present examples and embodiments, therefore, are to be considered in all respects as illustrative and not restrictive, and the invention is not to be limited to the details given herein. Accordingly, while the specific embodiments have been illustrated and described, numerous modifications come to mind. The scope of the invention is therefore intended to be limited solely by the scope of the appended claims.