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Title:
MACHINE, SYSTEM AND METHOD FOR PREPARING A COOLED CONFECTIONERY PRODUCT WITH AERATED TEXTURE
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2015/063092
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
The invention relates to a machine for preparing a cooled food product, comprising: a receiving seat (1), for accommodating an essentially cup-shaped container, comprising a heat exchange element (la) having a heat exchange contact surface (21) arranged to be in contact with an outer surface of a side wall (8d) of the container when the container is placed in the machine, and a stirring unit (5) connectable to a stirring member (9) and arranged for driving the stirring member (9) according to a combination of movements, wherein at least one of the combination of movements has a component directed towards the interior of the container when placed in the receiving seat (1). The method further relates to a system comprising the machine and a container and a method of preparation.

Inventors:
NOTH, André (Av. C.-F. Ramuz 49, Pully, CH-1009, CH)
AIT BOUZIAD, Youcef (Chemin de l'Eglise 1 bis, Echandens, CH-1026, CH)
YOAKIM, Alfred (Ch. de la Routiaz 2, St-Légier-La Chiésaz, CH-1806, CH)
Application Number:
EP2014/073131
Publication Date:
May 07, 2015
Filing Date:
October 28, 2014
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
NESTEC S.A. (Av. Nestlé 55, Vevey, CH-1800, CH)
International Classes:
A23G9/04; A23G9/08; A23G9/12; A23G9/22
Domestic Patent References:
WO2012122594A12012-09-20
WO2010149509A12010-12-29
Foreign References:
CN201174951Y2009-01-07
EP2266418A12010-12-29
US7878021B22011-02-01
US20110216623A12011-09-08
US5363746A1994-11-15
GB841667A1960-07-20
JP2000050810A2000-02-22
US20040141411A12004-07-22
BE495865A
US7878021B22011-02-01
US20060263490A12006-11-23
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
NAVARRO FERNANDEZ, Maria Isabel (Avenue Nestlé 55, Vevey, CH-1800, CH)
Download PDF:
Claims:
Claims

1. A machine for preparing a cooled food product, comprising :

- a receiving seat (1), for accommodating a container (8), comprising a heat exchange element (la) having a heat exchange contact surface (21) arranged to be in contact with an outer surface of a side wall (8d) of the container when the container is placed in the machine,

- a cooling unit (4) arranged for cooling the heat exchange element (la) and

- a stirring unit (5) connectable to a stirring member (9) and arranged for driving the stirring member (9) according to a combination of movements, this combination of movements comprising a first rotational movement of the stirring member (9) about its longitudinal axis (Z) which is arranged offset to a central longitudinal axis (X) of the receiving seat

(1) and/or of the container (8) and a closed loop movement of the stirring member (9) about the central longitudinal axis (X) of the container (8) or seat

(1) ,

wherein the direction and amount of the velocities of the first rotational movement and of the closed loop movement of the stirring member (9) are set depending on the cooled food product to produce.

2. The machine according to claim 1, wherein the closed loop movement of the stirring member (9) orbital rotational movement about the central longitudinal axis (X) of the container (8) or seat (1) .

3. The machine according to any of claims 1-2, wherein the angular velocity (ω2) of the closed loop movement of the stirring member (9) about axis (X) differs from the angular velocity (ωΐ) of the stirring member (9) about axis (Z) .

4. The machine according to claim 3, wherein the angular velocity (ω2) of the closed loop movement of the stirring member (9) about axis (X) is lower than the angular velocity (ωΐ) of the stirring member (9) about axis (Z) .

5. The machine according to claim 4, wherein the angular velocity (ω2) is preferably less than 35%, more preferably less than 25%, even more preferably less than 15% of the angular velocity (ωΐ) .

6. The machine according to any of the previous claims, wherein the combination of movements further comprises a linear movement of the stirring member (9) preferably a in a direction (A) parallel to the inner freezing surface (12a) of the side wall of the container ( 8 ) .

7. The machine according to any of the previous claims, wherein the combination of movements further comprises a radial reciprocating translational movement of the stirring member (9) relative to the container (8) or seat (1) .

8. The machine according to any of the previous claims, further comprising a control unit (6) which is configured to control at least the direction and amount of the velocities (ω1,ω2) of the stirring member (9), as a function of the type of product to be prepared.

9. The machine according to claim 8 wherein the velocities (ωΐ, ω2) of the stirring member (9) are either individually provided such as within a given sequence or as a combined movement of the stirring member (9) within the container (8) or seat (1) . 10. The machine according to any of the previous claims, wherein the stirring member (9) is designed for being removably connectable to the stirring unit (5) of the machine and is preferably shaped as a spoon for consumption of the resulting confectionery product .

11. A system comprising a machine (20) for preparing a cooled food product according to any of claims 1 to 10 and further comprising a container (8) comprising a heat transfer portion (12) having an inner freezing surface (12a), arranged such that the heat transfer portion (12) overlaps with the heat exchange contact surface (21) of the machine when the container (8) is arranged in the receiving seat (1) of the machine (20)

12. The system according to claim 11, wherein the stirring member (9) when connected to the machine

(20) is arranged adjacent to the inner freezing surface (12a) of the container (8) such as to define an essentially vertically extending scraping area (S) between the inner freezing surface (12a) and an outer annular scraping surface (9a) of the stirring member

(9) .

13. The system according to claim 12, wherein the vertical extension (h2) of the scraping area (S) within the container (8) is equal to or larger than the vertical extension (h3) of the heat exchange contact surface (21) of the machine (20) .

14. A method for preparing a cooled food product in machine according to any of claims 1 to 10, wherein it comprises the steps of:

- placing a container (8) containing a predefined amount of ingredients into the receiving seat (1) of the machine (20),

- cooling the container (8) by means of the heat exchange element (la) of the machine (20) contacting an outer surface of a side wall (8d) of the

container,

- moving the stirring member (9) by means of the stirring unit (5) within the container (8) with a certain combination of movements adjusted as a function of the type of product to be prepared.

15. Method according to claim 14, wherein the

movements of the stirring member (direction, velocities) are adjusted during the preparation depending on the type of product to be prepared.

16. Method according to claims 14 or 15, wherein the cooling power of the cooling unit is varied, e.g., reduced, during the preparation depending on the type of product to be prepared.

Description:
Machine, system and method for preparing a cooled confectionery product with aerated texture

Field of the invention

The present invention is directed to a system for processing a food product in order to prepare a aerated cooled confectionary such as frozen ice cream or whipped chilled dairy, the system comprising a product preparation machine and a dedicated packaging container.

Background of the invention

In the domain of food and drink processing machines, devices are known by means of which a frozen confectionery product such as an ice cream product may be prepared by mixing the ingredients in a dedicated vessel, and cooling the mixture for a predefined amount of time. This preparation procedure has however several drawbacks. In particular, all the ingredients must be mixed previously, the volume of such machines corresponds usually to five or more serving portions of the same flavor and the time necessary is about a half an hour. Moreover, the ingredients necessary for the preparation come in contact with a large number of parts of the preparation machine (e.g. a stirrer, tanks, or a dispenser), which all have to be cleaned.

There is a demand for increasing the convenience of the preparation of cool confectionery or desserts, in particular, reducing the preparation time, avoiding the hassle of cleaning the surfaces in contact with food and providing on demand an appealing texture and diversity of products .

Machines such as sorbet makers have been developed with stirrer having essentially for function to aerate the product while cooling it and so to ensure a smooth texture and an increase of the product volume. For frozen confectionery, the crystallization of liquid happens progressively while the large crystals are broken down constantly by the stirrer. Generally, the machine and its stirrer must be cleaned and it generally half an hour to make the frozen product.

WO 2010/149509 relates to a system for preparing freshly made single portion of frozen confectionary product, the system comprising a cylindrical container designed for being inserted into a dedicated preparation device having a heat exchange portion, said container comprising at least one scraper constituting stirring means movable within the container and ingredients for producing a frozen confectionary when being cooled and moved. The stirring means of the container are arranged to provide a rotational and axially oscillating movement within the container. Thereby, the scraper is arranged coaxial with the container body.

US 7,878,021 relates to an ice-cream maker comprising a blade member constituting stirring means arranged in a double-walled container, and a housing containing a driving mechanism that can generate a blade-rotating movement in relation to the double-walled container. The inner wall forms a tub, and the blade having the form of a spoon is used to scrape the inner wall. The movement of the blade member is obtained by maintaining the blade member static and offset with a scraping surface thereof parallel to the inner surface of the container and by driving the container in rotation around its central axis.

US20060263490 relates to a frozen confectionery maker comprising a cup, a cup holder having a rotating coupling for rotatably engaging the cup and a removable stirrer fixedly positioned with the housing above the cup holder for stirring the confectionery mixture in the cup as the cup is rotated by the rotateable coupling.

Therefore, the present invention generally aims at improving a device and system enabling to produce a cooled confectionery product conveniently while reducing the preparation time and improving the aeration of the product .

Object and summary of the invention

The present invention seeks to address the above-described problems. The invention also aims at other objects and particularly the solution of other problems as will appear in the rest of the present description.

In a first aspect, the invention proposes a machine for preparing a cooled confectionery product, comprising a receiving seat for accommodating an essentially cup-shaped container comprising a heat exchange element having a heat exchange contact surface arranged to be in contact with the outer surface of a side wall of the container when the container is placed in the machine, a cooling unit arranged for cooling the heat exchange element and a stirring unit connectable to a stirring member and arranged for driving the stirring member according to a combination of movements, wherein at least one of the combination of movements has a component directed towards the interior of the container when placed in the receiving seat.

According to the invention, such combination of movements provides a circulation of the liquid or liquid-foam mixture or partially crystalized liquid or liquid-foam mixture product in the container from the periphery towards the interior as well as and from the interior towards the periphery of the container. By "interior" it is referred here to a referential which is directed to the centre of the container or close to it, as opposed to the "periphery" which refers to a referential which is at or close to the side wall of the container. There is so substantially no liquid product in the container left unstirred during the preparation. As a result, an enhanced heat exchange by forced convection between the heat exchange element and the product is provided in the container. In particular, the formation of a hard crystalized crust or skin, e.g. of frozen product, at an inner surface of the container is prevented. Hence, the insulation and a reduction of the effectiveness of the heat transfer to and from the product in the interior of the container is prevented. The aeration of the product is also improved thereby compensating the reduced possible foamability of certain shelf-stable starting products such as those thermally treated.

The machine according to the invention preferably comprises a stirring member which is designed for being selectively or removably connectable to the stirring unit of the machine. The stirring member may be provided as part of the machine or alternatively may be provided within the container itself. Thereby, the stirring member is preferably shaped to interact with an inner surface of the container such as an inner freezing surface. The stirring member may be designed to be used as process stirring means, i.e. stirring member for the preparation of the product, as well as a spoon for consumption of the resulting confectionery product.

In a preferred mode, the component directed towards the interior of the container is a first rotational movement of the stirring member about its longitudinal axis.

The stirring member when connected to the stirring unit of the machine is preferably arranged with respect to the container and/or the receiving seat of the machine such that its longitudinal axis is offset to the central longitudinal axis of the receiving seat and/or to the centre longitudinal axis of the container. The stirring member can be parallel or slightly inclined relative to the central longitudinal axis of the receiving seat and/or to the centre longitudinal axis of the container.

The stirring member is preferably arranged such that its longitudinal axis is at a constant horizontal distance offset from the centre axis of the receiving seat comprising the heat exchange element and/or the centre axis of the container. The stirring unit may as well be designed to vary the horizontal distance between a longitudinal axis of the stirring member and the central longitudinal axis of the receiving seat and/or the central longitudinal axis of the container.

In another possible mode, the component directed towards the interior of the container is obtained by radial reciprocating translational movement of the stirring member relative to the container or seat.

More generally, the combination of movements of the stirring member further comprises closed loop movement of the stirring member about the central longitudinal axis of the container or seat. The closed loop movement can thereby be combined to the first rotational movement of the stirring member or the radial reciprocating translational movement of the stirring member.

In a preferred mode, the closed loop movement (second) movement is an orbital rotational movement of the stirring member about a central longitudinal axis of the container.

The orbital rotational movement (referred hereafter as the "second rotational movement") of the stirring member about the central longitudinal axis of the container may be directed in the same or in an opposite direction with respect to a first rotational movement of the stirring member about its own axis. In other words, the stirring member is arranged to rotate epicyclically relative to the central axis of the container (or receiving seat) while the stirring member or container is arranged to rotate in an orbital configuration about the centre of the container.

The velocities of the first and second rotational movements of the stirring member are set depending on the type of cooled confectionery to produce (e.g., whether it is a frozen dessert or whipped chilled dairy product) and preferably differ from one another. These variations are necessary to take into account the different viscosities of the starting confectionery product. In particular, slower velocities may be required for low viscosity liquid to prevent splashes. Also, the overrun of the final cooled confectionery must meet a level which differs depending on the type of confectionery desired.

The angular velocity ω2 of the second rotational movement can be lower than the angular velocity ωΐ of the first rotational movement of the stirrer. This can be the case for ice cream product for example. Thereby, the angular velocity ω2 is preferably less than 35%, more preferably less than 25%, even more preferably less than 15% of the angular velocity ωΐ .

In a preferred example, the angular velocity ωΐ is preferably between 100 and 2000 rpm, more preferably between 300 and 1600rpm. Also, the angular velocity ω2 is preferably between 10 and 300 rpm, more preferably between 20 and 90 rpm. In other possible modes, angular velocity ω2 of the second rotational movement is equal to or higher than the angular velocity ωΐ of the first rotational movement of the stirrer .

The plurality of movements of the stirring member may further comprise a translatory motion of the stirring member. The translatory motion of the stirring member is preferably in a direction lying in a different plane than a first or second rotational movement of the stirring member .

The translatory motion of the stirring member is preferably a linear movement in a direction parallel to an inner surface (preferably, the sidewall surface) such as an inner freezing surface of the container. Thereby, the translatory motion is preferably along an axis of direction which is arranged at an angle with respect to the rotational axis of the container and/or a centre axis of the seat.

The direction path of the translatory motion of the stirring member and the respective rotational axis of the container or the seat preferably enclose an acute angle between 5 and 60°, more preferably between 10 and 50°, even more preferably between 15 and 45°.

The stirring unit may as well be designed for providing a linear motion of the stirring member in a direction which is essentially parallel to a rotational axis of the container . In a preferred embodiment, the stirring unit of the machine is designed for rotating the stirring member connectable to the stirring unit about at least two rotational axes within the container which are different from each other. In addition, the stirring unit is designed for moving the stirring member in a direction parallel to an inner surface of the container such as an inner freezing surface of the container. In a preferred embodiment, the machine comprises a control unit connected at least to the stirring unit of the machine. The control unit is preferably designed to control at least the direction and amount of the respective velocities of the plurality of movements of the stirring member connected to the stirring unit. The velocities can so be adjusted precisely as a function of the type of product to be prepared, in particular, to obtain the desired aeration and crystalline or creamy texture .

The control unit of the machine may further be designed to provide a continuous and/or non-continuous motion of the stirring member about the respective axes respectively in the desired directions.

The control unit of the machine is preferably designed to control and adapt the operation of the heat exchange element of the machine. In particular, an on/off state as well as the cooling power may be controlled.

The machine may further comprise torque sensing means connected to the stirring unit and/or the control unit. The torque sensing means may sense the torque which is proportional to the electrical current. Accordingly, the control unit is preferably designed for controlling at least the rotational velocities of the stirring member in response to the information provided by the torque sensing means. The viscosity of the product sensed by the torque sensing means may trigger the end of the recipe, the product having reached the targeted viscosity. For this, in response to a threshold of viscosity, the control unit stops the rotational movements of the stirrer and optionally, also stops or reduces the electrical power to the cooling unit.

Hence, dependent on the viscosity of the product sensed by the torque sensing means, the control unit may adapt the direction and/or velocity of the plurality of movements of the stirring member connected to the stirring unit.

The machine may further be equipped with temperature sensing means for providing information regarding the temperature of the food product within the container. The temperature sensing means are connected to the control unit of the machine so that the control unit may adapt the direction and/or velocity of the plurality of movements of the stirring member connected to the stirring unit in response to the temperature of the food product within the container. The temperature reached by the product sensed by the temperature sensing means may also trigger the end of the recipe, the product having reached the targeted temperature. For this, in response to a threshold of temperature, the control unit stops the rotational movements of the stirrer and optionally, also stops or reduces the electrical power to the cooling unit.

The control for ending the recipe may also be a combination of the sensed viscosity and product temperature.

The heat exchange element of the machine is preferably integrally formed with the receiving seat for accommodating the container in the machine. The heat exchange element is preferably an evaporator connected to a cooling circuit of the machine. Thereby, the heat exchange element is preferably an essentially annular element forming a part of the receiving seat and designed to contact with an outer circumferential wall of the dedicated container.

The machine may further comprise a defrost system for facilitating the removal of the container from the machine .

In a further aspect, the invention relates to a system comprising a machine as described above and further comprising a container for holding a predefined amount of ingredients .

The container is preferably a single-use container which provides an initial packaging container for a predefined amount of ingredients. The packaging container preferably contains confectionery ingredients which are stored under ambient conditions and shelf stable for an extensive period of time (e.g., several weeks) . The confectionery ingredients are preferably under liquid form. Further, the container is also designed for being used as process container, i.e. as container in which the frozen confectionary is prepared, as well as serving container, i.e. as container from which the consumer may directly consume the resulting frozen confectionary.

The term "single-use container" when used in the present invention encompasses any container suitable for being disposed after being used for the preparation of the single-portion of cooled product. Thereby, the containers are preferably at least partially recyclable.

The term "cooled food product" within this application is intended to refer to different types of cooled, chilled or at least partially frozen confectionery product. Non limiting examples are whipped yoghurt, milk smoothie, ice cream, sorbet, sherbet, water ice, frozen yogurt, frozen dairy, soft ice, granitas, Mellorine, frozen custard, non- dairy frozen confection, milk ice, ice lolly, gelato or frozen jelly, or chilled desserts such as mousses, coffee latte or milk shakes.

The container comprises a body which is preferably a single-wall member comprising a cavity for the ingredients. The body of the container is preferably at least partially made of metal such as aluminium or steel and/or plastic material. The body may as well be at least partially made from biodegradable material such cardboard or starch-PLA.

It is preferable that the thickness of the body is small enough to ensure an effective heat transfer and, consequently, a cooling of the product in a short time, preferably, in less than 5 minutes. In particular, the thickness of the body is between 0.03 and 5mm, preferably, between 0.05 and 2 mm.

In a preferred embodiment, the body of the container has an inverted conical or curved shape. The container is preferably rotational symmetric about a central longitudinal axis of the container.

The container may comprise a heat exchange portion which is preferably integrally formed with the body of the container. The heat exchange portion is preferably made from a material with enhanced thermal conductivity such as metal, e.g. aluminium or steel. The heat exchange portion is preferably arranged such as to overlap with the heat exchange contact surface of the machine when the container is accommodated in the seat thereof. The heat exchange portion is preferably an annular portion of predefined height hi.

The container preferably comprises an inner freezing surface that is preferably shaped to interact with the stirring member of the system. The inner freezing surface is preferably linear in sectional side view. The inner freezing surface is preferably an annular inner surface of the container body with preferably constant height.

The inner freezing surface may be constituted by an inner surface of the heat exchange portion of the container. Accordingly, effective freezing of the inner surface by means of a dedicated machine is enabled. In a preferred embodiment, the stirring member, when connected to the machine, is arranged adjacent to the inner freezing surface of the container such as to define scraping area between the inner freezing surface and an outer annular scraping surface of the stirring member.

Preferably, a vertical extension h2 of the scraping area within the container is equal to or larger than a vertical extension h3 of the heat exchange contact surface of the machine .

Depending on the resulting food product to be prepared within the specific container, the container may comprise a dedicated volume such as for example 150ml for light aerated desserts, 200ml for an ice-cream product or 300ml for a milkshake.

The product can be overrun in the machine to a ratio comprised between 5% and 300% of its initial volume. Therefore, the container should be sized with a sufficient free volume (i.e., not occupied by the initial product) to anticipate the increase of volume of the aerated product at the end of the preparation process. For certain recipes, the product is not overrun.

In a further aspect, the invention relates to a method for preparing a cooled food product in a machine as

aforementioned, comprising the steps of:

- placing an essentially cup-shaped container containing a predefined amount of ingredients into the receiving seat of the machine, - cooling the container by means of the heat exchange element of the machine contacting an outer surface of a side wall of the container,

- moving the stirring member by means of the stirring member driven by the stirring unit, within the container according to the said combination of movements.

Preferably, the movements of the stirring member (direction, velocities) are adjusted by means of a control unit differently as a function of the type of product to be prepared (e.g., frozen or chilled confectionery) . In particular, the movements of the stirring member (direction, velocities) are varied during the preparation depending on the type of product to be prepared (e.g., frozen or chilled confectionery) . Preferably, the cooling power of the cooling unit is varied, e.g., reduced, during the preparation depending on the type of product to be prepared. Therefore, it is possible to prepare upon demand a frozen or a chilled confectionery product with the proper texture (e.g., whipped or aerated) and the proper serving temperature.

Brief description of the drawings

Further features, advantages and objects of the present invention will become apparent for a skilled person when reading the following detailed description of embodiments of the present invention, when taken in conjunction with the figures of the enclosed drawings. Fig. 1 shows a schematic drawing of the system for preparing a cooled food product according to the invention . Fig. 2a and 2b show different shapes of a container body according to the present invention.

Fig. 3 shows a schematic drawing relating to the plurality of movements of the stirring member in a preferred embodiment of the system.

Fig. 4 shows an enlarged drawing of the stirring unit of the system connected to the stirring member within the container.

Fig. 5a to 5d show schematic drawings of a preferred embodiment of the system, wherein the scraping area and the cooling area of the system are indicated .

Fig. 6 illustrates, in cross section along line A of Fig. 3, the epicyclical combination of movement of the stirring member in the container according to a preferred mode of the invention;

Fig. 7 illustrates, in cross section along line A of Fig. 3, the displacement of the stirring member combining a radial reciprocal movement of the stirring member and an orbital rotation of the stirring member about the central axis of the container according to a possible alternative mode . Detailed description of the figures

Figure 1 relates to a preferred embodiment of a system according to the present invention comprising a single-use container 8 and a preparation machine 20 designed for preparing a cooled food product such as a frozen or chilled confectionary by means of the container 8. The machine 20 preferably comprises a receiving seat for receiving the container 8 therein. The receiving means 1 are preferably shaped in V-form or truncated conical form when seen in sectional side view as indicated in figure 1. Thereby, the receiving seat 1 preferably comprises an insertion opening 23a in which the container 8 may be placed, as well as a lower opening 23b enabling the accommodation of containers of various sizes.

Further, the receiving seat 1 is preferably formed as an annular ring portion. The receiving seat 1 is preferably connected to a housing of the machine 20 by dedicated support means 24.

According to such an embodiment, containers 8 of different sizes respectively volumes such as e.g. depicted in figures 2a, 2b may be received in the receiving seat 1.

The machine 20 further comprises a cooling unit 4 connected to a heat exchange element la that is preferably connected to or integrally formed with the receiving seat 1 of the machine 20. The heat exchange element la is preferably an evaporator fluidically connected to the cooling unit 4 of the machine. The heat exchange element 1 preferably serves as a heat exchanger that withdraws the heat energy from the container 8 and its enclosed food product to lower rapidly the temperature of the product contained in the container. In general, the cooling unit comprises a cooling circuit using a refrigeration gas (e.g., R404A) with a compressor, an evaporator and an expansion valve positioned between the compressor and the evaporator. Therefore, it is possible to control the cooling power of the cooling unit by adjusting the pump's speed of the compressor which transports the gas and the opening of the expansion valve.

The heat exchange element la preferably comprises an inner geometrical shape complementary to a side wall 8d of the container 8. Thereby, an inner heat exchange contact surface 21 of the heat exchange element la is preferably shaped to be adjacent to an outer surface of a side wall 8d of the container 8 when the container is placed in the receiving seat 1.

The heat exchange element la is further of a material which provides excellent heat transfer properties, preferably metal such as stainless steel, copper or aluminium. Accordingly, the heat transfer between the container 8 and the heat exchange element la is significantly enhanced.

As shown in figure 1, the container receiving seat 1 is preferably only partially composed of the heat exchange element la. The rest of the receiving seat 1 such as a thermally insulating portion lb is preferably formed of a material with a lower thermal heat capacity such as e.g. a thermally insulating polymer. For example, the heat exchange element can be a ring which is partially embedded in an outer insulating plastic frame.

The cooling unit 4 of the machine 20 is adapted to cool the heat exchange element la. Since the heat exchange element la comprises excellent heat conductivity the outer wall 8d of the container 8 is cooled down rapidly. The cooling unit 4 can comprise any refrigeration and/or circulatory heat transfer system to cool the heat exchange element la, the outer wall 8d of the container 8 and consequently cool the confectionery product 8b within the container 8 as rapidly as possible.

Optionally, the machine 20 further comprises a liquid tank 2 for holding liquid such as e.g. water and a dedicated pump. The liquid tank 2 may be connected to liquid dispensing means 2a for providing liquid to the container 8 when being placed within the receiving means 1 of the machine 20. The liquid tank may be necessary when the initial product is powder, gel or liquid concentrate and so requires dilution according to a predetermined dilution ratio for achieving the final product with the correct texture .

Furthermore, the machine 20 may comprise one or more topping reservoirs 3 and an associated valve or pump (not shown) for providing toppings in solid or liquid form to the product 8b. The toppings may be liquid coulis, liquid chocolate, honey, caramel or solid products like crisps, flakes, chocolate bits. Additionally, the toppings may be liquefied by means of an additionally provided heating source such as e.g. melted chocolate.

The machine 20 further comprises a stirring unit 5 adapted to connect to stirring member 9 and driving it in a combined movement (as will described in detail later on) . For this reason, the stirring unit 5 is preferably equipped with connection means 5a designed for selectively connecting to the stirring member 9. The stirring member 9 may either be part of the machine 20 or be provided as part of the container 8 (integral or part to it) . The stirring member is preferably a spoon.

The machine 20 further comprises a control unit 6 for controlling the operations of the components of the machine. The control unit 6 is preferably designed to control a movement of the stirring unit 5, in particular, the rotational velocities and timing. The control unit also preferably controls the heat output of the heat exchange element la during the preparation of the food product .

As shown in figures 2a and 2b, different containers 8', 8' ',8''' may be provided each of which enclose a different volume such as 300ml, 200ml or 150ml respectively. Dependent on the product to be prepared by the respective container 8, the size and volume of the container 8 is adapted to contain a predefined amount of initial product ingredients necessary for preparing the specific product. As already mentioned, a lid member (not shown) is preferably provided to each of the containers in order to close off aperture 8c of the container and thus, to enclose the ingredients 8b therein.

The containers preferably comprise shelf-stable comestible ingredients. In addition, the container preferably comprises a free head space closed by the lid and which may contain a protective gas such nitrogen and the like.

As shown in figure 2a, 2b, the containers 8', 8' ',8''' may all comprise an essentially trunconical shape. Alternatively, the container may as well have an essentially transversally curved shape.

In a preferred embodiment, the container 8 comprises a heat transfer portion 12 which is preferably integrally formed with the body 8a of the container. The heat transfer portion 12 is preferably an annular portion of constant height hi. The heat transfer portion of the container may be integrally formed with a sidewall of the container .

As shown in figures 2a, 2b, the containers 8', 8' ',8''' all comprise an essentially common heat transfer portion 12. The heat transfer portion 12 is preferably arranged such as to overlap with the heat exchange contact surface 21 of the machine 20 when the respective container 8', 8' ',8''' is arranged in the seat 1 of the machine.

The containers 8', 8' ',8''' may also comprise an upper rim portion 13 which is of essentially identical geometric shape. The upper rim portion 13 may be a portion of increased diameter of the container body 8 as indicated in figures 2a and 2b. Alternatively or in addition, the upper rim portion 13 may as well comprise a flange-like rim portion (not shown) and/or a curled outer rim portion extending from the flange-like rim portion onto which can be sealed a closing lid of the container.

Figure 3 shows a container 8 to which the stirring member 9 is provided. The stirring member 9 is removably connectable to the stirring unit 5 of the machine 20.

Thereby, removable connection means 5a such as e.g. magnets and/or clips may be used for connecting the stirring member 9 to the stirring unit 5 of the machine 20.

The stirring member 9 is preferably a spoon-shaped member which comprises at least one outer preferably circumferential surface 9a that is complementary formed to an inner freezing surface 12a of the container 8.

The stirring unit 5 of the preparation machine 20 is designed for providing a combination of movements of the stirring member 9 in order to ensure effective mixing and cooling of the product.

In the first mode shown in Figs. 3 and 6, the stirring unit 5 is designed for rotating the stirring means 9 about a longitudinal axis Z of the stirring means 9. The longitudinal axis Z is preferably arranged offset to a central longitudinal axis X of the container. Preferably, the longitudinal axis Z is arranged in parallel at a constant distance d from the centre axis X of the container. If necessary, the distance d may be adjustable between the outer surface 9a of the stirring member 9 and the inner freezing surface 12a of the container 8.

The stirring unit 5 is further designed to enable a closed loop motion about the central axis X. The closed loop motion can be an orbital rotation of the stirring member 9 about the central axis X of the container 8. However, it should be kept in mind that non-rotational but elliptical, triangular, or square or polygonal-path motions can be envisaged as well. The centre axis X of the container preferably coincides with a centre axis of the receiving seat 1 of the machine 20 when the container is accommodated therein.

The stirring unit 5 is preferably adapted to additionally provide a translatory motion of the stirring member 9 parallel to an inner freezing surface 12a of the container 8 as indicated by arrow A. Thereby, the outer surface 9a of the stirring member 9 is preferably moved in parallel to the inner freezing surface 12a of the container 8. Thereby scraping of a larger surface can be successfully obtained, in particular, allowing the scrape the product as it increases in size during aeration.

The stirring unit 5 is preferably further adapted to control the rotational speeds coi , ω 2 of the stirring member 9 about the respective axes Z, X. These speeds can be controlled to remain constant during the full product preparation cycle or to vary stepwise or progressively. Further, the stirring unit 5 may be designed to control and adapt a speed ω3 of the stirring member 9 in direction A.

Due to the different movements of the stirring member 9, which direction and/or speed may be selectively adapted by the stirring unit 5, as a function of the type of confectionery to produce, an effective heat transfer and mixing of the product 8b within the container 8 may be obtained .

The different movements about axes X, Z and in translator direction A may either be individually provided such as within a given sequence, or as a combined movement of the stirring member 9 within the container.

The stirring member 9 is preferably positioned at the inner freezing surface 12a of the container 8 at the heat exchange portion 12 or opposite to the heat exchange element la when the container 8 is placed in the machine 20 (see figure 1) . Accordingly, the product to be cooled may be scraped between a surface 9a of the stirring member 9 and the inner cooling surface 12a which is cooled by the cooling means la of the machine. Figure 4 shows an enlarged drawing of the stirring unit 5 of the system connected to the stirring member 9 within the container 8.

The connection means 5a for connecting the stirring member 9 to the stirring unit 5 preferably comprises a first driving member 25 which enables a rotation of the stirring member 9 about its longitudinal axis Z. The driving member 25 is preferably designed for selectively connecting to a distal portion of a support shaft 27 of the stirring member 9. The connection means 5a preferably further comprises a second driving member 26. The second driving member 26 engages the support shaft 27 of the stirring member 9 to drive the shaft 27 in orbital rotation about the central axis X.

The first and second driving members 25,26 are preferably connected to the control unit 6 of the device, which individually controls the direction and the rotational velocities of the first and second driving member 25,26.

The first and second driving member 25,26 preferably each comprise a torque sensor 27a, 27b connected to the control unit 6 of the machine. Accordingly, the control unit 6 may control and adjust the rotational velocity of the driving members 25, 26 and thus of the stirring member 9 in response to the torque detected by the respective sensors 27a, 27b. As a result, the velocity can be varied (e.g., reduced, increased or stopped) during the preparation to adapt the product configurations (e.g., ice cream, whipped cream dessert, etc.) .

Figure 5a to 5d relate to schematic drawings of a preferred embodiment of the system, wherein the scraping area S and the cooling area C of the system are indicated.

Figure 5a shows a detailed embodiment of the annular heat exchange element la having a height h3 and which defines a heat exchange respectively cooling area C within the contours of the annular element. In case the container 8 is accommodated in the receiving seat 1 of the machine 20 as indicated in figure 5b, cooling of the outer wall 8d of the container primarily takes place at a portion of the container wall which overlaps with the contours of the annular heat exchange element la. Thereby, a portion of the container wall 8d may comprise a heat exchange portion 12 as indicated in figures 2a and 2b.

Figure 5c and 5d show a vertically extending scraping area S of the container 8 which refers to an area arranged between the inner freezing surface 12a of the container 8 and the outer annular scraping surface 9a of the stirring member 9. The scraping area preferably extends vertically to a height h2 along the inner freezing surface 12a of the container .

As indicated in figure 5c, the stirring member 9 is preferably arranged within the container 8 such that the scraping area S defined between the scraping surface 9a of the stirrer and the inner freezing surface 12a of the container is at least coincident with the cooling area C of the heat exchange element la of the machine 20.

In particular, the height h2 of the scraping area S is preferably equal to or larger than the height h3 of the cooling area C respectively the heat exchange element la. Thereby, the vertically extending scraping area S preferably fully overlaps with the vertically extending cooling area C when seen in side view. According to such an arrangement, any crust of frozen, sticking or burnt product may be removed from the inner freezing surface 12a by means of the stirring member 9 during preparation of the food product.

Fig. 7 illustrates a variant in which the stirring member is moved in combined fashion, reciprocally and radially while being rotated around the central axis X of the container or seat. In a first movement, the stirring member, such as spoon 9, is arranged to be driven by the driving unit in reciprocal radial directions Rl, R2, R3,.... While such movement is maintained at regular time intervals, a second orbital movement of controlled velocity (02) of the stirring member is provided to the stirring member. As a result, the inner surface 12a of the container is intermittently scraped by the stirring member, in particular, when its edge is adjacent to the surface. When the stirring member is distant from the surface 12a, the stirring member swirls the product located in the centre of the container. This combined movement forces the product to circulate from the centre to the periphery and vice versa, thereby making sure that no product is left unstirred. This circulation combined to the cooling of the surface of the container ensures a more rapid cooling of the product as well as the achievement of the desired texture.

Example 1 In the following, the basic working principle of the machine for preparation of food product will be explained with respect to a recipe for vanilla ice cream. First, the mobile structure 7 of the machine 20 (see figure 1) is brought into its open position in which a container 8 from which a lid member provided to close a central opening 8c of the container 8 has been removed is inserted in the receiving seat 1. In the open position, the stirring means 9 may be manually connected to stirring unit 5 of the machine. The mobile structure 7 is then brought into its closed position in which the stirring unit 5 and the topping tank 3 are lowered towards the container 8. In this position, the stirring means 9 are brought into a position adjacent to and contacting the inner freezing surface 12a of the container 8. In a first fast foaming phase, cooling of the food product within the container is obtained via the control unit 6 setting the cooling power of the heat exchange element to 100%. The stirring member 9 is rotated within the container by means of the driving means 25 about axis Z at (0i = 800rpm. Further, the second driving means 26 is controlled to rotate the stirring member 9 at the same time but lower speed, about axis X at ω 2 = - 60rpm.

Accordingly, the product is simultaneously cooled, stirred and scraped within the container 8. This movement is continued for maximum 120 seconds or until a predefined threshold value for a torque at the stirring member 9 is detected by torque sensor 27b at the first driving means 25.

In a second preparation phase, the rotational speed is lowered to avoid overflow of the product 8b within the container 8. Thereby, coi is set to 400rpm and ω 2 is held at -60rpm. The cooling power of cooling means la is kept at 100% of its maximal cooling power. The "cooling power" is generally obtained by adjusting the speed of the compressor and by varying the opening of the expansion valve positioned between the compressor and the evaporator in the cooling circuit. This setting is applied for maximum 120 seconds or until a predefined torque value is detected by torque sensor 27b, while at the same time the final temperature is about - 10°C, detected by a dedicated temperature sensor of the machine .

The mobile structure 7 of the machine 20 is then brought into its open position such that the container 8 may be removed from the receiving means 1. Thereby, the stirring unit 5 may disconnect from the stirring means 9. A user may then retrieve the container 8 from the receiving means 1 of the machine.

Example 2 This example refers to a preparation for a whipped yoghurt, wherein in a first preparation phase a relatively higher velocity of the stirring member 9 is provided.

In particular, rotational velocity coi is set to 1200rpm, while rotational velocity ω 2 is set to -30 rpm. The cooling power of the heat exchange element la is set to 100%. This setting is applied for maximum 120 seconds or until temperature of the product is detected to be about +4°C.

In a second preparation phase, the rotational velocities < >i,( >2 are kept constant (compared to the first phase) and the cooling power is reduced to 30%. This setting is applied for maximum 120 seconds or until a predefined torque value is detected by torque sensor 27b. Example 3

This example 3 refers to the preparation of a milk smoothie, wherein in a first preparation phase a relatively slow stirring of the stirring means 9 is applied in order to avoid splashes of the originally liquid product. Thereby, coi is set to 400 rpm, while rotational velocity ω 2 is set to -30 rpm. The cooling power of the heat exchange element is set to 100%. This setting is applied for maximum 120 seconds or until the temperature of the product is below 6°C.

In a second preparation phase, coi is set to 800 rpm, while rotational velocity ω 2 is set to -60 rpm. The cooling power is kept at 100%. Accordingly, a relatively fast foaming and cooling of the product is applied. This setting is applied for a maximum of 120 seconds or until the temperature is about +2°C.

In a third preparation phase, coi and ω 2 are kept constant (compared to the second phase) , while cooling power of the cooling unit is reduced to 30%. This setting is applied for a maximum of 120 seconds or until a predefined torque value is detected by torque sensor 27b.

During the preparation process of the above-outlined examples, liquid or solid toppings may be added from the topping tank 3 to the main product within the container 8. This may take place close to the end of the preparation process such that liquid toppings will create an appealing visual swirl for the consumer and solid toppings will remain crispy.

The present invention enables the effective preparation of a cold food product such as a aerated frozen or chilled confectionery, which can be freshly prepared in single portions within the initial container that serves at the same time as process and enjoy container.

With the present invention it is further possible to prepare several different types of such products in a short time. Since the container is dispensable and does not need to be cleaned, the handling is simplified and the need for cleaning is reduced.

Although the present invention has been described with reference to preferred embodiments thereof, many modifications and alternations may be made by a person having ordinary skill in the art without departing from the scope of this invention which is defined by the appended claims.