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Title:
METHOD AND APPARATUS FOR MAKING A TABLET OF POWDERED PRODUCTS FOR ESPRESSO BEVERAGE EXTRACTION
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2014/064623
Kind Code:
A2
Abstract:
A method of making a tablet for hot espresso beverage extraction, comprising the steps of a) grinding a brewable product to obtain a powder having a substantially uniform particle size, b) dosing a predetermined amount of the ground product powder, c) moistening the powdered product dose, d) homogenizing the moistened mixture to obtain a powdered product with a substantially uniform moisture content, e) forming the powdered product dose by compression to obtain a disk-shaped or prismatic tablet (C), supplying an amount of energy to the tablet (C) to obtain a substantially compact and integral item. The step f) of supplying energy is carried out at a distance by irradiating g) the tablet (C) with an electromagnetic wave beam (F) to overheat and partially bake and/or sinter the particles of the powdered product as well as to impart a relatively compact and self-supporting construction to the finished tablet (C). The electromagnetic wave irradiation step g) is carried out at the end of the forming step e) while continuously compressing the dose.

Inventors:
BACCHI, Andrea (Via Oratorio 8, Correggio, I-42015, IT)
Application Number:
IB2013/059580
Publication Date:
May 01, 2014
Filing Date:
October 23, 2013
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
CAFFEMOTIVE S.R.L. (Piazza della Borsa 7, Trieste, I-34121, IT)
International Classes:
A23L5/10
Domestic Patent References:
WO2001027426A22001-04-19
Foreign References:
FR1029940A1953-06-08
US1951357A1934-03-20
US4394395A1983-07-19
IT1213385B1989-12-20
EP1956921A22008-08-20
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
MAROSCIA, Antonio (Maroscia & Associati Srl, ContrĂ  Porti 21, Vicenza, I-36100, IT)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS

1 . A method of making a tablet for hot extraction of espresso beverages, comprising the steps of:

a) grinding one or more brewable products to obtain a powder having a substantially uniform particle size;

b) dosing a predetermined amount of said ground product powder; c) moistening the powdered product dose;

d) homogenizing the moistened dose to a substantially uniform residual moisture;

e) forming the moistened powder mixture dose by compression to form a tablet (C) having a desired shape;

f) supplying an amount of energy to said tablet (C) to obtain a substantially compact and integral item;

wherein said step f) of supplying energy is carried out remotely by irradiating g) the tablet (C) with an electromagnetic wave beam (F) to obtain overheating and partial baking and/or sinterization of the powdered product particles as well as to impart a relatively compact and self-supporting structure to the finished tablet (C) without any outer wrapping enclosure.

2. Method as claimed in claim 1 , wherein said electromagnetic wave irradiation step g) is carried out at the end of said forming step e) while continuously compressing the dose throughout the irradiation step.

3. Method as claimed in claim 1 , wherein said compression of said powdered product dose is substantially uniformly carried out within a closed compression chamber (1 1 ) with a shape complementary to that of said tablet (C).

4. Method as claimed in claim 3, wherein the compression step is carried out at a pressure (P) ranging from 1 bar to 5 bar, preferably of about 2.5 bar.

5. Method as claimed in claim 1 , wherein said electromagnetic waves have a frequency comprised within the microwave range.

6. Method as claimed in claim 6, wherein the microwave frequency ranges from 0,91 5 to 5,8 GHz.

7. Method as claimed in one of claims 5 and 6, wherein said microwave irradiation is performed in a substantially constant fashion, for a predetermined time (T), ranging from a few seconds to 2 minutes, and preferably less than 1 minute.

8. Method as claimed in claim 1 , wherein said electromagnetic field has a specific power (P) ranging from 50 to 300 W per gram of powdered product, preferably of about 1 50 W per gram of powdered product.

9. Method as claimed in claim 1 , wherein said moistening step c) is carried out by adding a predetermined amount of water to the powered product, and possibly further adding binders, followed by a homogenization step, which is carried out by mixing, to obtain a substantially uniform moistened mixture.

1 0. Method as claimed in claim 9, wherein said predetermined amount of water ranges from 2% to 20% and is preferably about 1 0% by weight of the dry powdered product.

1 1 . Method as claimed in one or more of the preceding claims, wherein said energy supply step f) is followed by a short rest step h) for the tablet, which is in turn followed by a step in which the latter undergoes individual or multiple packaging i).

1 2. Method as claimed in one or more of the preceding claims, wherein the product to be ground is selected from the group comprising coffee, barley, malt, ginseng, tea, infusions and other similar brewable food products.

1 3. An apparatus for making a powdered product tablet for hot extraction of espresso beverage according to one or more of the preceding claims, comprising:

forming means (2, 1 02) having a hollow body (4, 1 04) for receiving a powdered product dose;

- compression means (8, 1 08) associated with said hollow body

(4, 1 04) for compressing the product dose collected therein and forming a tablet (C) having a desired shape; means (3, 1 03) for supplying energy to the tablet (C) formed within said hollow body (4, 1 04);

characterized in that said means for supplying energy (3, 1 03) comprise irradiating means (14, 1 14) for emitting an electromagnetic wave beam (F) directed toward said hollow body (4, 1 04), to overheat and partially bake and/or sinterize the particles of the powdered products of the tablet (C) as well as to impart thereto a relatively compact and self-supporting structure without any outer wrapping enclosure.

14. Apparatus as claimed in claim 1 3, wherein said hollow body (4, 1 04) has a substantially cylindrical inner cavity (5, 1 05) having one closed end and one opposite end designed to be opened for receiving the powdered product dose, and designed to be closed to define a compression chamber (1 1 , 1 1 1 ) with a shape corresponding to that of the tablet (C) to be formed.

1 5. Apparatus as claimed in claim 14, wherein said compression means (8, 1 08) comprise a piston that is slidably and sealingly arranged within said inner cavity (5, 1 05) and is designed to be externally driven to compress the powdered product dose by means of its longitudinal travel.

1 6. Apparatus as claimed in claim 1 3, wherein said irradiation means comprise a microwave generator (13, 1 03) connected to a microwave emitting antenna (14, 1 14).

1 7. Apparatus as claimed in claim 13, wherein said tubular body (4) has an air exhaust valve for removing air after compression.

Description:
METHOD AND APPARATUS FOR MAKING A TABLET OF POWDERED PRODUCTS FOR ESPRESSO BEVERAGE EXTRACTION

Field of the invention

[0001 ] The present invention generally finds application in the food industry and particularly relates to a method and apparatus for making a tablet of powdered products for espresso beverage extraction.

Background art

[0002] Certain espresso beverages are known to be obtained by brewing or instantaneous extraction of flavors and active ingredients of more or less edible products, such as coffee, barley, malt, ginseng, infusions and other similar products in powder or particle form, using warm or hot water at ambient pressure or preferably at a pressure above the atmospheric pressure.

[0003] As used herein, the term espresso is intended to designate a beverage that is prepared instantaneously or for a waiting consumer.

[0004] A particular class of base products requires grinding to obtain products of various particle sizes.

[0005] A typical, non-exclusive example of such class of products is coffee, which is previously mixed, roasted and then cold-ground to obtain the classical coffee grounds that are sold in hermetically and vacuum sealed packages for home and public use.

[0006] In order to prepare an espresso coffee, a given amount of coffee grounds is loaded in a perforated container, known as filter container, whereupon the loaded grounds are compressed manually or using a special tamper.

[0007] Then, hot water is forced through the compressed grounds are at a given pressure, using a special machine.

[0008] A high-quality espresso coffee, as typically requested in bars, requires some skill and a high-cost professional machine.

[0009] For domestic preparation of high-quality espresso coffee, portions of coffee grounds have been long available, which are pre-packaged as pods made of filter paper or plastic capsules of various shapes and sizes. These items are introduced into relatively inexpensive machines, which are affordable to private consumers or small-size businesses and communities, to prepare a top-quality espresso.

[0010] Examples of these pre-packaged items are disclosed, for instance, in FR 1 029 940, US 1 951 357, US 4 394 395, IT 1 21 3 385.

[001 1 ] One drawback of such prior art methods and items for preparing espresso coffee consists in the relatively high costs for manufacturing and packaging capsules or pods, which results in accordingly high sales costs for the final consumer.

[0012] A further drawback is that this known type of packaging requires the presence of enclosures made of plastic, paper, aluminum or other materials to contain the products to be filtered, which make the manufacturing process more complex and problematic.

[0013] Yet another drawback relates to environment-friendly disposal and environmental impact reduction issues, due to such enclosures, after coffee dispensing.

[0014] In an attempt to obviate the above drawbacks, a novel process has been developed for producing tablets or pastilles, that does not require any kind of enclosure, but requires moistening of the tablet and application of energy thereto, in the form of vibrations, namely high-frequency ultrasonic vibrations.

[0015] Processes of this type are disclosed and claimed, for instance, in EP1 956921 e WO2001 /027426.

[0016] While this novel preparation method has provided a number of advantages over prior art products, such as the elimination of the plastic enclosure for coffee grounds, which considerably reduces environmental impact, it still has the drawback that vibrations are required to be transferred by contact or through an interposed medium, which increases the complexity and costs of the manufacturing process.

[0017] Furthermore, the tablet is not uniformly compacted, as ultrasonic waves are progressively attenuated as they pass through the tablet, and the tablet cannot be compacted above a given thickness limit. Disclosure of the invention

[0018] The object of the present invention is to overcome the above drawbacks, by providing a method of producing a tablet of ground powdered products for hot espresso beverage extraction, that is highly efficient and relatively cost-effective.

[0019] A particular object of the present invention is to provide a method as described above which avoids the use of enclosures for tablets of brewable products.

[0020] A further object is to conceive a method as described above which affords a considerable reduction of manufacturing process and equipment costs.

[0021 ] Yet another object is to provide a tablet for espresso beverage preparation that has a substantially integral self-supporting construction.

[0022] These and other objects, as more clearly shown hereinafter, are fulfilled, as defined in claim 1 , by a method of making a tablet for hot espresso beverage extraction, comprising the steps of grinding a brewable product to obtain a powder having a substantially uniform particle size, dosing a predetermined amount of said ground product powder, moistening the powdered product dose, forming the dose of moistened powdered product by compression to obtain a substantially disk-shaped tablet, supplying an amount of energy to said tablet to obtain a substantially compact and integral item.

[0023] The method is characterized in that the step of supplying energy is carried out at a distance by irradiating the tablet with an electromagnetic wave beam to overheat and partially bake and/or sinter the particles of the powdered product as well as to impart a relatively compact and self-supporting construction to the tablet.

[0024] In a second aspect, the invention relates to an apparatus for making a tablet of ground powdered products for hot espresso beverage extraction as defined in claim 13, which comprises forming means having a hollow body for collecting a powdered product dose, compression means for compressing the product dose collected in said hollow body and forming a tablet having a desired shape, means for supplying energy to the tablet formed within said hollow body.

[0025] The apparatus is characterized in that the means for supplying energy comprise irradiating means for remote emission of an electromagnetic wave beam directed toward said hollow body, to overheat and partially bake and/or sinter the particles of the powdered products of the tablet as well as to impart thereto a relatively compact and self-supporting construction without requiring any outer enclosure.

[0026] Particular embodiments of the method and apparatus of the invention are described in the dependent claims.

Brief description of the drawings

[0027] Further characteristics and advantages of the invention will be more apparent upon reading of the detailed description of a few preferred, non-exclusive embodiments of a method and apparatus for producing a tablet for hot espresso beverage extraction, which are described as non- limiting examples with the help of the annexed drawings, in which:

[0028] FIG. 1 is a block diagram of the inventive method;

[0029] FIG. 2 is a schematic view of a first embodiment of an apparatus for carrying out certain steps of the method of FIG. 1 ;

[0030] FIG. 3 is a schematic view of a variant embodiment of the apparatus of FIG. 2.

Detailed description of a preferred embodiment

[0031 ] Particularly referring to the above mentioned figures, the method for producing a tablet for hot espresso beverage extraction may be advantageously used for brewable products of various types, as long as they can be actually brewed, including without limitation coffee, barley, malt, gingseng, tea, hibiscus tea, infusions and other similar products in powder or particle form.

[0032] While the method is described below with reference to a coffee tablet, it is applicable to any of the above mentioned products.

[0033] As briefly shown in the block diagram of FIG. 1 the method comprises a previous preparation of a blend of coffee grains, after conventional roasting.

[0034] Then, the coffee blend undergoes a grinding step a) to obtain grounds having a substantially uniform particle size, herein referred to as "powered product" substantially in the dry state or with a very low residual moisture content.

[0035] The powdered product will undergo a dosing step b) by special volumetric dosing or weighing units, such that a dose of a predetermined amount of product is isolated.

[0036] The product dose will undergo a moistening step c) with 2% to 20%, preferably about 1 0% liquid, preferably untreated water, based on the weight of dry powdered product.

[0037] Possibly, appropriate binders may be used for improving mutual adhesion of the powder particles in the later steps.

[0038] The powdered product, after addition of water and other binders, if any, will preferably undergo a homogenization step d), e.g. by stirring with a special spindle or vibration mixer, or with any other means that can provide a substantially uniform moistened mixture.

[0039] Now, the moistened and homogenized mixture undergoes a forming step e) to assume a predetermined shape.

[0040] Particularly, the forming step e) may be carried out by an apparatus as described below, which is adapted to compress the moistened mixture into an item, e.g. a disk-shaped or prismatic item, hereinafter referred to as tablet C or pastille.

[0041 ] Preferably, the pressure applied to the powdered product ranges from 1 bar to 5 bar, and is preferably about 2.5 bar. Conveniently, compression will be carried out by pneumatic, hydraulic or technically equivalent means.

[0042] The tablet C so formed shall be anyway adapted to be introduced into a hot water or steam coffee machine of a known type and also suitable for use in home environments.

[0043] A key step of the step is the supply d) of a given amount Q of energy, which causes heating of the previously formed tablet C, to impart a substantially compact and integral construction thereto.

[0044] A peculiar feature of the invention is that the step f) of supplying said energy is carried out by irradiating the tablet C with an electromagnetic wave beam.

[0045] Conveniently, the irradiation step starts as soon as the forming step is completed, and while continuously holding the tablet under pressure throughout the irradiation step, to stabilize the shape and structure of the tablet C.

[0046] Electromagnetic waves are known to be a form of energy that is transferred through space without requiring any interface of contact medium, whereby this step may be carried out at a distance, by simply directing the beam toward the tablet.

[0047] Tests and analyses showed that the best results are obtained by selecting an electromagnetic wave frequency in the microwave range.

[0048] Particularly the frequency of microwaves may advantageously range from 0.91 5 to 5.8 GHz, and preferably be about 2.45 GHz.

[0049] Microwave irradiation is conducted in a substantially constant fashion, for a predetermined time T, ranging from a few seconds to 2 minutes, and preferably less than 60 seconds.

[0050] Preferably, the electromagnetic beam has a specific power P ranging from 30 to 500 W per gram of powdered product, preferably of about 150 W per gram of powdered product.

[0051 ] It will be appreciated that the powdered product that forms the tablet C contains a given amount of water, whose molecules behave like electric dipoles having a given dipole moment.

[0052] Since the wavelength of microwaves is of the same order of magnitude as that of water dipoles, microwaves will cause an increase of the rotational energy of such dipoles in the mass of the tablet C, thereby almost instantaneously heating water and the surrounding product. [0053] Since water molecules are substantially evenly distributed in the mass of the tablet, the base material of the tablet will undergo substantially uniform and "core" heating, without creating zones with differentiated hardness.

[0054] Therefore, the compressed and microwave-irradiated granular product will be somewhat "baked" and/or "sintered" in a very short time, typically a few seconds, thereby creating a self-supporting and integral structure, which is considerably porous and extractable, in the tablet.

[0055] The need is thus avoided for any outer enclosure, which would also have some barrier effect, and may limit flavor extraction from the product.

[0056] At the end of the energy supply step f), a short rest step h) may be envisaged for the tablet C, followed by a step in which the latter undergoes individual or multiple packaging i).

[0057] FIG. 2 shows a first embodiment of an apparatus that may be used for carrying out a few basic steps of the above mentioned process, particularly the forming step e) and the electromagnetic wave irradiation step g)-

[0058] The apparatus, which is generally designated with numeral 1 , comprises a forming device 2 and an irradiation device 3.

[0059] The forming device 2 comprises a substantially tubular body 3 with a substantially cylindrical inner cavity 5, closed at its bottom and with a top opening designed to be closed by a cover 6, that may be removably locked by screw fastener means 7. Both the inner cavity 5 and the closure means 6, 7 may obviously have a configuration other than that described above, without departure from the scope of the invention.

[0060] A piston 8 is sealingly and slidably housed in the cavity 5 and may be pushed upwards by compressed air or an equivalent pressurized fluid introduced into the cavity through a lateral air duct 9.

[0061 ] An air exhaust valve 10 is provided in the lower portion of the tubular body 4, to remove compressed air after compression.

[0062] A compression chamber 1 1 is created between the top face of the piston 8 and the bottom face of the cover 6, for receiving the powdered product dose which is later compressed.

[0063] Possibly, air bleeder means, not shown, may be provided in the compression chamber, to avoid backpressures in the chamber 1 1 as the piston 8 rises.

[0064] The irradiation device 3 may comprise a bell-shaped shield 1 2 holding therein a generator 1 3 of electromagnetic, particularly microwave waves, e.g. a magnetron as typically used in home microwave ovens.

[0065] The generator 1 3 is equipped with an antenna 1 5 and deflection mirrors or waveguides 1 5, which have the purpose of directing the beam F toward the target, i.e. the forming device 2, from a distance and in contactless fashion.

[0066] As is known per se, the generator 1 3 receives power from a power source connected to its terminals 1 6 via a cable and a switch, not shown.

[0067] In operation, once the powdered product dose has been poured into the compression chamber 1 1 , the cover 6 has been secured by the screw fastener means 7 and the valve 1 0 has been closed, air at an appropriate pressure is introduced, to push the piston 8 upwards, compress the powdered product dose and form the tablet C.

[0068] Immediately after complete formation of the tablet C, i.e. when the piston 8 has reached its uppermost position and has compressed the powdered product dose, the generator 1 3 is powered and emits the beam F to irradiate the tablet C.

[0069] Of course, for loss- or spark-free irradiation, the forming device 2 shall be entirely formed with microwave transparent materials.

[0070] FIG. 3 shows an alternative embodiment of the apparatus of FIG. 2, referenced 1 01 , which basically comprises a forming device 1 02 and an electromagnetic wave beam irradiating device 1 03.

[0071 ] Here again the forming device 1 02 may essentially consist of a hollow body 1 04 with an inner cavity 1 05 or a forming die adapted to receive a unit powdered product dose. For this purpose, the inner cavity 1 05 has a substantially cylindrical shape, or anyway a shape substantially conforming that of the tablet C to be formed.

[0072] The hollow body 1 04 also has an upper flange and is closed by a removable cover 1 06 having an upper opening for the passage of the stem 1 07 of a piston 1 08. The stem 1 07 is connected at its top to an actuator 1 09, e.g. consisting of a pneumatic or hydraulic cylinder, which is connected to a pressurized fluid source, not shown.

[0073] Possibly, a presser 1 1 0 may be provided in the lower portion of the hollow body 1 04, for ejecting the finished tablet C once heat treatment thereon is completed.

[0074] A variable-volume compression chamber 1 1 1 is thus formed between the inner cavity 1 05 and the piston 108, which is designed to compress the powdered product dose and form the tablet C.

[0075] A radiant device, generally referenced 103 is associated with the forming device 1 02, and comprises an electromagnetic wave beam emitting antenna 1 14.

[0076] The antenna 1 14 is at the end of a waveguide 1 1 5 having at its end a connection 1 16 for a coaxial cable connected to a microwave generator, e.g. a magnetron, both not shown.

[0077] Conveniently, an annular labyrinth shield 1 1 7 may be arranged along the outer peripheral edge of the cover 1 06, for cooperating with the upper flange of the hollow body 1 02 to hold the microwaves within the radiant device 1 03.

[0078] While the above described embodiments of the apparatus are both designed to form one tablet at a time, further embodiments may be provided of an apparatus for packaging multiple tablets at a time, which would be designed to be introduced into a mass production line.

[0079] An exemplary process of making a tablet or pastille C is briefly described below.

EXAMPLE

[0080] A typical coffee blend is used, which is instantly ground.

[0081 ] Then a dosed amount of 7.2 grams of coffee grounds is separated. 0.8 grams of water are added, and accurately mixed for moisture homogenization.

[0082] The dose is poured into the compression chamber 1 1 , 1 1 1 of the forming device 2, 1 02. Compressed air at a pressure of about 2.6 bar is introduced into the inner cavity 5 or the pneumatic cylinder of the actuator 1 09 to compress the powdered product and form an approximately disk- shaped tablet C having a diameter of 40 mm and a thickness of about 9.5 mm.

[0083] Now, the microwave generator is turned on for a time T of about 10 seconds, to generate a beam F having a power of about 1 000 W.

[0084] The weight of the pastille after baking is about 7.6 grams, with a total mass loss of about 0.4 grams due to partial evaporation of water and the liquid components of coffee.

[0085] The above described method and apparatus fulfill the intended objects as stated in the introduction, and particularly provide a tablet of ground powdered products for hot espresso beverage extraction having remarkable efficiency and self-support features, without using any outer enclosure and with a considerable manufacturing cost reduction.

[0086] The method and apparatus of this invention are susceptible to a number of changes or variants, within the inventive concept disclosed in the appended claims. All the details thereof may be replaced by other technically equivalent parts, and the materials may vary depending on different needs, without departure from the scope of the invention as defined in the claims.