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Title:
VALVE ASSEMBLY FOR A BEVERAGE DISPENSER AND BEVERAGE DISPENSER COMPRISING A VALVE ASSEMBLY
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2017/001012
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A valve assembly (20) and a beverage dispenser (100) are provided. The valve assembly (20) comprises a valve (60) and a valve housing (40), the valve (60) being arranged to be rotatably fitted within a recess (41 ) of the valve housing (40). The valve housing (40) comprises an air inlet (44) for supplying air to the valve (60), a rinse fluid inlet (45) for supplying rinse fluid to the valve (60), a milk supply connection (46) for connection to a milk supply and an outlet (47) for exhausting at least one of air, rinse fluid and milk. The valve (60) comprises a passage (61) which is arranged to simultaneously connect the milk supply connection (46) and the rinse fluid inlet (45) with the outlet (47).

Inventors:
KWARNMARK, Martin (S:t Göransgatan 143, Stockholm, 105 45, SE)
JAHGE, Anders (S:t Göransgatan 143, Stockholm, 105 45, SE)
Application Number:
EP2015/065019
Publication Date:
January 05, 2017
Filing Date:
July 01, 2015
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
AKTIEBOLAGET ELECTROLUX (S:t Göransgatan 143, Stockholm, 105 45, SE)
International Classes:
A47J31/44
Foreign References:
DE202012009075U12012-11-16
DE202011107306U12012-01-11
EP2732740A12014-05-21
DE202012009075U12012-11-16
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
WRETBLAD, Eva (S:t Göransgatan 143, Stockholm, 105 45, SE)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS

1 . A valve assembly (20) for a beverage dispenser (100), such as a coffee machine, the valve assembly (20) comprising a valve (60) and a valve housing (40), the valve (60) being arranged to be rotatably fitted within a recess (41 ) of the valve housing (40), the valve housing (40) comprising

- an air inlet (44) for supplying air to the valve (60),

- a rinse fluid inlet (45) for supplying rinse fluid to the valve (60),

- a milk supply connection (46) for connection to a milk supply and

- an outlet (47) for exhausting at least one of air, rinse fluid and milk,

characterized in that the valve (60) comprises a passage (61 ) which is arranged to simultaneously connect the milk supply connection (46) and the rinse fluid inlet (45) with the outlet (47).

2. The valve assembly (20) according to claim 1 wherein the valve (60) is rotatable between a plurality of different valve positions within the recess (41 ) and where the passage (61 ) is arranged to simultaneously connect the milk supply connection (46) and the rinse fluid inlet (45) with the outlet (47) in at least one of the plurality of positions. 3. The valve assembly (20) according to claim 1 or 2 wherein the valve (60) is rotatable between a plurality of different valve positions within the recess (41 ) and where the passage (61 ) is arranged to simultaneously connect the milk supply connection (46) and the rinse fluid inlet (45) with the outlet (47) in all valve positions. 4. The valve assembly (20) according to any one of the preceding claims wherein the valve (60) comprises a substantially cylindrical body with a first end (62), a second end (63) and a peripheral surface (64) extending between the first end (62) and the second end (63). 5. The valve assembly (20) according to claim 4 wherein a first part of the passage (61 ) is formed as a first groove (61 a) arranged at the peripheral surface (64) of the valve (60), the first groove (61 a) facing both the milk supply connection (46) and the rinse fluid inlet (45).

6. The valve assembly (20) according to claim 5 wherein a second part (61 b) of the passage (61 ) is formed as a through hole which connects the first groove (61 a) with the outlet (47).

7. The valve assembly (20) according to any one of claims 4-6 wherein the outlet (47) is arranged at the second end (63) of the cylindrical body.

8. The valve assembly (20) according to claim 6 wherein the valve (60) comprises an air orifice (65) which connects the air inlet (44) and the second part (61 b) of the passage (61 ).

9. The valve assembly (20) according to claim 8 wherein the air orifice (65) comprises a second groove (65b) arranged at the peripheral surface (64) of the valve (60).

10. The valve assembly (20) according to any one of the preceding claims wherein the valve (60) further comprises a milk frother (15) which is connected to the outlet (47).

1 1 . A beverage dispenser (100), such as a coffee machine, comprising a milk supply and a rinse fluid supply, wherein the beverage dispenser (100) comprises a valve assembly (20) according to any one of the preceding claims.

Description:
VALVE ASSEMBLY FOR A BEVERAGE DISPENSER AND BEVERAGE DISPENSER COMPRISING A VALVE ASSEMBLY

TECHNICAL FIELD

Embodiments herein relate to a valve assembly configured to cooperate with a beverage dispenser such as a coffee machine with a milk frothing arrangement. Embodiments herein further relate to a beverage dispenser, such as a coffee machine with a milk frothing arrangement, comprising a valve assembly. BACKGROUND

Beverage dispensers, such as coffee machines, are generally arranged to provide a user with hot beverage, such as coffee, espresso and similar. Some beverage dispensers are arranged to grind coffee beans while some other beverage dispensers are made for pre-grinded coffee beans or coffee pods.

A beverage dispenser may comprise a water tank, a pump, a coffee supply, a heating arrangement, a beverage discharge port such as a milk and/or coffee dispenser, a waste container and a user interface. A user may for example select a kind of coffee via buttons or a touch screen, whereby water via the heating arrangement and the pump is heated and mixed with grinded coffee beans before dispensed to the user via the beverage discharge port. If the user fails to put a cup correctly under the beverage discharge port, the beverage may be collected in a waste container which generally is arranged under a drip tray or cup holder of the beverage dispenser. Some beverage dispensers are provided with arrangements which allow a user to select if he/she would like milk in the coffee. The milk may be heated via the heating arrangement and frothed in a milk frothing arrangement.

DE202012009075U1 discloses a valve for a coffee machine. The valve may be rotated between different positions. A user may allow milk, milk foam or cleaning liquid to pass the valve by rotating the valve into a milk-position, a milk-foam position or a cleaning position. The valve in DE202012009075U1 may be suitable in some application but there remains a need for a valve assembly and a beverage dispenser which is easier to rinse and/or clean. SUMMARY

The valve assembly as set out herein aim to eliminate or at least reduce the problems and/or drawbacks associated with previously known valve assemblies for beverage dispensers with milk frothing arrangements. According to an embodiment, this is provided by valve assembly for a beverage dispenser, such as a coffee machine, the valve assembly comprising a valve and a valve housing, the valve being arranged to be rotatably fitted within a recess of the valve housing, the valve housing comprising

- an air inlet for supplying air to the valve,

- a rinse fluid inlet for supplying rinse fluid to the valve,

- a milk supply connection for connection to a milk supply and

- an outlet for exhausting at least one of air, rinse fluid and milk,

wherein the valve comprises a passage which is arranged to simultaneously connect the milk supply connection and the rinse fluid inlet with the outlet.

Since the valve comprises a passage which is arranged to simultaneously connect the milk supply connection and the rinse fluid inlet with the outlet, rinsing can be performed independently of which position the valve is arranged in. Hereby a rinsing and/or cleaning procedure may be initiated at any time without the need of any preceding checks or actions. Thus, a user which would like to rinse and/or clean the parts of the beverage dispenser which have been in contact with milk, such as the valve assembly, easily can initiate rinsing and/or cleaning without first turning the valve into a cleaning or rinsing position. Since a user can initiate rinsing and/or cleaning without checking such that the valve is in a dedicated rinsing position or without turning the valve into such dedicated rinsing position, rinsing and/or cleaning is facilitated. Thanks to the passage which is arranged to simultaneously connect the milk supply connection and the rinse fluid inlet with the outlet, rinsing also can be initiated automatically, e.g. after every time milk has been dispensed. The rinse fluid supply may be a water tank of the beverage dispenser or an external supply, such as a water supply conduit coupled to the beverage dispenser. Since manual or automatic rinsing and/or cleaning can be initiated without any preceding checks or adjustments, the rinsing and/or cleaning may, if desired, be initiated very shortly after milk has been dispensed. Hereby any milk residuals will come loose easily. According to some embodiments the valve is rotatable between a plurality of different valve positions within the recess and the passage is arranged to simultaneously connect the milk supply connection and the rinse fluid inlet with the outlet in at least one of the plurality of positions. Since the passage is arranged to simultaneously connect the milk supply connection and the rinse fluid inlet with the outlet in at least one of the plurality of positions, cleaning is facilitated. In some embodiments the valve is rotatable between a plurality of different valve positions within the recess and the passage is arranged to simultaneously connect the milk supply connection and the rinse fluid inlet with the outlet in all valve positions. Hereby rinsing and/or cleaning easily and efficiently can be performed independently of which position the valve is arranged in. This facilitates both manual and automatic rinsing of a beverage dispenser in which the valve assembly is mounted.

According to some embodiments the valve comprises a substantially cylindrical body with a first end, a second end and a peripheral surface extending between the first end and the second end. This provides for a reliable valve which may be produces in an economically efficient manner. In addition, with this shape conventional O-rings may be used for sealing the cylindrical body against the valve housing. The valve may e.g. be a turn valve. According to some embodiments a first part of the passage is formed as a first groove arranged at the peripheral surface of the valve, the first groove facing both the milk supply connection and the rinse fluid inlet. Hereby both milk and rinse can be efficiently distributed via the fluid the first part of the passage. The groove may have different width and/or depth along its length such that a user is able to adjust a flow capacity of the first groove.

According to some embodiments a second part of the passage is formed as a through hole which connects the first groove with the outlet. The through hole may for example comprise a section which extends substantially in a radial direction of the valve and a section which extends substantially in a longitudinal direction of the valve. According to some embodiments the outlet is arranged at the second end of the cylindrical body. Hereby the outlet can be in contact with the second part of the passage independently of which position the valve is arranged in.

According to some embodiments the valve comprises an air orifice which connects the air inlet and the second part of the passage. Hereby the valve allows milk, rinse fluid and air to be distributed via the passage. According to some embodiments the air orifice comprises a second groove arranged at the peripheral surface of the valve. Since the air orifice comprises the second groove which is arranged at the peripheral surface of the valve, air can be distributed from the air inlet to the second part of the passage independently of which position the valve is arranged in. According to some embodiments the valve further comprises a milk frother which is connected to the outlet. Hereby milk froth or milk foam can be made in an efficient and space saving manner. The milk frother may be arranged as a venturi nozzle. The milk frother or a housing thereof may be integrally formed with the valve assembly housing described above. The valve assembly with the milk frother can hereby be manufactured as a single unit. Thanks to this no conduits or connecting parts between is necessary between the valve assembly and the milk frother.

Embodiments herein also aim to provide a beverage dispenser which eliminates or at least reduces the problems and/or drawbacks associated with previously known beverage dispensers with milk frothing arrangements.

According to some embodiments this is provided by a beverage dispenser, such as a coffee machine, comprising a milk supply and a rinse fluid supply, wherein the beverage dispenser comprises a valve assembly according to any one of the preceding claims Since the beverage dispenser comprises a valve assembly according to embodiments herein, the beverage dispenser can be rinsed independently of valve position. Hereby a user which would like to rinse the beverage dispenser easily can initiate rinsing without first checking if the valve is in a dedicated rinsing position. The beverage can also comprise a milk frother and/or an air pump. The milk supply can be e.g. a milk container or a conduit from an external milk supply. The rinse fluid supply can be e.g. a water tank or a conduit from external water and/or rinse fluid supply.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The various aspects of non-limiting embodiments herein, including its particular features and advantages, will be readily understood from the following detailed description and the accompanying drawings, in which:

Fig. 1 illustrates a beverage dispenser according to some embodiments.

Fig. 2 illustrates a schematic view of the beverage dispenser and a valve assembly according to some embodiments,

Fig. 3 illustrates a cross section of the valve assembly according to some embodiments,

Fig. 4 illustrates a cross section of the valve assembly according to some other embodiments,

Fig. 5 illustrates the valve assembly according to some embodiments,

Fig. 6 illustrates the valve assembly in Fig. 5 from a different perspective, Fig. 7 illustrates a perspective view of the valve according to some embodiments, Fig. 8 illustrates the valve in Fig. 7 from a different perspective,

Fig. 9 illustrates the valve in Fig. 7 with some features schematically illustrated, Fig. 10 illustrates the valve in Fig. 9 from a different perspective. DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Embodiments herein will now be described more fully with reference to the

accompanying drawings, in which some embodiments are shown. Well-known functions or constructions will not necessarily be described in detail for brevity and/or clarity.

Fig. 1 illustrates a beverage dispenser 100, such as a coffee machine. The beverage dispenser 100 may dispense e.g. hot beverage, and may also be referred to as an espresso machine or a coffee pod machine. The beverage dispenser 100 in Fig. 1 comprises a water tank 1. In other embodiments the beverage dispenser 100 may instead be connected to external water supply means such as a water conduit. The water tank 1 or the external water supply means supplies the beverage dispenser with rinse fluid. The beverage dispenser 100 further comprises a milk container 2 and a milk container attachment arrangement 3. The milk container 2 may be attached and detached to the other parts of the beverage dispenser 100 via the attachment arrangement 3. Hereby the milk container 2 may be stored in a fridge when not used. In other embodiments the beverage dispenser 100 may instead be connected to an external milk supply such as a milk conduit.

The beverage dispenser 100 also comprises one or more spouts, beverage discharge ports or dispensers 5 for discharge of beverage such as coffee, milk and/or water. In the Fig. 1 embodiment a coffee dispenser 5a and a milk dispenser 5b is illustrated. The beverage dispenser 100 further comprises a waste container 7. The waste container 7, also referred to as a waste water container, sink or drip tray, may collect water, milk and coffee, for example when a user has forgotten to place a coffee cup under the dispensers 5.

Selection buttons 9 of the beverage dispenser allows a user to select a desired beverage. The buttons 9 may be labelled "black coffee", "coffee with milk", "espresso", "macchiato", "cappuccino", "mocca", "latte", "size" , "strong" and similar. The selection buttons 9 may also include a button which allows a user to clean and/or rinse the beverage dispenser 100. If the user pushes the "black coffee", the beverage dispenser 100 is arranged to initiate a coffee making process and discharge coffee via the coffee dispenser 5a. If the user pushes the "macchiato", the beverage dispenser is arranged to initiate a coffee making process and discharge macchiato via the dispensers. Since "macchiato" comprises of both coffee and milk froth, coffee is dispensed via the coffee dispenser 5a and frothed milk via the milk dispenser 5b. In some embodiments, the beverage dispenser 100 comprises only one dispenser 5 through which both the coffee and the milk is dispensed. In some embodiments the beverage dispenser comprises two or more coffee dispensers 5a and/or two or more milk dispensers 5b such that coffee and/or milk may be dispensed into two coffee cups simultaneously.

The Fig. 1 illustrated beverage dispenser comprises a display 11. A user may see the options available via the display 1 1 and may further see his/her selections. In some embodiments the selection buttons 9 are exchanged to corresponding touch buttons on the display 1 1 .

In Fig. 2 the beverage dispenser 100 and its different parts and components are schematically illustrated. The beverage dispenser 100 comprises the water tank 1 , the milk container 2, a pump 12, a boiler 13, a milk frother 15 and a brew chamber 17. The beverage dispenser also comprises a plurality of valves and a valve assembly 20. As illustrated, the different parts and components can be connected with conduits. The beverage dispenser 100 is connectable to the power grid, and the pump 12 and boiler 13 may be driven by electricity. The milk frother 15 may include e.g. a venturi valve and an expansion chamber.

In normal operation, the beverage dispenser 100 works as follows. When a user selects a beverage via a selection button or display as described above, a coffee brewing process is initiated. Water is then pumped from the water tank 1 to the boiler 13 by the pump 12. The boiler 13 heats up the water to hot water and/or steam. Hot water is then supplied from the boiler to the brew chamber 17 via the first valve 19a. In the brew chamber 17 the hot water is mixed with grinded coffee beans such that coffee is brewed. From the brew chamber 17 the coffee is supplied to the coffee dispenser 5a and any excess liquid is led to the waste container 7 via conduits and the second valve 19b. If the user has selected an option that includes frothed milk, steam is supplied to the milk frother 15 via the third valve 19c. A valve assembly 20 is connected to the milk frother 15. Milk is supplied to the milk frother 15 from the milk container 2 via the fourth valve 19d and the valve assembly 20. The valve assembly 20 and parts thereof are further discussed in conjunction with Fig. 3-10.

Air may be supplied to the valve assembly 20 via an air intake 16. In some embodiments an air pump may be connected to the air intake 16. Rinse fluid may be supplied from the boiler 13 to the valve assembly 20 via the third valve 19c. Milk may be supplied from the milk container 2 to the valve assembly 20 via the fourth valve 19d. The valve assembly 20 may comprise or be connected to the milk frother 15. The valve assembly 20 may also be referred to as a pre-mix-chamber for the milk frother 15. Milk, air, water, steam and/or rinsing fluid may be supplied to the milk frother 15 via an outlet 47 of the valve assembly 20.

In the milk frother 15 the milk, air and steam can be pressed through a venturi valve and when continuing into the expansion chamber the air/milk/steam mixture is transformed into milk froth or milk foam due to the low pressure after the venturi valve. Milk froth is then discharged from the milk frother 15 to the milk dispenser 5b.

When a user has received the coffee and milk froth in a cup placed under the dispensers 5a, 5b, he/she may like to rinse the beverage dispenser 100, such that the beverage dispenser 100 is cleaned from residual milk in any parts which has been in contact with the milk. In order to initiate a rinsing process he/she may push a "rinse/clean"-button of the selection buttons illustrated in Fig. 1 .

When the rinsing process is initiated, the pump 12 is activated and hot water is supplied from the boiler 13 to the valve assembly 20 and then to the milk frother 15 via the third valve 19c. Both hot water and steam from the boiler 13 may be used for the rinsing and/or cleaning. After the valve assembly 20 the hot water continues to the fourth valve 19d and the fifth valve 19e. From the fifth valve 19e the hot water is discharged to the waste container 7. After the valve assembly 20 the hot water also continues to the milk frother 15. After rinsing of the milk frother 15 the rinse water is discharged to the waste container 7 via the milk dispenser 5b. The amount of rinse water needed may depend on application, type of beverage dispenser et cetera. In same example embodiments at least 30-50 ml is sufficient, but in other embodiments less or more rinse water is required. In some embodiments hot water is supplied directly from the valve 19c to the milk frother 15.

Fig. 3 illustrates a cross section of the valve assembly 20 without any other parts or details mounted. The valve assembly 20 comprises a valve housing 40. In the embodiment illustrated in Fig. 3 the valve housing 40 is integrally formed but in other embodiments the housing may be made of different parts which are mounted together. The valve housing 40 may be made of rubber, polymers, plastics, metal or similar. The valve housing 40 is further discussed in conjunction with Fig. 5-6.

The valve housing 40 comprises a recess 41. The recess 41 may be substantially formed as a bore-hole or cylindrically shaped opening. The recess 41 can comprise one or more sealing portions 42. The sealing portions 42 can be formed by a recess surface 43 or may be arranged as separate gaskets, O-rings or similar.

The valve housing 40 comprises an air inlet 44 for supplying air to a valve which is fitted into the recess 41 . Such valve is illustrated in Fig. 4. The air inlet 44 can be coupled to the air intake 16 illustrated in Fig. 2 via a conduit or similar. The valve housing 40 also comprises a rinse fluid inlet 45 for supplying rinse fluid to a valve which is fitted into the recess 41 . The rinse fluid inlet 45 can be connected to a conduit from the third valve 19c, illustrated in Fig. 2. One or more valves, one-way-valves, sleeves, sleeve couplings and/or gaskets can be arranged to prevent milk from escaping towards the air inlet 44 and/or the rinse fluid inlet 45 when no rinsing occurs.

The valve housing 40 comprises a milk supply connection 46. A conduit from the milk container 2 or the fourth valve 19d in Fig. 2 can be connected to the milk supply connection 46. The valve housing 40 further comprises an outlet 47 for exhausting air, rinse fluid and/or milk. In the embodiment illustrated in Fig. 3 the outlet 47 is directed towards a milk frother 15. In other embodiments (not shown) no milk frother is connected to the outlet 47. Fig. 4 generally resembles Fig. 3 but in Fig. a valve 60 is rotatably fitted into the recess 41 of the valve housing 40. The valve 60 is further discussed in conjunction with Fig. 7- 10. In Fig. 4 sleeve couplings are arranged at the air inlet 44, the rinse fluid inlet 45 and the milk supply connection 46. The valve 60 comprises a passage 61 which is arranged to simultaneously connect the milk supply connection 46 and the rinse fluid inlet 45 with the outlet 47. The passage 61 is further discussed in conjunction with Fig. 7-10.

In Fig. 5 and Fig 6. the valve housing 40 is illustrated in two different perspectives. The recess 41 , the air inlet 44, the rinse fluid inlet 45 and the milk supply connection 46 are illustrated. In Fig. 5 the rinse fluid inlet 45 and the milk supply connection 46 are also visible within the recess 41 and in Fig. 6 the air inlet 44 is visible within the recess 41 .

Fig. 7 and Fig. 8 illustrate the valve 60 from two different angles. In Fig. 9 and Fig. 10 also inner features and surfaces of the valve 60 are illustrated.

The valve 60 comprises a substantially cylindrical body with a first end 62, a second end 63 and a peripheral surface 64 extending between the first end 62 and the second end 63. In the embodiments illustrated in Fig. 7-10 a first part of the passage 61 is formed as a first groove 61a which is arranged at the peripheral surface 64 of the valve 60. When the valve 60 is mounted in the recess 41 of the valve housing 40, as depicted in Fig. 4, the first groove 61 a will face both the milk supply connection 46 and the rinse fluid inlet 45. The first groove 61 a may have different depth and/or width along its extension. A user may hereby adjust the amount of milk which is allowed to flow through the first groove 61 a, and hereby also the passage 61 , by turning the valve 60 relatively the valve housing 40. The valve 60 is rotatable between a plurality of different valve positions. Each valve position is indicative of a predefined flow capacity for at least one of air, rinse fluid and milk through the passage 61 . The passage 61 is arranged to connect the milk supply connection 46 and the rinse fluid inlet 45 with the outlet independently of which valve position the valve 60 is arranged in. When the valve 60 in in a position where a relatively large amount of air is allowed to flow through the passage 61 , a relatively large amount of milk froth can be generated. With less or no air flowing through the passage 61 a temperature of the milk can be relatively high.

As illustrated in Fig. 9 and Fig. 10 a second part 61 b of the passage 61 is formed as one or more through holes which connects the first groove 61 a with the outlet 47 of the valve housing 40 when the valve 60 is mounted in the recess 41 of the valve housing 40, as depicted in Fig. 3. The second part 61 b of the passage may comprise a section which is substantially radially arranged within the valve and a section which is arranged substantially in a longitudinal direction of the valve. The outlet 47 can be arranged at the second end 63 of the cylindrical body.

The valve 60 can also comprise an air orifice 65, illustrated in Fig. 10, which connects the air inlet 44 of the valve housing 40 and the second part 61 b of the passage 61 . In some embodiments the air orifice 65 comprises a second groove 65b arranged at the peripheral surface of the valve. The valve may also be provided with one or more O- rings or sealing portions 42 which provide a sealing between the valve 60 and the recess surface 43, illustrated in Fig. 3. The one or more O-rings or sealing portions 42 may be arranged to keep milk and air separated between the valve 60 and the valve housing 40 and prevent air from passing the one or more O-rings or sealing portions 42.

In some embodiments the peripheral surface 64 and one or more protrusions 66 of the valve 60 can have a smooth surface, such as a surface with a surface roughness of 0,3 Ra or smoother. The one or more protrusions may prevent air leakage. In some embodiment the valve 60 is designed without any protrusions 66. In some embodiments one or more protrusions may be arranged at the inside of the recess instead. The one or more protrusions 66 can tightly abut the recess surface 43 such that no leakage occurs. Thanks to the one or more sealing portions 42 no air leakage occurs in the longitudinal direction of the valve 60.