Patent application title: BEVERAGE DISPENSER
Chris M. Coleman (Sonoma, CA, US)
Rion E. Austin (San Francisco, CA, US)
IPC8 Class: AB65D3528FI
Class name: Dispensing collapsible wall-type container with wall-collapsing means
Publication date: 2012-05-03
Patent application number: 20120104041
A beverage dispenser comprises a bag suspension to suspend a bag of a
beverage within a volume, a valve mechanism configured to be fluidly
coupled to an interior of the bag to selectively dispense beverage from
the bag, a press movably supported below the volume to press upwardly
against the bag, and a spring resiliently urging the press towards the
1. A beverage dispenser system comprising: a beverage dispenser
comprising: a bag suspension configured to suspend a bag of a beverage
within a volume; a valve mechanism configured to be fluidly coupled to an
interior of the bag to selectively dispense beverage from the bag; and a
press movably supported below the volume and configured to press upwardly
against the bag; and a spring resiliently urging the press towards the
2. The system of claim 1, wherein the press is pivotable between a plurality of different inclined angles.
3. The system of claim 2, wherein the spring resiliently urges the press about a pivot axis of the press.
4. The system of claim 3, wherein the valve mechanism comprises a manually actuatable handle for opening and closing the valve and facing in a first direction, wherein the pivot axis of the press extends perpendicular to the first direction.
5. The system of claim 1, wherein the spring comprises a compression spring captured between the press and a support.
6. The system of claim 1 further comprising a container configured to enclose the bag and the press.
7. The system of claim 6, wherein the valve mechanism is configured to deliver beverage from inside the container to outside the container.
8. The system of claim 7, wherein the valve mechanism is releasably connectable to a selectively closeable port of the bag.
9. The system of claim 1, wherein the suspension comprises at least one hook.
10. The system of claim 1, wherein the suspension comprises a bar configured to be received in a sleeve of the bag.
11. The system of claim 1, wherein the press comprises a platform having a flat planar surface configured to bear against a bottom of the bag.
12. The system of claim 1, wherein the spring is configured to move the press between a plurality of different positions based upon an amount of beverage within the bag.
14. A method comprising: suspending a collapsible bag of beverage in a container; connecting an interior of the bag to a valve mechanism configured to selectively dispense the beverage to outside the container; and resiliently urging a press against a bottom of the bag.
15. The method of claim 14 further comprising increasingly squeezing the bag as beverage is withdrawn from the bag.
16. The system of claim 1 further comprising the bag containing the beverage.
CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED PATENT APPLICATIONS
 The present application claims priority under 35 USC 119 from co-pending U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 61/408,526 filed on Oct. 29, 2010 by Chris M. Coleman and Rion E. Austin, and entitled BEVERAGE DISPENSER SYSTEM, the full disclosure of which is hereby Incorporated by reference.
 Beverages are sometimes provided in large containers from which individual servings are dispensed. Unfortunately, the containers are often heavy, expensive, and space consuming. Completely exhausting beverage from the containers is often difficult.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
 FIG. 1 is a front perspective view of a beverage dispenser system according to an example embodiment.
 FIG. 2 is a front perspective view of the beverage dispenser of the system with an access panel opened.
 FIG. 3 is a side elevational view of the beverage dispenser of FIG. 2.
 FIG. 4 is a side elevational view of the beverage dispenser system of FIG. 1 with the access panel opened illustrating a bag of beverage within the dispenser.
 FIG. 5 is a side elevational view of another embodiment of the beverage dispenser system of FIG. 1 with an access panel opened.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE EXAMPLE EMBODIMENTS
 FIGS. 1-3 illustrate a beverage dispenser 12 of a system 10 according to an example embodiment. Beverage dispenser system 10 includes beverage dispenser 12 and a bag 14 of beverage (Shown in FIG. 4). As will be described hereafter, beverage dispenser system 10 allows beverages to be dispensed in an attractive, aesthetically pleasing manner from a lightweight, inexpensive and collapsible bag. Beverage dispenser 12 facilitates more complete exhaustion of beverage from the bag.
 Beverage dispenser 12 comprises container 16, bag suspension 18, valve mechanism 20, press 22 and spring 24. Container 16 comprises one or more structures configured to at least partially enclose and surround beverage bag 16 (shown in FIG. 4). As shown by FIGS. 2 and 3, container 16 forms or defines an interior volume 28 above press 26 receiving and containing bag 14. Container 16 further supports and serves as a frame for the remaining elements of dispenser 12.
 In the example illustrated, container 16 comprises bottom panel 30, feet 32, top panel 34, opening 36, front panel 38, display window 40, rear panel 42, back side panel 44, bag retainer 46 (shown in FIG. 2), platform 48 and side access door or panel 50. Bottom panel 30 serves as a floor of container 16. Feet 32 extend from bottom panel 30 to provide a base for stably supporting container 16.
 Top panel 34 serves as a ceiling for container 16. Opening 36 extends through top panel 34. Opening 36 is sufficiently sized to allow an average male adult to insert his or her fingers through opening 36, serving as a handle, to allow the adult to lift and carry container 16. Opening 36 further opens into volume 28, allowing a person to visually determine whether bag 14 is present in volume 28 and, in some embodiments, to possibly determine the contents of bag 14 where bag 14 is labeled, color-coded or where bag 14 is translucent or transparent. Although illustrated as being generally rectangular or oval shaped, opening 36 may have other shapes or may be omitted. In still other embodiments, other handle configurations may be provided for container 16, wherein at least one additional opening may be provided to facilitate viewing of volume 28 or bag 14.
 Front panel 38 faces forwardly in the same direction that valve mechanism 18 projects from container 16. Display window 40 comprises a detent or window allowing graphics or information, such as beverage identification, beverage cost or other beverage characteristics, to be displayed. Although illustrated as being rectangular, window 40 may have other configuration or may be omitted.
 Rear panel 40 extends between bottom panel 30 and top panel 34 generally opposite to front panel 38. In the example illustrated, rear panel 40 and front panel 38 cooperate to support bag suspension 18. Back side panel 44 extends between front panel 38 and rear panel 42. As shown by FIG. 3, back side panel 44 has a length L1 much greater than the length L2 (shown in FIG. 1) of front panel 38. As a result, volume 28 is sufficiently large to contain a relatively large bag 14, while at the same time allowing container 16 to be compact in a side-to-side direction (the direction of length L2). Because container 16 is deeper and taller than it is wide, container 16 does not occupy a large amount of frontal shelf or counter space.
 Bag retainer 46 comprise a structure projection supported source to extend opposite to rear side panel 28 along or adjacent to volume 28. Bag retainer 46 assists in limiting expansion or bulging of bag 14 beyond volume 28 outwardly beyond the width dimensions of front Bag retainer 46 inhibits portions of bag 14 from extending across the seam of access panel 50. As a result, bag retainer 46 facilitates easier opening and closing of access panel 50 with less interference from bag 14. Although illustrated as comprising a triangular projection extending from rear panel 42, in other embodiments, retainer 44 may have other shapes and may project from or be supported by other structures such as front panel 38, top panel 34 or bottom panel 30.
 Platform 48 comprises an inner panel extending between front panel 38 and rear panel 42 and supports press 22 and spring 24. Platform 48 supports press 22 and ultimately bag 14 at a height above an outlet of valve mechanism 18, facilitating flow of beverage through valve mechanism 18 with the assistance of gravity. Although illustrated as being horizontal, platform 48 may alternatively be inclined. In some embodiments, platform 48 may be omitted, wherein press 22 and spring 24 are supported by bottom panel 30 or other structures projecting from other panels of container 16.
 Access panel 50 comprises a panel or door movable between a closed position or state (shown in FIG. 1) and an open position or state (shown in FIGS. 2-4). In the closed position shown in FIG. 1, access panel 50 extends generally parallel to back side panel 28. In the open state, access panel 50 provides a person with access to volume 28 for insertion of bag 14 into volume 28 and connection of bag 14 to valve mechanism 18 or for disconnection of bag 14 from valve mechanism 18 and removal of bag 14. Because access panel 50 opens opposite to back side panel 28, the person is provided with a relatively large area for insertion and removal of bag 14, making replacement of bag 14 less difficult. In other embodiments, access to volume 28 may be provided through other panels or portions of container 16.
 In the example illustrated, access panel 50 is pivotably coupled to container 16 for pivotable movement between the open state and the closed state. In the example illustrated, panel 50 is pivotally hinged to rear panel 42, allowing access panel 50 to be opened from the front side 53. In other embodiments, access panel 50 may be pivotally hinged to other portions of container 16. In yet other embodiments, access panel 50 may alternatively be slidably coupled to a remainder of container 16 for sliding movement between open and closed states. In still other embodiments, access panel 50 may be set within a recess or detent provided by one or more of panels 30, 34, 38 and 42, wherein pivoting or otherwise movable hooks or other retaining structures releasably retain access panel 50 in the closed state. In some embodiment, access panel 50 may be omitted, may be translucent or may be transparent.
 Although illustrated as being generally rectangular in shape, container 16 may other sizes, shapes and configurations. Although illustrated as substantially enclosing, surrounding and concealing beverage bag 14 (shown in FIG. 4), container 16 may alternatively have one or more windows or other transparent portions or allowing greater viewing of bag 14 or other interior components of container 16.
 Bag suspension 18 comprise one more structures configured to suspend bag 14 (shown in 4) within volume 28 above press 22 such that bag 14 hangs and rests upon press 22. In the example illustrated, bag suspension 18 comprises a pair of opposite hooks 56 supported by front panel 38 and rear panel 42, wherein the hooks 56 project through corresponding receiving apertures in bag 14. Although illustrated as including two opposite hooks 56, in other embodiments, suspension 18 may include a greater number of hooks or a may include one or more hooks extending from other portions of container 16. For example, suspension 18 may alternatively include one or more hooks extending downwardly from top panel 34. In other embodiments, suspension 18 may comprise other mechanisms configured to suspend bag 14. Examples of other suspension structures include, but are not limited to, claws, clasps, buttons, zippers, pinchers, bars or rods, pins and the like.
 Valve mechanism 20 comprises a mechanism configured to be releasably connected to bag 14 within an interior of container 16 and to selectively direct and dispense beverage from within bag 14 through an outlet 57 of a spout or nozzle 58. In the example illustrated, valve mechanism 20 includes a manually actuatable handle 59 configured to actuate valve mechanism between a closed state and a beverage dispensing state in which beverage flows throughout outlet 57. In other embodiments, valve mechanism 20 may have other configurations.
 Press 22 comprises one or more structures configured to press against a flexible and deformable wall of bag 14 within volume 28 such that bag 14 is squeezed or pinched for more complete exhaustion of beverage as the bag is emptied. Press 22 is movably supportable below volume 28 and presses upwardly against bag 14. In the example illustrated, press 22 comprises a panel or paddle below volume 28 which is configured to pivot about a pivot axis 60 (provided by hinge 62) which extends parallel to front panel 38 and perpendicular to the forward direction of container 16. As shown by FIGS. 2 and 4, press 22 pivots between a plurality of different inclined or sloped, ramping positions, wherein press 22 slopes downwardly towards front panel 38. The sloping of press 22 results in a rear portion of bag 14 (proximate to rear panel 42) being squeezed to a greater extent and facilitates flow of beverage, with the assistance of gravity, towards valve mechanism 20. In other embodiments, press 22 may have others shapes, sizes and configurations and may be movably supported in other fashions. For example, in other embodiments, press 22 may linearly slide up and down rather than pivoting.
 Spring 24 comprises one or more springs configured to resiliently urge press 22 in an upward direction against an underside of bag 14 (as shown in FIG. 4). Spring 24 is configured (located and provided with a size and spring constant) such that bag 14, when newly inserted into volume 28, works against the bias of spring 24 to move press 22 downwardly towards platform 48 such that as beverage is dispensed from bag 14, press 22 is moved upwardly to squeeze bag 14 and to increase the angle of inclination of press 22. In the example illustrated, spring 24 comprises a compression spring captured or coupled between platform 48 and an underside of press 22. In other embodiments, spring 24 may have other configurations. For example, in other embodiments, spring 24 may comprise a tension spring coupled between press 22 and a supporting structure above press 22. In yet other embodiments, spring 24 may comprise a leaf spring between platform 48 and press 22. In some embodiments, spring 24 and press 22 may be integrated into a single structure, a single leaf spring, wherein a bottom of the leaf spring rests upon platform 48 and wherein a top of the leaf spring serves as press 22, contacting and bearing against a bottom of bag 14.
 As shown by FIG. 4, beverage bag 14 of beverage dispensing system 10 comprises an at least partially deformable, flexible or collapsible pouch, capsule, container or volume defining receptacle containing a beverage 68 (shown in stippling). Beverage bag 14 comprises floor 70, sides 72, top 74, suspension interface 76, valve mechanism interface 78 and handle 80. Floor 70, sides 72, and top 74 define an interior 82 containing beverage 68. In one embodiment, interior 82 is sealed but for valve interface 78. In the example illustrated, floor 70, sides 72 and top 74 are each flexible, deformable or collapsible, allowing bag 14 to be more completely collapsed. In other embodiments, only sides 72 are flexible, deformable or collapsible, wherein floor 70 is substantially rigid or inflexible. In such an embodiment, press 22 presses against the floor 72 collapse sides 72 in an accordion like fashion. In yet another embodiment, sides 72 may be substantially rigid or inflexible, wherein floor 70 is flexible. In such an embodiment, press 22 the forms for 70 upward into and between sides 72. In one embodiment, the floor 70, sides 72 and top 74 are formed from one or more fabrics, polymeric films and/or metallic foils.
 Suspension interface 76 comprises one or more structures configured to interact with suspension 56 of dispenser 12 to hang bag 14 in volume 28 above press 22. In the example illustrated in which suspension 56 comprises a pair of hooks 56, suspension interface 76 comprises a pair of rings or eyelets 84 formed in bag 14 at opposite ends of bag 14 so as to receive the opposing hooks 56. In other embodiments, depending upon the configuration of suspension 18, suspension interface 76 may have other configurations.
 Valve interface 78 comprises a mechanism facilitating communication between the interior 82 of bag 14 and an interior of valve mechanism 20. Valve interface 78 is actuatable between a closed state in which interior 82 is sealed to contain beverage 68 and an open state, allowing beverage 60 to flow into valve mechanism 20. In one embodiment, valve interface 78 is configured to automatically actuate from the closed state to an open beverage dispensing state in response to being connected to valve mechanism 20. In one embodiment, valve interface 78 is configured to facilitate filling of interior 82 of bag 14 with beverage 68. In other embodiments, the interface 78 may alternatively only be used for dispensing beverage 68, wherein bag 14 is provided with other closable fill ports (not shown). In the example illustrated, valve interface 78 is located proximate to floor 70 of bag 40 to facilitate dispensing of beverage 68 with the assistance of gravity.
 Handle 80 comprises a structure configured to facilitate carrying and manipulation of bag 14. In the example illustrated, handle 80 comprises a strap connected to top 74 at opposite ends. In other embodiments, handle 80 may have other configurations, may be at other locations or may be omitted.
 In use, bag 14 is filled with beverage 68 through an opening provided by valve mechanism 78. Upon disengagement of valve mechanism 78 with a fill mechanism (not shown) mechanism 78 automatically closes. Filled bag 14 is inserted into volume 28 and hung in volume 28 by the interaction of suspension 18 and suspension interface 76. Valve interface 78 is connected to valve mechanism 20. Once bag 14 has been inserted, access panel 50 may be moved to the closed position shown in FIG. 1.
 To dispense beverage, handle 59 is actuated, causing beverage 60 to flow from interior 82 through outlet 57. As beverage 60 is dispensed, the weight of bag 14 is lessened, causing spring 24 to move press 22 further upwardly to squeeze bag 14 to a greater extent. The squeezing of bag 14 by press 22 continues during dispensing of beverage 68 until beverage 68 is exhausted or substantially exhausted from bag 14. Thereafter, access panel 50 may be opened, valve interface 78 maybe disconnected from valve mechanism 20 and suspension interface 84 may be disconnected from suspension 18 to allow remote off bag 14 for disposal, reuse or a placement.
 FIG. 5 illustrates beverage dispensing system 110, another embodiment of beverage dispensing system 10. Beverage dispensing system 110 is substantially identical to beverage system 10 except that beverage dispensing system 110 includes bag suspension 118 and suspension interface 176. As shown by FIG. 5, bag suspension 118 comprises a rod or bar 156 suspended from top panel 34 by hangers 157. In other embodiments, bar 156 may be suspended from other portions of container 16. At least one hangers 157 is configured to allow disconnection of bar 156 for connection of bar 156 to suspension interface 176.
 Suspension interface 176 comprises one or more elongated sleeves 184 configured such that bar 156 may be slid therethrough. Although illustrated as a single elongate sleeve, in other embodiments, suspension interface 176 may comprise a plurality of spaced and aligned sleeves. In other embodiments, suspension interface 176 may have other configurations.
 Although the present disclosure has been described with reference to example embodiments, workers skilled in the art will recognize that changes may be made in form and detail without departing from the spirit and scope of the disclosed subject matter. For example, although different example embodiments may have been described as including one or more features providing one or more benefits, it is contemplated that the described features may be interchanged with one another or alternatively be combined with one another in the described example embodiments or in other alternative embodiments. Because the technology of the present disclosure is relatively complex, not all changes in the technology are foreseeable. The present disclosure described with reference to the example embodiments and set forth in the following claims are manifestly intended to be as broad as possible. For example, unless specifically otherwise noted, the claims reciting a single particular element also encompass a plurality of such particular elements.
Patent applications in class With wall-collapsing means
Patent applications in all subclasses With wall-collapsing means