Title:
Device for sealing a beverage-dispensing apparatus
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
This invention relates to the beverage-dispensing field. In particular, the invention relates to devices and methods for maintaining the cleanliness of taps through which beverages are dispensed.



Inventors:
Sullivan, Brian (Forest Park, IL, US)
Application Number:
11/486965
Publication Date:
03/08/2007
Filing Date:
07/14/2006
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
15/207.2, 220/212, 220/801
International Classes:
A46B5/00; A46D1/00; B65D51/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
NGUYEN, DUNG V
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Patrick J. Halloran, Ph.D., J.D. (Center Valley, PA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A device for sealing the tap of a beverage dispensing apparatus comprising a plug and a brush, wherein the brush is fixably attached to the plug.

2. The device of claim 1 wherein the brush comprises a solid support from which bristles extend outwardly.

3. The device of claim 2 wherein the brush is fixably attached to the plug by inserting a portion of the solid support into the plug.

4. The device of claim 2 wherein the brush is fixably attached to the plug using an adhesive to attach the solid support to the plug.

5. The device of any one of claim 1 wherein the plug is manufactured from a material selected from the group consisting of plastic, rubber, and metal.

6. The device of claim 5 wherein the plastic is selected from the group consisting of low-density polypropylene, high-density polyethylene, vinyl, and PVC.

7. The device of claim 5 wherein the rubber is selected from the group consisting of silicone rubber, neoprene, and common stopper material.

8. The device of claim 5 wherein the metal is selected from the group consisting of aluminum, steel, copper, and brass.

9. The device of any one of claim 1 wherein the shape of the plug is selected from the group consisting of conical, non-conical, threaded, non-threaded, flared, non-flared, tapered, and non-tapered.

10. The device of claim 1 wherein the plug comprises a pull-tab.

11. The device of claim 1 further comprising an overmolded nylon insert adjacent to the portion of the solid support that is inserted into the plug portion.

12. A device for sealing the tap of a beverage dispensing apparatus comprising a plug and a brush, wherein the brush is fixably attached to the plug, wherein the plug comprises a pull-tab.

13. A device for sealing the tap of a beverage dispensing apparatus as illustrated in FIG. 3.

14. A device for sealing the tap of a beverage dispensing apparatus comprising a plug having a solid support portion for gripping the device and a opening; the device further comprising a brush comprising a stem portion and bristles, wherein a flange is attached to the stem portion of the brush and the plug such that the brush is fixably attached to the plug.

15. The device of claim 14 wherein the flange is an overmolded nylon insert.

16. A device for sealing the tap of a beverage dispensing apparatus comprising a plug and a brush, wherein the brush is fixably attached to the plug; wherein the brush comprises multiple bristles extending outwardly from a solid support that comprises a stem part; and the plug comprises a pull-tab extending outwardly from a platform and a tap insertion part extending outwardly from the platform in approximately the opposite direction of the pull-tab; and wherein the brush is fixably attached to the plug.

17. The device of claim 16 where the tap insertion part further comprises an opening into which the stem part of the brush may be inserted.

18. The device of claim 16 wherein the tap insertion includes members outwardly protruding from a center portion containing an opening into which the stem part of the brush may be inserted.

19. A method for preventing the accumulation of contaminants in a tap comprising inserting of device of 12 into the tap opening.

20. A method for preventing the accumulation of contaminants in a tap comprising inserting of device of 13 into the tap opening.

21. A method for preventing the accumulation of contaminants in a tap comprising inserting of device of 14 into the tap opening.

22. A method for preventing the accumulation of contaminants in a tap comprising inserting of device of 16 into the tap opening.

23. A method for manufacturing a device for sealing the tap of a beverage dispensing system comprising fixably attaching a plug to a brush comprising a solid support and a stem, wherein the stem is inserted into an opening within the plug.

24. The method of claim 23 wherein the plug comprises a tap insertion part that comprises the opening.

25. The method of claim 24 wherein the plug further comprises a platform to which is attached the tap insertion part and to which is also attached a pull tab, wherein the tap insertion part and the pull tab extend outwardly in approximately opposite directions from the platform.

Description:

PRIOR APPLICATIONS

This application claims priority to U.S. Ser. No. 60/700,016 filed Jul. 15, 2005.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates to the beverage-dispensing field. In particular, the invention relates to devices and methods for maintaining the cleanliness of taps through which beverages are dispensed.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

It is standard practice among those of skill in the art to regularly clean the supply lines of beverage dispensing devices such as beer taps. In most states, regulations provide a maximum amount of time that may pass before a supply line is cleaned. For instance, the State of Illinois requires supply lines to be cleaned approximately every two weeks. Methods and devices for cleaning supply lines are known in the art (see, for example, U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,090,599; 4,955,100; and, 4,607,410 as well as EP 351664B1).

A commonly recognized problem that occurs between cleanings is the accumulation of contaminants at the tap. For instance, it is widely known that insects such as gnats are attracted to the openings of beer taps. Those of skill in the art recognize that a device for sealing the tap to prevent the accumulation of such contaminants between cleanings would be of great usefulness. The present invention provides such a device.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1. Schematic of an exemplary device, the Sullyplug™, for temprorarily sealing beverage dispensing devices.

FIG. 2. A flange for use in a device of the present invention.

FIG. 3. Schematic for another exemplary device, the Sullyplug 2™.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention provides a device for at least temporarily sealing and simultaneously at least partially cleaning a beverage dispensing apparatus. In one embodiment, a device consisting essentially of a plug and a brush is provided. Also provided are methods for manufacturing and using the device. The invention will be better understood and additional objects and advantages will become apparent from the following description and drawings.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

The present invention provides a device for at least temporarily sealing a beverage dispensing device at the tap. The tap is typically found attached to supply lines which supply the beverage. It is from the tap that the beverage is typically dispensed into a container such as a cup, mug or glass, for instance.

As described above, the supply lines are cleaned at regular intervals. Between cleanings, contaminants typically accumulate at the tap. This may have detrimental effects upon the beverage being dispensed, including alteration of taste, appearance, or other quality of the beverage or the distribution of infectious agents into the beverage. Those of skill in the art are aware of the need for a device to prevent such problems between cleanings.

The device of the present invention is useful for temporarily sealing the tap by fitting into the tap opening such that contaminants are prevented from entering either the tap and/or the supply lines. The device is preferably rapidly removable with the bare hand. Preferably, the device includes a brush attachment for cleaning the tap upon removal. It is also preferred that the device is washable and reusable.

The device of the present invention preferably consists of a plug and a brush. The brush is fixably attached to the plug. By “fixably attached” is meant the brush is not easily separable from the plug during routine use. When inserted in the tap, the plug allows the device to fit into the tap opening to secure the device in the tap while the brush extends through the tap opening toward the supply lines. The brush may function to scrub the tap opening as the device is inserted into and removed from the tap opening. The device may be any size as long as the device fits into and may be secured to the tap opening.

The plug of the device is preferably manufactured from a material that is substantially solid and substantially impervious to outside contaminants and suitable for accepting the brush of the device. The term “substantially solid” is meant to indicate that the material is strong enough to withstand repeated insertion and removal from the tap. The term “substantially impervious” is meant to indicate that the material is relatively resistant to permanent contamination by dirt, bacteria and the like. Exemplary, non-limiting suitable materials include, for example, plastic (for example, low or high-density polyethylene, vinyl, PVC), rubber (for example, silicone rubber, neoprene), or metal (for example, aluminum, steel, copper, brass). Other suitable materials are known in the art.

The plug may be of any shape and size as long as it is capable of being inserted into and removed from a tap. For instance, the plug may be conical or non-conical, threaded or non-threaded, flared or non-flared, tapered or non-tapered, or with or without a pull-tab. The most important requirement for the plug is that it fit into the tap opening such that the device is secured and at least partially seals the tap opening. In certain embodiments, the device may completely seal the tap opening and in others the device may partially seal the tap opening. In a preferred embodiment, the plug is a conical plastic plug that fits into the tap by forcing the plug into the tap opening until it is securely fitted. In certain embodiments, a common “stopper” having a opening into which the brush may be suitable, for instance. In other instances, the plug contains both a pull-tab portion that may act as a handle for gripping the device when inserting or removing the device from the tap and a tap insertion part that is actually inserted into the tap opening; an example of such a plug is shown in FIG. 3.

The brush is preferably fixably attached, either directly or indirectly, to the plug. In one embodiment, the brush may be attached to the plug by a stem part to which the brush is attached. For instance, a brush may consist of multiple bristles extending outwardly from at least part of a solid support that comprises a stem part. The stem part of the solid support may or may not have bristles attached thereto. The stem part of the solid support may be inserted into the plug, thereby fixably attaching the brush to the plug. The brush may also be attached to the plug without being inserted into the plug (i.e., where the brush does not include a stem part) using any suitable mechanism including but not limited to an adhesive. The solid support is preferably manufactured from a material that is substantially solid, substantially impervious to outside contaminants, and suitable for attaching bristles thereto. Exemplary, non-limiting materials that may be suitable are plastic (for example, low or high-density polyethylene, vinyl, PVC), rubber (for example, silicone rubber, neoprene), or metal (for example, aluminum, steel, copper, brass). Other suitable materials are known in the art.

An illustrative and non-limiting embodiment of the instant device is shown in FIG. 1. As shown therein, this embodiment of the device provides a body 1 suitable for onto which a brush 2 is fixably attached. Brush 2 consists of bristles 3 extending from solid support 4. Solid support 4 extends into body 1 to provide for attachment of the brush. The device is suitable for insertion into and removal from a tap using the bare hand by grasping the body 1 and inserting into or removing from the tap. FIG. 2 illustrates a flange for use in manufacturing the device shown in FIG. 3, which shares some of the features of that shown in FIG. 1, but includes additional features. These additional features provide for more efficient manufacturing and use of the device.

In one method of manufacturing the device, a plastic plug is obtained. An opening is placed into the plastic plug, if one does not already exist, that is suitable for insertion of the brush. It is preferred that the opening in the plastic plug be slightly smaller in diameter than the brush support such that upon insertion into the plastic plug, the support is firmly and substantially fixably attached to the plug. This procedure would be suitable to the manufacture of a device in FIG. 1 or FIG. 3, for example.

The device illustrated in FIG. 3 is designed for efficiently mass producing the device, and provides additional advantages including a pull-tab for efficient insertion and removal of the device from the tap. The measurements shown in FIG. 3 are provided as examples only and are not meant to limit the features of this device in any way. As shown in FIG. 3, the device includes brush A and plug B. The process for producing this device includes but is not limited to, for example, first preparing a flange as shown in FIG. 2, which is in certain cases fixably attached to both the brush (for example, part I in FIG. 3) and the solid support useful for gripping the device (i.e., a pull-tab; for example, part D in FIG. 3). In one embodiment, part I may be an overmolded nylon insert where the insert is adjacent to the stem part brush solid support (i.e., A1) that is inserted into the plug part (FIG. 3). The brush (A), which preferably includes a solid support with a stem part (A1 in FIG. 3) and bristles (A2 in FIG. 3), is thereby attached to the solid support (i.e., the plug; for example, part B of FIG. 3). The device may also be assembled without using the flange by inserting brush A into opening F of tap insertion part H of plug B (FIG. 3). The plug portion is further illustrated in views C and G, as discussed below.

FIG. 3 provides a “top view” (C) and a “bottom view” (G) of one embodiment of plug B. Top view C of FIG. 3 illustrates the plug which includes pull-tab D, platform E, and optional opening F. In one embodiment, pull-tab D of the plug extends outwardly from platform E; pull-tab D optionally includes opening F which may continue through the entire length of plug B. Bottom view G illustrates the tap insertion part H for attaching the stem portion A1 of brush A and securing plug to the tap (i.e., it provides for gripping of the device by the user while inserting or removing the device from the tap). Tap insertion part H preferably extends outwardly from support platform E in the opposite direction of pull-tab D and preferably includes opening F into which stem portion A1 may be inserted to attach the plug to the brush. In the illustrated embodiment, tap insertion part H includes four members outwardly protruding from a center portion comprising the opening for stem part A1. However, tap insertion part H may be of this arrangement or any other arrangement that is capable of both fixably attaching to brush A and being secured to a tap opening. Where opening F is not included in the device, brush A may be fixably attached to tap insertion part H using an adhesive or other mechanism.

It is to be understood that the forms of the invention shown and described herein are preferred examples and that various changes in the size, shape and arrangement may be made without departing from the spirit of the invention.





 
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